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Tiny, rugged, open-spec SBC plugs into carrier or breadboards

Aug 29, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,879 views
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FriendlyElec’s WiFi-ready, $8 “NanoPi Duo” runs Linux on a quad -A7 Allwinner H2+, and can plug into a $10 RPi-like carrier or any standard breadboard.

FriendlyElec has added to its line of open spec, community backed NanoPi SBCs with an IoT-focused, $8 NanoPi Duo SBC that can plug into a $10 “Mini Shield” carrier board or any standard breadboard. The NanoPi Duo measures just 50 x 25.4 (1,270 sq. mm) making it one of the smallest Linux-ready SBCs around, even smaller than the 40 x 40mm (1,600 sq. mm) NanoPi Neo line of boards, such as the latest NanoPi Neo Plus2.



NanoPi Duo alone (left) and plugged into Mini Shield
(click images to enlarge)

The computer-on-module like NanoPi Duo offers WiFi, a microSD slot, and a micro-USB port through which it is powered, barely qualifying it as an SBC. On the other hand, it lacks even the mini-HDMI port found on the similarly WiFi-enabled, 65 x 30mm Raspberry Pi Zero W.


NanoPi Duo Mini Shield detail (left) and Duo plugged into breadboard
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi Duo can be dropped COM-like into a commercial product, and it’s available with a $3 aluminum heatsink that helps it withstand industrial temperatures of -40 to 80℃. However, it’s primarily designed to be used with the optional Mini Shield which has the same size and layout as a Raspberry Pi. With its dual-in-line design, featuring a pair of 16-pin arrays on either side of the board, it can also be plugged into any 2.55mm pitch breadboard for easy prototyping.


NanoPi Duo detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The NanoPi Duo runs on a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner H2+, which is also found on the Orange Pi Zero SBC. The H2+ is much like the more widely used Allwinner H3 available on several NanoPi models, except that it tops out at HD resolution instead of 4K. The NanoPi Duo feature set is similar to the 48 x 46mm Orange Pi Zero, including the Allwinner XR819 WiFi module, but the $7 Orange Pi Zero offers real-world Ethernet and USB host ports.


NanoPi Duo dimensions
(click image to enlarge)

The NanoPi Duo is equipped with 256MB RAM, or for $4 more, 512MB. A socket also enables the addition of some SPI flash. The WiFi radio is available with an IPX internal antenna. Unlike the RPi Zero W, there’s no onboard Bluetooth.


NanoPi Duo simplified (left) and full pinout
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi Duo features a 10/100 Ethernet controller via a header, which is enabled on the RPi-like Mini Shield with an RJ45 port. The Mini Shield also provides 4x USB 2.0 host ports, an additional micro-USB port, an audio jack, and a half-size mSATA slot for SSD storage. There also appears to be an additional array of 18x GPIO expansion pins. The Mini Shield, including the plugged-in NanoPi Duo, can fit into a standard Raspberry Pi case.


NanoPi Duo with heat sink plugged into Mini Shield (left) and rear view of Mini Shield
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi Duo is available with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial, including an Ubuntu Core image, as well as Linux kernel 4.11.2 mainline. It offers libraries and utilities including the open source WiringPi, RPi.GPIO, and Python. As with other NanoPi boards, there is a community site and full schematics.

Specifications listed for the NanoPi Duo include:

  • Processor — Allwinner H2+ (4x Cortex-A7 @ 1.2GHz); ARM Mali-400 MP2 GPU @600MHz
  • Memory — 256MB or 512MB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage — MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n (Allwinner XR819 module) with int. antenna
  • Networking — 10/100 Ethernet header
  • Other I/O:
    • Micro-USB OTG port with power input
    • 2x USB host pins
    • Audio I/O header
    • CVBS video out header
    • Debug serial port
    • 32-pin dual-in-line interface via 2x 16-pin headers (UART, SPI, I2C, audio, Ethernet, IO, etc.)
  • Mini Shield — Optional carrier with 10/100 Ethernet port, 4x USB 2.0 ports, micro-USB port, half-size mSATA interface, audio port, GPIO header
  • Optional accessories — Heat sink; 8GB microSD card; converter cables; TTL to RS232 module; 2-megapixel USB camera
  • Power — 5V/2A DC via micro-USB OTG
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 80℃
  • Dimensions — 50 x 25.4mm
  • Weight — 7.76 g with pin headers
  • Operating systems — Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial with Ubuntu Core with Qt Embedded image; Linux kernel 4.11.2 mainline, U-Boot

 
Further information

The NanoPi Duo costs $8 with 256MB RAM and $12 with 512MB. Add $3 for a heat sink and add $10 for the Mini Shield. Fully loaded, this sandwich-style offering would cost $25. More information may be found on FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Duo product page and wiki.
 

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