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How many FLOPS?

Posted: 05.24.08

FLoating point Operations Per Second – FLOPS, one of the more obscure acronyms in our lives, and one of the oldest ones. It’s since been modified with a prefix of M (mega), G (giga) and most recently T (tera). A Terra is a million millions, one trillion (1012) a whole lot of anything, whether its cycles (Hertz), Bytes, dollars, or FLOPS. (And note - the ‘S’ in FLOPS is capitalized.)

So I was asked recently, how many TFLOPS in all the game consoles?

There are two answers to that question.

Do you mean in all the ones built, or just the FLOPS of the specific consoles?

So what is the TFLOPS rating of the game consoles? Well there are two answers to that question too.

If you count central processor FLOPS that’s one answer, if you count the FLOPS potential of the GPU and add it to the CPU’s FLOPS that’s another answer. And that answer provokes all kinds of debate. One side (the one I favor) is that the FLOPS of the GPU aren’t used in computations and therefore shouldn’t be counted because they can’t be measured and just represent a theoretical number. The other side argues that they are indeed being used in computation - the computation of shader operations. However, both sides agree that there isn’t yet a benchmark that can measure them. And therefore I conclude that we shouldn’t use them in evaluating the CPU FLOPS of game consoles.

The other main answer to the original question is do you mean in all the ones built, so I added in the installed base of all the consoles shipped.

The following table lists the FLOPS in consoles.

Console

CPU GFLOPS

GPU GFLOPS

Combined GFLOPS

Total shipped CPU TFLOPS

Shipped consoles

Xbox

5.8

5.8

11.6

290,000

50

Xbox 360

115.2

240.0

355.2

2,177,280

19

Dreamcast

1.4

0.1

1.5

8,400

6

Wii

2.9

1.0

3.9

75,690

26

PS2

6.2

0.0

6.2

771,131

124

PS3

218.0

900.0

1,118.0

2,746,800

13

TOTAL

349.5

1,146.9

1,496.4

6,069,301

238

2007, October: Sony PS3 console, at US$400, that runs at a claimed 2 teraFLOPS; these figures represent the processing power of the GPU. The seven CPUs run collectively at a lower 218 GFLOPS.[14]

All of the GLOPS of all the consoles to date are only 402; where as a modern GPU is over two times that – Moore’s law in action.

You can read this several ways:

  1. All of the CPU consoles added up don’t equal 1 TFLOPS.
  2. All of the consoles added up don’t exceed 2 TFLOPS even if you count GPU and CPU.
  3. All consoles shipped to date add up to 7.318 EFLOPS - Exa FLOPS - 1018 and that’s a number that that thrills the folks at Folding@home.

Now why did I go through this laborious, pedantic, and sure to be arguable discussion? For several reasons:

  1. It’s raining here on Mt Tiburon so I can’t go out and play.
  2. I thought it was really interesting to look at how far consoles have progressed
  3. I thought it was even more interesting to look at how far PC graphics have progressed – ATI and Nvidia are shipping TFLOPS AIBs, and the next gen coming out in June, with Dual GPUs will be approaching 5 TFLOPS per AIB.

Just think of what the game developers and the movie studios can do with kind of horsepower.

Think of the shader operations that will be offered soon. Those of you reading this who know me know Peddie’s first law – in computer graphics too much is not enough. And although I haven’t made it a law yet, if I did (it would be number three), I’m fond of saying – don’t just watch a movie – be in the movie.

That’s where we’re heading with all these tera and peta FLOPS and I can’t wait to get there because next stop after this one is the holodeck.