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AMD Radeon R9 Nano review: A powerful taste of the PC's incredible shrinking future

Brad Chacos | Sept. 11, 2015
There's no other graphics card quite like the AMD R9 Nano, which packs full-size performance into its six-inch frame—but it's not for everyone.

nano sleeping dogs 4k
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nano sleeping dogs 1440
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Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition ’s Extreme preset hits graphics cards even harder than Dragon Age, thanks to some extreme anti-aliasing.

nano metro 4k
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nano metro 1440
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Metro: Last Light Redux is a gorgeous HD remaster of an impressive, densely atmospheric game, built using 4A Games’ custom 4A Engine. We test with both PhysX and SSAA disabled. AMD’s cards win out here, with the gulf widening as you move down to lower graphics detail settings.

nano fire strike
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The Nano’s score in 3DMark’s widely respected Fire Strike and Fire Strike Ultra synthetic benchmarks fall between the reference GTX 980 and the amped-up EVGA model.

The real story with the Nano is just how much performance AMD managed to squeeze of the card while keeping its energy consumption and temperatures in line.

nano power use
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While it sucks a bit more juice than the reference GTX 980, it performs closer to the EVGA GTX 980 FTW, which uses much more power. Simply put, the Fiji GPU flirts with the vaunted power efficiency of Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture in the Nano. And look at how much power the Radeon R9 290X and 390X consume in comparison.

Power is measured by plugging the entire system into a Watts Up meter, then running a stress test with Furmark—again, the test dubbed a “power virus” by both AMD and Nvidia—for 15 minutes.

nano gpu temps
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Temperatures hovered around a consistent 75C degrees during gameplay, just as AMD promised, though it maxed out at 78C during the strenuous Furmark benchmark. I was worried that the single fan design would prove loud under duress, but subjectively, it stayed nice and quiet throughout—not the quietest graphics card I’ve ever heard, yet far from the loudest, as well. It won’t disturb you.

The Nano’s design is vastly improved over the Radeon R9 290X’s, and that comes through emphatically in the tiny card’s heat and power results.

So there you have it: All of AMD’s claims for the Radeon R9 Nano proved true in real life. This pint-sized powerhouse is one of the most capable graphics cards around, flirting with performance on a par with the Asus Strix Fury, a full-sized card with an imposing cooling setup. It demolishes the GTX 970, Nvidia’s most capable mITX graphics card. It runs cool and quiet, and it manages to outpunch both the 290X and 390X while using far less power.

 

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