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Tiny ZeroPi SBC swaps out GPIO for GbE

Sep 5, 2019 — by Eric Brown 6,200 views

FriendlyElec has launched a tiny, $13 “ZeroPi” SBC that runs Linux on a quad -A7 Allwinner H3 with 512MB DDR3 and provides single GbE, USB 2.0, and micro-USB ports — but no GPIO.

FriendlyElec has introduced a headless, open-spec SBC that combines the quad-core, Cortex-A7 Allwinner H3 of its NanoPi Neo with the Gigabit Ethernet port of its Allwinner H5-based NanoPi Neo2. The ZeroPi shares the same 40 x 40mm footprint, USB 2.0 host, micro-USB, and debug header of these earlier models, and it offers the -20 to 70℃ range of the Neo. However, it lacks a GPIO header.

ZeroPi (left) and with metal case
(click images to enlarge)

Even if you have no need for GPIO, its absence means that you are forced to use the micro-USB port for power. Aside from the GbE upgrade, the only upgrade we can see from the Neo is a connector for adding SPI flash. When populated, it would let you boot from the network instead of the still available microSD slot. Yet, the accessory list lacks an SPI flash option, so as noted by the CNXSoft story that alerted us to the ZeroPi, users would need to purchase and solder it on their own.

For $5 more, there’s a metal case that also includes a heatsink. Images are available for Ubuntu Core 16.04 and OpenWrt, both with Linux-4.14 and U-boot, as well as Armbian.

ZeroPi detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The original, 10/100Mbps Ethernet equipped NanoPi Neo — now called the NanoPi Neo-LTS — costs $15 when configured with the same 512MB DDR3 found on the ZeroPi. The 256MB Neo-LTS has recently dropped to $10.


The NanoPi Neo2, which is now called the NanoPi Neo2-LTS, costs $20 (512MB) or $30 (1GB). Here, you’re paying for the four faster Cortex-A53 cores on the H5 SoC. For a look at all of FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Neo boards, including the most recent, Rockchip RK3399 based NanoPi Neo4, see our June catalog of 125 community-backed Linux SBCs.

ZeroPi (left) and in case
(click images to enlarge)

Specifications listed for the ZeroPi include:

  • Processor — Allwinner H3 (4x Cortex-A7 @ 1.2GHz); ARM Mali-400 MP2 GPU @600MHz; 256KB L1, 1MB L2 cache
  • Memory — 512MB DDR3 SDRAM
  • Storage — MicroSD slot for up to 128GB
  • Networking — 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 host port
    • Micro-USB 2.0 OTG port (power input only)
    • Debug serial port header (4-pin)
  • Other features – 2x LEDs; optional $5 case/heatsink combo; optional USB-based WiFi ($7); optional cables and power adapters
  • Power — 5V@2A via micro-USB
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70℃
  • Dimensions — 40 x 40mm
  • Weight — 14.86 g
  • Operating system — Ubuntu Core 16.04 and OpenWrt images with Linux-4.14 and U-boot; Armbian.

Further information

The ZeroPi is available for $13. More information may be found on FriendlyElec’s ZeroPi shopping page and wiki.


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2 responses to “Tiny ZeroPi SBC swaps out GPIO for GbE”

  1. ProDigit (@ProDigit80) says:

    Thanks! Just what I needed!
    Bought one. Review coming soon.
    Hope they’ll support more than Ubuntu 16.04

  2. mike says:

    This is one of the most useless ones I have seen out there

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