Reviewed: AMD Radeon R9 Nano

Acoustic and Thermal Results

I wanted to talk about Coil Whine first – it isn’t terrible but it’s there. All modern mid to high end cards seem to suffer from this and our review sample of the R9 Nano was no exception. On the test bench it was probably on par with the Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1, notably more pronounced than the MSI GTX980 Gaming 4G that has barely any coil whine. These are review sample cards so your mileage may vary. The coil whine noise was more noticeable in some menu screens like Elder Scrolls online but much less prevalent actually in-game.

I wouldn’t call the Nano’s single fan cooler ‘quiet’ but it isn’t offensively loud either. At idle, the decibel meter didn’t register the fan and under load when benchmarking, I recorded 19.5dBA from 30cm with the fans running at 35% (1831 RPM) with a temperature of 75C. It’s important to note that testing occurred on an open test bench about 60cm from my ears so any noise is far more obvious under these conditions.

The fan noise and the coil whine were significantly reduced when the R9 Nano was installed into a real-world system. We used both the Fractal Design Node 202 and Core 500 ITX cases in the practical builds and found the cooler noise to be much less apparent, whilst still audible it was not at all distracting.

The card itself stays under 75C typically but it does throw some hot air out the rear vent – keep this in mind when placing your ITX beast should you buy an R9 Nano. When you consider the cooling solutions present on the other Fury cards, this isn’t surprising. The thermal solution is very good for a stock offering, especially when you think about how hard the GPU has to work to hit the performance levels that we saw in our testing.


If this is a sign of things to come from AMD and just the beginning of high performance cards in the ITX form factor WITH a stock cooler, the future looks bright for compact gaming.

Practical Builds

It’s all well and good to test the R9 Nano on the test bench where space and ease of access are not really an issue but what about in the confines of an ITX case. We had the opportunity to test this in 2 different cases.

Core 500 build

The Core 500 case from Fractal Design is one of the easiest ITX cases I’ve worked with. Access to components is very good so installation, cabling, etc for a full sized card isn’t a problem. If you use an AMD R9 Nano, this means that power supply options open right up and you don’t have to worry about the length of your PSU. I used the Nano with both an MSI Z170I Gaming AC motherboard and a Gigabyte Z170N Gaming 5 motherboard in the Core 500 case without any issues at all. Having the space around the card meant that the cooler was able to be effective at lower RPM.

Fragabyte / Node 202 build

ITX cases don’t get much more passive than the Node 202. Whilst we could fit the extra long Gigabyte GTX 970 Gaming G1 card in the Node 202, it was tight and the airflow was minimal. The Node 202 is more like a console than a PC, using a PCIE riser to change the orientation of the card to be flat in line with the motherboard. This case has a 450W SFX power supply and limited options in terms of active airflow due to a lack of case fans. For a performance system in a case like this, a builder really has to work harder to get a good result and component selection is key. The Nano proved to be the best choice in this setup compared to the full sized cards that we tried. The ITX card meant that we could implement active airflow in a way that was not possible with a full sized card.

The end result was a highly portable gaming system that didn’t have offensively loud fan noise. When watching movies or YouTube on the TV, the Nano and the Node 202 remained very quiet. Gaming at high/ultra settings did increase the noise from the cooler but it wasn’t noticeable over the soundtrack or effects of the game being played. I couldn’t really want for a better setup as a HTPC/Console setup.

The comparison of the Nano to a full sized Gigabyte Windforce 3 card can be seen below. In the instance of a Node 202, the difference means that you can install a full thickness 120mm case fan in the chamber on low speed to create active airflow and improve the effectiveness of the AMD cooler. This is a game changed for ultimate performance in such a thin, console-like system.


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