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Tiny Rock Pi S and NanoPi Neo2 Black boards debut

Oct 10, 2019 — by Eric Brown 4,398 views

[Updated: Oct. 23] — Radxa has opened pre-orders at $9.90 (256MB) and $13.90 (512MB/512MB) and $23.90 (512MB/1GB) for a 43.2 x 43.2mm “Rock Pi S” SBC, which runs Linux on a quad -A35 RK3308. Meanwhile, FriendlyElec will soon ship a “NanoPi Neo2 Black” spin of the 40 x 40mm, Allwinner H5-based NanoPi Neo2 that adds eMMC, but reduces GPIO.

Over the last year, the focus of the community-backed Linux hacker board scene has shifted from tiny, power-sipping SBCs for IoT to more muscular, often AI-enabled boards selling for $50 to $100 built around processors such as the RK3399 and RK3399 Pro and Amlogic S922x and Amlogic A311D. But tiny boards are back with the pre-release launch of Radxa’s previously teased, 43.18 x 43.18mm Rock Pi S and the eminent release of a new 40 x 40mm NanoPi Neo2 LTS variant called the NanoPi Neo2 Black (see farther below).

Rock Pi S
(click images to enlarge)

Rock Pi S


Radxa CEO Tom Cubie teased some features and images for the Rock Pi S in June in conjunction with the v1.4 update of the RK3399-based Rock Pi 4. This headless, open-spec SBC is now open for pre-order, and schematics and other documentation have been posted.

Radxa originally announced the Rock Pi S as being 1.5-inches square, which would make it a record-breaking 38.1 x 38.1mm. This week, CNXSoft reported on a new Seeed shopping page for the Rock Pi S that listed it as both 1.7-inch square and 38.1mm square, which is only half correct. Cubie has since confirmed the wiki pages’s listing that the Rock Pi S is 1.7 inch square (43.18 x 43.18mm).

Seeed, meanwhile, has informed us that shopping pages are now available for both configurations: $9.90 with 256MB RAM or $13.90 with 512MB RAM and 512MB SD NAND flash, both with built-in WiFi/Bluetooth. Since our initial report, Seeed also launched a $24 version with Shipments for today’s orders begin Oct. 30.

As we reported in an Oct. 2 story on the Rock Pi 4C and Rock Pi E, the Rock Pi S recently went on sale at Allnet China with the same pricing, but they are currently sold out. (Allnet China also confusingly lists the board as both 1.7-inch square and 38.1mm square.)

Rock Pi S rear view
(click image to enlarge)

The Rock Pi S wiki lists options for 1GB RAM in addition to the standard 256MB and 512MB models. The 512MB model will also be available with optional Power-over-Ethernet on the standard 10/100 LAN port, although this does not appear to be currently available at Seeed.

The Rockchip RK3308 features 4x low-power, 64-bit Cortex-A35 cores clocked to 1.3GHz. There is no 2D or 3D GPU, but the extensive audio interfaces include a VAD (Voice Activity Detector). The SoC also powers the new Hangzhou Wild Chip Mcuzone MDK3308 Coreboard module and dev kit.

Radxa offers a Debian Stretch image, with Ubuntu Server coming soon. Third-party Armbian and Slackware are also available, although there’s no mention of the previously cited Buildroot support.

The Rock Pi S has USB 2.0 host and USB 2.0 OTG Type-C ports. There are also dual 26-pin headers.

Specifications listed for the Rock Pi S include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3308 (4x Cortex-A35 @ up to 1.3GHz) with audio features including VAD
  • Memory/storage:
    • 256MB or 512MB RAM <
    • 0MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, or 1GB SD NAND flash
    • MicroSD slot
    • Boots from NAND or microSD
  • Networking:
    • 10/100 Ethernet port with PoE option on 512MB RAM version
    • 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2 (RTL8723DS); possible future options without WiFi/BT
    • External antenna
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • USB 2.0 OTG Type-C port for USB or 5V DC input
    • 2x 26-pin GPIO headers with 4x I2C, 3x PWM, 2x SPI, 3x UART, 2x I2S0; 2x 5V and 2x 3.3V DC inputs
  • Other features — Maskrom and reset keys
  • Power — 5V via Type-C or 5V or 3.3V via
  • Dimensions — 1.7-inch square (43.18 x 43.18mm)
  • Operating system — Debian Stretch and “coming soon” Ubuntu Server images; also supports third-party Armbian and Slackware

Radxa has been busy of late. Last month, the company unveiled a Rock Pi X SBC with an Intel “Cherry Trail” Atom x5-Z8300 with up to 4GB LPDDR3 and up to 128GB eMMC. The open-spec Raspberry Pi lookalike is further equipped with USB 3.0, microSD, HDMI, eDP/MIPI, GbE, and a 40-pin header plus optional WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2 LE.

Earlier this month, Radxa unveiled a Rock Pi 4B variant called the Rock Pi 4C that will ship later this month for $74.95 with 4GB RAM. The RK3399-based Rock Pi 4C adds a 2-lane mini-DisplayPort for dual simultaneous displays. In that same post we reported on an upcoming Rock Pi E SBC with a quad -A53 Rockchip RK3328 and dual Ethernet ports.

Rock Pi 4C (left) and ecoPI Starter
(click images to enlarge)

Earlier this week, CNXSoft reported on an ecoPI Starter mini-PC kit for the Rock Pi 4 from Allnet China with an aluminum case and acrylic cover. The $16.50 kit has enough room to fit an M.2 NVMe SSD card.

NanoPi Neo2 Black

FriendlyElec has posted a wiki for a NanoPi Neo2 Black variant of the NanoPi Neo2 LTS that should appear soon with a new eMMC socket. The addition required reducing the GPIO pincount. An Oct. 8 CNXSoft report expected shipment within hours or days, with no pricing listed, but it still hasn’t appeared.

NanoPi Neo2 Black and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

In early 2017, the quad -A7, 40 x 40mm NanoPi Neo was joined by the 64-bit quad -A53 NanoPi Neo2. The Neo2 was the same as the Neo except for the faster H5 SoC, a switch to GbE from 10/100 Ethernet, two more USB headers, and the lack of a 256MB RAM option. The Neo2 has since been updated with a v1.1 model that added a 1GB RAM option, and it’s now referred to as the Neo2-LTS (for long-term support).

Like the v1.1 LTS model, the new Neo2 Black, which is named for its switch from a blue to a black PCB, offers a 1GB RAM option in addition to the standard 512MB. Yet the big change is the new eMMC socket. It uses the usual FriendlyElec eMMC options, starting at $9.95 for 8GB eMMC 5.1.

The NanoPi Neo2 Black changes the GPIO from the previous 12- and 24-pin headers — with the latter offering compatibility with the Raspberry Pi’s first 24 pins — with 6- and 10-pin headers. The 6-pin header offers single USB, audio out, and GPIO, and the 10-pin gives you single I2C and UART, multiple GPIOs and power signals. OS support includes Ubuntu 16.04 (FriendlyCore), OpenWrt, and more.

Further information

The Rock Pi S is available at Seeed for $9.90 with 256MB RAM, $13.90 with 512MB RAM and 512MB flash, and $24 with 512MB RAM and 1GB flash. Shipments start Oct. 15. Seeed offers shopping pages for the 256GB RAM model, the 512MB/512MB model, and the 512MB/1GB model. Radxa has also posted a Rock Pi S wiki.

The NanoPi Neo2 Black will soon go on sale for an undisclosed price. More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s preliminary NanoPi Neo2 Black wiki, and it should soon appear on the FriendlyElec store.

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2 responses to “Tiny Rock Pi S and NanoPi Neo2 Black boards debut”

  1. SteveX says:

    err: “so 1Gbit equals 256MB and 2Gbit is 512MB.”
    fix: “so 1Gbit equals 128MB and 2Gbit is 256MB.”
    fix: “so 2Gbit equals 256MB and 4Gbit is 512MB.”

  2. Jeff Child says:

    Thanks Steve. After correcting the numbers, we decided to remove that sentence with the conversion because it was confusing.

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