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This little 64-bit NanoPi went to wireless

Jul 3, 2017 — by Eric Brown 4,623 views

The $25 NanoPi Neo Plus2 SBC combines the WiFi, Bluetooth, and 8GB eMMC of the Neo Air with the quad -A53 Allwinner H5 of the Neo2, and boosts RAM to 1GB.

Despite bulking up in one dimension to 52 x 40mm, FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Neo Plus2 is still part of the headless, IoT-oriented Neo family, joining the 40 x 40mm, $8 NanoPi Neo, the wireless enabled, $20 NanoPi Neo Air, and the 64-bit $15 NanoPi Neo2. Like the Neo Air, the $25 Neo Plus2 adds WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 8GB eMMC, and like the Neo2, it advances to the quad-core, Cortex-A53 Allwinner H5 clocked to 1.5GHz. Like other NanoPi boards, there are open schematics and a community website.

NanoPi Neo Plus2, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The NanoPi Neo Plus2 solves the biggest flaw of the Neo2 in that it doubles DDR3 RAM to 1GB. Otherwise, the boards offer almost identical hardware. Once again, you get a bootable microSD slot, GbE port, dual USB 2.0 host ports, and a micro-USB for 5V power. As before, you get serial debug and audio interfaces. The layout of the 6-layer PCB and power system is claimed to “enhance the board’s heat dissipation,” and there’s an optional aluminum heatsink.

NanoPi Neo Plus2 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

Like the other Neo boards, there are two banks of expansion connectors: a high-speed 12-pin interface and a 24-pin low-speed connector. We saw no more claims that the low-speed I/O is pin-compatible with the first 24 pins of the Raspberry Pi. However, the system ships with preinstalled “RPi.GPIO for GPIO access” software.

The Allwinner H5 integrates a hexa-core Mali450 GPU, but it would appear to be largely superfluous considering the lack of display interfaces. There is, however, an optional, $7 NanoHAT OLED display add-on with 128 x 64-pixel resolution that connects via I2C. This programmable device, which ships with an open source driver and NanoHAT Motor Python Library, can be stacked on any of the Neo boards, with the combo housed in an optional aluminum casing.

NanoHAT OLED (left) and OLED case
(click images to enlarge)

There’s also an option for a clear acrylic protector box for the Neo Plus2 on its own, with a hole for the supplied antenna. One new hardware option that works with all the Neo boards is the $13 NAS Dock, which arrived in April. This 150 x 90mm daughter board acts as a simple network attached storage (NAS) device, running SATA signals over USB, but at a slower speed compared to using a native SATA port. It ships with OpenMediaVault software, and requires Debian Linux.

NanoPi Neo Plus2 (left) and BakeBit Starter Kit
(click images to enlarge)

All the Neo boards can also hook up to the $30 BakeBit Starter Kit, which shipped earlier this year. The kit includes a Neo Hub device along with a dozen IoT modules including joystick, servo, buzzer, button, OLED, 5x LED, and red and green LED modules. There are also ultrasonic, rotary angle, sound, and light sensor modules. Like the NanoHAT OLED, the device stacks neatly on the Neo boards. The well-documented BakeBit Starter Kit ships with open source software including Python code samples, and is supported by the Arduino IDE.

NAS Dock (left) and FA-CAM202
(click images to enlarge)

Finally, the Neo Plus2 supports FriendlyElec’s FA-CAM202. This 2-megapixel, 30 x 25mm USB camera sells for $16, and requires Debian.


Like the other Neo boards, the Neo Plus2 features an Ubuntu Core distribution, in this case version 16.04 with Linux 4.x.y mainline kernel. Like the Neo2, FriendlyElec has added a Qt-Embedded image.

Other pre-installed images include:

  • FriendlyElec NanoHAT Motor Python Library
  • WiringPi for GPIO access
  • RPi.GPIO for GPIO access
  • npi-config — system config utility for setting passwords, language, time zone, hostname, SSH and auto-login
  • Networkmanager
  • auto-login with user account “pi” with access to npi-config

Specifications listed for the NanoPi Neo Plus2 include:

  • Processor — Allwinner H5 (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz); ARM Mali-450 hexa-core GPU; 512KB L2 cache
  • Memory/storage:
    • 1GB DDR3 SDRAM
    • 8GB eMMC
    • MicroSD slot
  • Wireless — 802.11b/g/n plus Bluetooth 4.0 dual mode (Ampak AP6212); ext. antenna
  • Networking — 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • Micro-USB port (with power input)
    • Debug serial port header (4-pin)
    • Audio in and out header
    • 12-pin GPIO with USB, IR, I2S etc.
    • 24-pin GPIO with UART, SPI, I2C, etc. compatible with RPi’s first 24 pins
  • Other features — LEDs
  • Power — +5V @ 2A via micro-USB input or GPIO
  • Dimensions — 52 x 40mm; 6-layer
  • Operating system — Ubuntu Core; U-boot, etc.

Further information

The NanoPi Neo Plus2 is available for $25, with shipping costs varying widely. More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Neo Plus2 product page and wiki.

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2 responses to “This little 64-bit NanoPi went to wireless”

  1. Goblin says:

    Interesting how they cut off HDMI due to bad Mali drivers. Apparently RPi stays the best SBC if you want a cheap NAS with full GPU acceleration.

    • chip says:

      Exactly. GPU (and good CEC support) still make the RPi the best choice for anything video related. But for everything else the RPi fades in comparison to almost every other board.

      If the ARM folks decided to open the Mali specs, the RPi3 would become obsolete in weeks, but unfortunately this won’t happen anytime soon due to ARM well known hostility towards anything open source.

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