AMD Radeon R9 Nano Video Card PAPER Launch

AMD has released information on the new Radeon R9 Nano. This may be a 6" video card, but you'll be surprised what lies in wait under the hood. Today is just a paper launch as is AMD's new habit. We are able to share specifications, photographs, pricing and availability only.


Today AMD is paper launching The AMD Radeon R9 Nano for the second time. All we have to share with you today are slides and photographs from AMD along with pricing and availability. In fact, AMD hasn't yet sampled reviewers video cards, holding it close to the vest while the official availability date looms ever so closer.

The AMD Radeon R9 Nano was actually announced first back on June 16th, 2015 during AMD's live stream event: AMD presents: A New Era of PC Gaming. The video card was announced as a small Fiji GPU powered video cad and was held up to show us it does exist. We were also told that the August time frame was when we could expect its launch. While the latter did not quite happen, today's launch is another paper launch announcement. At least this time we have confirmed specifications, pricing and know when it will be available.

The AMD Radeon R9 Nano will retail for $649 and be available September 10th, 2015. You are not reading that wrong, the little Nano will be selling for the same price as the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X. The full slide deck is below.

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Isn't this just a Fury X?

From the specifications you can see that this is a full Fiji GPU specification, same as the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X. It contains 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units, 64 ROPs and 4GB of HBM. Everything about the 6" AMD Radeon R9 Nano matches the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X except its TDP and clock speed. For that, the Nano departs greatly.

Re-Thinking Clock Speed

I made this predication a long time ago, there would be a day when we don't think about video card clock speed in terms of a fixed number. Instead, clock speed would be an entirely variable and dynamic clock rate as the performance demanded. The AMD Radeon R9 Nano takes us one step closer to this event.

The AMD Radeon R9 Nano gets away with a TDP of 175W while the Fury X is able to run at a TDP of 275W. How is the Nano able to run 100W less? Quite simply the clock speed will not be running near the Fury X levels of 1050MHz.

You will note that AMD says the Nano will run "Up To" 1000MHz. Take this seriously. The clock speed is a variable dynamic clock speed that will clock itself depending on the limiting factor of the TDP. If all things are perfect, it can run up to 1000MHz at a TDP of 175W. However, game demand will dictate otherwise.

With demanding games the clock speed will run well under 1000MHz, and it will be variable into the millisecond range. AMD quoted us that average clock speeds will be between 850-950MHz.

What to Expect

AMD quite openly admitted the Nano is an underclocked Fury X. Underclocked so that it can run at a lower TDP of 175W and a temperature of around 75c in a 6" small form factor video card. It is intentionally changing the clock speed to keep the TDP at 175W, and to keep the temperature at 75c in whatever case it is installed into. This is not a case of clock throttling, you cannot think of this video card as that. Instead, thinking of this as an underclocked Fury X is a better way to view it.

The next question to be asked is can you get it up to Fury X performance levels? Out of the box this video card should perform about 10% slower than a Fury X. AMD doesn't really want you to think of this video card as an overclockers video card. If you want overclocking, you go with the Fury X according to AMD. The Nano's TDP can be increased through the Power Limit feature in catalyst control panel, but the question is of course how much and how much will the frequency really increase. These are things we will have to test.

Who is this video card meant for if you can get a Fury X for the same price? This video card is built for users of small form factor PCs where space is a premium and you also need to worry about power limits and temperature. The AMD Radeon R9 Nano will run alongside the Fury X as a halo SKU. It will be right alongside the flagship Fury X as a flagship video card. This means AMD is also targeting this video card for 4K gamer's, same as the Fury X, we saw how that worked out.

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The heatsink and fan assembly are a custom designed hybrid dual vapor chamber and heat-pipe solution using copper and aluminum. Uniquely, AMD has also given specific dedicated heat-pipe cooling for the voltage regulators. This is a separate heatsink that is not connected to the GPU heatsink. The fan is attached to the metal shroud as one unit. For those that will ask, this does not support HDMI 2.0.

The Bottom Line

We are uncertain, and a bit confused, for the second paper launch when the actual video card launch is only two weeks away. Why not sample cards and let the card speak for itself at launch? Perhaps part of the issue is the fact that this is a video card that is priced the same as a Fury X and needs explanation as to why.

As it is, the price does seem imbalanced. The Fury X after all has a more expensive custom liquid cooling solution which adds cost, as well as a higher TDP which will allow faster performance compared to the Radeon R9 Nano. Therefore, since the Nano will be slower than the Fury X in performance, and doesn't need a custom liquid cooler, shouldn't the price be a bit lower than a Fury X? Perhaps it should.

Now, this is all said sans hardware testing, we don't have the card yet, we don't know how it performs compared to the Fury X in the real-world, so maybe we will be surprised. Until then, enjoy the pretty pictures.