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Banana Pi M2 Ultra Allwinner R40 Development Board with SATA & GbE Sells for $46

November 16th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

Allwinner A10 and A20 processors have been quite popular in the past, since they could handle Fast or Gigabit Ethernet and SATA natively, included decent multimedia capabilities, and were found in low cost hardware such as Cubieboard 2 or MeLE A1000. Since then we’ve had a few boards with SATA using newer and faster processors without SATA IP, meaning it was usually implemented using a USB 2.0 to SATA bridge leading to mediocre to average performance depending on the implementation and selected bridge. Allwinner R40 is the successor of Allwinner R20 with a faster quad core Cortex A7 processor, but keeping Gigabit Ethernet, SATA, and most features of its predecessor. The good news is that Banana Pi has now launched the promised M2 Ultra development board based on the new processor for $45.80 + shipping on Aliexpress (Total for me: $48.35).

allwinner-r40-development-boardBanana Pi M2 Ultra specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner R40 quad Core ARM Cortex A7 processor with ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2G DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (16, 32 or 64GB as options), SATA interface, micro SD slot up to 256 GB
  • Connectivity – 1x Gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 (AP6212 module)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 port up to 1080p60, 4-lane MIPI DSI display connector
  • Audio I/O – HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, built0in microphone
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Camera – CSI camera connector
  • Expansion – 40-pin Raspberry Pi compatible header with GPIOs, I2C, SPI, UART, ID EEPROM, 5V, 3.3V, GND signals.
  • Debugging – 3-pin UART for serial console
  • Misc – Reset, power, and u-boot buttons; IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V via barrel connector, or 3.7V Lithium battery via battery connector on the back of the board. AXP221s PMIC
  • Dimensions – 92 x 60 mm

Banana Pi claims BPI-M2 Ultra board run Android, Debian, Ubuntu, Raspbian, and other operating systems. You’ll find some images on the Wiki, and while the Android section link does not work, and you can download a Linux 3.10 + busybox image, Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial minimal, Debian 8 Jessie Mate, Debian 8 Jessie Lite, and Ubuntu MATE 16.04 from either baidu or Google drive links. There’s also a Tina-IOT os section that’s empty right now, as is the “source code on github” section, and a few others. So documentation is work in progress.

banana-pi-m2-ultraI’m expecting Allwinner R40 boards to become popular at least for some communities such as armbian, where some members require  fast storage and networking performance for their project(s). We’ll have to hope Allwinner has improved SATA write performance compared to Allwinner A20, as in my review of Cubietruck (Metal Case), I found that while read speed was very good at up to 180 MB/s, write speed was limited to around 36 MB/s using a SATA SSD.

You may also find some more details on Banana Pi BPI-M2 Ultra product page.

  1. Jerry
    November 16th, 2016 at 13:42 | #1

    Raspberry Pi has SSD shields which support up to 600 MB/s mSATA SSD drives:

    I’m not sure if it’s a good bargain, but I’m pretty sure that more users bought that shield than all the banana pis will ever sell. Maybe not. At least most Raspberry fans know the SSD shield and would buy it instead.

  2. Aleksey
    November 16th, 2016 at 13:56 | #2

    That shield based on usb to sata bridge. It’s a main bottleneck.

  3. m][sko
    November 16th, 2016 at 13:57 | #3

    But you are still limited by USB 2.0 cable => (480 Mbit/s)20MB/s max in ideal situation
    and RPi already has Ethernet port over USB

  4. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 14:11 | #4

    SSD shields for any Raspberry are a really bad joke since every RPi out there has just a single USB2 connection to the outside and the best throughput you can ever achieve is 37 MB/s. As soon as Ethernet (hanging also off this single USB2 connection) is in use this dramatically decreases. And RPi still doesn’t speak USB Attached SCSI so using SSDs there is almost braindead. If you want to connect any disk to an SBC… never use a Raspberry. Some background information: http://linux-sunxi.org/Sunxi_devices_as_NAS#Network.2Fstorage_not_blocking_each_other

    @cnxsoft: We’ll see whether Armbian will support BPI M2 Ultra anytime soon or at all. The company did not sent out dev samples, is known for horrible OS images and support and is famous for not even knowing how their own hardware works in the beginning. Very much had to be fixed by the community for all their offers except the first Banana Pi (where software support has been done by LeMaker).

    Maybe it has a reason why the Banana people never published any benchmark scores for both SATA and Gigabit Ethernet performance so far: since it doesn’t work as expected — at least Ethernet. We have reports of their BPi M64 not working at all with GBit Ethernet which might be due to taking over settings from Pine64. But GbE boards need two PCB specific tweaks: TX/RX delay as explained here: http://linux-sunxi.org/Ethernet#GMAC

    This was an undocumented bit with A20 back then, now Allwinner’s BSP kernel allows to control both values fine grained. But this has to be adjusted to the specific PCB to compensate for trace lenghts.

    With Pine64 this has been done by community member longsleep and others back then, with Orange Pi PC 2 (H5 based and using same Allwinner BSP kernel) this has obviously not happened and especially GbE TX performance is pretty low and I doubt anyone has this done for the other 2 available boards that base also on this Allwinner 3.10 kernel: BPi M64 and this BPi M2 Ultra here.

    In case any buyer experiences horribly low Ethernet performance simply check Armbian forum (‘Free’ section) and there the threads for A64/H5 devices or the one for BPi M2 Ultra to get a better understanding.

  5. Iso9660
    November 16th, 2016 at 14:22 | #5

    I think that Allwinner should update its porfolio with new powerfull products instead of changing names to the old ones.

  6. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 14:33 | #6

    When community looked through the rather preliminary looking R40 Datasheet V0.1 some people (me included) got pretty excited: R40 still has battery support so all that’s needed to get a small ARM based NAS is simply connecting a 3.7V battery since AXP221s (power management unit) has everything already in place to charge the battery and more importantly to check battery voltage. So you don’t need to buy any external component and have full UPS mode simply by checking battery level from user space.

    We have several A20 based mini servers in production (Olimex Lime2 with their 6600mAh battery) and they run +8 hours on battery with a 2.5″ disk spinning before they initiate a safe shutdown when battery voltage/capacity gets too low.

    Another exciting R40 feature seems that it contains 2 different Ethernet MACs which might be exposable independently: the Fast Ethernet EMAC could provide a true WAN port while the Gigabit GMAC could be connected to an onboard switch like the BCM53125 used on the ‘Banana router board’ R1. But in this mode WAN and LAN would be really separated. Too bad no hardware vendor so far tried out whether this works.

    At least the Banana people decided to go with Mediatek MT7623A (5 port GbE switch included) for their upcoming R2 routerboard (this time maybe really a router and not a broken switchboard as it’s the R1 today)

  7. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 14:36 | #7

    R40 is (partially) a new design unlike many many other SoCs they show now on their web site that are just different names for the same old designs they offer. And R40 could be really a great basis for low-cost NAS like devices since it features a true SATA port, 3 real USB2 ports (2 x host, 1 x OTG), a true Fast Ethernet port and a true GbE port that all not have to share bandwidth. And the 4 CPU cores could be beefy enough to cope with a bunch of peripherals.

  8. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 14:43 | #8

    At least the SATA bridge on this SSD shield is not that bad and claims to support both SMART and TRIM (PL2571). But you simply must be absolutely clueless to buy an expensive and slow RPi 2 to combine it with this shield since performance will be ultra low due to USB2 being the bottleneck and the shield itself way too expensive even considered the additional features of this thingie.

  9. arete
    November 16th, 2016 at 15:35 | #9

    Hi, but sata support port multipler ?
    From R40 datesheet the sata spec is similar to A10/a20 soc.

    Compliant with SATA Spec. 2.6, and AHCI Revision 1.3 Specifications
    Is correct ?


  10. Roel
    November 16th, 2016 at 15:38 | #10

    Hopefully the Armbian team will get a dev sample soon and see how the board performs.
    Hopefully orange pi will make also a board with the R40 and will listen to the remarks of the armbian community.

    Also fingers crossed for the bpi-r2 board.

  11. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 15:56 | #11

    The A20 PM support isn’t that great and (mis)using port multipliers especially when playing RAID is outright dangerous: http://linux-sunxi.org/SATA#PMP_support_-_using_SATA_port_multipliers_with_sunxi_devices (my tests with el cheapo PMs from Aliexpress also showed data losses/corruption when a RAID rebuilt ran — due to overheating under load)

    Since no one outside Banana camp got an R40 device into his hands no one knows how R40 now performs and whether PM support still works or not. Just have a look into ‘BPi M2 Ultra’ section at forum.banana-pi.org: All they ‘tested’ so far is Wi-Fi, BT, camera and LCD/TS. They did not even mention SATA and you don’t see a SATA disk connected to this board a single time but once an external USB-to-SATA bridge on one picture connected to an USB port (which is simply alarming to me!). And in case those guys use Fast Ethernet switches in their lab they might not even be aware that their boards might have GbE problems šŸ™‚

    I’ll never ever waste time with a ‘Team BPi’ device again. Also if you compare with eg. the Marvell ESPRESSOBin this ‘M2 Ultra’ here is clearly way too expensive. But maybe it’s just me who doesn’t understand the board’s ‘feature list’. If I want SATA, Gigabit Ethernet and UPS mode I clearly don’t need the only stuff the vendor tested and claims to work: Wi-Fi, BT, camera and LCD/TS.

    Let’s hope Xunlong surprises us with a competitvely priced R40 device soon (below $30 with 16 Mbit SPI NOR flash to store the bootloader on, rootfs on USB stick, production HDD on SATA port, larger backup HDD on 2nd USB port, 2 x Ethernet: EMAC exposed as Fast Ethernet port, GMAC as GBit Ethernet port).

  12. mdel
    November 16th, 2016 at 16:10 | #12

    thx for the comments, i’ll check the A64/H5 thread on armbian as i’ve got one H5 in the mail..

    Hopefully this board will not be as poor as you describe it, or can be software fixed by the community.
    It sure shows some great potential for cheap nas with battery.

    Any other R40 boards announced yet ?

  13. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 16:40 | #13

    With OPi PC 2 (H5) and BPi M64 (A64) it’s easy: All that has to be done is to (automatically) test through all TX/RX variants. Fortunately this does not require exchanging u-boot bits, it’s just using the board’s .dts file, modifying the RT/TX parameters, and with some scripting exchange the .dtb, automatically reboot, test (iperf3), exchange .dtb, reboot, test… then check test logs and test best settings again.

    With the OS images BPi folks now provide for their M2 Ultra things are different since for whatever reasons ‘Team BPi’ still relies on sys_config.fex stuff. But IIRC they learned in the meantime to support at least script.bin so it might be just using fex2bin instead of dtc to create a bunch of different script.bin variants and then test through them all. In their latest fex settings they use 0 for both TX and RX delay which might work or not. At least it should be clear now where to fiddle around in case network performance/connectivity sucks.

    I’m not aware of any other R40 device atm and am also somewhat scared how Allwinner seems to position R40 now (based on some sort of a campaign for chinese students). Anyway: I’ve been wrong before claiming one can see a picture with an external USB-to-SATA bridge connected to BPi M2 Ultra in BPi forum, it’s an USB hub with a Wi-Fi/BT dongle inserted. Go figure… but wouldn’t be the first time that their software offerings can’t make use of their own hardware the first weeks/months.

    With R1 community had to reverse engineer power scheme to discover how SATA power is mapped, with BPi M2 Ultra it should be PD25 now so let’s hope they set up everything correctly and it’s not as with their last SATA device where it took weeks until the first disk was spinning up on the SATA port.

    For this R1 thingie it took them approx. a year to release schematics. So without schematics publicly available for this M2 Ultra now I would not even think about asking for a free sample. Time wasted has also a value.

  14. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 18:06 | #14

    Seems BPi folks fiddle around in both fex files and .dts: https://github.com/BPI-SINOVOIP/BPI-M2U-bsp/commits/master

    TX/RX delay settings differ in linux-sunxi/arch/arm/boot/dts/sun8iw11p1.dtsi compared to the sys_config.fex files below sunxi-pack/allwinner/azalea-m2ultra/configs/ — how it could be done correctly can be seen with longsleep’s BSP kernel for A64. When dealing the first time with Allwinner’s 3.10 kernel he removed all the fex stuff and moved everything into .dts that can now also be adjusted from within u-boot to dynamically set DT contents based on environment (eg. enable LCD or not)

    Good luck to everyone having to rely on vendor software support! Will be a great experience (again) šŸ™‚

  15. Benjamin
    November 16th, 2016 at 18:36 | #15

    Now drop wifi, bluetooth, gig of ram for less than 30$ and you you got yourself a very nice budget NAS device.

  16. November 16th, 2016 at 18:53 | #16

    I wonder if you can load the NES Classic firmware onto it? šŸ˜‰

  17. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 19:21 | #17

    Exactly, $30 is the price tag I would accept for an el cheapo Allwinner NAS thingie today. But as long as we don’t know whether sequential SATA write performance with R40 has improved compared to A20 or not I would stay with 2GB DRAM. Since using smart settings this will increase greatly NAS write performance as long as we’re talking about file sizes up to 1.5 GB (since everything then gets buffered first in memory and will be flushed to disk later — with cheap H3 GbE boards we exceed 50 MB/s even with legacy kernel in ‘real world’ scenarios even if USB disk throughput is limited to ~35 MB/s)

    Wishlist for a R40 NAS: both EMAC and GMAC exposed as two separate Ethernet ports, 2MB SPI NOR flash to boot without SD card, max DRAM (2 GB), all 3 USB ports exposed without any USB hub involved, standard JST battery connector. No BS like Wi-Fi, BT, eMMC — just the usual low-speed/GPIO stuff exposed on the usual header. If this sells then do the ‘Pro’ version with GMAC connected to a switch IC and connect an JMS568 (UAS, SMART, TRIM capable SATA bridge) to one of the USB2 host ports: provide 2 SATA connectors, 1 WAN port and 6 LAN ports.

  18. Theguyuk
    November 16th, 2016 at 19:39 | #18

    This classic chicken and egg situation and trying to bend a Fork into a Spoon.

    Easy to be wise after someone else has done the work. If you know better build your own and sell it, surely your wise and better knowledge, will bring rich and bountiful sales?

  19. tkaiser
    November 16th, 2016 at 21:17 | #19

    Regarding TX/RX delay for BPi M64 and Orange Pi PC 2 now community is doing the work, I just wrote a script to test through all possible settings: https://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1917-armbian-running-on-pine64-and-other-a64h5-devices/?p=19781

    What happens with BPi M2 Ultra is a different story though šŸ™‚

  20. November 16th, 2016 at 23:57 | #20

    It’s not super important, but what speed are these cores running at? Any issues with throttling or cores being killed?

  21. tkaiser
    November 17th, 2016 at 00:47 | #21

    Just check the ’emmc’ commit on the github link above and search for ‘cpu_budget_cooling’ in linux-sunxi/arch/arm/boot/dts/sun8iw11p1.dtsi to get the idea. CPU cores should clock at up to 1.2 GHz, throttling/killing settings aren’t that braindead as usual (preferring throttling) but I doubt they did any real tests so customers/community will have to find out. As usual šŸ™‚

    With their BPi M3 they didn’t even notice when 4 out of 8 CPU cores were already killed. Also PCB design is responsible for throttling issues or not (using the groundplane as huge heatsink). In the past Bananas weren’t that great in this regard but with this new Banana no one knows.

  22. November 17th, 2016 at 07:50 | #22

    Wondering is this board has a battery charger too? IWO, can you leave this on wall power and have the batter charge but then unplug it and have the battery used to run the board? The story seems to yes, but does not state explicitly.

  23. xxiao
    November 17th, 2016 at 08:04 | #23

    If you’re just put some movies to NAS that may work well. But if you need serious NAS for reliability or performance, you need at least 2 SATA3 port to start with. While I have many SBCs myself(including a few A20) I ended up using x86/mini-itx for my NAS needs, which can do 2~6 SATA drives and can handle my TBs of data, some can do 4K decoding and Gigabit cames in by default.

  24. tkaiser
    November 17th, 2016 at 13:42 | #24

    @Mike Schinkel
    This board has a battery charger, an intelligent PMIC and step-up converters as nearly any A20 board before (A20 is the dual-core predecessor of the SoC here). But it depends on the board design what happens when wall power isn’t available any more.

    With A20 it was as follows: Olimex Lime boards and Lamobo R1 powered also a connected SATA disk with 5V when running from 3.7V battery, all the Bananas and other A20 boards did not. Since no schematics are available for M2 Ultra yet simply no one knows what’s happening. Since the vendor also never showed a disk connected to this board it might be necessary to re-implement the nasty Banana hacks again (routing 5V available from the USB ports to power a SATA disk when running on battery).

    No schematics, no buy.

  25. tkaiser
    November 19th, 2016 at 17:11 | #25

    We prepared a way to measure and fine-tune GbE performance on the more recent GbE equipped Allwinner devices: https://github.com/igorpecovnik/lib/issues/546

    Based on testing with Orange Pi PC 2 it seems values in DT are ignored as long as they’re also defined in sys_config.fex. Cleaning up prior to testing/adjusting is therefore required.

  26. Rui Ribeiro
    November 25th, 2016 at 03:05 | #26

    How is the situation about this board supporting regular kernels? I went to banana pi site, and it talks about a 3.x kernel…a board like that, if it only supports their hacked kernels, is a big disappointment.

  27. November 25th, 2016 at 10:09 | #27

    @Rui Ribeiro
    Banana Pi does not have such a good reputation in the community. In my case, I find they are master spammers, and their prices are not that competitive compared to Xunlong Software Orange Pi boards. Software-wise, I’ve never tried their boards, but from what I read mostly through tkaiser comments is that their images are also crappy, and they don’t listen to community feedback. So you should not expect a recent kernel from then, and the community may not be motivated to work much on their boards.

    Having said that, I’m still hopeful that more companies will launch Allwinner R40 boards, and support will improve over time, including mailing Linux support.

  28. tkaiser
    November 25th, 2016 at 14:40 | #28

    @Rui Ribeiro
    Please visit linux-sunxi.org and enter R40 in the search field to get the idea how far community support is (zero). And then visit forum.banana-pi.org and read through the forums to get the idea about vendor support (the same). They neither have ressources nor knowledge to do kernel development so all they do is fiddling around and combine ‘BSP’ stuff from Allwinner with some rootfs they find somewhere on the net and push out more or less unusable OS images every few days/weeks.

    Unfortunately they also fail to provide correct information (not a single time their ‘documentation’ or hardware description — be it fex or DT — was correct and even if you tell them they simply don’t care) so expect that things don’t work as they should. But maybe I’m wrong here. At least I’m not willing to ever waste time again with stuff from this manufacturer. So am hoping other hardware vendors start with R40 soon to then also start community support for this (rather interesting) SoC.

  29. tkaiser
    November 26th, 2016 at 20:37 | #29

    First performance numbers that neither look great nor too bad are available: https://frank-mankel.de/kategorien/bananapi-m2-ultra (german only unfortunately). I asked for a few more numbers with enabled performance cpufreq governor so lets see how capable R40 looks like then.

  30. tkaiser
    November 27th, 2016 at 03:41 | #30

    Update: Frank was so kind to do some tests (check link above) and while SATA performance has not improved, network performance did and Sinovoip/Allwinner settings aren’t that bad. Maybe tweaking two parameters called TX-/RX-delay might help to further improve Gigabit networking performance but actual values don’t look that bad: 740/920 MBits/sec are an improvement compared to good old A20 šŸ™‚

    So lets hope Sinovoip thought about powering a connected SATA disk also from battery (none of their former boards did except Lamobo R1) and then this would be a nice but horribly overpriced improvement compared to older Bananas. I wait for R40 offers from Xunlong or FriendlyARM (or FriendlyELEC as they call them now?)

  31. Fossxplorer
    November 29th, 2016 at 03:05 | #31

    @tkaiser, something like OPi Plus 2E with SATA for a similar price would be good to have. Atm, i think OPi Plus 2E is a better board for NAS, given the amount of USB 2.0 ports it has.

  32. tkaiser
    November 29th, 2016 at 19:02 | #32

    Well, H3 and H5 come with 3 real USB2 host ports + 1 OTG, with A20 and R40 it’s just one USB host port exchanged with a true SATA port. But since this SATA port has its own limitations (unfortunately R40 isn’t an improvement here) it really depends on the use case wether one can benefit from SATA or not. At least sequential write speeds with both A20 and R40 are slower compared to USB2 when UASP — USB Attached SCSI Protocol — can be used. Sequential read speeds are way higher with SATA though and same applies to random IO which simply doesn’t matter when spinning rust (HDDs) is accessed.

    And when looking at prices (BPi M2 Ultra will cost me here in EU ~60ā‚¬) I will clearly either choose Marvell’s ESPRESSOBin (maybe adding 2 more SATA ports for 20 bucks) if I want highest performance or choose an OPi PC 2 for a fraction of costs (price including shipping below 22,-ā‚¬ EU VAT excemption). I’m sure H5 will run with mainline kernel more early than we see any reasonable OS image for BPi M2 Ultra.

    Apart from that the most interesting question (for my and my use cases) with BPi M2 Ultra is: Does a connected SATA disk still run when the board is powered from battery or not? Manufacturer refuses to answer this simple question, still no schematics released but community starts to catch up and provides correct information soon (so everything as usual):

  33. tkaiser
    December 5th, 2016 at 02:30 | #33

    Seems like mainline u-boot already supports R40: https://github.com/wens/u-boot-sunxi/tree/r40

  34. tkaiser
    December 13th, 2016 at 16:27 | #34

    That’s an impressive warning: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Banana.Pi.Community/permalink/1755028864750030/

    A vendor being too stupid to use a common battery connector, not able to sell batteries or even provide the name of his new proprietary battery connector. But since the power scheme of this board is also crap (no SATA disk powered when running on battery) it doesn’t really matter that much that no batteries can be used with this board šŸ™‚

  35. December 17th, 2016 at 10:55 | #35

    yes ,i know you do not like all banana pi product , but we will still at here . it maybe let you very unhappy.
    time will let you know what we do .
    open source need all user help us , we also try to let allwinner to support us. R40 is the first product coworker with allwinner&banana pi. We will do better.

  36. tkaiser
    December 17th, 2016 at 17:16 | #36

    lionwang :
    banana pi product

    It’s not about your products at all, it’s just about your (lack of) support, software quality and ‘information policy’. Have you ever looked into your gitbook pages? Aren’t you ashamed that you never manage to provide correct information there? Why does it take you ages to release schematics? Why do you constantly lie (you don’t do ‘open source hardware’ — check http://www.oshwa.org!)? Have you ever looked into your own forums? Full of silly advertising/spamming by your staff while not answering the most basic questions of your users at the same time. It’s a shame and that you and other people responsible for this Banana mess aren’t able to realize that is problem NĀ° 1.

  37. December 22nd, 2016 at 23:02 | #37


    If there are some other owners of the M2U Board, please have a look at https://github.com/dan-and/BPI-M2U-bsp .
    It’s my fork of SINOVOIP’s BPI-M2U-bsp repository which is (as usual for BananaPI products) quite a mess.

    My effort is to get all relevant parts up to date for now to have at least a usual base. If it stabilize, I would like to get the R40 stuff adapted to the Armbian repository, but that should base on the original sunxi-linux kernels instead of the wild mixture of 3.10/4.x code which is in SINOVOIPs repository.

    Any help is welcome.

    Thanks and take care


  38. tkaiser
    December 31st, 2016 at 22:40 | #38

    Out of curiosity: Did you try to combine wens’ mainline u-boot branch with the BSP kernel already? Also wonder whether you considered putting kernel sources in an own repo and importing the BSP stuff on top of a clean 3.10.65 from two years ago.

    And then looking into ‘tinalinux’ github repos is worth a look, there’s a large commit from 2 days ago called ‘r40 tina linux v1.0 release’ and same applies to u-boot sources:


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