There’s good news for AMD in the Steam Hardware Survey numbers, and they appear to reflect increased uptake of the company’s gaming CPUs. We say “appear” because it’s never been quite clear when and how Steam updates its survey results, but unlike with GPUs, Steam doesn’t really try to track model numbers — just vendor and clock.
The Steam numbers for AMD are good on their own, but they’re downright fabulous compared with where the smaller CPU company was sitting a year ago. In June of 2020 (reflecting May results), AMD had 22.45 percent of the market. Today, it’s just over 30 percent. Here’s the company’s market share for the past few years:
Even when we go all the way back to 2017, AMD’s market share doesn’t actually change all that much until 2020-2021. These figures aren’t the whole story, though. To understand what else was happening in AMD’s product mixture at the same time, we need to look at AMD’s top-end clock bins. Note: Steam gives percentages relative to the entire CPU market. If you add all of the clock bins together in any given period, the result should reflect that CPU manufacturer’s market share on Steam. The chart below is for AMD.
The clock speed numbers tell an interesting story. In the year after Ryzen launches, AMD’s clock speeds begin to drop. This reflects people shifting away from Bulldozer, which relied on high clocks to offer poor performance.
By 2019, we see signs of upper-end Ryzen uptake. From 2019-2021, the percent share of Steam users running an AMD chip clocked at 3.7GHz or above doubled. Steam’s clock bins are kind of outdated, but in this case, we can see AMD customers first selling off Bulldozer and Piledriver chips, and then upgrading to higher-clocked Ryzen CPUs.
We know AMD has not maintained consumer market share over the past year. It’s been limited in the number of CPUs TSMC could build per quarter, while Intel has enjoyed fewer constraints in that regard. That’s what makes its sudden surge in Steam all the more interesting. AMD has testified it’s shipping fewer low-end chips and concentrating more on its highest-end, most profitable parts. Steam’s market share data suggests that strategy is paying off.
We don’t expect to see much in the way of further clock speed gains for AMD in 2021. The company has shown off a CPU with a 3-D stacked L3 cache on top of it, boosting the total amount of L3 onboard Ryzen to 96MB per chiplet (192MB for the 5900X and 5950X). AMD claims this additional L3 can deliver a 1.15x performance improvement, which is on par with a generational increase. We don’t have exact shipping dates, but a launch in Q4 or early Q1 are both possibilities.
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