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Octa-core Cortex-A53 hacker SBC sells for $60

Apr 29, 2016 — by Eric Brown 8,906 views

[Updated Nov 22, 2017] — FriendlyARM’s $60, open spec “NanoPC-T3” SBC runs Android or Linux on an octa-core Cortex-A53 SoC packed with wireless and media interfaces, plus 8GB eMMC.

The over-caffeinated board builders at Guangzhou, China-based FriendlyARM have shipped their highest-end hacker board yet. The NanoPC-T3 is almost identical to the NanoPC-T2 board, but swaps out the quad-core, Cortex-A9 Samsung S5P4418 SoC for a layout-compatible S5P6818 with eight Cortex-A53 cores that can be clocked dynamically from 400MHz to 1.4GHz. Last month, FriendlyARM’ unveiled an $11, quad-core NanoPi M1 single board computer with similarly open source hardware and Android and Linux software.

NanoPC-T3 from two angles
(click images to enlarge)

There’s not yet much competition among open spec community-backed boards with eight 64-bit ARM cores, but the NanoPC-T3 appears to be most affordable. The NanoPC-T3 goes head to head with LeMaker’s $75, 96Boards compatible HiKey, which has a Kirin 620 SoC with eight 1.2GHz Cortex-A53 cores.

We found no Samsung product page on the S5P6818, which also appeared last fall in a commercial, $67 Graperain G4418 IBOX Card Computer SBC. The CNX-Soft story on the G4418 launch pointed to a Nexell page on the SoC featuring the block diagram shown below.

NanoPC-T3 rear view (left) and Samsung S5P6818 block diagram
(click images to enlarge)

The 100 x 60mm NanoPC-T3 is essentially a NanoPC-T2 with a faster processor and a 2GB RAM option in addition to the standard 1GB. The SBC is further equipped with 8GB of eMMC and an SD slot. You also get GbE, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, four USB host ports, and a micro-USB client port. Media ports include HDMI, LVDS, LCD, MIPI-DSI, MIPI-CSI, and audio.

NanoPC-T3 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Other features include a 30-pin GPIO connector, plus debug, RTC, and various user keys and LEDs. The 5V/2A board also provides a PMIC.


Specifications listed for the NanoPC-T3 include:

  • Processor — Samsung S5P6818 (8x 28nm Cortex-A53 cores @ 400MHz to 1.46GHz; Mali-400MP GPU
  • Memory:
    • 1GB or 2GB DDR3 RAM
    • 8GB eMMC
    • SD slot
  • Display/multimedia:
    • HDMI 1.4A port for up to 1080p
    • RGB LCD
    • MIPI-DSI
    • LVDS
    • MIPI-CSI camera
    • DVP camera
    • 3.5mm headphone jack
    • Optional touch-panels
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n
    • Bluetooth 4.0 dual mode
    • ANT
    • Porcelain antenna
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • 4x USB 2.0 (2x ports, 2x headers)
    • Micro-USB 2.0 client port
    • 30-pin GPIO header
    • Serial debug port
  • Other features — RTC; user buttons; LEDs; heatsink with mounting holes; optional transparent enclosure
  • Power — DC/5V/2A; PMIC
  • Dimensions — 100 x 60mm
  • Operating system — Android 5.1; Debian Linux; FriendlyCore (based on Ubuntu Core with Qt); includes U-boot

Further information

The NanoPC-T3 is available now for $60 with 1GB RAM, plus shipping costs from China. More information may be found at the NanoPC-T3 product page. Note: As of a Nov. 22, 2017 update, a new, similar-sized NanoPC-T3 model with 2GB RAM is shipping, priced at $75.

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3 responses to “Octa-core Cortex-A53 hacker SBC sells for $60”

  1. PePa says:

    Sorry to not see any SATA ports or even USB-3… My use case requires faster access to more storage than can be offered through the SD slot.

    • Alexander Húska says:

      Many SoC with SATA ports have internal USB hub and USBtoSATA chip. So SATA speed is not good.

  2. Robert Zaccour says:

    All that processing power and such little RAM. I wonder if the GPU is good.

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