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RK3399 based Raspberry Pi clone starts at $75

Aug 24, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 3884 views

FriendlyElec has launched the smallest, most affordable Rockchip RK3399 based SBC yet. The NanoPi M4 has an RPi 3 form factor and 40-pin header plus dual MIPI-CSI, a USB Type-C, and a 24-pin header with 2x PCIe.

In May, FriendlyElec launched a $129, 4GB RAM NanoPC-T4 SBC that more or less tied with Shenzhen Xunlong’s 2GB Orange Pi RK3399 as the most affordable SBC based on Rockchip’s hexa-core RK3399 SoC. At 100 x 64mm, it was also the smallest. The new NanoPi M4 beats both models with a Raspberry Pi-like 85 x 56mm footprint and a low $75 price for the 2GB version ($65 if you manage to get one of the first 300 boards). The 4GB version costs $105, or $95 early bird. Meanwhile, the somewhat more feature-rich NanoPC-T4 may be a better bargain at its current $110 sale price with 4GB if you don’t need the Pi compatibility.



NanoPi M4 with and without optional heatsink
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi M4 has essentially the same layout as the latest Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and has a superset of its features. Aside from the different processor, this is a very close approximation of the RPi 3 B+ except for the lack of PoE support on the GbE port. On the other hand, it’s a faster, native GbE port instead of the RPi 3 B+’s USB-based connection. Like the B+, you get dual-channel 802.11ac on the Wifi/Bluetooth module.

Despite the performance improvements on the RPi 3 B+, the Rockchip RK3399 blows it away in speed tests. It also beats the vast majority of Arm SoCs. The RK3399 has dual Cortex-A72 cores clocked to up to 2.0GHz and 4x Cortex-A53 cores at 1.5GHz. There’s also a high-end Mali-T864 GPU and a VPU that supports 4K VP9 and 4K 10-bit H265/H264 60fps decoding.

The NanoPi M4 is designed for applications including machine learning, AI, deep learning, robots, industrial control, industrial cameras, advertisement machines, game machines, and blockchain. Like FriendlyElec’s other Linux-friendly NanoPi and NanoPC boards, which can be found in our June roundup of 116 hacker boards, the board ships with open specifications. OS support includes Android 7.1.2 and three Ubuntu-based Linux distributions: Lubuntu 16.04, FriendlyCore 18.04 (Ubuntu Core), and FriendlyDesktop 18.04.



NanoPi M4 2GB (left) and 4GB detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi M4 lacks the NanoPC-T4’s NVM ready M.2 slot, eDP interface, IR receiver, and ADC headers. There’s a USB Type-C port, but it doesn’t support DP displays, only USB 2.0 OTG and power input.

Features not found on the T4 include a mic interface and four USB 3.0 host ports instead of one USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0. Two “independent native” USB 2.0 connections are available via a new 24-pin GPIO header, which also features 2x PCIe and single PWM and PowerKey connections. There’s also a 40-pin connector said to be compatible with the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ (see specs below).



NanoPi M4 2GB and 4GB models (left) and 24-pin GPIO pinout
(click images to enlarge)

A few errors are found in the announcement and product page intro. FriendlyElec mentions a USB 2.0 host port, but there’s no separate port shown in the spec list or detail view. The company also suggests that MIPI-CSI is available via the 40-pin header, but it actually has its own header. It appears you can also switch the MIPI-DSI header over to CSI usage, giving you a second simultaneous camera input.

The NanoPi M4 has a wider -20 to 70℃ temperature range than the 0 to 80℃ T4. It ships with options including a $9.90 8GB eMMC module, $7 heatsink, $7 LCD module, and 2MP ($16) and 13MP ($25) camera modules, among other extras.

Specifications listed for the NanoPi M4 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 at up to 2.0GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5GHz); Mali-T864 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 2GB or 4GB LPDDR3 RAM (dual-channel)
    • eMMC socket
    • MicroSD slot for up to 128GB
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz) with Bluetooth 4.1; 2x IPX antenna connectors
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Media:
    • HDMI 2.0a port (with audio and HDCP 1.4/2.2) for up to 4K at 60Hz
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane) with MIPI-CSI co-lay
    • 1x or 2x 4-lane MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP) with dual ISP support; (2nd CSI available via DSI)
    • 3.5mm analog audio I/O jack
    • Mic interface
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 3.0 host ports
    • USB 3.0 Type-C port (USB 2.0 OTG or power input)
    • Serial debug 4-pin header
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin RPi compatible header — 3x 3V/1.8V I2C, 3V UART, 3V SPI, SPDIF_TX, up to 8x 3V GPIOs, 1.8V 8-ch. I2S
    • 24-pin header – 2x USB 2.0, 2x PCIe, PWM, PowerKey
  • Other features — RTC; 2x LEDs; optional heatsink, LCD, and cameras
  • Power — DC 5V/3A input or USB Type-C
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70℃
  • Weight — 47.7 g
  • Dimensions — 85 x 56mm; 8-layer PCB
  • Operating system — Android 7.1.2; Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit); FriendlyCore 18.04 (64-bit), FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit)

 
Further information

The NanoPi M4 with 2GB RAM is available now for $65 if you manage to snag one of the first 300 boards. Otherwise the price is $75. The 4GB version costs $105 ($95 early bird). More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s NanoPi M4 shopping page, wiki, and GitHub page.
 

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