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What is a teraflop? The Xbox Series X’s key spec explained

Phil Spencer released a blog yesterday and, while it answered many questions, it left most of us with just one key quandary: what the flipping heck is a teraflop? If this is you then read on for a Trusted Reviews explanation on just what is a teraflop.

The blog post touted a massive 12 teraflops for the upcoming Xbox Series X console – but is it massive? Do teraflops even matter? And, where do we go when we die? Let’s answer two out of three.

Related: Everything we know about the Xbox Series X

Xbox Series X teraflops

Credit: Microsoft

What is a teraflop?

At its most basic level, a teraflop is a measurement of how many floating-point operations per second a computer can carry out.

Without going too technical, this means for gamers, a teraflop is a metric to measure/gauge computational power. However, the key thing to know about teraflops is that computational power does not equal graphical performance. Many factors play into what comes out the other end when computational power is applied – from graphics card architecture, memory and, even, the CPU.

The bottom line is: if one console has 12 teraflops and another system has 13 teraflops that does not necessarily mean the latter will provide better graphics.

The same goes for comparisons with prior generations. As the Microsoft blog post says, the 12 teraflops of the Series X are “twice that of an Xbox One X and more than eight times the original Xbox One.” But this doesn’t mean the Xbox Series X will provide double the graphical performance of the One X. It also definitely won’t provide eight times the graphical performance of the Xbox One.

Related: Xbox Series X vs PS5 – who’s leading the race?

There’s also ambiguity around what “graphical performance” refers to. Does double the resolution or double the frame rate mean you’ve achieved double the graphical performance? Probably not, but it’s a hard question to answer – which neatly brings us full circle back to the term “teraflops”.

While teraflops is far from a perfect metric, it offers console manufacturers a way to give customers an idea of the performance gains that are on offer. The true test and comparisons of graphical performance will play out in real-life when we finally get our hands on the Xbox Series X and the PS5.

Until then, its probably best to not put all your eggs in the teraflops basket and, instead, keep track of all the other next-gen console features being touted too – such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing, variable-rate shading, the transition to SSD storage and much more.

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