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Posts Tagged ‘nas’

QNAP QBoat Sunny Review – Part 1: Unboxing, Closer Look, and Initial Setup

December 18th, 2017 7 comments

We spotted the QBoat Sunny at QNAP’s booth back at CES in January and much has changed since then. Not only did QNAP change from an Intel based solution to an ARM based one, but the product seems to have shifted from being a development board to a strange kind of IoT server.

The QBoat Sunny sample that QNAP provided for us to look at is based on the Annapurna Labs AL-314 quad core ARM Cortex-A15 SoC which is clocked at 1.7GHz. This has been paired with 2GB of DDR3L RAM (non-expandable) and 512MB of NAND flash that isn’t user accessible, much as on their NAS products. This simply contains the core parts of the QTS Lite OS. As such, you need to install an M.2 SATA SSD to be able to get started with the QBoat Sunny.

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QNAP provides a list of compatible SSDs on its website, although some are not “consumer” models and might not be available for individual purchase. We used a Crucial MX300 SSD which is on the supported list, however, any standard M.2 SATA SSD should work. Interestingly, QNAP supplies two very small heatsinks (about 15x15mm) that they suggest that you stick on the SSD controller. As the MX300 has a sticker over its controller, we presume it doesn’t get hot enough to warrant the use of the heatsinks.

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Also in the box is 12V/3A power brick from FSP that meets the latest power efficiency standards, a set of mountain rails, some screws, an Ethernet cable and a quick installation guide. The mounting rails don’t make a whole lot of sense, as they don’t seem to follow any standard. The mounting holes for the rails on the heatsink/housing for the QBoat Sunny have a distance between them of 100mm which suggests a VESA standard, but oddly enough the holes on the opposite end of the mountain rails have a center distance that just misses the VESA 75mm standard.

There are also rear mounting holes on the heatsink/housing, which are either 105x105mm using M4 screws (not supplied) or 100x75mm using M3 screws (also not supplied). The 105×105 mounting holes correspond perfectly to a 120mm PC cooling fan and the board has a fan header. However, the holes are on the bottom of the heatsink/housing only, so there’s no simple way to actively cool the SSDs for example.

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Connectivity wise the QBoat Sunny has a fair of mount of options, starting with two M.2 M-key slots (SATA only), one M.2 A key slot for things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards – a bit more on the M.2 slots later – three Gigabit Ethernet ports – two AR8035 and one AR8033 – two USB 3.0 ports, a “maintenance” port via a 3.5mm jack (no cable supplied) and separate headphone and microphone 3.5mm jacks. There’s also the aforementioned 4-pin fan header and a two-pin battery connector, although we’re not sure what the later is for, as the QBoat Sunny has an RTC battery fitted in a vertical mount already, yet the battery header is supposed to be for an RTC battery.

There’s also space for a 26-pin header, but the holes have been filled by solder and the manual doesn’t mention anything about this header. However, the board still has a silk screen that points out what the different pins are for and although some of them aren’t clear such as PBS28 and HMM_TR1, some of them are for I2C, serial interface and power. There are also a couple of pins for monitoring external fans which seems to be tied to the Novoton NCT7802Y hardware monitoring IC. There are also a couple of TI LSF0108 octal bidirectional multi-Voltage translators here which seem to serve no purpose without the pin-header being populated.

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We also spotted a C-Media CM6533 USB 2.0 audio chip and a Weltrend WT61P803 which seems to be some kind of programmable logic IC, but we’re not entirely sure what purpose it serves, although it’s most likely used as some kind of general system controller.

Let’s quickly go back to the M.2 slots. The SATA drive slots both have a thermal sensor below them which is used by the QTS OS to monitor the temperature of the SSDs. We’re somewhat confused by QNAP’s choice of M.2 slots though, since in the case of the SSD slots, QNAP should have used B-key slots, as that way it wouldn’t be possible to try an insert a PCIe based SSD into the QBoat Sunny as it is today. The third M.2 is A-key and doesn’t work with E-key Wi-Fi cards, but A/E keyed cards should fit. That said, at this point in time, this slot seems to serve no purpose, as there are no officially supported Wi-Fi cards for it. As such, you’re limited to a handful of USB Wi-Fi options if you want to add Wi-Fi to the QBoat Sunny.

Setup was simple enough, pop in an SSD or two, plug in the power, press the power button and the system starts. Without and SSD, you’ll be greeted by a screen telling you to install at least one hard drive, although it should really say SSD in this case. Although external hard drives are supported, the QTS Lite OS has to be installed onto an SSD.

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To find the QBoat Sunny on your network, you can use QNAP’s Qfinder Pro tool, which is available for a wide range of operating systems, including Android and iOS, but not Linux. As with QNAP’s range of NAS products, the setup is done via a guided wizard through a web browser. This is also when you’d enable the type of file server you’d want and all major options are supported, such as SAMBA, AFP, NFS, and FTP, as well as QNAP’s own File Station.

Services Configuration – Click to Enlarge

Once the basic steps are done, you need to format your drive(s) and in our case we only had a single drive, so we couldn’t set up any kind of RAID. The QBoat Sunny supports RAID-0 and RAID-1.

Disk Configuration – Click to Enlarge

After the drive has been formatted, the QTS Lite will be installed from the NAND flash and the system will reboot before you get access to the OS. Once rebooted, we were told there was a system update which brought us to the latest build of the QTS Lite OS.

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We’re still not quite sure what to make of the QBoat Sunny despite having had it for a couple of weeks now. Although the hardware itself isn’t bad, it seems like QNAP cut a few too many features from the Intel model that they announced at CES, as this seemed to be more of a developer platform. Now we’ve got something that appears to be more of an IoT server for storing data from various IoT devices. The higher price point of $169/€159 is also not that appealing, unless you have a specific use case for such a device, but more on that when we take a closer look at the software side of the QBoat Sunny after the holidays.


QNAP QBoat Sunny can currently be purchased on span.com for 158 GBP ex VAT ($210 / €179), but as more sellers list the device/board, price should eventually come down closer to the MSRP.

More Low Cost ARM Linux NAS Platforms Coming Soon: Popcorn Hour Transformer (XL), ODROID-HC2

December 14th, 2017 24 comments

Last summer, Hardkernel launched ODROID-HC1 Home Cloud 1 taking a single 2.5″ hard drive, and based on a modified version of their popular Exynos 5422 powered ODROID-XU4 board where they removed HDMI, and added a SATA interface (via USB 3.0), but based on the initial announcement, we also knew the Korean company was working on ODROID-HC2 supporting 3.5″ drives instead.

The device is not available yet, but guys at Armbian got an early unit, so we should not be waiting too long. Hardkernel will also have some competition for their ODROID-HC1 NAS, as Cloud Media (and Pine64?) are working on Rockchip RK3328 based Popcorn Hour Transformer & Transformer XL with support for 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives respectively.

Hardkernel ODROID-HC2

ODROID-HC2 (Top) vs ODROID-HC1 (Bottom) – Click to Enlarge

ODROID-HC2 preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 5422 octa-core processor with 4x ARM Cortex-A15 @ 2.0 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.4GHz, and Mali-T628 MP6 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0 / 2.0 / 1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP @ 750 MHz
  • Storage
    • UHS-1 micro SD slot up to 128GB
    • SATA interface via JMicron JMS578 USB 3.0 to SATA bridge chipset
    • The case supports 3.5″ drives
  • Network Connectivity – 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet (via USB 3.0)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Debugging – Serial console header
  • Misc – Power, status, and SATA LEDs;
  • Power Supply
    • 12V/2A via 5.5/2.1mm power barrel (2.5A might covered most use case, e.g. adding another USB 2.0 drive)
    • Backup header for RTC battery
  • Dimensions & weight – TBD

Basically everything should be the same, as HC1, except the power supply (12V vs 5V) and of course the dimensions of the metal enclosure, which is still used for cooling.

Tkaiser ran some preliminary tests, and could confirm HC2 is indeed software compatible with HC1/ODROID-XU4 using Armbian OMV image. Power consumption will be higher than for 2.5″ drives with around 5.3W measured while idle with a mechanical drive, and spikes up to 24Watts when the drive is spinning up, but apparently the 12V/2A power supply provided by hardkernel can somehow handle up to 30 Watts. Power consumption drops to 4.3W with an SSD, and 3.9W with no drive at all.

Performance was good at 100+ MB/s sequential read/write performance over the network. The reported SoC temperature will be slightly higher than on ODROID-HC1 because the 12V to 5V converter circuit produce heat that increases the PCB temperature by 3 to 4°C, but it should not be an issue.

Popcorn Hour Transformer

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Popcorn Hour Transformer is quite similar to ODROID-HC1, but Cloud Media also left the HDMI 2.0 output, so it could be used as a Android TV box with hard drive too.

Preliminary specifications for Transformer based on photos, and OMV forums:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB or 4GB DRAM
  • Storage
    • micro SD slot
    • Support for eMMC flash modules used in ROCK64 board
    • SPI NOR flash
    • SATA interface via USB 3.0 to SATA bridge chipset
    • Support for 2.5″ drives
  • Network Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K 60Hz with HDR support
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, and 3.5mm audio jack
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – Power button, IR receiver
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A via power barrel jack
  • Dimensions & weight – TBD

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Transformer should be 100% compatible with ROCK64 development board, and based on latest info from #pine64 IRC channel, launch is planned for January, with Transformer XL coming a few months later. Cloud Media already listed Transformer for $95.90$115.90, but accessing further information requires a password. Since the product has not been launched, prices may just be placeholders while designing the website.

In somewhat related news, Pine64 is working on a Rockpro64 board powered by Rockchip RK3399 SoC which will be demo’ed at FOSDEM 2018, and this may eventually lead to a Transformer Pro media NAS if there’s demand for it.

QNAP QBoat Sunny IoT Mini Server Board Officially Announced with Annapurna Labs AL-314 ARM Processor

November 15th, 2017 13 comments

We first had a glance at QNAP QBoat Sunny at CES 2017. At the time, QNAP IoT development board was powered by an Intel AnyWAN GRX750 dual core Atom based processor with 2GB RAM, 4GB flash, three Gigabit Ethernet ports, some mSATA slot and so on.

The company has now officially announced the board, but with a twist, as the Intel processor has been replaced by Annapurna Labs (now part of Amazon) AL-314 quad core ARM Cortex-15 processor instead, and left most of the other features pretty much unchanged.

QBoard Sunny board specifications:

  • Processor – Annapurna Labs AL-314 quad core ARM Cortex-15 processor up to 1.7 GHz
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 512MB NAND flash, 2x M.2 2260/2280 SATA slots for SSDs (Key M)
  • Network connectivity – 3x Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 2x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio out jack, 3.5mm audio in jack
  • Expansion
    • 1x M.2 Key A 2230 for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth
    • 40-pin connector, for I2C, UART, SPI, SDIO, GPIO
  • Misc –  Debug console via 3.5mm jack; RTC battery; status and user LEDs; power & system reset buttons; pin connector for 4-wire fan
  • Power – 12V/3A
  • Power Consumption – 9.49 Watts with SSD idle; 13.31 Watts in operation
  • Dimensions – 144 x 126 x 33.5 mm (with heatsink base)
  • Weight – 490 grams
  • Environmental Conditions – 0 to 35˚C, 5 to 95%, non-condensing, wet bulb temperature: 27˚C

The board runs QTS Lite 4.3.3 embedded Linux operating system, supports features like Wake on LAN, scheduled power on/off, and automatic power on after power recovery.

Annapurna Labs does not appear to be the kind of company that release SoC documentation publicly, and I really wonder why they even bothered to setup a website. They (or somebody else) did add support to Alpine SoCs in Linux 4.6, but I’d still assume you’d have to relies on QNAP for the OS and low level software, and just take care of the application on top, praying the lower level feature(s) you need is/are well supported.

Qboat Sunny ships with an Ethernet cable, a quick installation guide, a 36W AC adapter and power cord, a wall mount kit, an M.2 screw kit, and two M.2 SSD heatsinks. The promo video below explains why you may want to use the board in your (IoT) projects, for example using it instead of public cloud services to save money.

The company claims the board is available now at an affordable price. The only thing is I’ve not been able to find the price… At CES 2017, there was talk about a $100 to $120 with the Intel version. [Update: MSRP is $169/€159]. More details may be found on the product page.

Thanks to TLS for the tip.

Giveaway Week Winners – November 2017

November 9th, 2017 15 comments

Like every year, I’ve organized a giveaway week to send some of the items I’ve reviewed in the past year or so. There was a good mix of devices this year starting with a mini Linux NAS kit, following by some ESP32 boards, and Amlogic development boards among others.

The results are in, and instead of 10 winners, I actually have 11 winners due a “timing issue”, and to make for one missing ESP32 board, a LinkIt Smart 7688 Duo board was also given away.

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While it started strongly for Eastern Europe, We have winners from 3 continents this year:

  • NanoPi NEO2 NAS Kit – Hap Hapablap, Serbia
  • Muses Beta DVB Encoder and Modulator Board – Luka, Slovenia
  • ESP32 PICO Kit v3 boards (5 Winners):
    • Andrius Kurtinaitis, Lithuania (2x ESP32 boards)
    • Kebab, Turkey (2x ESP32 boards)
    • Zoobab, Belgium (2x ESP32 boards)
    • Sollie, Germany (2x ESP32 boards)
    • BobR, USA (1x ESP32 PICO Kit + LinkIt Smart 7688 Duo)
  • NanoPi K2 board – ml, Sweden
  • Wio GPS Tracker – Tumpang L., Malaysia
  • Nextion Enhanced 7″ Display – Ved Vernekar, USA
  • Khadas VIM Pro board – gleveque, France

I’ve just send all 11 packages earlier this afternoon.

I hope the winners will enjoy their prizes, and thank you to everyone who played. Let’s do it again next year.

Giveaway Week – NanoPi NEO NAS Kit with NEO 2 Board

October 30th, 2017 179 comments

Time has come to organize another giveaway week. I used to mainly give away TV boxes, but due to recent regulations that will not be possible anymore, and instead this giveaway week will include Linux and IoT development boards, and other accessories. I’ll start with NanoPi NEO NAS Kit v1.2.

NanoPi NEO NAS Kit v1.2 is a low cost kit NanoPi NEO or NEO 2 board that takes a 2.5″ hard drive. I’ve tested it with NanoPi NEO 2 board and OpenMediaVault, and found to perform optimally for this type of device (USB 2.0 to SATA), with SAMBA reads & writes achieving 40 MB/s.

Read and Write Speeds in MB/s

The hardware given away includes the NAS Kit v1.2 and a NanoPi NEO 2 board. You’ll just need to add a micro SD card with the OMV image, a hard drive, and a 12V/2A (or greater) power supply.

To enter the draw simply leave a comment below. Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • $14 for registered airmail small packet for oversea shipping payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) without registration if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 8th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

If you don’t end up winning, but are still interested in the solution, you can purchase the kit with NanoPi NEO 2 for $28.98 plus shipping on FriendlyARM website.

GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 is a DIY NAS Supporting up to Six 3.5″ SATA Drives (Crowdfunding)

October 11th, 2017 20 comments

GNUBee Personal Cloud 1 is a DIY NAS powered by Mediatek MT7621A MIPS processor that supports up to 2.5″ SATA drives, and runs free and open source software. It was first introduced in March of this year through a CrowdSupply campaign.

The developers are now back with GNUBee Personal Cloud 2 (GB-PC2) with pretty much the same features, but instead of being designed for 2.5″ drives, it supports up to six 3.5″ drive that should offer either more capacity, or a lower total price for an equivalent capacity.

GB-PC2 NAS specifications:

  • ProcessorMediaTek MT7621A dual core, quad thread MIPS processor @ 880 MHz, overclockable to 1.2 GHz
  • System Memory512 MB DDR3 (max supported by MT7621)
  • Storage – SD card slot tested up to 64 GB, 6x 3.5” SATA HDD or SSD (recommended RAID 0 or 1 under LVM, MD, or Linux MD RAID 10)
  • Connectivity – 3x Gigabit Ethernet
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Serial port – 3-pin J1 connector or 3.5 mm audio-type jack
  • Misc – 2x mainboard fan
  • Power – 12 VDC @ 8A via 5.5 mm x 2.1 mm, center-positive barrel jack
  • Dimensions –  TBD
  • Weight – ~454 g (without drives)

They also added one extra Gigabit Ethernet port for a total of three, and the NAS is obviously larger and heavier than the previous model, as well as requires a beefier power supply. The device can currently run Debian, OpenMediaVault, LEDE, or libreCMC with all documentation, schematics, and source code to be released on Github.

The new GB-PC2 model has also been launched on CrowdSupply with a funding target of $45,000. GnuBee PC2 Starter Kit with two anodized aluminum side plates, six threaded brackets and bracket screws, and 24 drive mount screws requires a $249 pledge. However, you may want to spend $10 more to add the power supply, SD card with firmware image, and USB-to-UART adapter cable for the Delux Kit (Early Bird). Shipping is free to the US, but adds $20 to the rest of the world, with delivery planned for December 31, 2017. Further details may be found on GNUBee website.

Hardkernel ODROID-HC1 Home Cloud One Stackable NAS is now available for $49

August 21st, 2017 15 comments

Hardkernel has just launched their ODROID-HC1 stackable NAS system based on a cost-down version of ODROID-XU4 board powered by Samsung Exynos 5422 octa-core Cortex-A15/A7 processor, which as previously expect, you can purchase for $49 on Hardkernel website, or distributors like Ameridroid.

We now have the complete specifications for ODROID-HC1 (Home Cloud One) platform:

  • SoC – Samsung Exynos 5422 octa-core processor with 4x ARM Cortex-A15 @ 2.0 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.4GHz, and Mali-T628 MP6 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0 / 2.0 / 1.1 and OpenCL 1.1 Full profile
  • System Memory – 2GB LPDDR3 RAM PoP @ 750 MHz
  • Storage
    • UHS-1 micro SD slot up to 128GB
    • SATA interface via JMicron JMS578 USB 3.0 to SATA bridge chipset capable of achieving ~300 MB/s transfer rates
    • The case supports 2.5″ drives between 7mm and 15mm thick
  • Network Connectivity – 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet (via USB 3.0)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Debugging – Serial console header
  • Misc – Power, status, and SATA LEDs;
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via 5.5/2.1mm power barrel (5V/4A power supply recommended)
    • 12V unpopulated header  (currently unused)
    • Backup header for RTC battery
  • Dimensions – 147 x85 x 29 mm (Aluminum case also serving as heatsink)
  • weight – 229 grams

The company provides Ubuntu 16.04.2 with Linux 4.9, and OpenCL support for the board, the same image as ODROID-XU4, but there are also community supported Linux distributions including Debian, DietPi, Arch Liux ARM, OMV, Armbian, and others, which can all be found in the Wiki.

SAMBA File Copy To/From HC1 – Click to Enlarge

Based on Hardkernel’s own tests, you should be able to max out the Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth while transferring a files over SAMBA in either directions. tkaiser, an active member of Armbian, also got a sample, and reported that heat dissipation worked well, and that overall Hardkernel had a done a very good job.

While power consumption of the system is usually 5 to 10 Watts, it may jump to 20 Watts under heavy load with USB devices attached, so a 5V/4A power supply is recommended with the SATA drive only, and 5V/6A if you are also going to connect power hungry devices to the USB 2.0 port. The company plans to manufacture ODROID-HC1 for at least three years (until mid 2020), but expects to continue production long after, as long as parts are available.

$15 Orange Pi Zero Plus Board Released with Allwinner H5 SoC, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, and SPI flash

August 12th, 2017 33 comments

We had Orange Pi Zero, followed by Orange Pi Zero Plus 2, then Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 H5, but now there’s another “Zero” model that’s called Orange Pi Zero Plus, which like Orange Pi Zero Plus 2 H5 board is based on Allwinner H5 processor, but adds a faster Gigabit Ethernet port, and offers a fairly different features set compared to the first Orange Pi H5 board, albeit in the same form factor.

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Orange Pi Zero Plus specifications with highlights in bold and stricken-through showing difference with Orange Pi Plus 2 H5 model:

  • SoC – Allwinner H5 quad core Cortex A53 processor with hexa core Mali-450MP4 GPU
  • System Memory – 512 MB DDR3
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash, micro SD card slot + 2MB SPI flash
  • Video Output – HDMI ; AV port via 13-pin header
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (Realtek RTL8189FTV) with u.FL antenna connector and external antenna. No Bluetooth
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port, 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Camera – MIPI CSI port
  • Expansion headers
    • Unpopulated 26-pin “Raspberry Pi B+” header
    • 13-pin header with headphone, 2x USB 2.0, TV out, microphone and IR receiver signals
  • Debugging – 3-pin serial console header
  • Misc – 2x LEDs for power and status
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 48 x 45 mm
  • Weight – 26 grams

The eMMC flash is gone, but has been replaced with an SPI flash that should allow for network boot without micro SD card. HDMI output is gone, so your only video output option would be via the video composite signal on the 13-pin header. Bluetooth is gone as they replaced the Ampak module by a Realtek one, and the camera connector. All those differences means the two Orange Pi H5 boards have different uses case, with the new board is better suited to headless application where you need Gigabit Ethernet connectivity, and potentially want to save a few dollars on the board price, and remove the need for storage (if you use network boot).

The board should also be compatible with Orange Pi Zero NAS expansion board, so you’d have an inexpensive micro NAS with performance and price that rivals with FriendlyELEC NanoPi NEO 2 NAS kit, minus the enclosure. 2017 has been an exciting year for affordable networked storage so far, with various options from the two lower-end solutions aforementioned, to the better upcoming ODROID-MC1, and the higher end EspressoBin board, with some interesting work also taking place on ROCK64 board.

Software-wise, it may be worth noting that there’s no stable Armbian build so far, but there are experimental Ubuntu Xenial images for Orange Pi Zero 2 H5 board with mainline Linux kernel, which should work on the new board by just changing the DTB file. However, I did use NanoPi NEO2 with Allwinner H5 as a OpenMediaVault NAS, and it worked well enough, so I would not worry too much about software support for this use case. I’m not sure about U-boot support in the SPI flash, but hoping for some feedback in the comments section.

Orange Pi Zero Plus is sold for $14.90 plus shipping ($18.29 in total here). If you’re interested in mini NAS / home cloud system, you’ll need to add the NAS expansion board for $6.98, which in my case brings the total to $27.13 including shipping. A direct comparison with NanoPi NEO2 NAS kit is not possible, since Shenzhen Xunlong micro NAS solution does not include a case, nor heatsink, but for reference, a complete NAS kit v1.2 with NEO2 board goes for $28.98 plus shipping, or $44.98 in total in my case.