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The most recent hardware survey by Valve Software, which asks users of Steam video game distribution system to submit their hardware and software data, revealed that only a small fraction of gamers have adopted computers that contain two or more graphics processors, despite of all the promotions that AMD and Nvidia hold to rise popularity of CrossFire and SLI.

The survey revealed that graphics processing units (GPUs) by Nvidia Corp. are far more popular than chips from ATI, the graphics and chipset division of Advanced Micro Devices, or other graphics cores, such as those supplied by Intel Corp., Matrox Graphics, S3 Graphics, XGI and so on. Apparently, 54.46% of Steam users have Nvidia driver installed, 38.35% have ATI driver in their system and 7.19% use another driver supplied by other developers, such as Intel. Given that every system use a driver for graphics adapter, the share of the driver installations reveal the actual share of hardware installations.

Only about 12.7 thousand of 850 thousand of respondents – or about 1.5% – had a multi-GPU personal computer (PC) with either two, three or four graphics processors, the stats at Steampowered web-site reveal. Given that approximately 49.42% of Nvidia GeForce graphics adapters in possession of Steam users are either AGP or PCI, whereas PCI Express was adopted by 44.68% of gamers, the share of multi-GPU systems among Nvidia GeForce-based PCI Express computers is more significant: 6.88%.

Nvidia’s SLI (scalable link interface) technology is far more popular than ATI’s CrossFire. Steam hardware survey indicates that there are 12.1 thousand multi-GPU systems – or about 96% – with two GeForce chips and only around 500 computers – or 3.9% - 4.0% – that feature two Radeon GPUs. It is interesting to note that the system reports about 4 owners of 3-way SLI machines and 2 proud owners of quad SLI systems with four GeForce chips inside. Given that the survey hardly makes difference between the cards, but checks whether a multi-GPU tech is enabled in the driver, the dual-chip GeForce 7950 GX2 graphics cards should be considered as a computer with two graphics accelerators.

The five most popular graphics cards are Nvidia GeForce 6600 (9.23%), ATI Radeon 9600 (5.81%), Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 (5.76%), Nvidia GeForce 6800 (5.05%) and ATI Radeon X800 (4.45%).

The share of higher-end graphics cards introduced during 2006 is not very high: 6.44% of all cards used by Steam users, or approximately 54.7 thousand, of which 27.85% belongs to ATI and 72.15% going to Nvidia. It is remarkable that about 4.4% of Steam users –  0.52% – already utilize Nvidia GeForce 8800-series graphics cards. 

This survey began on November 15th, 2006 and was being updated constantly at press time.

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