The $40, open-spec NanoPi K2 is like an Odroid-C2 with WiFi and BT 4.0. It offers a 1.5GHz quad Cortex-A53 Amlogic S905 SoC, 4x USB, GbE, and a 40-pin bus.
Rampant imitation is making it easier to write up these new hacker board releases. Just cut and paste an existing feature table, add and subtract a few features, and you’re done. In the case of the FriendlyElec (FriendlyARM) NanoPi K2, it’s even easier than usual. The board has the same processor, 85 x 56mm footprint, and almost an identical feature set and layout as Hardkernel’s Odroid-C2, which means it is also very similar to the Raspberry Pi 3. The NanoPi K2 and Odroid-C2 even opened with the same $40 price, although the latter now sells for $46.
NanoPi K2, front and back
(click images to enlarge)
FriendlyElec’s first Amlogic-based NanoPi SBC runs Android (and soon, Ubuntu) on the same 64-bit quad-core, Cortex-A53 Amlogic S905 SoC as the Odroid-C2, which came out shortly before the Raspberry Pi 3. The only other similarly open source hacker board we know of with the S905 is the Khadas Vim, which uses the more affordable, slightly scaled back S905X variant. FriendlyElec also offers a smaller, $25, quad -A53 NanoPi A64 based on the Allwinner A64, as well as an even smaller, $15, quad -A53 NanoPi Neo2 that uses the Allwinner H5, among others.
The key difference between the NanoPi K2 and the Odroid-C2 is that like the Raspberry Pi 3, the NanoPi K2 adds WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 so you don’t have to use up a USB port. It also supplies an empty socket for external eMMC flash storage. Like the Odroid-C2, it lets you boot from the microSD slot.
The Odroid-C2, on the other hand, features an ADC interface missing on the NanoPi K2, and adds 7x more GPIO pins to the RPi-like 40-pin connector. Neither company claims Raspberry Pi expansion board compatibility, although many RPi expansion boards work on the Odroid-C2, as well as many other hacker boards with 40-pin interfaces.
NanoPi K2 detail view
(click image to enlarge)
The S905-driven Odroid-C2 is considerably faster than the Raspberry Pi 3, so the same should be true here, as well. FriendlyElec says the S905 can theoretically hit 2.0GHz, but has only been able to achieve 1.5GHz in testing. The S905 ships with a Mali-450 GPU, which is more powerful than the Mali-400 GPUs typical of 32-bit hacker boards.
The Amlogic S905 “supports supports [email protected] decoding and support various video formats. The SoC enables the NanoPi K2 to support DVFS and “play high-definition video steams stably and smoothly,” says FriendlyElec. The NanoPi K2, which ships with an IR receiver and a remote control, is said to be best suited for “advertisement machines, TV boxes, home entertainment appliances, and multimedia devices.”
NanoPi K2 shown with and without its heatsink
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FriendlyElec’s promotion of the NanoPi K2’s mounting holes for a heatsink — also available on the Odroid-C2 and RPi 3 — would suggest it needs one to cool off all that multimedia firepower. No accessories, including eMMC, were listed, however.
There’s no claimed support for the Kodi media framework, which has now been ported to the Odroid-C2 and other C-series boards. Like the Odroid-C2, the earlier Odroid-C1 and C1+ are still the “cloniest” of the RPi-like boards, down to the specifics of port layout. By comparison, most other so-called Raspberry Pi clones, such as the quad- A53 Orange Pi Prime offer different port layouts. There are no true RPi 3 clones, however, as there are no other hacker boards with Broadcom processors.
In a direct comparison with the 1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2837-driven Raspberry Pi 3, the NanoPi K2 is $5 more expensive, but is faster, more open source, and has 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet instead of 10/100Mbps. Additionally offers 2GB instead of 1GB RAM, and features the empty eMMC socket. On the other hand, the RPi 3 gives you MIPI-DSI and CSI-interfaces, even if the latter isn’t easily hackable for adding non-standard cameras, and there’s a standard audio jack.
The RPi 3 also provides a greater assurance of add-on board compatibility, and there are far more Linux distributions tailored for the world’s best-selling community-backed SBC (even if Android is still not available). By comparison, there’s currently only an Android 5.1 image for the NanoPi K2, with Ubuntu promised at some point in the future. Hardkernel similarly offers only Android and Ubuntu images, although it points to a variety of other unofficial installs from Debian Jessie to Arch Linux.
Specifications listed for the NanoPi K2 include:
- Processor — Amlogic S905 (4x 64-bit Cortex-A53 cores @ 1.5GHz) with Mali-450 MP2 GPU
- 2GB DDR3 RAM
- MicroSD slot (bootable)
- Empty eMMC socket
- Wireless — 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 (via Ampak AP6212); porcelain antenna with IPX
- Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
- Other I/O:
- 4x USB 2.0 host ports
- Micro-USB 2.0 device/OTG port with power support
- Full-sized HDMI 2.0 out Type-A port ([email protected] video and audio)
- 40-pin GPIO expansion connector (I2C, ADC, GPIO, UART, PWM, SPDIF, CVBS)
- Serial debug port
- I2S audio connector
- Other features — LEDs; IR receiver; “user” power key; remote control; mounting holes for heatsink
- Power — 5V2A DC input
- Dimensions — 85 x 56mm
li>Operating system — Android 5.1 image; Ubuntu in development