Owning the latest and greatest in graphics cards means sacrificing a bit of your desk and chassis space. The faster the chip, the bigger the card becomes as it needs better cooling, thus requiring you to purchase a full-sized cabinet to run it.
But AMD wants to prove that size doesn’t matter when you need performance. Today, we test drive the new AMD Radeon R9 Nano- the world’s fastest Mini ITX Graphics card that can rival the big boys!
When AMD officially introduced the Fury series, it was claimed that the PCB area occupied by the GPU with HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) is three times lesser than the usual GDDR5 designs. This allowed the card to be actually smaller than your regular high end graphics cards as seen with the AMD Radeon Fury X.
The Radeon R9 Nano is about 6-inches long, making it 40% shorter than the previous generation Radeon R9 290X. Finally, gamers who prefer Mini ITX rigs will now be able to use powerful graphics cards that come almost on par with the industry’s fastest. However, the Radeon R9 Nano has a single cooling fan, with no liquid cooling solutions as the Radeon Fury X.
Despite its small size, the Radeon R9 Nano holds similar specifications as compared with the faster Radeon R9 Fury X. The Fiji XT GPU on the Nano is clocked at 1000 MHz, which a tad slower than the Fury X variant at 1050 MHz. The 4GB HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) remains the same, with a whopping 4096-bit memory interface, and 512GB/s memory bandwidth.
With all that hardware packed in a small chassis, the Radeon R9 Nano with GCN 1.2 based 4096 stream processors can push out almost 8.19 TFLOPS of computing performance. That’s as close as the 8.6 TFLOPS Fury X. All said, this kind of configuration is theoretically way ahead of NVIDIA’s best such as the GTX 980 Ti, and the Titan X, with 5.6 TFLOPS, and 6.14 TFLOPS, respectively. But real world tests will always differ.
Other technical features include 256 texture units, 64 R0Ps, and support for Direct X 12, Vulkan and Mantle API. The Radeon R9 Nano only needs one 8-pin power connector placed on the side of the card, which only requires a TDP of just 175W. Ports include three Display Port 1.2 connectors, and one HDMI 1.4a that limits 4K signals at 30 MHz. I’m not sure why AMD did not include an HDMI 2.0, as the Radeon R9 Nano (or the Radeon Fury X) is meant for 4K gaming.
For our tests, we used an MSI Z77A-GD80 motherboard, with an Intel i7-3770K processor, 2x 4GB DDR3 GSkill RipJaws, a 240GB Kingston Hyper X SSD running 64-bit Windows 10 OS. For theoretical performance, we used 3D Mark 11 FireStrike tests. We also tried games with built-in benchmark tools such as Tomb Raider 2013, BioShock Infinite, Metro Last Light, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordar, Batman Arkham Knight, and GTA 5. Other titles include Crysis 2, Crysis 3, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. All the games were cranked up to their maximum settings at 1080p and 4K resolutions. Only GTA 5 and Call of Duty: AW was tested with slightly lowered anti-aliasing options, due to the 4GB HBM limit.
As per the scores, the R9 Nano performed well in 1080p. 4K performance numbers are decent at 35fps for most games, although, the graphic hungry Witcher 3, Crysis 3, and Metro Last Light took a deep dip at 22, 26, and 18 fps, respectively.
Radeon R9 Nano VS ASUS GTX 970 DirectCU Mini
Currently, the closest competitor of the Mini ITX class GPU’s is the ASUS GTX 970 Mini, and we have pitted NVIDIA’s smallest card with the Radeon R9 Nano.
Performance wise, The Radeon R9 Nano beats the GTX 970 Mini by a decent margin in both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Weirdly, the GTA 5 bench scores of the GTX 970 Mini are more or less the same as the Radeon R9 Nano at 4K.
Radeon R9 Nano VS ASUS Strix Radeon 390X
Unfortunately, we did not have the older Radeon R9 290X, so we pitted the Nano against the next best thing- the ASUS Strix Radeon 390X. And for most cases, the R9 Nano outperforms the Radeon 390X.
So how does the R9 Nano fair against the bigger competition?
While the Radeon R9 Nano packs almost the same specs as the Radeon R9 Fury X, the latter easily outperforms its baby brother by a small margin for 4K gaming. And the ASUS Strix GTX 980 Ti outperforms all of them easily.
Radeon R9 Nano with ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming Mini ITX
Luckily, at the time of testing the Radeon R9 Nano, we got an ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming Mini ITX for review as well. The R9 Nano fits well within the Mini ITX, and we used the latest Intel i5-6600K Skyake processor with 2x 4GB DDR4 GSkill Ripjaws 4 RAM. I was expecting a performance difference, but oddly, the framerates were more or less the same as the above testbed we used.
Heat and Coil Sounds
During the benchmark tests, the Radeon Nano went up to a maximum temperature of 57 degrees with the fan spinning at its maximum. However, the card makes an annoying coil sound whenever it’s on load. It could be due to poor quality components.
While the Radeon R9 Nano may not be the fastest card on the planet, it does come almost on par with the best, which is an impressive feat by AMD. And I have to give AMD a big thumbs up for cramping all that performance in such a small design that can do 4K gaming. The only downfall here is its price here, which is the same price as the AMD Radeon Fury X- A whopping $649.
+ Decent 4K Gaming
- Makes annoying coil sound while gaming