3 min read

Exploring the Distinction Between Latency and Throughput in Computing

Let's see the difference between latency and throughput.
Exploring the Distinction Between Latency and Throughput in Computing
Photo by Denny Müller / Unsplash


In computing and network performance, two critical concepts often come into play: latency and throughput.

While both are essential metrics that impact the user experience, they represent distinct aspects of a system's performance.

But before we start exploring that difference, I want to share that I was confused about these terminologies and their differences. But today, I'm happy to say I'm enlightened. I'm sharing my thoughts about these two latency and throughput.

This article will explore the differences between latency and throughput, exploring their definitions, significance, and real-world examples.

Understanding Latency: The Time Factor

It measures the time delay between the initiation of a process and the occurrence of its first noticeable effect. 

In web browsing, latency could be the time it takes for a click on a link to display the corresponding webpage. Another example is in the context of computing and networks.

Latency is the time data travels from a source to a destination. 

Of course, we can't ignore some delays. These factors, such as physical distance between devices, processing delays, and network congestion, can influence this time delay differently.


Latency Measurement

Latency is measured in units of time, such as milliseconds (ms), microseconds (µs), or seconds (s).

Most organizations see that latency plays a crucial role in determining the responsiveness of a system.

Let's try to see the difference between low and high latency.

Low latency is desirable when real-time interactions are essential, such as online gaming, video conferencing, or financial transactions.

High latency can lead to lag, disrupting the real-time nature of the game and negatively impacting user satisfaction. Imagine this scenario: most of them are unsatisfied users.

Consider the example of online gaming, where low latency is vital for a gaming experience. In this context, latency encompasses the time a player's action (such as pressing a button) takes to be reflected on the screen.

Throughput: The Measure of Capacity

It measures the amount of data that can be transferred from one point to another in time. Unlike latency, which focuses on the time delay of a single operation, throughput provides an overview of a system's overall data transfer capacity.


Throughput Measurement

You probably know this already, but it is measured in bits per second. That's right, BPS such as kilobits per second (Kbps), megabits per second (Mbps), or gigabits per second (Gbps).

It reflects the efficiency of a system in terms of data transmission. High throughput is desirable for large data transfer scenarios, such as streaming high-definition videos, file downloads, or cloud data backups.

Consider a scenario where a user downloads a large file from a remote server. In this case, throughput is crucial because it determines how quickly the file can be transferred to the user's device. A higher throughput allows for faster downloads, enhancing the user experience.

Real-world Examples of Latency and Throughput

Let's explore a few real-world examples to illustrate the difference between latency and throughput further.

Video Conferencing: Balancing Latency and Throughput


In video conferencing, achieving a balance between latency and throughput is essential.

Low latency ensures that participants observe real-time reactions and responses, creating a natural and engaging conversation.

Simultaneously, sufficient throughput is necessary to transmit high-quality video and audio streams without buffering or interruptions.

Web Browsing: Emphasizing Low Latency

When you click on a link while browsing the internet, the time it takes for the corresponding webpage to load is influenced by latency.

Low latency ensures a prompt response, making the web browsing experience more fluid and responsive.

Throughput comes into play when downloading images, videos, or other content from the webpage, impacting the overall loading time.


Online Gaming: Prioritizing Low Latency

As mentioned earlier, online gaming relies heavily on low latency.

Gamers need instantaneous feedback for their actions to maintain the immersive and competitive nature of the game.

Throughput becomes important when updating game asset patches or communicating with server-side components.


Latency and throughput are distinct concepts; they are interconnected, and both play vital roles in determining the performance of a system.

The right balance between low latency and high throughput is often the key to delivering a seamless and responsive user experience.

Whether streaming videos, participating in a video conference, or engaging in online gaming, understanding the difference between latency and throughput can empower you to make informed decisions about your technology and services.

As technology advances, optimizing latency and throughput will remain essential for meeting the ever-growing demands of modern computing.