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Steam's most popular GPU might surprise you

Gigabyte GTX 1650 headerImage: Gigabyte

With tens of millions of users, most of which log in daily, Steam is the de facto platform home of PC gaming. That gives Valve’s storefront a massive amount of user data, which it occasionally shares with the rest of us via the monthly hardware survey. This month sees a new king of the world for graphics cards, and one that might just surprise you: the humble Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650.

Also, just to cover my bases, it might not surprise you if you’re a game industry analyst or just an obsessive follower of PC trends and data. Yes, you’re very impressive, please don’t tweet at me.

The GTX 1650 takes over from the previous leader, the GTX 1060, released way back in 2016. The new top of the GPU crop has a hair over 6 percent of the market, meaning a little more than one in twenty Steam users is rocking the budget hardware on their gaming PCs. The GTX 1060 is right behind at 5.58 percent of the userbase while the first graphics card from the more recent generations to hit the list is the laptop version of the RTX 3060, at 4.46 percent.


The first mid-high card on the list is the RTX 3070, 2.35 percent, with less than half the users of the GTX 1650. Other RTX 3000-series cards are struggling to gain ground at the top of the list, even though it’s dominated by Nvidia hardware — the first AMD entry is the generic and integrated “AMD Radeon Graphics” at number thirteen, 1.86 percent. The first discrete AMD GPU on the list is the Radeon RX 580, released in 2017.

The various configurations of the GTX 1650 were released between April 2019 and June 2020, making it a significant improvement over the GTX 1060 in calendar terms. The “16” series was a slight upgrade over the 1000 series, a budget alternative to the new RTX cards. But a 4GB GPU that launched around the $150 mark and still fetching $175-200 at street prices due to high demand isn’t what anyone thinks of when they consider the bombastic, high-powered desktops that feature in PC build guides on YouTube or Reddit.

Steam statistics don’t necessarily reflect every aspect of PC gaming, but they’re an excellent bellwether. The continued popularity of affordable, easy-to-find GPUs should be a humbling reminder to game developers and hardware sellers (and perhaps hoity-toity tech journalists like yours truly) that not everyone is reaching for 4K and 120FPS performance. It also contextualizes the user pushback against Nvidia’s recent massive price hikes, not to mention AMD and Intel’s decisions to price new cards a little lower and much lower, respectively.

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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