When new consoles are announced, people want to know what it can do, and how powerful it is. While the typical consumer isn’t interested in RAM, GPU, or teraflops, hardcore games absolutely want to know what’s under the hood. Knowing the specs of a system empowers us to make a lot of predictions as to what it will be able to accomplish.
Today we’re going to look at the teraflop, and what it does for a console’s power. Then we’ll look at the PS4 Pro’s specs, and why the PS5 will hit the fabled 8 teraflops to play games in native 4K.
Uh, Remind Me Again: What’s a Teraflop?
The term “flop” refers to a floating point operation. This is a basic measurement of computational power. At the heart of both Sony and Microsoft consoles are chipsets manufactured by AMD. To calculate the teraflops of a console, you follow this formula: multiply the amount of shader cores by the clock-speed, then multiply that by two.
That last step is to account for each clock (one multiply, one accumulate operation) that runs simultaneously. This will get you a huge number, so we divide that by one million and that will give us a teraflop measurement.
Let’s look at an example, using the Xbox One and PS4:
- Xbox One: 768 shaders (x) 853MHz (x) 2 instructions per clock = 1,310,208 megaflops or 1.31 teraflops
- PS4: 1280 shaders (x) 800MHz (x) 2 instructions per clock = 1,843,200 megaflops or 1.84 teraflops
So how does this apply to games as a whole? Well, we have to remember that teraflops are a very basic measurement and only apply to computational power. You have to consider several other factors before you can make a prediction on the performance of a machine.
The software drivers and architecture of the GPU also contribute to the overall performance. It’s about efficiency as much as it is importance. On paper, for example, the PS4 Pro is 2.3x more powerful than the PS4, but a 40% increase in computational power doesn’t necessarily equal out to a 40% increase in performance.
When it comes down to it, teraflops alone cannot define a console or PC’s performance. There are other factors like the GPU’s memory bandwidth that play into the equation. Thus far in the console war, the Xbox One’s 1.31 teraflops has been at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the PS4’s 1.84 teraflops.
This is also a result of the Xbox One’s lower memory bandwidth. Developers have been very good at handling the difference in specs over the course of the generation, but we’ve seen resolutions swing wildly between the two consoles.
What the PS4 runs in 1080p runs at 900p or lower on Xbox. The same situation may become the case with Xbox 2 (Project Scorpio) and PS4 Pro. Microsoft is targeting native 4K and 6 teraflops with their new console, but how they will manage that remains to be seen. There are some who believe that 6TF won’t be enough.
PS5 Will Run at 8 Teraflops: Here is Why
Mark Cerny is the lead architect on the PS4 and the PS4 Pro. He’s had a lot of experience in the industry, and when he talks, people listen. It also helps that his voice is extremely soothing, but that’s beside the point.
In an interview with the Japanese site AV Watch, Cerny was talking about the PS4 Pro and the argument surrounding 4K. In this interview he talked about the major increase in power from the PS4’s 1.84 TF to the PS4 Pro’s 4.2 teraflops.
It’s common knowledge that the PS4 Pro doesn’t render most of its games at a native 4K resolution, but to get around that, the system uses a technique called “checkerboard rendering.” At it’s basic concept, this style of rendering creates a frame buffer from half the pixels without losing too much quality.
In doing so, the image reaches resolutions that Mark Cerny says are “extremely close to 4K.” How much people will notice the difference between native and upscaled 4K remains to be seen, and it will most certainly be something that videophiles will be looking for.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is promising “true 4K” with only 6 teraflops of processing power. Is that even possible? According to Mark Cerny, you’ll need at least 8 to make good on that promise, although he admits that this is a personal prediction.
He also said that the technology needed to achieve this kind of computational power wasn’t something that could be achieved at a reasonable price. This could very well mean that the Xbox Two/Project Scorpio is going to be expensive. Not only that, but it may have trouble running everything at 4K like Microsoft is promising.
As we know, teraflops aren’t everything, so it’s certainly possible, but there are going to be caveats. In the past, Xbox Boss Phil Spencer has said that Scorpio is only for you if you have a 4K TV. Otherwise, you don’t need the upgrade.
This leads me to believe that the new system will most certainly run games at 4K, but resolution will be one of the only improvements you’ll see. I imagine that most of the power will go into achieving this, and therefore you won’t see a huge improvement in the games running at 1080p.
Mark Cerny’s comments also give us a potential window into the PS5. If he believes that 4K is only achievable with 8 teraflops of power, then it’s safe to assume he’s going to shoot for this when he’s designing the PS5.
As it stands, this information gives us a unique glimpse into the potential power of the PS5. Eight teraflops is most certainly a lot of power, and a great place to start. We wish Mark Cerny the best as he moves forward with designing the PS5.
What do you think? Will Microsoft achieve 4K with only 6 teraflops or will they teraflop themselves? How about the PS5, will it run at 4K with 8 teraflops of power? Let us know what you think in the comments!