Are teraflops the best way to choose between new consoles?
A new generation of consoles is upon us. The arrival of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X marks the next step in console gaming. As you might expect, gamers want to know “which console is better?” Which gaming option will give you the best value for your money for the foreseeable future?
One word floated more than most: teraflops. One console provides more teraflops than the other. What makes it better, right?
So what is a teraflop, and does the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 have more?
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What is a teraflop?
Floating point operations per second (FLOPS) are a measure of computer performance. FLOPS are a direct mathematical measure of performance, describing the number of floating point calculations your hardware can perform in a specific amount of time.
Floating point operations are complex calculations that include decimal points, rather than calculations involving only integers. These complex calculations translate into tremendous strain on your graphics processing unit (GPU) when playing a video game, such as quickly drawing and manipulating thousands of polygons at once.
A higher number is therefore preferable.
GPUs are now incredibly powerful. So much so that we measure their outright mathematical performance in teraflops – that’s billions of floating point operations per second.
Which console has the most teraflops?
The release of two new consoles is always an intriguing time. Hardware specifications are important. As many people will choose a single console to use throughout the console generation, savvy gamers use the hardware specs to determine which console is the best prospect.
The hardware inside the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X produces a different number of teraflops, despite using a similar architecture:
- Playstation 5 : 10.3 teraflops
- Xbox Series X : 12.1 teraflops
- Xbox Series S : 4 teraflops
Out of the box, the Xbox Series X produces 12.1 teraflops over the 10.3 teraflops of the PlayStation 5. So the Xbox Series X is better than the PlayStation 5, right?
Numerically, yes. On paper, the Xbox Series X is expected to outperform the PlayStation 5. However, in the real world, when games start to work and consoles are pushed to their limits, the results often differ.
Does more teraflops mean a better console?
More teraflops means better performance. Consider the number of Teraflops available on previous-gen consoles at launch, the Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4.
- PlayStation 4: 84 teraflops
- Xbox One: 41 teraflops
Both consoles also received mid-cycle upgrades.
- PlayStation 4 Pro: 2 teraflops
- Xbox One X: 6 teraflops
The new consoles, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, produce around ten times the teraflops of the previous generation launch consoles. Even the upgraded and high-end versions only produce about half of the graphics processing power of the new generation.
So, compared to older consoles, the teraflop output is a huge boost.
What is the difference between 1.8 teraflops?
Calculating the 1.8 teraflop difference between new consoles on absolute performance is not as easy as it looks. There are many other factors at play when it comes to comparing performance between consoles.
For example, the PlayStation 5 custom SSD is capable of producing up to 5.5 GB / s of raw output and 8-9 GB / s of compressed output. In comparison, the Xbox Series X Custom NVMe SSD produces 2.4 GB / s of raw data and 4.8 GB / s of compressed data.
The much faster player allows the PS5 to run almost without a loading screen. Granted, this allows it to load game features almost twice as fast as the Xbox Series X. Even though the Xbox Series X has more teraflops, the storage performance of the PlayStation 5 offers a different measuring angle.
Not only that, but load time is a very visible metric for gamers. You probably remember the horribly long load times of games like Fallout 4, Bloodborne, and Grand Theft Auto 5. Watching a loading screen isn’t fun, although the developers include tips, facts, and more.
Gamers will absolutely remember the PlayStation 5 that launched them in Miles Morales New York City in the blink of an eye, more than they will ever think of that 1.8 teraflop difference.
Xbox Series X vs PlayStation 5 Side by Side Comparisons
Of course, the best way to determine which console is making full use of its teraflops is to do a side-by-side video comparison. Gamers lucky enough to have purchased both consoles made some handy graphical comparison videos on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X using games released on both platforms.
First up, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, one of the most anticipated games on new consoles.
To the untrained eye, there is very little difference between the two consoles. AC: V looks sublime on both platforms, with a few small differences in draw distance, texture quality, and pop-in and ray-tracing effects. But both consoles easily handle occupied areas and there is little noticeable difference in large battles.
Next, Dirt 5, the latest entry in the long-running Codemasters racing series.
The storyline is similar to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. There are slight differences in the color tones between the two consoles, but the actual graphics fidelity is very similar. Unless you’re a game developer looking for some major differences, you’re looking for very similar quality in standard visual modes.
As you can see in the video above, Dirt 5 includes different visual modes that improve or reduce certain graphics. Switching between the three modes (Picture Quality Priority, Resolution Priority, and Frame Rate Priority) reveals more significant differences between consoles. However, this is also due to the implementation of these visual modes in the game, rather than the power of the graphics cards.
Finally, you have Watch Dogs Legion, the third iteration of Ubisoft’s dystopian action-adventure series.
Of the three games reviewed here, Watch Dogs Legion is the most similar on both consoles. It is extremely difficult to tell the two versions apart in many places and further mitigates the idea that extra teraflops equate to extra performance.
Which next-gen console should you buy?
Choosing between the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 was always going to be a difficult task. One metric you shouldn’t rely on as a differentiator is teraflops, a measure of absolute chart performance, almost a mathematical term.
Instead, focus on what makes each console great: exclusive games, controllers, integrations, and more.