Image: Sony and Microsoft

“Teraflops” is the buzzword in the gamer vocabulary since Microsoft and Sony started revealing the technical specifications of their new consoles, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. As the machines are only expected to hit stores in late 2020 , all we have to compare them for now are the numbers officially revealed.

In past generations, it was common to compare consoles by bits or even using terms without much concrete meaning, embraced by the developers’ marketing departments. An example is the infamous “blast processing”, which Mega Drive used to boast a nonexistent superiority over its rival at the time, the Super Nintendo.

SEGA ran an aggressive marketing campaign against Nintendo in the 1990s.Source: TecToy Blog

Comparing teraflops is certainly not just cheap sensationalism like bragging about having “double the mega power”, as was shown in some SEGA game boxes. Undoubtedly, the Xbox Series X started at the front and boasts much more sturdy hardware than the PS5, although teraflops are “just” a part of what dictates a console’s performance. It is important to remember that there are other elements to take into account when comparing machines directly.

Part of a larger whole

As video games have evolved technically over the generations, they have become increasingly closer to desktop computers in their hardware. In other words, there is not a single component that dictates how the total performance of the machine will be, it is necessary to analyze the whole, since the best performance in a certain aspect can come at the cost of sacrificing another and vice versa. It’s all about focusing on machine architecture.

In the cases of Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, there are similarities, such as the use of chips from AMD and 2nd generation RDNA, but with different proposals. While Sony boasted at its technical conference presented by console engineer Mark Cerny, the use of SSD for faster loading speeds, Microsoft took the lead in the processing race and should have a substantially more robust machine graphically.

This means that they are differentiated proposals: the PS5 will have a chip with 36 computing units operating up to a peak of 2.23 GHz, but this is only the limit performance of the machine running. The Xbox Series X does much better, with 52 computing units running at 1,825 GHz stable. But where exactly do teraflops come in this game?

Mark Cerny revealed more technical specifications of the PS5 in a talk on the official Sony channel.Source: Sony

What does a teraflop mean?

Teraflops are a unit of measurement that serves to help us better understand and measure the distance between different devices. “Flops” is an acronym for Floating Point Operations Per Second, which means something like “floating point operations per second”. With this count it is possible to measure how well and fast the hardware is operating and that is what makes them useful as a form of benchmarking.

In this video game clash, Microsoft “has a ball,” as its chip boasts 12.1 teraflops, while the PS5 is substantially below, with 10.3 teraflops. The catch is that, as we explained, machines of this caliber do much more than just read such floating points. So, it is possible that, even with lower technical specifications in this area, the PS5 will be able to stand out in other aspects to try to compensate for its weakness, loading games faster via SSD.

The Xbox Series X triumphs in the battle for teraflops.Source: Microsoft

The different approaches can generate very different results depending on the situation required by the games. Remember how the SEGA Saturn was technically inferior to the PlayStation 1, but still had a superior performance when running ports of 2D fighting games straight out of Arcades? And do you remember this being something that made Sony’s machine go bad?

It is quite possible that the focus on higher clocking favors certain types of games in the next generation, while more computing units should make other future releases shine even more. It wouldn’t be strange to see some games doing better on the Xbox Series X and other genres triumphing on the PS5, but we’ll only know the result for sure when the two video games hit the shelves for the holidays.

Even technically inferior to the PS1, the SEGA Saturn was the best console for 2D fighting games.Source: Reddit

Until then, it’s natural for players to stimulate a little bit of the good old console war, isn’t it? At least now you can argue when participating in the debates, because you can already understand exactly what these teraflops are! Between the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!