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Compact, $20 NanoPi Neo3 SBC runs Linux on RK3328

Jul 13, 2020 — by Eric Brown 2,795 views

FriendlyElec has launched a 48 x 48mm, $20-and-up “NanoPi Neo3” SBC that runs Linux on a quad -A53 Rockchip RK3328 with 1GB or 2GB DDR4 and provides USB 3.0, GbE, and -20 to 70℃ support.

When FriendlyElec announced its NanoPi Neo4 SBC last October, there was a lot to be excited about, starting with one of the most affordable prices ($45 and up) and smallest footprints (60 x 45mm) available with a hexa-core Rockchip RK3399. To our mind, it was not a proper Neo, however, as it lacked the ultra-compact 40 x 40mm footprint of earlier, Allwinner-based Neo boards such as the Allwinner H3-based NanoPi Neo Air and Allwinner H5-based NanoPi Neo2 or 52 x 40mm NanoPi Neo Plus2.

Unlike all the other headless Neo boards, which can be reviewed in our catalog of 136 open-spec Linux SBCs, the Neo4 even had an HDMI port. We also wondered what happened to the NanoPi Neo3, but the SBC has finally arrived starting at $20.

NanoPi Neo3, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

Like the Neo4, the networking-oriented Neo3 it offers a Rockchip SoC, but this time, a lesser powered, quad-core, Cortex-A53 RK3328 clocked to 1.5GHz. Like most of the earlier Neo models, including the H5-based, reduced GPIO NanoPi Neo2 Black, the Neo3 is a headless board with a compact footprint, in this case 48 x 48mm.


The NanoPi Neo3, which we saw on CNXSoft, joins other open-spec, community backed RK3328 SBCs including Pine64’s $25-and-up Rock64 and Firefly’s $35-and-up ROC-RK3328-CC, which originally launched on Indiegogo as Libre Computer’s Renegade.

All these prices reflect the barebones 1GB RAM configuration. With 2GB, the prices go to $25 (Neo3), $35 (Rock64), and $50 (ROC-RK3328-CC). Firefly also offers a ROC-RK3328-PC SBC that starts at $60 with 2GB RAM and 16GB eMMC, which is almost identical to the CC model, but adds an RTC.

NanoPi Neo3 and detail views
(click images to enlarge)

Despite the Neo3’s price advantage, the SBC not only lacks media interfaces, but is missing other some features you might expect from a hacker board. Unlike the Rock64 and ROC-RK3328-CC, there is no eMMC socket or 4GB RAM option, although the RAM limit is probably not an issue with this minimalist networking board. Unlike the other two SBCs, the Neo3 has a wide -20 to 70℃ operating range.

The NanoPi Neo3 is equipped with a microSD slot, a Gigabit Ethernet port with a unique MAC address, a USB 3.0 port, and a power-only micro-USB. Other features include 2x USB 2.0 headers, a serial debug header, a user key, 2x LEDs, and 26-pin GPIO.

NanoPi Neo3 case (left) and its Neo3 with heatsink inside
(click images to enlarge)

The 22-gram SBC provides options include a case with heatsink, which together cost only $2. Two images are available with Linux 5.4 LTS: Ubuntu Core 18.04 and FriendlyWrt, FriendlyElec’s spin of OpenWrt. Schematics and dimensional drawings have already been posted.

Specifications listed for the NanoPi Neo3 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3328 (4x Cortex-A53 cores @ up to 1.5GHz); Mali-450 MP2 GPU
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB or 2GB DDR4 RAM (786MHz to 1056MHz)
    • MicroSD slot (bootable)
  • Networking — GbE port with unique MAC
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • 2x USB 2.0 headers
    • Micro-USB port (5V power input only)
    • 26-pin GPIO header
    • Serial debug header, fan connector
  • Other features – 2x LEDs; user key; optional power adapters, cables, $9 USB-based LCD module, and $2 case with heatsink
  • Power — 5V/1A DC via Type-C or GPIO
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70℃
  • Operating systems — Ubuntu Core 18.04 and FriendlyWrt (Linux kernel 5.4 LTS)

Further information

The NanoPi Neo3 is available for $20 (1GB) or $25 (2GB). Like other NanoPi boards, the low prices should be weighed with the high shipping fees: $16 to $20 to the U.S. FriendlyElec notes that extensive shipping delays are to be expected due to the pandemic. More information may be found on FriendlyElec’s shopping and wiki pages.


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