Smaller & Faster than Raspberry Pi Zero: Meet NanoPi NEO ARM Linux Development Board

Raspberry Pi Zero has two noticeable attributes compared to other Raspberry Pi boards: it’s smaller and it’s cheaper. FriendlyARM has now designed another model for their NanoPi family, that about 12% smaller, although not quite as thin at all due to its Ethernet jack and USB connector, and much faster than Raspberry Pi Zero, with NanoPi NEO board powered by Allwinner H3 quad core processor.

Smallest_Allwinner_H3_BoardNanoPi NEO specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H3 quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.2 GHz with an ARM Mali-400MP2 GPU up to 600 MHz
  • System Memory – 256 or 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port, 2x USB via headers
  • Expansion headers
    • 24-pin header with I2C, 2x UART, SPI, PWM, and power signals
    • 12-pin header with 2x USB, IR pin, microphone and Line OUT signals
  • Debugging – 4-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – Power and status LEDs
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via micro USB port or VDD pin on headers.
  • Dimensions – 40 x 40 mm (Raspberry Pi Zero: 65mm × 30mm)

There aren’t any interfaces to connect an external display, so the board can only be used for headless applications. In case you need that board with low profile, you could probably unsolder the Ethernet jack and USB port, or if you buy in quantities, maybe the company could remove those for you.

NanoPi_NEOThe Wiki is still in construction, and for now only in Chinese, but we can find out that FriendlyARM provides Ubuntu-Core with Qt-Embedded for the board relying on Linux 3.4 legacy kernel. However, Allwinner H3 should get full mainline support in Linux 4.7 or 4.8, so I’m fully expecting the board to be supported in mainline kernel in a few months. The schematics (PDF), and header pin assignments are also available in the wiki.

NanoPi NEO is not yet for sale, but considering the larger NanoPi M1 board with the same processor sells for $11 + $5 shipping, I’d expect the new board to go for around $7 + $4 or $5 shipping, about the same price as I paid for Raspberry Pi Zero.

NanoPi NEO sells for $7.99 with 256 RAM, $9.99 with 512 RAM + shipping ($4 to my location).

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Dr. Azrael Tod
Guest

if that thing boots with PoE it’d be a nic3 choice for networking stuff.

Sander
Guest
Sander

Cool & cute!

mdel
Guest
mdel

Well if you get your hands on one, do make sure to rate the current draw, then you’ll be able to compare it to an rpi zero.

It could prove interesting but from my Orange Pi PC measurements, my board, the H3 chip, or poorly optimized armbian (i doubt that), is power hungry making the H3 a poor choice for battery powered portable systems.

@Dr. Azrael Tod
There’s no sign of POE in the schematics, not very surprising seeing the lack of power devices near the connector and no mention of POE support in the H3 datasheet.
It takes advantage of the H3 Eth PHY so doesn’t require an external chip for 100Mbps Eth.

You can always use an external poe board to split the signal/power.

Hopefully we’ll see some s905x cheap boards, which has the same PHY integration.

AnRkey
Guest
AnRkey

Again, no fucking POE. WTF?

maurer
Guest
maurer

great device for this form factor but http://linux-sunxi.org/Linux_mainlining_effort#Status_Matrix looks quite bad for H3 – also planned features for linux mainline is still missing a lot…

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

Interesting but they could easily do a version with HDMI, four micro USB ports ( helps with gram weight, smaller packet size cheaper in postage, in some countries ) and attach your own USB to Ethernet.

But then they know their market. Wonder if Orange Pi and Banana Pi will launch something similair?

boobipy
Guest
boobipy

Nice board.
They miss to add soldering pad/pin out to choose Vcore between 1V and 1.35V, to choose the right cpu frequency for usage (more cpu power or low power solar system).
Need to know the real price with shipping, if they act like Pi zero I stay on OP PC with real pmic and 1GB ram.

boobipy
Guest
boobipy

The nice option is the easy way to put an heathink, by array of 10 H3 board 🙂
I see already webhosting maker using that for dedicated server!
Computer are cheap, now only coding software is an add value 🙂

Fossxplorer
Guest
Fossxplorer

@boobipy
“I see already webhosting maker using that for dedicated server!”

Any links?

mdel
Guest
mdel

@boobipy @Fossxplorer
arm dedicated hosting already exists, check scaleway, sub company of online.net, large french ISP.
2.99e/month for 4cores / 2GB RAM / 50G SSD (not local).
There’s not much details on the Arm chip they use but their hardware is custom made and probably has a custom broadcom chip.

@AnRkey
you can always hack a passive POE (not 48V but 5-6V on an unused twisted pair), as long as you don’t need Gbe.

@maurer
i agree Allwinner and the H3 are clearly lagging behind Amlogic on linux support. It’s my belief that it’ll stay a second choice for linux users.

Those boards are only useful (and successful) if you get full support for the soc control in linux and working gpio libs.
I bought the SPI cam module with my orange Pi PC, and coming from rpi with picamera python lib, it feels intensely painful to use that hardware.

Aaa
Guest
Aaa

No POE 🙁

Ali
Guest
Ali

Now time to see what Orange Pi folks come up with. Final price will be the main criteria as H3 is universally supported by Armbian

zoobab
Guest

@Ali
Is there support for a mainline kernel in armbian?

Roel
Guest
Roel

@boobipy
I like it also if they put the processor on the bottom of the board, like the banana-pro. So You can use a metal bottom plate as base and put the board on it with some thermal paste between the SOC and the base plate. I did it this way with my DIY banana pro server. You can easily reuse the bolts (with springs) from an old CPU cooler.

Igor
Guest

@zoobab

Current state of H3 mainline support within Armbian is experimental. We don’t support it or provide an image for download yet. We actually made a prerelease image some time ago, but since people failed to read FAQ and keep asking “why, when…”, we removed it.

You can try to build it within our build system, it should boot:

Success:
http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1180-orange-pi-lite-now-available/?p=12165
Some unofficial test builds can be found within forum.

For server usage it will be ready soon … with some delay due to summer vacations.

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

It is a shame all H3 board makers don’t financially and technically support Armbian, surely a one stop software with support, instantly make their boards useful and saleable. Instead of all reinventing the wheel. ?

TC
Guest
TC

theguyuk :
It is a shame all H3 board makers don’t financially and technically support Armbian, surely a one stop software with support, instantly make their boards useful and saleable. Instead of all reinventing the wheel. ?

thats usual china business – copy, sell and forget.

Igor
Guest

TC :

theguyuk :
It is a shame all H3 board makers don’t financially and technically support Armbian, surely a one stop software with support, instantly make their boards useful and saleable. Instead of all reinventing the wheel. ?

thats usual china business – copy, sell and forget.

@theguyuk @TC

We do get support, it wouldn’t be fair to deny. Free boards, access to their technical gurus (in some cases), but no regular cash. Technical gurus “help” in some cases looks like “please teach us”. Yet another blow. Actually we got some “thanks cash”, counting from the beginning of the project (2.5 years), twice from Xunlung and once (end user level) from Sinovoip.

tcmichals
Guest
tcmichals

Would be nice to skip the Ethernet jack, use micro A/B USB plugs. camera connector, and the standard 40 pin connector. What is nice for the H3, it has several serial ports on the connector. Use the thermal design to dissipate heat instead of throttling the H3.

Sébastien
Guest
Sébastien

That’s a shame they did not add a mini HDMI port, it would have been the smallest Openelec device with HEVC / 4K capability

Brendan
Guest
Brendan

I just purchased 10 of them. Lets see how this goes.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

@cnxsoft
Same voltage regulator used like on OPi One/Lite and NanoPi M1 (switching between 1.1V and 1.3V) so will be interesting how low minimum consumption can be adjusted. H3 can enter deep sleep without a PMIC since it contains an own AR100 OpenRISC core that handles this (at least with legacy kernel), if deep sleep is entered then consumption drops below 0.3W. Resume takes milliseconds. No idea which wake-up sources are available on this board (I doubt it’s network)

Mainline kernel patches are more or less ready (but not all sent/accepted upstream) and since we now also have Ethernet and THS/throttling stuff ready with 4.6/4.7 it shouldn’t take that long until first Armbian images with vanilla kernel can be released (as Igor already said: It’s not a technical problem but users lacking reading skills why we don’t provide images now)

Some more thoughts/info on this device at the usual location: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1580-nanopi-neo/?view=getlastpost

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

@Sébastien
Orange Pi One does have Openlec and HDMI.

FATechsupport
Guest
FATechsupport

We made some progress in handling the overheat issue on the NanoPi NEO compared to the NanoPi M1

Sébastien
Guest
Sébastien

@cnxsoft
Openelec need at least 512Mb so it’s only $1 cheaper than nanopi M1. So not interesting.

FATechsupport
Guest
FATechsupport

Our latest image files for the M1 relieves the overheat issues very much.

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

@Sébastien
OpenELEC might benefit from HDMI or CVBS available (not true for the NEO 😉 ). IMO it’s quite obvious that we’re talking about a headless device here.

@FATechsupport
I wonder whether you already thought about selling the board with populated GPIO headers (large please — 20mm at least!). Potential use cases (using the yet not defined ‘NANO HAT’ standard also 40x40mm in size) that immediately came to my mind:

– NAS HAT: two JMS567 or JMS568 USB-to-SATA bridges (stackable please)
– Netboot HAT: 8 Mbit SPI NOR flash to boot from and a passive PoE splitter + step-down converter to power/boot the NanoPi NEO through network (stackable please)
– I²C to 1-Wire bridge, eg. using DS2482 (stackable please)
– RFID HAT: SPI RFID reader (not stackable please)

JotaMG
Guest
JotaMG

$5 minimum shipping to europe (China Post)
better wait for the orangepi zero!

Peter
Guest
Peter

I have nice idea what to do with it but 10 € for shipping is way too much 🙁

Member

Any word on the Orange Pi Zero ?

Fossxplorer
Guest
Fossxplorer

@tkaiser
How are the USB ports implemented on this? Do they share bandwidth? The headers can have 2 USB ports too, there can be 4 USB 2.0 ports on this?

loboris
Guest
loboris

To some EU countries the shipping is $5 to another (also in EU) it is $10 !!
$10 is really too much for China Post shipping.

Freire
Guest
Freire

Big mistake not to have, at least TV out.

mdel
Guest
mdel

tkaiser :
IMO it’s quite obvious that we’re talking about a headless device here.

I don’t understand that kind of self inflicted limitation.

Unless adding hdmi output on the H3 requires a lot more (more power stuff probably) than adding a simple micro hdmi connector, it feels out of place for me to use such a powerful, full featured soc, and discard the basic output that any “non advanced” user would be expecting. Maybe they are really struggling to get the prices down.

On another subject since you seem to know a lot about the H3 power management, i was wondering if it’s possible to run that soc from 3.3V, like you can with an rpi, and if it should work on any board (does not work on my opi pc) and/or if you need to set the H3 in a particular configuration to do that ?

@Sébastien
you can forget about openelec (kodi linux) on the H3 for the moment, there’s not much support for it, extremely small number of users (only jernej ?) putting out some code/images and from what i understood it requires a custom kodi version, partial codecs support and so on..

As an end user, it’s very far from what you can get on the Amlogic socs, too bad we don’t get as many S805/905/905x boards, i can’t really understand that btw..

Mindee
Guest
Mindee

NanoPi NEO is for light-weight IoT project, it has only single bank RAM chip. As all know, running a GUI Desktop will cause the SoC so hot. But running the Ubuntu Core can be in a good hot level. and almost NAS machine has no display output, the SSH and serial is a popular and good way to login.

With the single bank RAM, it’s not suitable to run Kodi.

We have made a lot of accessories – the Matrix series. please visit http://wiki.friendlyarm.com/ to find more.

We not only make a board, but also we provide more support, we update the wiki and software all the time. it is different from others.

and the shipping cost is $5.

JotaMG
Guest
JotaMG

loboris :
To some EU countries the shipping is $5 to another (also in EU) it is $10 !!

That should be the UK, I guess 😉

theguyuk
Guest
theguyuk

@loboris
Hey are you Loboris who did early Orange Pi OS?

LoveGadget
Guest
LoveGadget

Tiny linux machine with ethernet or wired network is what I want and ordered one
for my ‘lisp machine in the pocket’. What I hope is stable linux support and some gpio.

TC
Guest
TC

Benjamin :
Any word on the Orange Pi Zero ?

it’s still just a rumor atm

TC
Guest
TC

JotaMG :
That should be the UK, I guess

lol, never a wrong moment to bash on #brexit 😀

to Germany, i got 5$ for 1pc, 7$ for 2 and 13$ for 3pc – with DHL only 1$ more a no brainer then

PuceBaboon
Guest

@Mindee
Is there going to be a 3D printed case available for the NEO soon? I can see that heatsinking for the CPU might be an issue in an enclosed box (mount the PCB processor side up, with ventilation slots??).

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

@mdel
Hmm… by looking at the PCB it’s quite obvious that adding (Micro) HDMI with ESD protection would need larger PCB dimensions or other stuff removed. And since there exist several cheap H3 devices with HDMI already I really see no need for display output here. Interconnectivity is still great since SSH and serial console exist and with the current legacy kernel FriendlyARM and Armbian use the Micro USB port can not only be used for powering the board but act like an additional serial console or network interface too (g_serial, g_ether, g_multi modules)

Regarding ‘H3 power management’: There is no such thing, H3 has been designed without PMIC support so it’s all about the voltage regulators used on the board and schematics. On Orange Pis it’s save to provide between 4.5V and 5.5V for the core components but since VCC is fed directly to USB/HDMI this will already violate specs here. You have to check schematics and look up input range of the components used.

@PuceBaboon
Small ventilation slots do not work (eye candy for clueless people). Would be interesting if FriendlyARM provides a 3D printed enclosure that can be combined with a 40x40mm heatsink as ‘top cover’ (board mounted upside down). All that’s missing then are 4 screws and a silicone heat pad between H3 and heatsink (one use case we discussed with a customer: Encryption dongle appearing as Ethernet USB adapter and powered through Micro USB)

PuceBaboon
Guest

@tkaiser
Despite the gratuitous insult, I’m inclined to agree with you about the effectiveness of slots on their own. 🙂

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

@PuceBaboon
Sorry, wasn’t meant as an insult. But so many SBC vendors provide enclosures with ‘ventilation’ slots/holes and if they test whether this is effective or not the simple result is: not at all unless they’re really large (same with heatsinks — if distance between the fins isn’t large enough convection won’t work and the heatsink needs an additional fan to be more effective).

So vendors (enclosure makers) are either clueless themselves or know that nice looking slots/holes don’t help with heat dissipation and therefore design this stuff for a clueless target audience (hope it’s more clear now).

Roel
Guest
Roel

@TC
To belgium 10$, I think I go send them an email to ask another tarif.