Specs and Hardware
What’s 6 inches long and costs $650? The AMD Radeon R9 Nano!
The AMD Radeon Nano graphics card is unlike any product we have ever tested at PC Perspective. As I wrote and described to the best of my ability (without hardware in my hands) late last month, AMD is targeting a totally unique and different classification of hardware with this release. As a result, there is quite a bit of confusion, criticism, and concern about the Nano, and, to be upfront, not all of it is unwarranted.
After spending the past week with an R9 Nano here in the office, I am prepared to say this immediately: for users matching specific criteria, there is no other option that comes close to what AMD is putting on the table today. That specific demographic though is going to be pretty narrow, a fact that won’t necessarily hurt AMD simply due to the obvious production limitations of the Fiji and HBM architectures.
At $650, the R9 Nano comes with a flagship cost but it does so knowing full well that it will not compete in terms of raw performance against the likes of the GTX 980 Ti or AMD’s own Radeon R9 Fury X. However, much like Intel has done with the Ultrabook and ULV platforms, AMD is attempting to carve out a new market that is looking for dense, modest power GPUs in small form factors. Whether or not they have succeeded is what I am looking to determine today. Ride along with me as we journey on the roller coaster of a release that is the AMD Radeon R9 Nano.
AMD Radeon R9 Nano Specifications
I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on this part of the review if only because we had another story posted just a couple of weeks ago where AMD released most of the technical information about the product. A quick recount of the information is provided here but for the full marketing detail about the card, check out my previous piece.
|R9 Nano||R9 Fury||R9 Fury X||GTX 980 Ti||TITAN X||GTX 980||R9 290X|
|GPU||Fiji XT||Fiji Pro||Fiji XT||GM200||GM200||GM204||Hawaii XT|
|Rated Clock||up to 1000 MHz||1000 MHz||1050 MHz||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||1126 MHz||1000 MHz|
|Memory Clock||500 MHz||500 MHz||500 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz||5000 MHz|
|Memory Interface||4096-bit (HBM)||4096-bit (HBM)||4096-bit (HBM)||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||512-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth||512 GB/s||512 GB/s||512 GB/s||336 GB/s||336 GB/s||224 GB/s||320 GB/s|
|TDP||175 watts||275 watts||275 watts||250 watts||250 watts||165 watts||290 watts|
|Peak Compute||8.19 TFLOPS||7.20 TFLOPS||8.60 TFLOPS||5.63 TFLOPS||6.14 TFLOPS||4.61 TFLOPS||5.63 TFLOPS|
AMD wasn’t fooling around, the Radeon R9 Nano graphics card does indeed include a full implementation of the Fiji GPU and HBM, including 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units and 64 ROPs. The GPU core clock is rated “up to” 1.0 GHz, nearly the same as the Fury X (1050 MHz), and the only difference that I can see in the specifications on paper is that the Nano is rated at 8.19 TFLOPS of theoretical compute performance while the Fury X is rated at 8.60 TFLOPS.
The memory system is also identical between the R9 Nano and the Fury X: 4096-bit wide high bandwidth memory bus, 4GB of capacity, 500 MHz memory clock rate and up to 512 GB/s of available memory bandwidth. Again, very impressive!
There is one very big difference that we have to point out though: The R9 Nano is rated with a 175 watt TDP, the Fury X at 275 watts. That is a difference in power consumption that we just haven’t seen in any other card to card variance when based on the same GPU.
That difference in power consumption is possible due to AMD “underclocking” the Fiji GPU: bringing the clock speed lower to meet a specific TDP target. And as we’ll see in an upcoming page of this story, the clock speed variance from game to game and even between resolutions is fairly substantial; I saw clocks as high as 1000 MHz and as low as 825 MHz.
It's important to note that even though AMD says the GPU is not thermally constrained, all aspects of the ASIC performance come into play during use. Efficiency is defined as the ability to run at a certain performance level and clock speed within a set TDP (which AMD has already defined at 175 watts). So if a particular game plays with a heavy GPU workload and attempts to draw more power than the 175 watts allowed, AMD's Fiji implementation will downclock until it arrives a voltage that hits ~175 watts draw. That will be different for all different kinds of software so its something we will pay particular attention to in our review.
For users that want to tweak things you will be able to adjust the power limit in the AMD Catalyst Control Center, thus decreasing efficiency, but pushing you closer to that 1.0 GHz frequency regardless of the GPU workload. This obviously takes AMD's new R9 Nano outside the range that it wanted to be able to claim for this product, and what it could guarantee in tight quarters that might be more thermally constrained, but gamers will have that flexibility if they wish, gaining as much as 10% in graphics performance based on AMD's quotes. Once you hit that 1000 MHz mark, however, you revert to the more standard overclocking models that we have already seen which aren't spectacular with Fiji GPUs.
The AMD Radeon R9 Nano – A Sexy Beast
From a design standpoint there is very little that was unknown about the R9 Nano hardware. This is a 6-in PCB design with a vapor chamber cooler that helps keep that sizeable Fiji GPU and HBM memory in the 75-85C range during gaming. Once again, our previous story has all the details on AMD’s position of the R9 Nano and its size, claiming that it can be used in cases that would otherwise not have access to cards in this performance class. Still, this is dead-sexy hardware so let’s take a look around our sample.
It’s hard to really even quantify with a single image, but the R9 Nano is incredibly tiny, measuring just 6-inches long. The fit and finish on the design is top notch, nearly matching the build quality of the Fury X in terms of the finish and rubber-coated plastic body. To be clear – the Nano is entirely plastic, none of that nickel plated gunmetal color to be found here. The single fan in the middle is responsible for moving around the necessary air to keep the Fiji GPU cool – this card is quiet but far from silent.
You won’t find any fancy LED lights on the card, which is a bit of a letdown considering how apt AMD is pushing this card for custom mods and windowed chassis. The Nano does support CrossFire but it’s using XDMA so no CrossFire connectors are needed.
There is no back plate on the R9 Nano which I am sure will aggravate some users immediately. I assume that this is not a cost saving measure and instead is to ensure that the card will fit onto some motherboards with very limited spacing between the primary PCIe slot and the CPU socket.
For power delivery the R9 Nano only requires a single 8-pin PCIe power connection, facing out the back of the card. This should help the Nano fit in more tightly-spaced cases than with the power connection up top, but I am sure there are cases where the opposite is true as well.
Display connectivity on the R9 Nano consists of a set of three DisplayPort connections and a single HDMI port. There are no DVI connections – kind of a bummer. Also, the HDMI port here is still HDMI 1.4a, not HDMI 2.0, which is one of the biggest drawbacks to Fiji over NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture. This is to an even greater degree in the case of the R9 Nano as it fits perfectly into the stereotype of an HTPC card, with previously unseen graphics performance, though it won’t be able to output to 4K 60 Hz TVs without an active adapter. An adapter, mind you, that I have yet to touch or see or price or validate.
Seriously…Good luck AMD
Seriously…Good luck AMD with this card, as I think its a fail at $650, when I can buy 970 mini at half the price and OC to 1400mhz! As it is the Nano only just pips 970 at 1080, 1440 okay, but once to clock the NV card, <10% diff if that....4k, hell even the 980Ti struggles....
Wow! I know it shouldn’t
Wow! I know it shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but there’s nothing like a new product to really bring the idiots out of the woodwork. That said, great job on thee review Ryan. It was well written and informative as usual. Ignore the haters and basement-dwellers that wouldn’t know HBM from one of their BMs. You guys do a great job here, keep it up! 😀
Grammar check, last page,
Grammar check, last page, last line:
“The AMD Fury, Fury X, GTX 980 or GTX 980 Ti are going to provided more performance with less tradeoffs (cost, noise, etc.).”
Great review, seems like a
Great review, seems like a really great albeit rather niche card.
Out of curiosity, since coil whine was at its worst in in-game menus and other situations where the frame rate would have been much higher than normal did you try turning on the frame rate limit in Catalyst Control Center at all to see if that kept it quieter? More wondering for my own purposes, considering a SFF build with this and just want to know if I can limit that coil whine.
Yah, it would definitely make
Yah, it would definitely make things quieter if you enable that. But honestly, users shouldn't HAVE to do that.
No I understand they
No I understand they shouldn’t have to, was just wondering if it would help is all
I’ve got a buddy, the only
I’ve got a buddy, the only friend from highschool who has “All the money” and he wasnts me to build him a system with 2 of these in the next 5-6 months. I like his idea, he wants a stark, empty eATX system, electric blue, no cables showing, baren, simple, stark pale blue LEDs, no shine, big window.
At this point I’m not sure if I can pull it off EXACTLY the way he wants, but I love the concept, and the challenge. And….. YEA, FUCK YEA!!!!!
Your friend is an idiot, sir.
Your friend is an idiot, sir.
I’d argue that this card
I’d argue that this card would be a good choice in a Phanteks Enthoo Evolve mATX, crossfire & watercooled . If I hadn’t gone got myself a 980ti after fury x reviews I’d have most likely gone with that set up. Good luck trying the same with two 980ti’s!
My view on the card looking at the power limit increases and corresponding clocks suggest a well binned fury x chip in a small package. Well worth the price tag imo if you can get the clocks up to the fury x and fancy watercooling it.
Personally wish they had released this sooner 🙁
Excellent. The little midget
Excellent. The little midget comes out making much noise and kicking much ass. If the runt is this powerful… just think of all the rekt ass that will be handed out by the bigger members of the Radeon family soon enough. Really exiting and game changing products are coming… I can’t wait.
Cool idea, but the price
Cool idea, but the price point…eh.. not so much.
That SFF GTX 970 is half the price and still competitive on performance, while being a year old.
Been getting the upgrade itch
Been getting the upgrade itch for quite some time now, my 8350 and 680 are still chugging along just fine at 25×14. I’m holding off till Zen and Arctic Islands hit the scene to make the jump but this card makes me want to do a build with a LIAN LI PC-TU200B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower for a 21:9 1440p FreeSync display with four actual GB of memory.
the Geforce 970 also has coil
the Geforce 970 also has coil whine…
After reading all this &
After reading all this & working w/ my Fury X card I have come to the view that AMD is doing some risky but very smart PR IF all works out for them as these Fiji XT projects were IMHO meant to be halo products, especially the Fury X, to demonstrate the future direction of the industry, AMD’s capacity to engineerproduce these new hardware concepts & make it all work, to get there w/ all this in front of Nvidia to get attention w/ the wait on MS to come thru w/ Win 10 OS & Directx 12 API which has been shown to favor large shader arrays w/ wide bandwidth. I believe that the R9 Nano was the main AMD cross-platform product that they wanted to go with due to still being stuck on 28nm die as this product would set the stage for AMD in 2016 to really hit back hard w/ the FinFet 16nm parts w/ Zen on the CPU side & the Artic Islands GPU’s on HBM2 on the other. I don’t think that AMD needs to sell a ton of product to recover development costs to build these cards……just cause it took them 7 years to do this doesn’t mean that incompetency is rampant at AMD per se……whether we wanted to admit it or not AMD is STILL selling plenty of Radeon R7R9 line of vid cards today on rebranded & refreshed parts, just Nvidia hit them hard w/ their remake of Maxwell on 28nm & maximized it on the rest of the already old & outdated GDDR5 platform….here is where IMHO AMD got caught flat-footed & is trying to catch back up….. I don’t believe that AMD needed to beat Nvidia w/ this new tech outright at this time….just get close enough to Nvidia’s flagship line on the front end in performance then have MS & Win 10 w/ Dx 12 API & the game developers catapult AMD out in front due to the asynchronous shader advantage that they currently hold over Nvidia before Nvidia can respond………. It’s a BIG gamble & in time we’ll see if it pays off.
Ryan-Could those coils be
Ryan-Could those coils be encapsulated in resin and still do
You’d think with the reduced phases they could use high quality
inductors-even custom if they had to-not like there’s going to
be millions of these made-and plenty wiggle room on cost…….
Look at this in this
Look at this in this way…….w/ the R9 Nano’s debut & the few real review results that are out AMD just laid down a big challenge to Nvidia to put forth a product that can put out near 980-like performance on 175W TDP in a FF size as small as this Nano is RIGHT NOW…………. Don’t lose sight of this fact…….. Remember the review facts that showed Fiji XT GPU’s (Fury X’s)in CrossfireX scale out at near 100%………now here’s 2 R9 Nano’s turn to further drive this home again also in CrossfireX………
Remember also the AMD 2-Fiji XT GPUs part built on HBM w/ both GPU’s & HBM mounted on the same interposer which changes the game concerning the mem limitations of GDDR5 in multi-GPU config (both GPU’s can use all the mem available….all 8 Gb of it due to HBM design)is due to debut later this month, 1st of next…….. I believe this part is going to cut into Nvidia even harder as it should knock the Titan X off in both performance but also relative TDP(the R9 Nano demonstrates this potential)& cost will not be a factor by then…….if AMD gets this part right it will be VERY hard for Nvidia to top w/ current GDDR5 tech until they can respond w/ Pascal on HBM2 next year & by then the results should demonstrate their new focus in engineering prowess at AMD to innovate just as they could back in the ATI days……which is exactly what AMD CEO Lisa Su has been saying & banking on all this time was their story line….thus the resurrected Fury naming for this tech……..
Pricing is simply reflecting the result of having a cutting edge product readily available that the competition has no counter part to compete w/ it…..no different w/ Nvidia & Maxwell…… The real test for AMD is if this part will sell at enough volume to vindicate their game plan as the Nano is the showcase part that demonstrates the validity of this new tech & was the target of all the Fiji XT GPUs & HBM talk in the 1st place………
This is what I believe was AMD’s whole plan from a marketing approach…..the stuff that this Roy spewed out actually did something that could be a positive in a negative light……it’s got y’all’s attention to focus on this part & consequently start drawing more attention to this from others & start up conversation around the Nano……….
I can’t believe the frikkin
I can’t believe the frikkin thing is priced so high – what a scalping disappointment.
Why is this card still priced
Why is this card still priced so damn high? AMD’s heads have swollen and for absolutely no reason!I love AMD, But I love AMD because they always had great prices, This year their prices suck! ANd this is also why their stocks are still going down! Because apparently they never learn!