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Tiny, headless, GbE-equipped, quad Cortex-A53 SBC sells for $15

Mar 14, 2017 — by Eric Brown 5,546 views

[Updated: Mar. 15] — FriendlyElec’s 40 x 40mm, headless, Ubuntu Core ready “NanoPi Neo2” updates the Neo with a 64-bit Allwinner H5 and a GbE port.

FriendlyElec (FriendlyARM) has added to its line of tiny, open spec NanoPi Neo SBCs with a Neo2 model that advances to an ARMv8 architecture. Whereas the similarly 40 x 40mm NanoPi Neo and wireless-enabled NanoPi Neo Air run Ubuntu Core on a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner H3 clocked to 1.2GHz, the NanoPi Neo2 moves up to a quad-core, Cortex-A53 Allwinner H5. The A5, which is also found on the Orange Pi PC 2 hacker SBC, is joined by a higher-end Mali-450 GPU, although like its NanoPi Neo and Neo Air siblings, the NanoPi Neo2 is headless. No clock rate is specified.

NanoPi Neo2, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

If the earlier NanoPi Neo models were the smallest quad-core ARM hacker boards SBCs on the market, the Neo2 is certainly the smallest 64-bit ARM hacker board. The promotional price of $15 places it in between the $8 to $10 (512MB) Neo and the $20 Neo Air.

Another view of the NanoPi Neo2
(click image to enlarge)

The Neo2 once again runs Ubuntu Core, and an Armbian Linux image is also available. Like other NanoPi SBCs, the Neo2 is fully open source, with full schematics and other resources available.

Allwinner H5 SoC block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The layout and feature set are closely based on the NanoPi Neo, with a few key additions. There’s no longer a 256MB option, just the 512MB DDR3 version, and the Fast Ethernet port has advanced to Gigabit Ethernet. FriendlyElec also appears to have added two USB 2.0 headers in addition to the coastline USB 2.0 host port and power-ready micro-USB OTG port.

NanoPi Neo2 detail view
(click image to enlarge)

Once again, you get a microSD slot, serial debug and audio interfaces, and two banks of expansion connectors. There’s a high-speed 12-pin interface and a 24-pin low-speed connector said to be pin-compatible with the first 24 pins of the Raspberry Pi.

The NanoPi Neo2 lacks the extra features added by the Neo Air model, including WiFi and Bluetooth, 8GB eMMC, and a DVP camera connector. (The Air sacrifices the Ethernet and USB host port, however.) Some of these features can be added to the Neo2 via FriendlyElec’s many accessories, such as a USB-based WiFi module and an 8GB microSD card.

NanoPi Neo2 pinout
(click image to enlarge)

This is FriendlyElec’s second quad-core Cortex-A53 based SBC after the $25, Allwinner A64 based NanoPi A64. The full NanoPi lineup is summarized in our year-end guide to 90 Linux hacker boards.


Specifications listed for the NanoPi Neo2 include:

  • Processor — Allwinner H5 (4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.2GHz); ARM Mali-450 hexa-core GPU (unused in this design); 512KB L2 cache
  • Memory – 512MB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage — MicroSD slot
  • Networking — 10/100/1000Mbit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • 2x USB 2.0 headers
    • Micro-USB 2.0 OTG 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 — 40 x 40mm
  • Operating system — Ubuntu Core; Armbian; U-boot available

Further information

The NanoPi Neo2 is available at a promotional price of $15 plus shipping from China. More information may be found in FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Neo2 shopping page and wiki, as well as this GitHub page.

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6 responses to “Tiny, headless, GbE-equipped, quad Cortex-A53 SBC sells for $15”

  1. KillerDAN says:

    Block diagram only shows 10/100Mbit Ethernet PHY

  2. evad says:

    Why bother showing a Mali 450 GPU and HDMI output in the block diagram if the actual board doesn’t have a video output as shown above?

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      The block diagram in this post is of the Allwinner H5 SoC, not of the NanoPi Neo2 SBC, and the SoC’s GPU is, indeed, unused in the SBC’s design. Looking at the board’s schematic [PDF], you can see that the H5 SoC’s TV-OUT and HDMI video output pins are left open or connected to pullup resistors.

  3. CampGareth says:

    As much as I love it, 512MB isn’t enough for Ceph and the only place for swap is a microSD card :/

    I’m sticking with x86 until someone releases basically this board but with (wishlist here) 2GB+ RAM, 16GB eMMC, 64bit support, gigE, USB 3.0, as low a price tag as possible.

  4. VeeJay says:

    Are tiny SBC’s going to crowd out Arduino? Using the headless NanoPi NEO2 as a controller I don’t have to buy shields. Just add a wireless USB adapter and I’ve got wi-fi. Plus I have more control of it with boot config and chron under linux than Arduino sketches, and I’ll have the full Python language and libraries at my disposal, not to mention a much faster processor. Sure, the NanoPi is overkill as a controller but for only $15, I don’t see why I should bother with controller boards.

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