FriendlyELEC Introduces $12.99 1-bay NAS Dock Kit for NanoPi NEO & NEO 2 Boards

NanoPi NEO is a tiny board with Fast Ethernet and USB 2.0 interface, so in theory it could make a nice low-end NAS as long as you don’t need the best performance. As always the problem is that there was no case for it, but FriendlyELEC changes that as they just launched a 1-bay NAS Dock Kit for NanoPi NEO / NEO 2 board selling for just $12.99 (promotional price at launch).

The kit comes with the following:

  • 1-bay NAS Dock expansion board with
    • JMicron JM20329 USB to SATA bridge
    • SATA connector for 2.5″ HDD drive
    • Extra USB host port
    • On/off switch, and dual color status LED
    • Header to connect NanoPi NEO board
    • 12V DC power input
    • Dimensions – 151 x 89.7 mm
  • NS-120 aluminum enclosure (154 x 100 x 47.5 mm, 4141 grams)
  • Heatsink set for NanoPI NEO
  • M3 6mm screws, M2.5 6 mm screws
  • Four rubber pads
  • Front and back covers

The company provides an OpenMediaVault image and all instructions on the Wiki. Talking about performance, FriendlyELEC gave me a comparison table showing USB to SATA performance for NanoPi NEO (512MB), Raspberry Pi 3 board, and Synology DS916+ NAS.

The USB to SATA speed is actually pretty much as expected considered data is going through a USB 2.0 interface, and somewhat comparable to the values I get doing USB storage tests on Android TV boxes. We can also see the performance on Raspberry Pi 3 is about the same as with NanoPi NEO + NAS Dock, but obviously not matching actual NAS with a native SATA interface. Nevertheless, all this does not matter that, as once the 32 MB/s get down to the Fast Ethernet port in NEO board, it has to drop to around 10 MB/s, which is why NanoPi NEO 2 is a better choice.

Tkaiser of Armbian community also had a look at the hardware and software, and one complain was the lack of UASP support on Jmicron JM20329 chip which would  yield slightly better performance, and the OpenMediaVault image relies on Linux 3.4.39 which lacks many security updates (the latest available version is 3.4.113). If you prefer having a recent Linux kernel, it’s always possible to install Armbian, plus whatever NAS software you’d like to use.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to beat the price as with $12.99 for the NAS board and enclosure, $9.99 for NanoPi NEO 512MB RAM, and a few extra dollars for shipping you get a complete NAS solution with limited performance, but that should still work as well as current Raspberry Pi NAS solutions on the market. Just add a micro SD card with the operating systems of your choice, a 2.5″ hard drive or SSD, and a 12V/2A power supply, and you’re done.

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Varghese
Varghese
3 years ago

wow ..very nice casing ..

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

I commited minutes ago an OpenMediaVault installer routine to Armbian’s build system so anyone can now build OpenMediaVault OS images relying on mainline kernel and using more sane settings (not just for NEO but ~50 SBC). The idea is to fully automate building of the OS image (that’s what Armbian’s build system is made for in the first place) so people don’t have to use OMV images they find somewhere on the Internet. Two show-stoppers with this approach: 1) Postfix installation does not finish within the cross-compiling chroot (smelly like Ubuntu bug 1531299) so the installer function patches Armbian’s firstrun… Read more »

roel
roel
3 years ago

Can You put a lipo battery inside this case? Shame they didn’t add a stereo jack to serve some music. Or are the I2S pins still reachable? I will await the NEO 2 kit, maybe they will add a usb3 to sata chip and possiblity to add a lipo and a I2S dac. Then there is still something I didn’t have time to look at yet: is htere a kind of garbage collector to unmount usb devices after disconnecting them? Now on my cubie 1 I automount usb drives and dvd-roms as a normal user, but when I unplug them… Read more »

Sander
Sander
3 years ago

“it’s difficult to beat the price as with $12.99 for the NAS board and enclosure, $9.99 for NanoPi NEO 512MB RAM, and a few extra dollars for shipping you get a complete NAS solution with limited performance”

… it will be only complete with the additional “12V 2A Universal Power Adapter (+$9.89)”

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@roel
You can put a battery inside but won’t get charging and voltage control without adding your own circuitry (the Allwinner H SoCs are not accompanied by a PMIC). Audio pins are all available so you either modify the side cover yourself, drill some holes somewhere or simply use a 3D printed replacement for the side cover (and are then also able to use it with NEO 2 or if you like it ugly even with NEO Plus 2 too 😉 )

@Sander
There’s some hope that it’s the usual 12V connector (5.5/2.1mm barrel, centre positive)

maurer
maurer
3 years ago

a 12V-2A PSU is 1.8$ on ebay

eggman
eggman
3 years ago

Please make the neo 2 one support 3.5 hard drives

Mindee
Mindee
3 years ago

@tkaiser

Yes, it’s an universal 5.5/2.1mm connector, you can find the 12V PSU everywhere easily.

kc
kc
3 years ago

“it’s difficult to beat the price”. nope. just do-it-yourself. http://imgur.com/a/jFygV inside: microamp (with direct to speakers connectors) and li-ion (18650, not shown). took some fiddling but works and looks acceptable 😉

FransM
FransM
3 years ago

@roel
If you want audio added to it just use an USB audio dongle. Not very expensive.

General: for a NAS I would have preferred a bit more RAM, but still quite a nice solution.

Wrt the measurements: It is interesting to see that the RPI3 SSD write is slower than the HD write.

And wrt the performance: 34 MB/s may seem slow, but with overhead it will eat 300-400 Mbit of network bandwidth.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

FransM : Wrt the measurements: It is interesting to see that the RPI3 SSD write is slower than the HD write. This is just an indication that this is ‘benchmarking gone wrong’ as usual. When I saw that writes are ‘faster’ than reads then I already stopped reading (since this is the result of linux kernel happily caching so not ‘disk only’ but ‘buffers + disk IO’ — I never understood why people continue to mis-use dd/hdparm since both are no appropriate benchmark tools). On an RPi 3 with 1 MB blocksize you get close to 35MB/s sequential write and… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@FransM Addendum: In active benchmarking mode one would look for each device to test in /sys/block/*/queue/rotational first (HDD or SSD) and then set /sys/block/*/queue/scheduler accordingly (today we can use noop, deadline or cfq IO schedulers and they do differently with HDD and SSD). In passive benchmarking mode one wastes his time producing numbers without meaning 😉 BTW: In Armbian we check rotational at boot and try to set the IO scheduler accordingly. But this might not work with a NAS/OMV approach since users will also connect/disconnect USB disks later so settings like this have to be set event driven (though… Read more »

Theguyuk
Theguyuk
3 years ago

@FransM
I would encourage anyone wishing or perferring more memory to speak to friendlyelec and explain why and for what use.

Unlike build and run manufacturers Friendlyelec talk to and listen to their customers whether industrial, hobbiest or makers.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Theguyuk
Man, can’t you just post your usual valuable opinions and please stop encouraging people to spam FriendlyELEC? They’re not that stupid as you might think.

Anyway, in the meantime the ‘active benchmarking’ approach regarding NAS/OMV and little ARM gems continues over there: https://forum.armbian.com/index.php?/topic/3953-preview-generate-omv-images-for-sbc-with-armbian/#comment-28825 (anyone willing to contribute feel free to join the party, this is not about ‘Armbian’ but only settings, installer routines and stuff like that to squeeze out the max out of this little gems)

Theguyuk
Theguyuk
3 years ago

Well hold on to your hats folk!

The Friendlyelec 1-bay Nas Dock at $6.99 is on sale and can be used by NanoPi Neo, Neo 2, Air

http://www.friendlyarm.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=185

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) To be honest: this Dock’s best companion is NEO 2 for obvious reasons (Gigabit Ethernet) and then it’s simply the wrong USB-to-SATA bridge since not UASP capable. 12V and step-down converter all nice but I’m really not that stupid to solder 36 pins to a board when only 4 are needed. So either FriendlyELEC provides kits with better bridge chip and pre-soldered pin headers for convenience or I simply walk to Aliexpress, search for ‘jms578 jeyi’, save some money, cut the cable and solder just power and USB data lines. BTW: As part of the active benchmarking… Read more »

Theguyuk
Theguyuk
3 years ago


Wonder if you attach a 2.5 to 3.5 adaptor can you use 3.5 HHD, since no case?

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago


I had a look in FriendlyELEC wiki… still no schematic released so we can only guess whether they were that smart to route the 12V also to pins 13-15 of the SATA power connector.

@Mindee
Can you please comment on that?

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) There’s no different connector for 2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA disks (was different with IDE back then) so all that’s needed is 12V on the connector: SATA power pins 13-15 feed the 12V a 3.5″ disks need for the spinner motor. And then maybe adjusting the PSU requirements to [email protected] is a good idea for some safety headroom with older 3.5″ HDDs and their insane spin-up peak consumption requirements. Since I’m such an electrics/electronics noob I fail to look at the PCB pictures and get a clue 🙂 @Mindee Since situation with mainline kernel is still a bit… Read more »

Armer
Armer
3 years ago

If it has a USB 3.0 with UASP capability, its NAS performance should be 114~118MB/sec.
http://forum.odroid.com/viewtopic.php?f=146&t=26016#p183215

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Armer
Nice to see that people start to understand the importance of UASP slowly 🙂

I commented in ODROID forum why the 114~118MB/sec are mostly irrelevant and hope they start to use LanTest instead since this tool used in ‘active benchmarking’ mode can be used to fine-tune Samba, NFS and other filesharing daemon parameters. Looking at sequential transfer speeds of huge files only is just another attempt to fool yourself 🙂

mike
mike
3 years ago

I would like something like this for NAS purposes. I dont understand what the article means in “lack of UASP support?” I know what UASP means, but can you still transfer data from a computer to a hard drive attached to this Nanopi without removing the hard drive? Sorry I have never used any of these or raspberry pie computers before.

jim st
jim st
3 years ago

I am looking for the Debian-for-nas images on the friendly arm wiki. Anyone know where they are? I’ve got the dock, nanopi-neo (not 2), dock etc., but only have the debian or ubuntu images on their download list. i’ve not gotten any update from them in response to my support email on this one. I did get an email go by that said they had a problem with the original dock and are sending a replacement. NanoPi Neo downloads here: https://www.mediafire.com/folder/n5o8ihvqhnf6s/Nanopi-NEO#n5o8ihvqhnf6s as of 5/4/17 didn’t find the cffafd7dd050276e70c18629e09d772b ./official-ROMs/Debian-for-nas-20170405.img.zip or its predecessor. Thanks to Tkaiser for working on the openmediavault,… Read more »

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@jim st
Sure it will work, if you have a NanoPi NEO PCB rev 1.1 or higher (those that don’t overheat that much any more) you can even use OMV build for Orange Pi Zero (since H2+ and H3 boards are the same anyway): http://kaiser-edv.de/tmp/NumpU8/ (contains more fixes and shows better performance than the older build I did for the NEO which generated zero feedback by FriendlyELEC).

Armbian currently switches the dev branches for H3, H5 and A64 boards from 4.10 to 4.11, maybe I’m in the mood to generate/test new OMV images based on that.

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@jim st Almost forgot: since running a NAS with Fast Ethernet only is somewhat stupid all my OMV builds are prepared to support Gigabit Ethernet USB dongles. There exist only two reasonable choices out there: – ASIX AX88179 chipset – RealTek RTL8153 chipset (better driver support and performance) Try to get one that is based on RTL8153 (or just chose any USB3 Gigabit Ethernet dongle since it’s then either/or) and connect it on first boot of my OMV builds and the dongle will be supported from then on (otherwise you might need to adjust /etc/modules again). And never ever buy… Read more »

TH
TH
3 years ago

@jim st

Isn’t the newer debian nas there ?
nanopi-neo_debian-nas-jessie_4.11.0_20170417.img.zip

https://www.mediafire.com/folder/umkhdtp5nkect/official-ROMs

TH
TH
3 years ago

NAS Kit v1.2 is out today, which support NEO1 & NEO2

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@TH
That was quick! Information in wiki is (yet) not updated so one significant change is missing there: replacing the older USB-to-SATA bridge with JMS567 (UAS capable): http://wiki.friendlyarm.com/wiki/index.php/1-bay_NAS_Dock_v1.2_for_NanoPi_NEO/NEO2

It should also ne noted that after some discussion FriendlyELEC devs abandoned Allwinner’s smelly 3.4.39 kernel and use now 4.11 (though I still would like seeing them sending their stuff upstream so it’s really mainline kernel after patches got accepted)

Now I’m wondering what happened to position of Ethernet jack since at least in the past NEO and NEO2 were incompatible here…

tkaiser
tkaiser
3 years ago

@Jean-Luc Aufranc (CNXSoft) Good choice. I’ve checked schematics in the meantime and saw that VDD_SATA_12V is also available on pins 20-22 of the SATA connector. That means the ‘naked’ PCB they sell separately is fortunately also suitable for 3.5″ disks so looking forward to a 3.5″ enclosure version soon 🙂 @Mindee I hope you adopted Armbian’s OMV tweaks already (IRQ affinity optimizations, IO scheduler and priority class improvements, necessary ondemand scheduler settings, use of flashmedia plugin to reduce wear on SD card)? In case that hasn’t happened already please do a web search for OMV and customize-image.sh — will provide… Read more »

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