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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93 Comments
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Dr. Azrael Tod
5 years ago

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

Sander
Sander
5 years ago

Cool & cute!

mdel
mdel
5 years ago

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… Read more »

AnRkey
AnRkey
5 years ago

Again, no fucking POE. WTF?

maurer
maurer
5 years ago

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
theguyuk
5 years ago

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
boobipy
5 years ago

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
boobipy
5 years ago

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
Fossxplorer
5 years ago

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

Any links?

mdel
mdel
5 years ago

@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… Read more »

Aaa
Aaa
5 years ago

No POE 🙁

Ali
Ali
5 years ago

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
5 years ago

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

Roel
Roel
5 years ago

@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
Igor
5 years ago

@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
theguyuk
5 years ago

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
TC
5 years ago

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
Igor
5 years ago

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… Read more »

tcmichals
tcmichals
5 years ago

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
Sébastien
5 years ago

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
Brendan
5 years ago

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

Andre
Andre
2 years ago

How are they?

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (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… Read more »

theguyuk
theguyuk
5 years ago

@Sébastien
Orange Pi One does have Openlec and HDMI.

FATechsupport
FATechsupport
5 years ago

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

Sébastien
Sébastien
5 years ago


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

FATechsupport
FATechsupport
5 years ago

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

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@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… Read more »

JotaMG
JotaMG
5 years ago

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

Peter
Peter
5 years ago

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

Benjamin
5 years ago

Any word on the Orange Pi Zero ?

Fossxplorer
Fossxplorer
5 years ago

@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
loboris
5 years ago

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
Freire
5 years ago

Big mistake not to have, at least TV out.

mdel
mdel
5 years ago

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… Read more »

Mindee
Mindee
5 years ago

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… Read more »

JotaMG
JotaMG
5 years ago

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
theguyuk
5 years ago

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

LoveGadget
LoveGadget
5 years ago

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
TC
5 years ago

Benjamin :
Any word on the Orange Pi Zero ?

it’s still just a rumor atm

TC
TC
5 years ago

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
5 years ago

@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
tkaiser
5 years ago

@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… Read more »

PuceBaboon
5 years ago

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

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@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
Roel
5 years ago

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

Roel
Roel
5 years ago

tkaiser :
@mdel
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)

I’m interested in this. Do you have a tutorial somewhere how it works to use the micro-usb as a network interface? Is it just wiring a RJ45 connector to a micro-usb plug and tell the kernel to use the micro-usb as a network port.
Are there other dev boards that can do that also? Cubie? Odroid?

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@Roel As Jean-Luc already said this is just the Ethernet gadget driver. In Armbian we define the OTG port by default as host port (I added Nano Pi NEO the day before yesterday and the necessary patch to sun8i kernel sources a while ago) so all you need is a Micro USB to type A cable to connect to a host and a simple entry in /etc/network/interfaces that brings up the interface and changes the port role from host to OTG — see starting from post #3: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1417-testers-wanted-g-ether-driver-h3-device-as-ethernet-dongle/ To the host the H3 device appears as an USB-Ethernet dongle (easy… Read more »

Chris
Chris
5 years ago

Hopefully they get the CE Mark before they become useless at all (in case of performance and concurency).
Importing within EU is not possible a legal way i think, no CE no EU 😉 and as european citizen you can expect that tax officers wouldn’t let pass your order … i don’t know if FriendlyARM refunds payed money if the order is on hold at european Taxoffices? 😉 I like that board so much, but without CE Mark i can’t buy them. I don’t have to burn money at all…

mdel
mdel
5 years ago

@tkaiser okay i must have misunderstood your power management comments. But is it possible to put the H3 in sleep mode directly in armbian or do you need some external control ? Then how can it be woken up ? If you’ve discussed this somewhere, i’d be interested to read it. Anyways that “huge” ethernet connector still feels out of place if the goal was to make the tiniest form factor. And if it was meant to build clusters (or arrays of servers), a 100Mbps link will not help much, then again if the board stays connected to a cable… Read more »

Set
Set
5 years ago

@Chris
Don’t worry about this. Conformité Européenne marking is not required unless you want to distribute this thing on EU market.

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@mdel H3 can be put to sleep either using GUI (tested it with our Xenial and Jessie builds) or through sysfs: check ‘cat /sys/power/state’ (IIRC it’s this node). In this state CPU cores will be shut down, DRAM will be clocked just with 48MHz and the AR100 OpenRISC core present in H3 takes over (that’s the so called ‘ARISC’ stuff also responsible for throttling). Waking up has to be configured first (eg. power button or IR receiver activity) and then simply a resume happens. This does only work with legacy kernel (no support for ARISC in mainline kernel so far)… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@mdel
I did a quick test with Orange Pi Lite (since I have no NanoPi here). When configured to be as slow as an RPi Zero this H3 device idles at 160mA and full CPU utilization means 220mA. Simply check Armbian H3 forum for configuration and results.

Kristaps Karlsons
Kristaps Karlsons
5 years ago

Any clues when NanoPi NEO could be available in europe?

PuceBaboon
5 years ago

@PuceBaboon
Printed Cases
To answer my own question …I just heard directly back from FriendlyARM and a case for the NEO is in the works. My contact estimated that it would be available on the site in another couple of weeks or so.

Chris
Chris
5 years ago

@Set
No, I think you are completly wrong. Do you have any serious URL for that? My information is that Customs can stop your order completly when its not marked or proved that it is save in case of savety and electromagnetics.

Mindee
Mindee
5 years ago

@PuceBaboon

We have sent out hundreds of NanoPi NEO this week. and the next batch will be available this weekend.

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

BTW: I played a bit around with comparable H3 devices (since I have no NEO) and by configuring H3 to be as slow and featureless as an RPi Zero idle consumption gets close to or even below 100mA. Limiting DRAM clockspeed is important (switching from 672 MHz down to 264 MHz reduces consumption by 40mA while still being as fast as the slow DDR2 implementation of the RPi, same applies to disabling display, same for USB ports) and the good news is: Simply by configuring H3 correctly idle consumption can be dropped below 100mA while the device’s performance can instantly… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) I already referenced Jeff’s measurements in Armbian forums and I doubt that my equipment is precise enough (so mostly assumptions backed by tests feeding 3 OPi PC in parallel and checking consumption then). But the focus of my tests was to get the idea where to fiddle around to lower the common 300mA H3 board idle consumption. When I looked at FriendlyARM’s settings for the NEO I scratched my head why they chose such a low DRAM clockspeed of just 432 MHz. And that was the begin of the journey since I thought ‘maybe they try to… Read more »

Frank
Frank
5 years ago

@mdel

Scaleway on ARM: http://pastebin.com/raw/V2AY57J1

For basic webserving (nginx), or small compute requirement (ssh, root) with lots of expandable storage, it’s a good combination.

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

Frank : @mdel Scaleway on ARM: http://pastebin.com/raw/V2AY57J1 That’s Marvell Armada XP (MV78460). Great SoC with plenty of SERDES lanes and pretty much overkill for boring web hosting especially given that Scaleway storage seems to be virtualized. But both network and storage paths seem to be implemented as PCB traces and interconnection done using Marvell’s PHY transceivers and switch ICs I would suppose. Indeed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFhgSKNJP2s (higher rack density, less cabling) I wonder when/if someone starts to use el cheapo SoCs like eg. H3 for something like this. H3 SOM combined with 2GB RAM and local eMMC storage connected to a baseboard… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

And the next H3 based NanoPi is just around the corner: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1726-nanopi-air-around-the-corner/

PuceBaboon
5 years ago

@tkaiser
An ESP8266 killer. 🙂

mdel
mdel
5 years ago

@Frank thx i rented a couple of those last year but couldn’t remember the cpu and didn’t really find any use for them either although they could handle quite a lot of things as you mentioned. I ended up using mine as picture servers to offload some larger dedicated servers. @Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) those usb power meters are usually pretty inaccurate, especially in the low milliamps range but i’m not sure there’s a much better solution unless you go for a real (cheap) multimeter. You could use a dedicated power supply, those modules are pretty cheap and quite accurate when… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago
tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@mdel If you look at the picture of the 512MB NEO variant with USB/Ethernet unpopulated (wiki link) then IMO it’s just a matter of time until someone starts to design a backplane with an Ethernet switch IC where the boards can be plugged in (with GPIO, one USB and Ethernet connected through pins). One rack unit is 1¾ inch so the NEO fits operated vertically, could do emergency booting through SPI flash or USB FEL boot in case SD card installation got corrupted and one might be able to cramp in more than 400 NEOs in 1RU. I personally find… Read more »

Peter Scargill
5 years ago

Some interesting comments comparing the NEO to the Pi Zero… I too am reviewing the NEO and up to now have concerns – so it runs Ubuntu – and that’s fine if you want Ubuntu but they claim “an open source tiny pi” – well Pi runs Debian and I’m not having any luck with this – I cannot find an official Debian for the NEO and my attempts to get the Armbian version running have been lacking – it installs but WinSCP does not want to work with it. Secondly heat – the Raspberry Pi zero does not heat… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

@Peter Scargill Seems like the login issue is already resolved (Putty vs. WinSCP)? Regarding heat and consumption I currently do a lot of research. I wonder whether the single bank DRAM configuration combined with DDR3 DRAM makes the difference (Olimex reported the same when they started with their H3 prototypes and they also used just a single DDR3 chip). The H3 based Orange Pis using dual bank configuration and either DDR3 or DDR3L do not heat up that much. Also it seems some components on the board are not chosen wisely (eg. a LDO regulator on the NEO where Orange… Read more »

Peter Scargill
5 years ago

Hi there tkaiser. The original Orange Pi I had used to run hot enough to fry eggs – I guess things must have improved. I’m not actually comparing it to Pi zero myself – I think it’s a really cute size board and ideal for a little home control server if it will work – anyway, up to now I have Armbian working after that little hickup -and am trying to install my script for Node-Red/SQLite/Mosquitto etc… time will tell. Got a bit confused about Armbian asking about screen resolution when it does not seem to have a graphical interface… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

Armbian test images now also with mainline kernel (4.6.7 and 4.7.1) available: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1580-nanopi-neo/?view=getlastpost

tkaiser
tkaiser
5 years ago

Mainline kernel images for NEO updated to 4.7.2 with new ‘schedutil’ cpufreq governor and experimental USB OTG support: http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1580-nanopi-neo/page-6

While throttling works fine and prevents overheating (torturing tiny NEO with cpuburn-a7 since a while) it’s less efficient compared to our legacy kernel settings (slightly less performance when throttling happens and probably more stress for the voltage regulator). Will let cpuburn-a7 run for a few days to see whether the board survives or not 🙂

coze
4 years ago

I got one of these babies. The question is how do I even ? Do I need the serial board as well to connect to it ?
I will use it headless, so no hdmi output is ok, but I need to do initial setup for my network obviously.

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago

@coze
Initial setup (and prerequisits) for Armbian as follows: http://docs.armbian.com/User-Guide_Getting-Started/#how-to-prepare-a-sd-card (you’re forced to change root pwd on 1st login therefore you’ve to enter the default password twice before setting a new one).

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago

@coze
Almost forgot: In case you’ve NEO PCB rev 1.1 then it should be save to allow the H3 SoC to clock up to 1200 MHz:

followed by a reboot should do the job. There were stability/deadlock and thermal issues with NEO PCB rev. 1.0 so we chose to limit maximum cpufreq to 912 MHz by default.

tcmichals
tcmichals
4 years ago

@tkaiser Does the Neo Air have the same issues as Neo PCB v1.0?

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago

@tcmichals
According to users Air doesn’t suffer from this issue. There’s a lengthy thread with details in Armbian H3 forum but none of the Armbian devs had physical access to NanoPi Air so far. So it’s a bit surprising that both our new OpenSource sunxi flashing tool (to directly flash OS images to eMMC) and the Air OS image seem to work perfectly.

Further references:

http://forum.armbian.com/index.php/topic/1580-nanopi-neo-air/?p=18277
http://image.armbian.com/betaimages/

theguyuk
theguyuk
4 years ago

New NanoPi Duo H2+ based board launched

tkaiser
tkaiser
4 years ago

@theguyuk
‘Duo’ since it’s the combination of Lichee Pi Zero (idea, form) and Orange Pi Zero (ingredients: H2+ and famous XR819 Wi-Fi)? 😉

Just kidding, together with the ‘Mini Shield’ this is a very interesting concept…

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