AMD Radeon R9 NANO Review – The Fury NANO
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AMD Radeon R9 NANO Review – Performance
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AMD Radeon R9 NANO Review – Conclusion
Lets start this conclusion with something you are going to hear a lot about regarding the NANO… noise. Not the noise you would normally expect though as despite this card’s compact cooler and AMDs patchy history with reference cooler noise, the R9 NANO actually has a pretty quiet load noise profile. No worse than any other high end card really. It doesn’t spin down at idle which is a shame… but overall quiet. The noise we have to deal with is from the other components on the card. Coil Whine/Noise as it is commonly called is very much an issue on the R9 NANO. At above average framerates its almost a rattle and then as the FPS escalate it really turns into a near whistle. It’s the worst case of this phenomenon we have heard to date and it was close to causing the R9 NANO not to get any sort of award/recommendation.
In the end we have given it one and there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, AMD are really pushing the limits in terms of performance of what this form factor is capable of. Pushing limits in technology almost always results in compromise and in the case of the NANO it’s a design which suffers from whine. For other products the compromise is heat, or fan noise, or tweaked feature set. Thats pretty weak though as a reason to award the card and something really should have been done to minimise it. Our second reason is that whine can be reduced using Frame Rate Target Control. In a compact build you want to balance power, noise, heat and framerates as best you can and certainly much more actively than a standard desktop. Enabling FRTC allows us to set the card to peak at a particular framerate and minimise heat/fan speed/power use. Of course the silver lining here is that the lower framerate minimises the coil noise. Finally, and again it is a barely acceptable “excuse”, often during gaming sessions we use headphones or decent volume through speakers and in that scenario the whine is not noticeable. Sit the R9 NANO on an open bench and game in silence/low volume and it will drive you mad. Sit it in a case, fire up the game with some immersive sound levels and you are probably ok… just. For the record, at the desktop and when watching media the card is whine free.
The only other significant negative with this product is the branding… it wouldn’t be an AMD launch if they didn’t try to overcomplicate things. R9 has been branding used for nearly 2 years now and the NANO has less in common with cards released back then than the new range. This is a Fiji/Fury GPU… own it AMD. This is Fury Nano.
Anyways… as far as overall design goes. Great stuff here. Compact, nice matt PCB, compact cooler, metal shroud. A backplate would have been pretty nice to have. Maybe some sort of grill on the back end of the card next to the power socket. But overall no complaints.
For performance as we noted earlier this is a low noise card, the power use for its class is excellent too and thermals very impressive considering the spec. Framerates were also very good. It compares well with the standard Fury card at standard resolutions and at 4k. Compared to the GTX 970, its direct competition when that card is in the ITX form factor, the R9 Nano provides higher framerates across a wide range of games.
Summary: A product which pushes boundaries… sometimes too far. Not cheap but for certain consumers who want to work around its issues this will be a product which brings new performance levels to small form factor systems.