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

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.

Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.

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Jerry
Jerry
3 years ago

Raspberry Pi has SSD shields which support up to 600 MB/s mSATA SSD drives:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1815752970/multi-function-ssd-shield-for-the-raspberry-pi-2

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.

Aleksey
Aleksey
3 years ago

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

m][sko
3 years ago

@Jerry
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

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Jerry 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 @Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft): We’ll see whether Armbian will support BPI M2 Ultra anytime soon… Read more »

Iso9660
Iso9660
3 years ago

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

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Iso9660
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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Aleksey
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.

arete
arete
3 years ago

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 ?

Regards

Roel
Roel
3 years ago

@tkaiser
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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@arete 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… Read more »

mdel
mdel
3 years ago

@tkaiser
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 ?

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@mdel 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… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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)… Read more »

Benjamin
3 years ago

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

Alex Holland
3 years ago

I wonder if you can load the NES Classic firmware onto it? 😉

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Benjamin 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’… Read more »

Theguyuk
Theguyuk
3 years ago

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?

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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 🙂

miniNodes
3 years ago

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

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@miniNodes 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 🙂 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… Read more »

Mike Schinkel
3 years ago

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.

xxiao
xxiao
3 years ago

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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@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… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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.

Rui Ribeiro
Rui Ribeiro
3 years ago

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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@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… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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 🙂 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… Read more »

Fossxplorer
Fossxplorer
3 years ago

@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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Fossxplorer 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… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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 🙂

lionwang
3 years ago

@tkaiser
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.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

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… Read more »

Dan-And
3 years ago

Hi, 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… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Dan-And
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:

https://github.com/tinalinux/linux-3.10

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

Important note for M2 Ultra users suffering from stability issues: since the brain damaged retards that do the hardware are not supporting their own products community has to find solutions. Currently it seems DRAM is undervolted. Look here for discussion and a potential fix: http://forum.banana-pi.org/t/banana-pi-bpi-m2-ultra-bpi-m2-berry-new-image-2017-05-25-raspbian-jessie-preview3-bpi-m2u-sd-emmc-img/3306/14

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