Steam Hardware Survey Reveals How the Average Gaming PC Looks in 2020

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The Steam Hardware Survey answers questions on what hardware Steam users have in their gaming PCs, and Steam publishes data on the choices selected by their users every month. It is always a decent representation of what the general distribution of hardware is amongst gamers. August’s hardware survey revealed some key points regarding where the state of gaming hardware adoption is, and if you’re an enthusiast then you might not like the answer.

Steam Hardware Survey 2020
The Steam Hardware Survey home page for August 2020, with trends for CPU used, GPU used, CPU cores used, popular VR sets and also Mac hardware distribution.

NVIDIA RTX Fails to Be Adopted

Perhaps the biggest point emerging from the Steam Hardware Survey is the abysmal rate of adoption of NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX series of graphic cards. The RTX 20 series that came out in 2018 have a combined total adoption of 10.89% of all users surveyed. Much of this can be attributed to the GTX 10 series’ fantastic price to performance ratio, and the relatively tiny leap that RTX 20 GPU’s offered in terms of raw performance.

Nvidia comparing RTX 3000 GPUs directly with GTX 10 series cards
NVIDIA put a slide comparing their GTX 10 GPUs directly with RTX 30 series cards in their RTX 30 series launch event. This was followed by NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang saying “To all my Pascal (GTX 10) gamer friends, it is safe to upgrade now”.

The high cost of the GeForce RTX cards can also be blamed for this low adoption rate. NVIDIA has acknowledged this problem, as in their RTX 30 series announcement event, Jensen Huang, NVIDIA CEO spoke directly to GTX 10 series users and had separate comparisons of 10 and 30 series GPUs to convince users of the 10 series that it is appropriate to upgrade to the 30 series, skipping the 20 series altogether.

AMD Trends Upward with Ryzen CPUs; Still Less GPU Users

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AMD sells both CPUs and GPUs, and while the CPU division gaining more and more ground is not news anymore (they now have just shy of 25% share in the survey), the GPU division is unable to make much progress. The Radeon RX 5000 series is their match for Nvidia’s GTX 16 series and lower-end RTX 20 series cards. Yet the only RX 5000 series cards to even make the list have a combined adoption rate of 1% in the Steam Hardware Survey as of August 2020.

The RX 5700 and the RX 5700 XT are seemingly the only popular cards among Steam users, and that too, by a very dismal amount. It has to be noted that the older RX 500 and even 400 series cards are still in use at the moment, which makes a lot of sense as they were the competition to the most popular GPU overall, the GTX 1060 back when they were all brand new. This might change though with the RX 5600 XT (our review here), which aims to take back the 1080p gaming card crown.

The two most popular RX 5000 GPUs according to Steam: The Radeon RX 5700 and the 5700 XT.

In India, a reason for this could be the lack of custom cards that could also serve as cheaper alternatives for the same GPU, which would then compete well with NVIDIA’s offerings that have several partner models (from brands like Asus, Gigabyte, Zotac, and MSI) in different price ranges as well. If AMD could succeed in their RX 5000 series with more AIB cards and compelling pricing, the tide may then turn.

How Does The “Average” Gaming PC Look in 2020?

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Steam has very conveniently laid out all the most popular pick in each category, and one could spec out an entire build with all the parts listed. According to Steam, if you set out building such a PC, you would end up with a GTX 1060, paired with a quad-core CPU running at 3.3-3.7 GHz. That CPU is bound to be an Intel one, as they still have 3/4ths of the total CPU share, and hence it could be any i5 from Skylake (6th Generation) to the 9th Generation.

Alternatively, it could also be a Core i7 from before the 8th Generation. The most popular RAM configuration is 16 GB, and we can see that getting more and more popular as DDR4 memory becomes cheaper still. Your PC would be running Windows 10, which would come as no surprise, as over 90% of Steam’s Windows users use Windows 10 now\. You would also be running a 1080p monitor unless you use 2 such monitors, which is the most popular multi-display arrangement by far.

This is the most popular build setup overall according to Steam’s Hardware Survey. Had you been using Linux, however, you would tend to use the Radeon RX 480 over the GTX 1060, in all likelihood owing to AMD’s open-source drivers being more robust on a Linux system.
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This kind of a build is not recommended to be built brand new, however, it is still a robust set up in 2020 provided you built it a year or so in the past. Even today, it would be a good build if bought discounted at an affordable price. As for pure performance, the build would provide users with a good 1080p experience, with higher framerates for competitive games, and manageable high graphical settings at roughly 60-100 FPS for AAA titles in 2020.

The Steam Hardware Survey is a reliable source of getting to know what is trending up or down in gaming hardware, and either the percentage deltas or the total share of each component as it is tells us what is popular amongst gamers. There are more trends to explore in the survey, for example, the rising use of Vulkan API over DirectX in games that support it. It also has insights on Linux gaming, which is a big push initiated by Steam, as well as gaming on macOS systems.

With new gaming PC hardware, as well as new consoles, on the horizon, time will tell if the ‘average’ gaming PC gets any better.

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Yatharth Sood
Intern Writer at TechQuila. Amateur photographer on Instagram. EE undergrad student at MIT, Manipal.

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