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New, tiny NanoPi SBCs debut with new Ubuntu Core based FriendlyCore OS

Nov 10, 2017 — by Eric Brown 4,861 views

FriendlyElec released two Samsung-based NanoPi SBCs with similar specs: a $28, quad -A9 Fire2A and an $35, octa -A53 Fire3, with new FriendlyCore distro.

FriendlyElec’s open source, NanoPi Fire2A and NanoPi Fire3 SBCs are both very similar to the $29 NanoPi 2 Fire, which itself is roughly based on the old NanoPi 2. The two new SBCs, which support Android and Linux distributions including a new Ubuntu Core-based FriendlyCore distro, are identical except for the processor and RAM. The NanoPi Fire2A uses the same Samsung S5P4418 (4x Cortex-A9 @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz) as the NanoPi 2 Fire, accompanied with 512MB DDR3 while the NanoPi Fire3 taps the S5P6818 (8x Cortex-A53 @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz) used on the NanoPC-T3 and NanoPi M3, with 1GB RAM.

NanoPi Fire3 (left) and NanoPi Fire2A
(click images to enlarge)

The 75 x 40mm footprint of the two boards is slightly smaller than that of the 75 x 45mm NanoPi 2 Fire, which has a very similar layout. FriendlyElec (FriendlyARM) has flipped the 2 Fire’s USB 2.0 port into a vertical alignment. and the HDMI port has switched to a micro-HDMI port, enabling it to sit side-by-side with the Realtek RTL8211E based GbE port and USB port. As before, a micro-USB port with power support is on the opposite coastline. The only other difference we can see between the NanoPi Fire2A and earlier NanoPi 2 Fire is that the Fire2A ships with 512MB RAM instead of 1GB.

NanoPi Fire3 detail views
(click images to enlarge)

Unlike many other NanoPi boards, including this summer’s $25 NanoPi Neo Plus2, there is no eMMC flash, and no wireless capability aside from what you can plug into the USB port. A microSD slot is found on the flipside.

Like the NanoPi 2 Fire, the NanoPi Fire2A and the NanoPi Fire3 give you RGB LCD and DVP camera interfaces, a debug/serial interface, and a Raspberry Pi compatible, 40-pin expansion interface. The 5V board also provides a power management chip with dynamic voltage control and an RTC with battery backup. A heatsink, camera module, and touchscreens are optional.

NanoPi Fire3 with heatsink (left) and NanoPi Fire2A with 4.3-inch capacitive screen
(click images to enlarge)

The two new boards ship with schematics, and offer the same community support provided by all NanoPi boards. Debian images are available for both systems, and although the NanoPi Fire2A wiki mentions Android compatibility, an Android image is available only for the NanoPi Fire3, probably due to the NanoPi Fire2A’s limited 512MB of RAM.


The new boards debut FriendlyElec’s custom version of Ubuntu Core Ubuntu Core 16.04, called FriendlyCore. The distribution adds Qt 5.9 and OpenGL ES1.1/2.0, among other features. FriendlyCore components include:

  • Linux Kernel 4.4
  • Ubuntu Core16.04
  • npi-config: system configuration utility for setting passwords, language, time zone, hostname, SSH, and auto-login
  • Networkmanager
  • System log output from serial port
  • Welcome window with basic system information and status
  • Auto-login with user account “pi” with access to npi-config
  • LibMali and OpenGL2.0 driver supported
  • Qt 5.9 TLS with OpenGL hardware acceleration
  • HD video with hardware decoding
  • GStreamer 1.0 with VPU hardware acceleration

Specifications listed for the NanoPi Fire2A and NanoPi 2 Fire3 include:

  • Processor:
    • NanoPi Fire2A — Samsung S5P4418 (4x Cortex-A9 @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz); 3D GPU
    • NanoPi Fire3 — Samsung S5P6818 (8x Cortex-A53 @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz); Mali-400 MP GPU
  • Memory/storage — 512MB (Fire2A) or 1GB (Fire3) DDR3; microSD slot
  • Display/multimedia:
    • Micro-HDMI 1.4a port
    • LCD interface with full-color RGB 8-8-8
    • DVP camera interface (includes ITU-R BT 601/656 8-bit, I2C, and I/O
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8211E)
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 port
    • Micro-USB port with data and power support
    • Debug/serial interface
    • 40-pin RPi-compatible expansion interface with UART, SPI, I2C, PWM, I/O etc.
  • Other features — RTC with battery backup; 2x LEDs; power and reset buttons; optional heatsink, capacitive touchscreens, and camera
  • Power — 5V/2A via micro-USB; PMIC (Cortex-M0 MCU)
  • Dimensions — 75 x 40mm
  • Operating system — Debian; Android (image only for Fire3); FriendlyCore (based on Ubuntu Core 16.04)

Further information

The NanoPi Fire2A is available for $28, and the NanoPi Fire3 is available for $35, plus shipping. More information may be found at FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Fire2A product page and wiki and NanoPi Fire3 product page and wiki, as well as the FriendlyARM GitHub page.


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2 responses to “New, tiny NanoPi SBCs debut with new Ubuntu Core based FriendlyCore OS”

  1. lawresia says:

    Nano pi S2 fire was better than this because it had wifi and onboard storage

  2. Dmitry says:

    FriendlyElec has big problems with support & drivers. Basically, they just don’t support most of their SBCs.

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