Not again: Poor quality chokes on AMD Radeon R9 Nano causing coil whine

Posted on Saturday, Sep 12 2015 @ 23:42 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
When AMD launched its Radeon R9 Fury X two months ago many reviewers and customers complained about issues with whining noises. Unfortunately, despite promising a "library quiet" noise level for its Radeon R9 Nano video card, it appears AMD's new Mini-ITX card is suffering from similar high pitched noise when the cards are under load.

With the Fury X, the reason for the noise appeared to be poor quality chokes plus issues with the watercooling pump on the reference boards from AMD. The problem isn't found on the custom-design Fury cards made by AMD's board partners, so AMD seemed to be to blame for this due to bad component choice and/or poor quality control. Unfortunately, AMD is making exactly the same mistake with the R9 Nano reference card as this $649 card seems to feature sub-par coils that generate whining noises.

Here we have an overview of seven "fair" reviews, all of them complaining about high pitched noises generated by the R9 Nano. For a $649 video card this is truly unacceptable and given the number of reviews reporting about this it seems to be widespread.

When AMD launched the AMD Fury X card, one of the difficulties that AMD had was the annoying pump whine that permeated through the initial run of testing samples as well as the first batch of retail samples. AMD claims that a fix has been put in place for this but honestly we haven’t been able to get a hold of any other product from later production runs to validate that claim.

Because of that calamity I was disappointed to power on the R9 Nano for the first time on our test bed and hear the sound of coil whine from the card. This wasn’t the same problem as the Fury X, obviously, but instead the clear sound of inductors generating a buzzing sound that varies as the frame rate in the game changes. In a loading screen that is hitting 400 FPS? You are going to get a high pitched whine from the card. Playing a game at a modest 45 FPS? The sound will be a much gentler, lower pitched buzzing similar to that of a bumblebee.

The annoyance of this coil / PWM noise is going vary from user to user I’m sure, but the consensus in the office is that because the noise varies with the frame rate of the game it is MORE noticeable than the pump whine we found on the Fury X cards earlier in the summer.

Our only gripe comes from the dreaded ‘coil whine’ – the R9 Nano is much louder here than the Fury X, a card we re-tested during production of this feature. It sounds akin to a constant buzzing, something that may be unique to our particular review sample.

In the acoustic department, our main gripe with the R9 Nano is actually the coil whine we experienced throughout testing which was often considerably more obvious than any system fan noise. For such a premium graphics card, we would expect the use of better components and greater quality control to prevent coil whine, or at least to dampen it to some extent, and we hope that when retail availability proliferates AMD ensures coil whine is fixed, or at least minimised.

Coil Whine/Noise as it is commonly called is very much an issue on the R9 NANO. At above average framerates its almost a rattle and then as the FPS escalate it really turns into a near whistle. It’s the worst case of this phenomenon we have heard to date and it was close to causing the R9 NANO not to get any sort of award/recommendation.

AMD has only sent us two Fiji based cards and the Fury X has really bad pump whine and the Nano has choke whine. We know that AMD put a ton of time and effort into making the build quality on this card one that was said to be premium, so it’s really shocking to see that another noisy card was delivered to us by AMD to review. The choke noise on the AMD Radeon R9 Nano isn’t nearly as bad as the pump whine on the Fury X, but it’s something we don’t expect to see on a $649 video card here in 2015 where premium components are readily available.

Major Coil Whine: This is seriously annoying, but only in an open test bed. Inside of a system it will be much better, but I need to question this. Is AMD having issues with the Fiji-based cards? Because the Fury X had serious whine from the cooler too, but the R9 Nano doesn’t have a watercooler or a pump. What gives?

However, we noticed significant coil whine across our suite of games, particularly in Total War: Rome II. This may be sample-specific, but it would grate us long term if this was the case with all cards.

It's worth noting that AMD's Nano reference sample generated a serious amount of coil noise. People complained about the Fury X coil noise but for us it wasn't that bad. The Nano really screams, however.

And here you can listen to a video from HardwareCanucks that provides a good example of the coil noise:

Via: WCCF Tech

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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