NanoPi M4V2 Kit Review – Part 2: FriendlyCore Desktop

NanoPi M4V2 Review
Click to Enlarge

We’ve already seen how to assemble NanoPi M4V2 metal case kit which offers an Arm mini PC solution with support for NVMe SSD. The new NanoPi M4V2 Rockchip RK3399 SBC is an evolution of the M4 board that brings faster LPDDR4 memory and adds power & recovery buttons.

Since we’ve already tested several RK3399 SBC‘s and TV boxes, I planned to focus the review on thermal design evaluation (i.e. see how well the board cools), and see how memory bandwidth evolved from LPDDR3 to LPDDR4.

I wanted to do so both with Linux and Android, since I could compare NanoPC-T4 (LPDDR3) benchmarks in Android. But this requires an eMMC flash module, and I don’t own any. So instead I planned to run Armbian because of support for armbian-monitor for nice temperature chart but it’s not working just yet, so instead I’ve done all tests with FriendlyCore Desktop (rk3399-sd-friendlydesktop-bionic-4.4-arm64-20190926.img) based on Ubuntu 18.04.

System Information

The desktop environment will auto-login, but if you want to login over SSH you can use root username and fa password. Just a few details about the system:

Note I connected my USB 3.0 test hardware as well which explains the four /dev/sda1..4 partitions.

Loaded modules:

GPIOs appear to be properly configured:

SBC Bench

SBC Bench script is great to benchmark Arm SBC’s and check if CPU throttling occurs under various workloads, So let’s install it:

The system reports the CPU temperature is 51.7°C at idle, and I measured around 41°C on the top of the enclosure with an IR thermometer. The ambient temperature was around 28-29°C. Note that I do not have any NVMe SSD, and if you do use one temperature may be slightly higher. There’s a fan which will only rotate when the temperature rises further, and when it does it’s really noisy in a way I can hear in another room (if the door is opened) about 6 meters away from the board.

Time to run the benchmarks. It will take a while.

I also had ./sbc-bench -m running in a separate window to monitor the temperature more often, and the CPU temperature rose up to 71.1°C. The top of the enclosure was only slightly warmer 42°C.

CPU Throttling

No problem for single-core benchmark, but we can see a tiny bit of throttling for 7zip multi-thread benchmark:

but it happens much more frequently with cpuminer:

It looks as if the system will drop the clock speed of the big cores to around 600 MHz when the CPU temperature goes over 70°C.

Memory Bandwidth

NanoPi M4 results for the big cores (2x Arm Cortex-A72) taken from SBC-Bench results database:

  • memcpy: 4080 MB/s
  • memset: 8270 MB/s

So now we have software/configuration issues on our hands as NanoPi M4V2 with the supposedly faster memory is actually much slower:

  • memcpy: 2613.9 MB/s
  • memset: 4758.7 MB/s

M4V2 runs Ubuntu 18.04 64-bit with Linux 4.4 while the M4 board was tested with Debian Stretch 64-bit and Linux 4.19. Here’s the kernel boot log for reference, but I can’t see anything about ddr.

Improving Air Flow

The way the case is designed the fan faces the desktop, and the case is only slightly elevated via rubber pads. One way to potentially improve cooling is to turn the enclosure upside down with the fan facing up, but instead, I elevated the case with four HDMI connector caps.

NanoPi M4V2 HDMI caps

Let’s repeat the test:

Sadly throttling still occurred but there are still some improvements since it did not happen with 7-zip at all (4°C lower), and happened less often with cpuminer:

GPU Acceleration and VPU Hardware Decoding

FriendlyCore Desktop
Click to Enlarge

FriendlyCore comes with a set of programs preinstalled including some that allow us to test whether 3D graphics acceleration and hardware video decoding work.

glmark2-es2 is preinstalled and runs fine…

NanoPi M4V2 glmark2-es2

But the glmark2 score is on the low side at 54 because, as I understand it, vsync is enabled so the maximum score is 60 fps:

I could test 4K video playback in FriendlyELEC Player and I was able to play H.265, H.264 and VP9 videos with hardware video decoding.

NanoPI M4 V2 FriendlyELEC Player
Click to Enlarge

However .ts files won’t play at all, and as such, I could not play any 10-bit H.264 nor 10-bit H.265 4K videos since all my samples are based on TS container format. I was also unable to change the display resolution from 1920×1080 to 4K resolutions such as 3840×2160 or 4196×2160 since those were simply not detected despite being connected to a 4K TV.

Qt Development & Demos

I could not help but also notice the Qt demos on the desktop. There was also an OpenCV demo but it requires a USB or MIPI camera and I could not find my USB webcam.

NanoPi Qt Demos
Click to Enlarge

The Qt5 QML demos include an image browser and a smart hone UI. If you want to easily get started with Qt UI development on Arm, FriendlyELEC has a “Develop Qt Applications” section in their wiki so NanoPI M4/M4V2 may be a good starting point. They also have several Qt repositories with demos in their GitHub account.

Final words

NanoPi M4V2 metal case kit does the job at keeping the Rockchip RK3399 board cool enough in most conditions. But you must be aware the fan is really noisy when it kicks off, and I did not test the kit with an NVMe SSD which may further generate heat.

If you plan to use Android, you’ll need to purchase an additional eMMC flash module, but with FriendlyCore Desktop tested above a MicroSD card will suffice. I used a 32GB class A1 MicroSD card and performance was satisfactory. The software appears to be fairly solid and should be a good base for product development. There may be further tweaks needed to extra more performance, as we’ve found out memory bandwidth was about half of boards with DDR3 memory.

If you’d like to purchase the hardware used for this review you can do so  for $98 plus shipping Just make sure to also select “Metal Case w/ Cooling Fan(NVMe SSD Adapter included) (+$28.00)” option.

Support CNX Software - Donate via PayPal or cryptocurrencies, become a Patron on Patreon, or buy review samples
Notify of
newest most voted