Meet The Radeon R9 Nano

6 inch video cards are by no means a new thing in the GPU space, however these are traditionally lower-end products that need neither a large cooler nor an extensive power delivery system. As a result the R9 Nano is something of an interesting aberration, packing a lot more power and a lot more technology into half a foot of video card than what we normally see.

Starting as always from the top, the R9 Nano measures 6” long, which is actually a bit shorter than the full length the Mini-ITX standard allows. Responsibility for cooling the card falls to the R9 Nano’s new open air cooler, an aggressive design that has been specifically tailored to allow the card to effectively dissipate 175W of heat in such a small space.

The overall design of the R9 Nano’s cooler is best described as a combination open-air and half-blower hybrid. The design is technically open-air, employing a single axial fan to cool the card. However with only a single fan AMD has been able to align the heatsink fins horizontally and then place the fan in the center of the heatsink. The end result is that roughly half of the heat produced by the card is vented outside of the case, similar to a full blower, while the other half of the heat is vented back into the case. This reduces (though doesn’t eliminate) the amount of hot air being recycled by the card.

The heatsink itself is composed of aluminum and runs virtually the entire length of the card. This is technical a two-piece heatsink, with the primary heatsink composing the bulk of the card, while a much smaller secondary heatsink it found towards the far end of the card and mounted on top of a heatpipe.

Drilling down, we find that the primary heatsink is fed by a combination vapor chamber and heatpipe design. A copper vapor chamber serves to draw heat away from the Fiji GPU and HBM stacks, and then heatpipes are used to better distribute heat to the rest of the heatsink. The use of a vapor chamber in the R9 Nano makes a lot of sense given the fact that vapor chambers are traditionally the most efficient heatsink base type, however the R9 Nano is also unique in that we typically don’t see vapor chambers and heatpipes used together. Other designs such as the high-end GeForce series use a single large vapor chamber across the entire heatsink base, so among reference cards at least the R9 Nano stands alone in this respect. In this case given AMD’s design goals for size and noise, a vapor chamber will play a big part in helping the small card effectively and quietly dissipate 175W.

As for the physical PCB itself, as we can see AMD made it a relatively packed card in order to get the R9 Nano down to 6 inches. Compared to the R9 Fury X reference board, the biggest change here is that AMD has removed a fair bit of power circuitry to save space. By our count there are 4 VRM phases to feed the Fiji GPU, as opposed to the 6 found on R9 Fury X. Power delivery is handled by a single 8-pin PCIe power socket, which is becoming increasingly common, replacing the 2x 6-pin setup for 150W-225W cards.

Meanwhile to further shrink the overall PCB footprint, AMD has moved some of the remaining power delivery circuitry to the back of the card. The front of the card still contains the inductors and heat-sensitive MOSFETs, while a number of capacitors are on the rear of the card (and is why you won’t find a backplate).

Finally, for display I/O R9 Nano is unchanged from R9 Fury X. This means we’re looking at a DVI-free design, with 3x DisplayPort 1.2 and 1x HDMI 1.4 port all along a single row of the I/O bracket. Buyers looking to put together HTPCs will want to be especially mindful of the HDMI 1.4 port; while it's not necessarily a deal-breaker, it does mean that the R9 Nano can't fully drive 4Kp60 TVs, which are slowly but surely becoming more common.

Overall AMD is rather confident in their design for the R9 Nano. The heatsink is built to efficiently dissipate more heat than the 175W the card requires (despite the small size), and as a result we never see the R9 Nano thermally throttle under normal operation. The card’s thermal throttle point is 85C, and in our testing the card never passed 75C, exactly as AMD promised us. What ends up limiting the R9 Nano’s performance then is exactly as expected: the power throttling.

The AMD Radeon R9 Nano Review The Competition & The Test
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  • anubis44 - Thursday, October 8, 2015 - link

    "you forgot to include evidence of them lying, or a reason for why they would lie."

    Are you for real? Evidence of misrepresentation is that the box says '4GB', and you can only practically use 3.5GB of the 4GB in a game, or the performance will tank. How much more evidence do you require?

    As for a reason why they would do this? You've got to be joking. $$! That's why. The memory controller they used to make a '4GB' card was cheaper than one that would have run all the memory at full speed. That would likely have pushed the price of the card well above $400, and outside of the targeted dupe market of $350-$400. The cheaper, gimped memory controller also meant that nVidia made more profit per card. They just hoped nobody would catch their use of a gimped memory controller before they'd ripped off tens of thousands of slavishly loyal nVidiots who all mindlessly rushed out to computer stores to plunk down their money. And it worked. Tens of thousands have plunked down their money, and nVidia has posted better than ever earnings. What a surprise.
  • anubis44 - Thursday, October 8, 2015 - link

    HA HA HA! An 'honest' mistake? Give me a break! Are you saying nVidia just didn't realize that the cheap memory controller they saddled the GTX970 had a flaw? Yeah, right. They just didn't know that the last .5GB of memory would be gimped by running it at 1/7 the speed of the other 3.5GB. And of course, the decision to use that cheaper memory controller didn't have ANYTHING to do with padding their already fat profit margins at the expense of their customers. Meanwhile, they have the audacity to print '4GB Ram' on all the boxes. As if nVidia just didn't realize that tens of thousands of nVidiots wouldn't go out and buy the cards for a few months before an independent reviewer finally caught them in the act. nVidia is as guilty as a cat in a goldfish bowl, and if you're going to pretend that this whole fiasco was 'handled admirably' by nVidia, then you must really be a fan of Jen Hsun. Seriously, at least have the self-respect to call a spade a spade and admit that nVidia tried to pull a fast one just to line their pockets and got caught.
  • SolMiester - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    Oh please, its already been stated that you have to load up beyond normal use before the .5Gb ram comes into play and for the majority or users at 1080, its doesnt effect them.
  • RussianSensation - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    @SolMeiser, 1080P is fine but some gamers who purchased GTX970 did so for their 2560x1440/1600 monitors, in addition to others who bought GTX970 SLI. Also, even if in the majority of games the 3.5GB RAM isn't an issue, it's how NV responded to the situation is what's telling.
  • Kutark - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    So, what do you have to say about all the dubious shit AMD said during the pre fiji release? They claimed several times it was the fastest card in the world, when it wasn't, and they KNEW it wasn't.

    I'm tired of people being inconsistent, if you're going to point out questionable behavior in one company then you have to do it for the other.
  • silverblue - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    They could've run benchmarks well before the launch, and then fallen behind once NVIDIA had brought out new drivers, or they could've straight out lied. What I'd like to see is AMD's 4K Gaming Performance Benchmarks bar chart scrutinised for every game to see how far out of reality the results were with the setups that were used, then we can be 100% sure (after all, Fiji is more competitive at 4K than lower resolutions).
  • fuicharles - Friday, September 11, 2015 - link

    Not giving a review copies to certain reviewer is worse or the one who create gameworks is worse ?
  • Horza - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    Thank you for being the impartial voice of reason Wreckage. I've always enjoyed your measured and balanced approach to assessing the merits of the two big dGPU players. Your attack on Anandtech's credibility holds so much more weight coming from a person with a track record of non-partisan, unbiased viewpoints such as yourself. Thank you again.
  • ingwe - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    If you read the final words, I think this is a very fair review. To me it says: "This is better than usual form AMD, but it isn't enough and it is too expensive." Seems accurate and unbiased.
  • bill.rookard - Thursday, September 10, 2015 - link

    Actually, I do find it 'enough', it -is- a very good, supremely capable card that comes in at 2/3 of the size with 90% of the performance. Heck, it's faster than the GTX 980. My problem? It is too expensive. I know that prime Fiji chips are in short supply at the moment, but it needs to be about $200 cheaper.

    If they can get their supply running smoothly and get their yields of the full-fat Fiji up, drop the price to about GTX 980 levels they'd never be able to keep them in stock.

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