R9 Nano Reviews Tip Up, But Will Be Not Too Useful For Linux Gamers Right Now

Written by Michael Larabel in AMD on 10 September 2015 at 09:59 AM EDT. 28 Comments
AMD --
At the end of August AMD paper-launched the Radeon R9 Nano with a $650+ USD price-tag for this high-performance graphics card aimed at mini-ITX owners. The review embargo lifted this morning on the R9 Nano so there's a lot of people talking about it this morning, under Windows.

Besides the $650 USD price-tag, the R9 Nano is getting hit this morning for also having bad coil whine. However, on the plus side, this small graphics card delivers the performance of a R9 Fury (non-X) while having a 100 Watt lower TDP, albeit with $100+ more on the price-tag. That is, the performance under Windows with DirectX-focused game titles.

Those interested in Windows benchmarks of the R9 Nano can find it at the likes of AnAndTech, Bit-Tech, and Guru3D. It's a very expensive graphics card filling a niche for those Windows enthusiasts/gamers wanting very small PCs while delivering good performance.

Of course, there's no Linux tests of the R9 Nano to share this morning with no review sample being available to us. There's also an interesting exposé over at HardOCP how AMD has been messing with the Windows press and not seeding the R9 Nano to all the usual outlets over wanting "fair reviews" (a.k.a. favorable reviews).

Without testing the R9 Nano myself under Linux, I can pretty much already tell you that it will be a waste right now. The R9 Fury performs poorly with Catalyst on Linux in modern Linux OpenGL game titles and the R9 Fury on open-source is still very early. There is the initial Fiji GPU support in the Linux 4.3 kernel, but it doesn't yet contain any power management support and thus the clock speeds are stuck to their low boot frequencies. In extreme cases, the $550+ R9 Fury can be outperformed by sub-$200 NVIDIA GPUs under Linux with OpenGL. The R9 Nano is pretty much in the same boat given it's based on the Fiji GPU. My R9 Fury tests weren't from a review sample either but a card I had to buy retail due to AMD's lack of interest in Linux graphics coverage given their current state of affairs.

The only case where the AMD Catalyst Linux driver continues to do quite well is with the OpenCL compute performance on Linux. However, I don't know anyone going after building a SFF/mini-ITX PC just to do a bunch of GPGPU computing... Thus until there's either a much-improved Catalyst Linux driver or the open-source Fiji support is all squared away on the AMDGPU driver, it would be a silly purchase.

For those wanting a small graphics card that packs a performance punch and would be Linux friendly, it looks like the best bet would be the GeForce GTX 970 with there being a few compact versions like the ASUS Mini GTX 970 and Gigabyte GTX 970 Mini ITX Overclocked. These sub-$350 graphics cards are almost guaranteed to be faster than the $650+ R9 Nano for Linux OpenGL gaming based on my R9 Fury and GTX 970 Linux tests.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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