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AMD Radeon R9 Nano review

A tiny graphics card with a big heart

AMD Radeon R9 Nano
AMD Radeon R9 Nano

So, how does it perform? For such a small graphics card it performs very well indeed. There is simply no other card available in this form factor that's able to hold a candle to its gaming performance.

Its nearest rival is the mini-ITX edition of the old GTX 970 Asus created for the small form factor crew. And in GPU terms it's no rival at all – the AMD Radeon R9 Nano is, conservatively, around 20% faster.

In fact its nearest competitor in performance terms is Nvidia's GTX 980, a graphics card that has never been shrunk down to the diminutive scale the Nano is sitting at.

AMD Radeon R9 Nano installed

The Radeon R9 Nano is just 6-inches long

But, because Nvidia saw the writing on the wall early in terms of the industry's struggle to get GPUs down to the 20nm transistor level in an affordable, efficient way, it's been working on performance per Watt far harder. The GTX 980 then is already sporting an impressive 165W TDP and higher gaming performance.

And because of its lower clock speed, the R9 Nano is sitting obviously behind the cheaper, similarly air-cooled R9 Fury.

While there are really no proper cards around that you could say absolutely nail 4K gaming, the higher capacity 6GB and 12GB Nvidia cards have much better performance than the resolutely 4GB HBM cards can offer. At 4K resolutions Shadow of Mordor demands around 5.6GB of video memory, for example.

AMD Radeon R9 Nano angle

This card produced some sterling gaming benchmarks

Okay, let's move on to the benchmarks themselves…

Synthetic gaming performance

Heaven 4.0 (2560 x 1440) – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (17.7) 43.5
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (19.4) 49.9
  • AMD R9 Fury: (19.8) 46.9
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (18.2) 48.6
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (15.4) 38.4

1440p gaming performance

Battlefield 4 – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (33) 65
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (36) 73
  • AMD R9 Fury: (40) 69
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (42) 73
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (34) 55

Total War: Attila – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (14) 22
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (18) 27
  • AMD R9 Fury: (18) 25
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (13) 23
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (13) 18

Grand Theft Auto V – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (5) 56
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (10) 62
  • AMD R9 Fury: (16) 60
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (16) 57
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (19) 47

Shadow of Mordor – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (31) 61
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (35) 71
  • AMD R9 Fury: (32) 67
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (36) 61
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (38) 51

4K gaming performance

Battlefield 4 – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (20) 35
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (21) 40
  • AMD R9 Fury: (23) 38
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (23) 38
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (17) 27

Total War: Attila – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (5) 10
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (3) 12
  • AMD R9 Fury: (7) 12
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (6) 11
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (4) 8

Grand Theft Auto V – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (1) 30
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (3) 35
  • AMD R9 Fury: (1) 33
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (6) 23
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (5) 20

Shadow of Mordor – (Min) Avg framerate

  • AMD R9 Nano: (15) 32
  • AMD R9 Fury X: (18) 38
  • AMD R9 Fury: (14) 36
  • Nvidia GTX 980: (26) 33
  • Nvidia GTX 970: (19) 25

Note: Our test rig is an Intel Core i7-5960X, sat in an Asus X99 Deluxe, with 16GB DDR4 memory running Windows 8.1 64-bit, in order to give the best possible potential performance for our cards. All the game tests were run at their stated resolution, with 4x AA and the highest settings possible.