AMD Radeon R9 Nano Review

Results: The Witcher 3 And GTA V

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

AMD’s Radeon R9 Nano is slower than the Fury X, of course. It also clearly loses to the factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 980 at 1920x1080. This changes as the resolution increases, though. At UHD, the Radeon R9 Nano comes in slightly ahead of its competition from Nvidia. However, none of the graphics cards deliver a really smooth gaming experience at the highest resolution.

The Radeon R9 Nano’s main competitor (at least according to AMD), Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 Mini (OC), lands well behind the R9 390X. Its frame rates are simply unplayable at 4K. This changes if you're willing to use lower settings or step down to QHD, where the card fares just well enough to provide a playable experience. Full HD doesn't present as much of a challenge; we don't observe any issues at that resolution.

Now lets take a look at the frame times, which are a lot more interesting than the FPS curve with its per-second averages. The GeForce GTX 970 Mini (OC)’s longer times between frames and substantial jumps, which can be perceived as frame drops, are easy to spot. Manually overlocking the card makes a big difference in consistency compared to its stock version.

In the last graph, the frame render times were represented by the vertical position. After subtracting the averages from each card's frames, the curves end up on top of each other. This makes it easier to see the differences between them.

We’re now looking at smoothness by comparing the individual frames to each other and plotting the differences (that is, the time variance between individual frames). This makes it even easier to spot larger stutters and jumps.

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA V is one of those games that tends to stutter, or even get stuck, when there’s too much happening at once in the open world. Although this can be difficult to identify when you're looking at average frame rates, let's start with those numbers for our three test resolutions.

There are no surprises to speak of. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 can’t be beat until it hits 4K. Again, we see why AMD focuses so much on that resolution.

When it comes to frame times, the Radeon R9 390X doesn’t do very well. Just remember that the individual frame render times provide a general overview, and mostly show how much the graphics cards are stressed.

Taking a look at the GeForce GTX 970 Mini (OC)’s normalized curve at Ultra HD, it quickly becomes apparent that AMD’s graphics cards encounter much higher frame time variance. This isn’t a new finding, and it does mirror our subjective impressions that the game runs more smoothly on Nvidia hardware.

Jumping straight to the Ultra HD graph, we see that AMD's frame time variances are getting worse. We put the GeForce GTX 970 Mini (OC) front and center here again to show the difference.

Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970 Mini (OC) might not be able to handle Ultra HD at maximum settings, but the experience is smoother and more balanced all the way up to QHD. Then again, GTA V is somewhat of a negative outlier. AMD’s driver team should really invest some time here.

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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