AMD Radeon R9 Nano Review

Results: Frequencies And Temperatures

Actually Reached Clock Frequencies

Those wondering why we’re testing both short graphics cards on our open bench rather than in a mini-ITX case shouldn't worry. Even though the telemetry does take temperature into account for the GPU's frequency and voltage regulation, AMD is emphasizing the power consumption limit a lot more this go-around. In our small PC case, all clock rate throttling would have been due to power consumption, and not the graphics cards’ temperature.

We’re using the X-Trem 4790 by X-Hardware for our mini-ITX system. It’s based on the Nebula PC case by Xigmatek. The reason we chose this particular chassis is its easy-to-remove side cover that snaps in and out of place.

Let’s take a look at the clock rate results in the closed mini-ITX PC case, which, we might add, don’t really differ from those of the open configuration. The temperature curve shows us that the warm-up phase doesn’t change due to the different thermal setup.

It’s baffling that the clock rate drops so much during the stress test, which then results in the Radeon R9 Nano drawing slightly less power than the average during our gaming benchmarks. We also have to note that AMD’s stated “up to 1000MHz” isn’t really a lie, though it’s certainly not what we see during actual gaming either. We’d estimate that our average GPU frequency was more like 850 to 900MHz. Looking at the average, it turns out we were right on the money.

Temperature

A small PC case like this isn’t a fridge, but more of a greenhouse. Both compact graphics cards deal with this fact really well, though. The reason that the temperatures are comparable, even though the Radeon R9 Nano draws more power than the GTX 970 Mini (OC), is that the former pushes more air out of the back of the card via its slot cover. It’s not like 180W is an insurmountable number either, allowing both boards to operate in the small enclosed space without any thermal throttling.

Topping out at 77 degrees Celsius in a tiny closed PC case during a harsh gaming loop is great. Even larger graphics cards with more fans installed in big enclosures do well to achieve those thermal results.

Infrared Measurement in the Closed PC Case

But let’s get back to our PC case and an accompanying DIY project. Perhaps you're wondering how we managed to squeeze a huge infrared camera like the Optris PI450 into a chassis so small that most graphics cards won't fit in it. Simply, we’re taking advantage of the case’s modular design and removing its right side cover. We then borrow a product development procedure. Openings are closed with a special IR-penetrable foil, allowing IR cameras to “see” though them. This sounds simpler than it actually is, since you first need to know the foils’ transmittance (how easily waves of the desired frequency spectrum pass through it).

We’re using a thin industrial foil with known transmittance for this. It sticks to the PC case without needing any glue. So, airflow and temperatures are identical to a closed case.

In addition, we used a transparent lacquer so that we could use every measurement point’s exact emissivity and transmittance in our software. The end result of all of our efforts can be seen in the following pictures from inside the tiny PC case.

The Radeon R9 Nano has a unique feature: its VRM’s pins don’t stick out of the back of the PCA. This means they can’t be used for temperature measurements. Some of the smaller chips, such as the 5230 RCA, take over this duty by providing a nice strong glow, though.

Our results aren't as dire as they might appear. The board remains under 95 degrees Celsius even after an hour of continuous load. This is quite a feat in today’s graphics card landscape, especially in a closed mini-ITX PC case.

The reason for this great performance can be found in the form of the voltage regulator’s dedicated cooler, which consists of a thick heat pipe and a cooling body with fins. Even during our stress test, things stayed (relatively) cool, with the temperatures, just like the power consumption, slightly lower than our gaming workloads.

So how about the competition? Even though the Gigabyte GTX 970 Mini is meant as a low-cost option for SIs, it does really well when it comes to temperatures. Since it doesn’t employ HBM, we observe the expected hot spots: VRM, memory and GPU.

These results are exemplary as well, especially considering the case's limited space. During the stress test, temperatures increase just slightly.

Overall, the Radeon R9 Nano’s cooling solution is very well designed and executed. It’s sufficient to keep the card cool in a small PC case, as long as there’s at least a little bit of airflow.

Ambient Temperature
22 °C
Closed Case,
Gaming Loop
Closed Case,
Stress Test
VRM
Maximum
AMD Radeon R9 Nano76 to 77 °C
75 to 76 °C
89 °C (Probe)
Gigabyte GTX 970 Mini73 to 74 °C
74 °C
95 °C (IR)
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115 comments
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  • nikolajj
    I love this segment. If I was building today, I would do a small build for sure!
  • Eximo
    Looks like the table had a hiccup. GTX970 (OC) is showing a lot of the numbers from the R9-390X, and maybe a few numbers from the 980 column.
  • Yuka
    It is a nice card and I agree, but... It's not USD $650 nice.

    This card is a very tough sell for AMD, specially since ITX cases that can house current long cards are not hard to find or weird enough to make short cards a thing.

    It's nice to see it's up there with the GTX970 in terms of efficiency, since HTPCs need that to be viable and the card has no apparent shortcomings from what I could read here.

    All in all, it needs to drop a bit in price. It's not "650 nice", but making it "~500 nice" sounds way better. Specially when the 970 mini is at 400.

    Cheers!
  • FormatC
    @Eximo:
    The table will be fixed, this was a copy issue :D
  • sna
    no HDMI2.0 in itx small system near the 4k TV is unforgivable AMD , what were you thinking?
  • sna
    73949 said:
    It is a nice card and I agree, but... It's not USD $650 nice. This card is a very tough sell for AMD, specially since ITX cases that can house current long cards are not hard to find or weird enough to make short cards a thing. It's nice to see it's up there with the GTX970 in terms of efficiency, since HTPCs need that to be viable and the card has no apparent shortcomings from what I could read here. All in all, it needs to drop a bit in price. It's not "650 nice", but making it "~500 nice" sounds way better. Specially when the 970 mini is at 400. Cheers!



    well this card is for the smallest case ... not the easy to find huge long itx case.

    I personaly find long itx cases useless ... they are very near to Matx case in size .. and people will pick up MATX ovet ITX any time if the size is the same.

    BUT for 170mm long card ? this is a winner.

    the only thing killing this product is the lack of HDMI2.0 which is very important for itx .. ITX are the console like PC near the tv.
  • Cryio
    The 390X was slower or as fast as a mini-970 in 1080p-1440p in all cases. What gives?
  • FormatC
    As the manually oc'ed version. Please compare it with the 970 Mini @stock :)
  • heffeque
    Quote:
    no HDMI2.0 in itx small system near the 4k TV is unforgivable AMD , what were you thinking?

    I guess that they were thinking about DisplayPort?
  • Nossy
    I'd go with the 950 GTX for a mini ITX build for a 1080pgaming/4k video HTPC.

    For a $650 bucks video card. I'd go with a 980TI and use a Raven RVZ01 if I want an ITX build with performance.
  • caiokn
    Nice to see such a nice product from AMD. I expect their next CPU line to be surprisingly good as well.
  • rhysiam
    While it's great to see a high end AMD card competing with Nvidia on efficiency, I wonder how aggressively they've had to bin the chips to get the Nano down to its TDP. Given the CLC and additional VRMs on the FuryX, these Nano's would have a substantially lower BOM and yet retail at the same price, making them a higher margin product. Reasonable bet they'll be getting the cream of the Fiji crop at the moment.

    It would be interesting to see whether under volting/clocking a FuryX could approach similar efficiency, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that most of them draw a chunk more power. Still, if you told me 6 months ago that AMD would have a high end card that's competitive with Maxwell in both performance and efficiency (particularly the latter), I'm not sure I'd have believed it.
  • tomc100
    The price is a bit high but Nvidia doesn't have a small form factor gpu with this much power and it's good to see AMD not pricing their gpu at ridiculously low prices and selling themselves short in order to compete with Nvidia. Time for Nvidia to drop prices. Now hopefully, their cpu division can keep up with Intel.
  • Au_equus
    AMD and the discrete GPU market needs this badly, but the lack of HDMI 2.0 is just another misstep for AMD. Its like they designed a sports car with the big engine, the high strength chassis, and the wide base with the road gripping tires. Then they put in an automatic transmission without the option for manual...
  • TallestJon96
    "Enthusiasts fond of space-saving gaming PCs have dreamed of a graphics card that runs as fast as a factory-overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 at Full HD resolution, and even faster at Ultra HD, while being smaller, lighter and even a bit less power hungry."

    They did? And that's oddly specific...

    Anyway, it's a good card, but too expensive, as the extra performance over a 970 isn't worth $300.

    Also, nvidia needs only to release a mini it's 989, and this niche will be filled.

    It's actually a great card, and I would use it if I had it, but the value just isn't there.
  • filippi
    mini it's 989? This is new...
  • XiPH3R
    great conclusion
  • AS118
    This is definitely a strong product for its niche, but I think that the regular Fury X is also a good small card. If I was building a small rig, I'd definitely consider that too.

    I wonder if working with Apple's rubbed off on AMD, they seem to be thinking of small form factors more often lately.
  • Xorak
    I suppose if you absolutely must pack the most power into the smallest case, than so be it. But even then, even the smallest cases seem to have at least one 120mm vent where you could sick the radiator of the Fury X and have a better, cooler solution for the same money. Assuming you could buy one of those, which realistically, you can't right now either.. Just my two cents. I got a 290x and freesync, I'm sitting this round out unless high end prices come way down. But I predict that the next full cycle will be a bigger step up than this one was. We should actually get that die size decrease and maybe 8gb of HBM will be cost effective by then.
  • jkhoward
    This card manages 30 FPS in most titles at 4K which isn't "playable" for most gamers. When paired against the 970 Mini in 1080p they are just about neck and neck.

    I am far from being a NVIDIA fanboy but... I guess I don't see the point in this product if it is $300 more expensive than the 970 Mini and cannot handle 4K with at least 60 FPS.
  • rgd1101
    they should replace the non-X fury with this, and at $500-$550.
  • Benthon
    Who spends $650 on a GPU but wouldn't spend $50+ buying a case that houses 10.5inch graphics cards?

    Nobody. That's the answer.
  • DONC314
    Sorry but I just don't get it. Spec wise it's a pretty good card, no question about that.
    At 600 bucks it is an answer to a question no one asked.
    Hopefully after it's out a while the market will determine a more realistic price.
  • FormatC
    414219 said:
    Who spends $650 on a GPU but wouldn't spend $50+ buying a case that houses 10.5inch graphics cards? Nobody. That's the answer.


    Mini-ITX is a good solution for living room PCs. All this funny gaming towers are too big and ugly to use it in a well-designed room. And to be honest: the whole world is a big market with a lot of different trends.

    I'm just preparing a mini-ITX DIY/Roundup with shorter cards and different Skylake CPUs to show which card goes well with which CPU. Starting with R7 360, over GTX 950 Mini, 960 Mini, 380 ITX, 970 Mini and up to R9 Nano. I'm not sure about a further translation into English, but we got in Germany so much positive response for all of our different mini-ITX projects, that I'm sure it is worth to build real rigs to find an objective conclusion.

    I have a MSI GTX 980 Ti Lightning in my hands, but it is definitely nothing for my living room. I'm playing in my lab :D