Orange Pi Zero is a cool little Arm Linux board based on Allwinner H2+ processor for headless applications requiring WiFi and/or Ethernet that was first launched in November 2016 for $7 and up. It was not launched without controversy, as first users had various issues with the Allwinner XR819 WiFi module, but I had no such problem when I made an Orange Pi Zero Google Assistant smart speaker.
Nevertheless, Shenzhen Xunlong Software is about to launch a newer version of the board – Orange Pi Zero LTS -, with the same specifications, but improvements in the design in order to reduce power consumption, and lower the board’s temperature. As the name implies, the company will commit to long term support (i.e. long term availability) for the board, but they did not tell me for how many years.
- SoC – Allwinner H2+ quad-core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU @ 600 MHz
- System Memory – 256 to 512 MB DDR3-1866 SDRAM
- Storage – microSD card slot
- Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet + 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (Allwinner XR819 WiFi module) with u.FL antenna connector and external antenna
- USB – 1x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB OTG port
- Expansion headers
- Unpopulated 26-pin GPIO header mostly compatible with Raspberry Pi (1) header
- 13-pin header with headphone, 2x USB 2.0, TV-out, microphone and IR receiver signals
- Debugging – 3-pin header for serial console
- Misc – 2x LEDs
- Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or optional PoE
- Dimensions – 52 x 46 mm
- Weight – 26 grams
Software-wise you could download Android 7.0, OpenWrt, Ubuntu or Debian Desktop/server from the official resources page, but most people will likely prefer running Armbian’s Debian 10 Buster or Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic image instead since support will be much better.
If you do care about power consumption and/or temperature, Armbian’s h3consumption utility can disable some features (e.g. HDMI, GPU, Ethernet, CPU cores…) to further lower power consumption. I used it successfully with NanoPi NEO board in order to power it from my router’s USB port.
To back up their claims, I asked the company to measure power consumption and temperature, and they kindly proceeded.
|Test||Orange Pi Zero||Orange Pi Zero-LTS||Orange Pi Zero||Orange Pi Zero-LTS|
|Suspend to RAM||90mA||90mA||35°C||34°C|
|Full load (cpuminer)||730mA||610mA||68°C||55°C|
Measurements were made in a room with 28°C ambient temperature, but I failed to get an answer as to which distribution they used for testing. Nevertheless, it shows 60mA (0.3 W) were shaved off at idle, and 120 mA (0.6W) under full load. The temperature dropped 13°C on Orange Pi Zero-LTS meaning throttling is much less likely to occur. Note they used an IR thermometer for temperature measurements, so actual CPU temperature should be a little higher.
The board is not for sale yet, but I’ve been informed that it will “be available for sale soon because production is not a problem now”.
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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