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AMD Radeon R9 Nano Video Card Review - The Fury X Is Dead (Page 1)

AMD Radeon R9 Nano Video Card Review - The Fury X Is Dead

Thanks to High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), AMD has one of the smallest enthusiast video cards ever made in the Radeon R9 Nano, but it's not flawless.

By: Anthony Garreffa from Sep 10, 2015 @ 7:00 CDT
TweakTown Rating: 90%Manufacturer: AMD

Introduction 1.0

When AMD unveiled the three new HBM-powered Radeon cards, I was most excited over the super-small Radeon R9 Nano. Sure, the Radeon R9 Fury X was the enthusiast card with the most performance, but the AIO cooling system was just such a turnoff for me. The Fury (non-X) was exciting, as it offered Fury X-like performance, without the huge cooler. Unfortunately, the card was just absolutely huge.


This is where the R9 Nano steps in. It is offering performance within the vicinity of the Fury and Fury X, in a tiny card that just barely tips over the edge of the x16 PCIe port it gets installed into, requires a single 8-pin PCIe power connector, and has a reference air cooler. In my opinion, this is the video card AMD should've led with.

The Radeon R9 Nano is in such an interesting position for AMD, as this is positioned as the lowest of the three Fiji-based cards. We have the R9 Nano, followed by the R9 Fury, which leaves the top of the heap for the Fury X. But I think, if it were up to me, the R9 Nano would've been the card I led with. AMD should've had the R9 Nano out first, as it is the most impressive of the three.

There's no card like it from NVIDIA in reference form at least, with the closest card in physical dimensions being a GTX 970 from ASUS. But the R9 Nano is in a completely different league. It's so unique, that I think it sits on its own, and that is both a good, and bad thing. We've also now introduced 3440x1440 UltraWide 21:9 benchmarks into our video card reviews. The AMD Radeon R9 Nano is the first card we've reviewed with the 3440x1440 results, so we hope you enjoy our new change in our video card content!

Introduction 2.0

We're changing things up in more ways than one in this review, as we're going to address the shortage of R9 Nano samples to our friends at other sites. I'm sure that you've read that other large tech sites didn't get sampled on the R9 Nano, and there are going to be so many discussions on why X site got it, and Y site didn't. Well, if you remember back to our Fury X review, I wasn't too fond of it. It was a good card, but nothing great. HBM didn't provide huge performance benefits as we were told it would, and I simply hated the AIO cooler. AMD knew this, and yet we still found ourselves with samples rolling in.

Moving onto the Radeon R9 390X, where we called it a "rehash of the R9 290X", because that's what it is. The R9 390X is a rebrand, but AMD won't look at it that way. Yet, we got samples of the air-cooled R9 Fury. Fast-forward to today, and we have R9 Nano video cards, not just one. We haven't done anything different to other sites, we stay as impartial as we can - and we call it how it is.

The Fury X is not that great, you should all know my opinion on that by now. Heck, look at the headline to this review: "The Fury X is Dead" - if that's not proof enough, then I don't know what is. Here we are once again, with another review that is so split down the middle - the R9 Nano impresses, but is still not the card to pull AMD out of the hole it's in. We exclusively reported about only 30,000 cards from AMD released powered by the Fiji architecture and HBM, which would make sense looking around e-tailers and retailers around the world - and if you take into consideration the R9 Nano samples to media, it makes more sense. Then the fact that NVIDIA has a huge 82% of the discrete GPU market. I don't think AMD can come back from that, even with the R9 Nano.

Quick Specs

The R9 Nano is virtually the same as the Fury X, with the same 4GB of HBM1 and the same Fiji GPU. Where AMD has done things differently, is that there's an included fan, versus the huge AIO watercooler that the Fury X shipped with. We still have HDMI 1.4 on the R9 Nano, which is a massive limitation, but the single 8-pin PCIe power connector is a big win for AMD.

Availability & Price

We don't know how many Radeon R9 Nano cards will be available at launch, but we do know it will be priced at $649. We did exclusively report about the low yields on HBM, where we could see just 30,000 cards powered by HBM before the end of the year. This number is very, very low - and with the number of samples of the R9 Nano being offered to the press, and the real-world availability of the Fury cards, I think this is becoming more and more true.

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