What Are Teraflops, and What Do They Tell Us About Google's Stadia Performance?
Google’s game-streaming platform Stadia will be here soon, allowing you to play AAA games with high quality graphics on just about any device, thanks to the custom-built CPUs and GPUs doing the heavy lifting on a cloud server.
Google is boasting 10.7 teraflops of performance–or as they put it, “more than the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X combined.” But what does that actually mean?
FLOPS is an acronym that stands for Floating Point Operations Per Second. Without getting too technical, floating point operations are the types of complex calculations your computer needs to perform when, say, drawing polygons on your screen.
The more of those floating point calculations it can do a second, the more complex graphics it can produce. As you’d expect, more FLOPS are better–and since we’re talking teraflops, that means these machines can do trillions of floating point operations in one second.
10.7 teraflops seems like an awfully large number, and it is–but it doesn’t really tell us the whole story, especially when compared with other gaming machines. 10.7 teraflops is certainly impressive, but don’t put too much stock in these numbers.
“For reference, the PlayStation 4 Pro cranks out 4.14 teraflops, and the Xbox One X clocks in around 6 teraflops, while their predecessors–the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One/S–did less than 2. NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 does around 8.9 teraflops, provided it has adequate cooling.
But those comparisons aren’t exactly apples-to-apples. An off-the-shelf GPU like the GTX 1080 isn’t necessarily going to be as efficient in a Windows PC as a custom GPU would be in a single-purpose machine designed just for gaming. We just don’t know enough about Google’s custom hardware (or software) to make a clear comparison between the gaming hardware you can buy today.
The best comparison is always going to require playing actual games and comparing their graphical fidelity and framerate on each platform, and we’ll have to wait until Stadia launches to get those numbers.
So while 10.7 teraflops is certainly impressive, don’t put too much stock in these numbers. Playing a game on Stadia isn’t going to look twice as good as it would on a PlayStation 4 Pro, but we can glean that it’ll probably look and perform better–probably somewhere in the ballpark of a high-end gaming PC, much like other similar streaming services–and that’s a pretty exciting prospect, provided Google can keep latency as low as they promise.
When it comes to streaming, the speed and reliability of your internet connection is far more likely to be a bottleneck than whatever hardware is on the other end. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how many teraflops you have at your disposal–that video will be compressed into a sad, blocky stream on your TV.
Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for ten years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get grease on his mechanical keyboard.