Microsoft revealed its new PS2-lookin' Xbox One X at its behemoth pre-E3 press conference this weekend, and it started off the games-focused conversation with a bunch of figures about the XOX's internal bits and boops. Apparently Microsoft's new console has enough thermo-transistors to accurately simulate the gastrointestinal processes of twelve dogs, in real time. Or at least that's what it sounded like, since teraflops and nanometers mean about as much to most folk as jiggawats and tachyon beams.
To its credit, Microsoft didn't spend a ton of time on this, and it's also done a very good job of co-messaging the Xbox One X as "the world's most powerful console," which is an effective distillation of what most consumers actually care about. But hey, maybe you wanna know what all the fuss is about! There's benefit to understanding the flops and the florps, especially if you're one of the many who own a gaming PC, but are unsure of how it stacks up against Microsoft's bouncing baby box.
Let's focus on teraflops, since that's the buzzword thrown around most readily these days. "FLOPS" is an acronym for "floating point operations per second." Floating-point operations are a kind of math used for the types of big calculations seen in graphics processing (and many other things), and by measuring the number of operations that can be performed in a second, we get a measurement of how quick a processor is. The higher the number, the faster the processor, which translates to better graphics, at least in theory.
Microsoft says the Xbox One X's "Scorpio Engine" has 6 teraflops, as compared with the original Xbox One's 1.3 teraflops, the PS4's 1.8 teraflops and the PS4 Pro's 4.2 teraflops. So! On paper at least, the XOX's GPU is the most powerful out there when it comes to consoles, hence all the hubbub. What if you've got a gaming PC though, how does 6 teraflops compare to your existing graphics card?
If your graphics card runs on nVidia juice and it doesn't say "GTX 1080" on it somewhere, the Xbox One X has more flops and is—again in theory—capable of crunching more graphics. Whether that's how things shake out in practice will vary from game to game, and will change over time.
A GTX 1080 also costs more by itself than a whole Xbox One X, which is important knowledge to have when sussing out the XOX's value proposition for your circumstances. If you have any 10-series nVidia card, your computer is very current and getting an XOX just for the flops might be silly. But hey, you do you! Not gonna tell you how to live your life.
Meanwhile, anyone with a current AMD Radeon graphics card (400 or 500-series as of print) has fewer flops than the Xbox One X. It's worth restating though that if you've got one of these graphics cards, your computer is probably still pretty dang new and capable of making nice lookin' games for you. Food for thought!
It's also possible that you have no idea what kind of graphics card is in your PC, which is totally reasonable considering how many manufacturers are out there selling pre-built gaming PCs. In this case, it just boils down to when you purchased your PC. If it's more than a year old, the XOX has more flops, but whether that actually matters at all is up to you.
Since my computer is seven hundred years old, and since I wrote this post using punch cards made from graham crackers because the government took all the paper for the war effort, 6 teraflops sounds pretty rad. If I had a recent CPU and a GTX 1060, though, I'd have to seriously think about whether an Xbox One X had a place in my life.
Again, these are broad comparisons designed to give context—I'm not saying the Xbox One X is going to have better looking games than every PC, full stop. The goal here is to inform on what a teraflop is and what it means, so you have the knowledge you need to parse what Microsoft is trying to sell you.