Earlier this week, my coworker Matt Bach was working on a report showing what sort of hardware we end up selling in systems for different use cases – not what we recommend, but rather what customers end up actually purchasing – for his recent After Effects webinar. In the course of setting up his reports, he realized that this data could be pulled more broadly for all systems we've sold over a given time period… and that this could be very interesting for fans of our work here at Puget and folks who follow the computer hardware industry more broadly. At his suggestion, I pulled the results for the last six months (November of 2021 up through today, near the end of April 2022) and compiled the data into the following charts.
Note for new visitors to Puget Systems: We build workstation PCs for a wide range of professional applications. While some folks also purchase gaming systems or various other types of computers from us, our focus is on high performance and solid reliability for users who depend on the PC as a tool of their trade. This should help explain why some of the hardware that is popular in our workstations may differ from what is more common in the wider PC market.
I should also note that the results below exclude some small, infrequent hardware items. For example, video cards and drives that made up less than about 1% of our sales numbers were skipped so that the charts wouldn't become too cluttered. I am also grouping some things – like cases by size, and CPUs by product line – to keep it simple.
Processor (CPU) Families
To start off, lets look at the percent of our systems in the last six months built using various CPU product lines from Intel and AMD:
I've shared details in the past about how AMD and Intel have traded market share in our product line over time, and it looks like AMD is still in the lead these last few months. Intel's Core line is the single largest CPU family in our workstations, but AMD has all three of the next most popular processor series. However, AMD appears to have discontinued their Threadripper high-end desktop chips – at least, we cannot source any more. AMD has also announced new generations of both their mainstream Ryzen and workstation-class Threadripper PRO chips, so it will be interesting to see how this breakdown changes over the course of this year.
Memory (RAM) Capacity
Next up, lets look at how much system memory (in total) workstations we sold were equipped with:
Nothing too surprising here, especially since Intel's Core and AMD's Ryzen were our most popular CPU platforms – and both are limited to 128GB of system memory. The 256GB+ configurations would require an Intel Xeon W or AMD Threadripper / Threadripper PRO, and also cost a pretty penny, so of course they are the least common among our workstations… though still a healthy percent.
Primary Video Cards (GPUs)
Third, we've got a view into what primary video card customers selected for their systems. Please note that this does not include any additional video cards, as found in multi-GPU systems. The data source I used didn't take that into account, but if that is a topic which interests you let me know in the comments and I can try to include it in future blogs posts like this.
It is clear from this chart that the vast majority of our customers opt for NVIDIA GeForce video cards, but I was surprised that the RTX 3090 is the most popular model. It was the most expensive option among GeForce cards in this period, and is immediately followed by our least-costly option: the RTX 3070 Ti. So it looks like a lot of users want either the most power they can get or just want a decent video card, without being overly concerned about maximizing graphics performance. It will be interesting to see if the 3090's replacement, the RTX 3090 Ti, ends up being as popular despite its increased price tag.
On the lower end of the scale we have NVIDIA's high-end "professional" RTX A-series graphics cards, along with the T600. That is a card optimized for workloads that don't involve much in the way of 3D, but still need multiple monitor support. Likewise, we see that systems without a dedicated GPU, or at least without one as the primary video output device, made up 2.4% of our sales. That usually means Intel Core based PCs with graphics built into the CPU, but can also indicate a headless server – which still has basic graphics output on the motherboard for initial configuration and diagnostics.
Primary Drive (SSD)
Pretty much all of the systems we sell these days have solid-state drives (SSDs) for the primary drive, where the operating system and applications are installed – and in fact, the vast majority use fast NVMe drives for that purpose. Lets look at the exact breakdown among different types and sizes:
Samsung solid-state drives (SSDs) have been our most popular storage option for a long time now, for very good reasons, and this chart shows just how much they dominate our lineup. The only non-Samsung models on here are 4TB NVMe drives, which makes sense because Samsung has yet to release a model of that size in their 980 Pro line – so we've had to make do with Seagate and Sabrent drives to fill that niche. It is also worth noting that over 90% of our systems use a NVMe SSD as the primary drive, with the remainder being less costly SATA-based SSDs. We don't even offer magnetic hard disk drives (HDDs) as options in this role any longer, as they are dramatically slower, though of course they are still viable for data storage and backup roles.
Lastly, we've got a comparison of the different case sizes / types we used in our builds:
All of our tower cases are currently manufactured by Fractal Design, but instead of listing specific models I thought it would be easier to show the breakdown by chassis size and motherboard form factor. Case names don't always make it obvious what size they are, though I will say that once you get the hang of their naming Fractal is better in this regard than a lot of manufacturers! We've also got a decent chunk of our systems which end up being built for use in racks, with InWin being our primary rackmount case supplier.
As for how these results fit with the other hardware categories above, the most direct relationship is with the CPU family. Intel's Core and AMD's Ryzen have both small (mATX) and mid-size (ATX) motherboard options, and in rare situations may even find themselves put in a larger tower or rackmount to accommodate special hardware – like multiple GPUs, lots of drives, etc. On the other end of the spectrum, Intel's Xeon W and AMD's Threadripper PRO are only available with very large motherboards due to the massive number of memory channels and PCI-Express lanes they support, so they can only fit in full towers and rackmounts. Recently, we added an Intel Core-based small form factor system to our lineup as well, but it hasn't been sold in large enough numbers yet to be included in this data set.
Have Questions or Ideas for Topics?
I'm always looking for interesting topics to cover, especially related to the hardware we use in our workstations. If you'd like to see more details or a deeper dive into anything specific, please let me know in the comments below! There should also be a lot of exciting products coming from AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA later this year – so check out our news feed or sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep up to date!
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