NanoPi NEO3 Headless SBC Launched for $20 and up

Last month, we found out FriendlyELEC was working on NanoPi NEO3, a tiny SBC powered by Rockchip RK3328 processor and made for headless applications and networked storage thanks to Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports, as well as a 26-pin GPIO header.

At the time, the board was still been finalized, but the company has now started to take orders for $20 and up depending on options which include a cute white enclosure..

buy nanopi neo3Here’s a quick reminder of NanoPi NEO3 specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad-core Arm Cortex A53 processor with Mali-450MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 1GB or 2GB DDR4
  • Storage – MicroSD Slot for system boot and storage
  • Video Output – N/A
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet with unique MAC via RTL8211E PHY
  • USB – 1x USB3.0 Type-A port, 2x USB2.0 on 2.54mm 8-pin header
  • Expansion – 26-pin header with I2C, UART, SPI, I2S, GPIO
  • Debugging – 3-pin header for serial console
  • Misc – Power & System LEDs, user key, 2-pin header for 5V Fan
  • Power Supply – 5V/1A via USB Type-C port or GPIO pin
  • PCB Dimensions – 48 x 48mm
  • Weight – 22 grams
  • Temperature Range – -20°C to 70°C

NanoPi NEO3 SpecificationsThe Wiki has been updated as well, and the company provides both Ubuntu Core 18.04 based FriendlyCore, and OpenWrt based FriendlyWrt operating systems for the board with both relying on Linux 5.4.12 kernel. I’d also expect Armbian to eventually provide Ubuntu 20.04 and Debian 10 images.

The $20 price tag is for the version with 1GB RAM, and you’ll need to add $5 to get 2GB RAM and an extra $2 for the enclosure. The company also offers other optional accessories as follows:

  • 5V 2A Power Adapter – $3.99
  • German Plug Adapter (applies to France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Korea) – $5.99
  • “High-Power” 30cm Type-C to USB-A Male 2.0 cable – $2.99
  • SanDisk 16GB EDGE A1 U1 Class 10 Micro SD Card  – $7.99
  • USB Port 1602 LCD Module for Pi (LCD2USB) – $8.87

Thanks to theguyuk for the tip.

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41 Replies to “NanoPi NEO3 Headless SBC Launched for $20 and up”

  1. Why you do not route the USB OTG on the USB-C socket ? Just why. You could then use USB C to power and to boot the board. It does not cost anything, two traces of copper!!

    1. Or better, route them to two pin headers next to the internal USB connector so that with just two jumpers you can expose one of the internal USB connector to the USB-C, or that with a miniature board you can bridge them to the serial input through a WCH340e and bring a serial console to the USB-C connector.

    1. A short delay. You have to wait for a number of weeks, probably not months. Note the current CM4-design is for another market – you have to add your own Base-Board.

  2. Mmh, Fan Connector but no space for Fan in Enclosure? Not possible to order multiple items like Sd Card + Cable? Whats the benefit of USB-C Poweronly connector instead of USB3.0 Power only? Why no 4GB Ram? Nice Update but we are a bit early it seems.

  3. The NEO3-2GB is 25$. The Pi4-2GB is 35$ with Wifi, 2 HDMIs and another form-factor. Make your choise.

    1. Is this Pi4 thing the device which comes with a free Microsoft OS supervising the system you are running? How was it? MalcomX? ThreadX?

    2. Why should two micro HDMI a bigger size and a higher price be an advantage for a small size headless board?

      1. > and a higher price

        That’s only ‘true’ if you compare totally meaningless list prices. As soon as you count in stuff like shipping, taxes, customs it’s a different story.

        Here in Germany I can buy the cute original NanoPi NEO (H3, 512GB RAM) for €33 shipping not included when I want a normal invoice and usual warranty handling. The same board is listed for $15 in FriendlyELEC’s shop. So I would believe NEO3 will cost €50 or above.

        RPi 4 with 2GB currently costs either €38 (shipping not included) or if I need one or a few boards right now €41 per piece (10 minutes bike ride).

        I really don’t like the platform (due to the VideoCore crap and missing ARMv8 Crypto Extensions) but in terms of costs and availability it’s hard to beat RPi 4…

        …and if the upcoming Compute Module 4 lacks USB3 but exposes the PCIe lane on the DIMM connector I guess I will be the first posting a tutorial and/or script how to make this thing fast for NAS/server use cases.

        1. For you pi might be available easily at a reasonable price. For me up until corona ordering from china was easier and cheaper than ordering from i.e. germany. So buying directly from friendlyelec was an option. And for private use warranty and invoice are not that important in this price segment.

          And would I need such kind of an SBC for commercial, i.e. industrial use I’d go with a reputed company with proper contact person and some interest in customising, being it a local business or someone like our friends from Bulgaria.

          1. Actually have to correct myself.
            Situation seems to have improved quite a bit since I got my rpi3.

            Rpi4 2GB is available imported from Germany starting from 46$ incl. shipping and tax and locally from 48 shipped or picked up.

            So much easier nowadays, but still the ubiquitous 35$ are just a joke, you won’t get one into your hands in this price in Europe not even for 35€.

          2. > would I need such kind of an SBC for commercial, i.e. industrial use

            I was’t talking about industrial use but something for energy efficient server/NAS tasks. Something like this:

            I doubt Olimex or anyone else will do this as SBC. But if an upcoming CM4 exposes PCIe it should be just a matter of time until someone does an inexpensive PCB with an ASM1061, 88SE9215 or JMB585 for 2, 4 or 5 PCIe attached SATA ports.

            And if the pin layout of the CM4 isn’t too brain-dead maybe other SBC manufacturers will follow with compatible modules using S922X/A311D, i.MX8, RTD1395, RK3399 or whatever other ARM SoC with working PCIe.

          3. You mean like pine and friendly offer for their rk3399 boards?

          4. Nope. Pine’s ASM1061 SATA card is just a regular PCIe card, FriendlyELEC’s SATA Hat is something I recommended back then (but with the better 88SE9230 at least utilizing 2 PCIe lanes of RK3399) and then we shouldn’t forget about Radxa’s Penta SATA Hat for RockPi 4 which uses the JMB585.

            You can also get a JMB585 based M.2 adapter with 5 SATA ports from JEYI for less than 30 bucks so in theory you can add this to anything with an M.2 slot (like Khadas Edge, VIM3 or NanoPC T4) as long as you take care about an enclosure for HDDs and powering the whole setup yourself.

            But that’s not what I meant. It’s about something inexpensive and ready to use…

          5. So more like those hardkernel HCx or whoever has similar sbc+hdd in a case? I know those are usb and not pcie but just to get what you mean.

            Just checked the other is: 1-bay NAS Kit v1.2 for NanoPi NEO&NEO2, also USB of course.

          6. Something inexpensive (!), that avoids crappy USB-to-SATA bridges, comes with a simple, stackable and inexpensive sort of enclosure that also takes care about heat dissipation and powering of board + HDD (12V+5V needed).

          7. That JEYI M.2 SATA adapter sounds very interesting for HP thin clients I use. Did test mPCIe SATA adapter on the WiFi-slot for 2 SATA ports, but 5 SATA ports will be useful to me.
            Will see if I can find those on AliExpress.

          8. Hmm, that adapter is for M.2 NVMe slots. My HP thin clients have M.2 SATA slots so I am out of luck. Will have to stick to 2 ports SATA adapter then..

          9. > that adapter is for M.2 NVMe slots.

            Sure, since the JMB585 is a PCIe attached SATA controller. What could help you with SATA only M.2 slots and spinning rust is a port multiplier. But the SATA host controller has to support that (preferably in the faster FIS-based switching mode) and I’ve no idea whether that exists as M.2 cards or whether you need an M.2 to SATA adapter for this.

        2. That’s availability in Europe, it’s not like that in the States. It’s the opposite actually, it is just like you described the NanoPi with less shipping cost.

      2. I have not recommended NEO 3-2 or Pi 4-2. It is just a simple note to compare with the reference. (With over 3.5 million PI-4 it is by definition the reference) See also tkaisers note on shipping costs.

        1. The reference isn’t everywhere the best fit and for prices see my post above for rpi4 and the neo 3 1GB is shipped to me at 31$ incl. case. So if a neo 3 fits my bill and I have the time to wait why go for a pi?

          And if I want a pi dont recommend me a nuc, it’s just the right tool for the right use.

          My biggest issue with the pi is single source. No access to the SOC, no info regarding kernel development and a single guru deciding what is allowed to be done and what not (check their forums), it’s the iPhone of the SOCs.

          So not my world, but if an iPhone fits the bill ill go for one. That’s where pragmatism is required.

          1. I don’t recommend anything. It’s indeed that simple: the right tool for the right use. As said: Your choice. Problem solved. Regarding pi-forums: I am rarely there. A single guru ? Who ?? – anyway probably I cannot change your judgment. No problem with that.

  4. basically RK3288 vs Allwinner H2+ these days. I still prefer Orange Pi Zero LTS though it only has 100Mbps/USB2, I don’t need 1Gbps+USB3 for SBC, and Zero LTS is $12.

    1. > RK3288

      Not used here (RK3328 instead). And NEO3 clearly addresses different use cases compared to H2+ equipped NEO.

      If FriendlyELEC will ever build a NEO successor with a Rockchip SoC then RK3308 would be the SoC of choice. I hope they retain then also the 40x40mm form factor. On the other hand RockPi S already exists…

  5. Could this be used with USB3.0 to gigabit ethernet adapter and service 4+ clients on a switch at full speeds? Trying to replace a full router with this little guy

    1. Note that as you only have a single adapter your speed will be limited to 500 Mbit max (as the adapter will have to do the inbound and outbound traffic).
      Also there is no physical separation of upstream and downstream. If you only want routing that might be ok, but no separation leaves you more vulnerable for attacks.
      Better buy a router that supports OpenWRT. Probably the total cost will be similar and you might even get some WiFi support (should you need it)

      1. > as you only have a single adapter

        I guess he’s talking about adding an USB3-GbE adapter to an GbE equipped RK3399 board.

        BTW: I did just that 2 months ago at a customer who moved into a new building. Internet was ready but customer’s Cisco crap not yet. So a NanoPi NEO4 with an additional RTL8153 GbE adapter served flawlessly as NAT router and DNS/DHCP server for a few weeks using ‘FriendlyWRT’.

  6. Any idea how to get this to Canada? They won’t ship it here, and I think this looks like it’ll be fabulous as a printer server.

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