TR's second hardware survey: the results are in

Two weeks after the creation of our second hardware survey, it's time to crack open the ballot box and see what's inside. We've tallied roughly 3,500 votes per question, so the results should do a decent job of shedding light on the computing landscape among TR's readership—or at least, those among you who enjoy surveys.

When we ran our first survey in early 2008, the typical TR reader's PC looked a little something like this: a Core 2 Duo processor, GeForce 8 graphics, 2-3GB of RAM, less than a terabyte of storage, Windows XP, and a 19-22" LCD display.

Three years later, what's changed?

The Core 2 series is still the single most popular CPU family with 24% of the vote, trailed closely by the Core i7 and Phenom II lineups (with 23% and 18%, respectively). Most TR readers (54%) now have a quad-core processor, however, and they've also doubled up on memory: 77% have at least 4GB today.

On the graphics front, the Radeon HD 5000 (21%) and 4000 (17%) series win the popularity contest hands down. Nvidia's GeForce 400 series (12%) takes the bronze medal, and the Radeon HD 6000 series (10%) is close behind. Being first to market with DX11 GPUs has clearly paid dividends for AMD.

Speaking of graphics cards, we've witnessed an interesting shift in spending habits. Back in 2008, 48% of respondents said they spent $250 or more on their graphics card. Today, that percentage has fallen to 33%. The most popular price range used to be $250-299 (18%), but it's now $199-249 (19%). I'd be tempted to blame the recession for the drop, but keep in mind that GPUs have been getting faster as the hardware requirements of PC games have stagnated. Maybe folks just don't need as to pay as much for a serviceable graphics card these days.

Storage requirements have, however, changed quite a bit. 63% of participants have over a terabyte of storage in their PC today. Also, almost a quarter have a solid-state-drive kicking around in there—an impressive number, considering even 64GB SSDs still cost more than 1TB mechanical hard drives. We're not seeing nearly as eager adoption for Blu-ray, though, with only 14% packing a capable reader or burner.

Moving on to motherboards, Asus' piece of the pie has remained almost unchanged at 36%, but Gigabyte has zoomed up from 18% to 34%, seemingly at the expense of all of its smaller competitors. More TR readers now trust their motherboard's integrated audio, too—the proportion of sound card owners has tumbled from 51% to 37%.

TR readers are migrating to larger displays, too (even though single-monitor configs remain the norm by far). The single most popular display size is now 24" with nearly a third of the vote, up from 19" in 2008. A majority of participants (59%) also have displays with enough pixels for 1080p content

Good luck finding gerbils with stereoscopic 3D panels and glasses, though: only 1% of 'em have stepped up to the third dimension.

Perhaps the most drastic shift has occurred in the operating system section, where 64-bit versions of Windows 7 now reign supreme with an impressive 71% of the vote. Three years ago, only 32% of gerbils had made the switch to Vista, and all 64-bit operating systems put together, including Linux, accounted for just over a fifth of the vote. My, how times have changed.

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