NanoPi Neo4 SBC Breaks RK3399 Records for Size and Price

By Eric Brown

In August, FriendlyElec introduced the NanoPi M4, which was then the smallest, most affordable Rockchip RK3399 based SBC yet. The company has now eclipsed the Raspberry Pi style, 85 mm x 5 6 mm NanoPi M4 on both counts, with a 60 mm x 45 mm size and $45 promotional price ($50 standard). The similarly open-spec, Linux and Android-ready NanoPi Neo4, however, is not likely to beat the M4 on performance, as it ships with only 1 GB of DDR3-1866 instead of 2 GB or 4 GB of LPDDR3.

 
NanoPi Neo4 and detail view
(click images to enlarge)

This is the first SBC built around the hexa-core RK3399 that doesn’t offer 2GB RAM at a minimum. That includes the still unpriced Khadas Edge, which will soon launch on Indiegogo, and Vamrs’ $99 and up, 96Boards form factor Rock960, in addition to the many other RK3399 based entries listed in our June catalog of 116 hacker boards.

NanoPi M4

Considering that folks are complaining that the quad -A53, 1.4 GHz Raspberry Pi 3+ is limited to only 1GB, it’s hard to imagine the RK3399 is going to perform up to par with only 1GB. The SoC has a pair of up to 2GHz Cortex-A72 cores and four Cortex -A53 cores clocked to up to 1.5GHz plus a high-end Mali-T864 GPU.

Perhaps size was a determining factor in limiting the board to 1 GB along with price. Indeed, the 60 mm x 45 mm footprint ushers the RK3399 into new space-constrained environments. Still, this is larger than the earlier 40 mm x 40 mm Neo boards or the newer, 52 mm x 40mm NanoPi Neo Plus2, which is based on an Allwinner H5.

We’re not sure why FriendlyElec decided against calling the new SBC the NanoPi Neo 3, but there have been several Neo boards that have shipped since the Neo2, including the NanoPi Neo2-LTS and somewhat Neo-like, 50 x 25.4mm NanoPi Duo.

The NanoPi Neo4 differs from other Neo boards in that it has a coastline video port, in this case an HDMI 2.0a port with support for up to 4K@60Hz video with HDCP 1.4/2.2 and audio out. Another Neo novelty is the 4-lane MIPI-CSI interface for up to a 13-megapixel camera input.


 
NanoPi Neo4 with and without optional heatsink
(click images to enlarge)
You can boot a variety of Linux and Android distributions from the microSD slot or eMMC socket (add $12 for 16GB eMMC). Thanks to the RK3399, you get native Gigabit Ethernet. There’s also a wireless module with 802.11n (now called Wi-Fi 4) limited to 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

The NanoPi Neo4 is equipped with coastline USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 host ports plus a Type-C power and OTG port and an onboard USB 2.0 header. The latter is found on one of the two smaller GPIO connectors that augment the usual 40-pin header, which like other RK3399 boards, comes with no claims of Raspberry Pi compatibility. Other highlights include an RTC and -20 to 70℃ support.

Specifications listed for the NanoPi Neo4 include:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 at up to 2.0 GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 at up to 1.5 GHz); Mali-T864 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 1GB DDR3-1866 RAM
    • eMMC socket with optional ($12) 16GB eMMC
    • MicroSD slot for up to 128GB
  • Wireless — 802.11n (2.4GHz) with Bluetooth 4.0; ext. antenna
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Media:
    • HDMI 2.0a port (with audio and HDCP 1.4/2.2) for up to 4K at 60 Hz
    • 1x 4-lane MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP);
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • USB 2.0 Type-C port (USB 2.0 OTG or power input)
    • USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion:
    • GPIO 1: 40-pin header — 3x 3V/1.8V I2C, 3V UART, SPDIF_TX, up to 8x 3V GPIOs, PCIe x2, PWM, PowerKey
    • GPIO 2: 1.8V 8-ch. I2S
    • GPIO 3: Debug UART, USB 2.0
  • Other features — RTC; 2x LEDs; optional $6 heatsink, LCD, and cameras
  • Power — DC 5V/3A input or USB Type-C; optional $9 adapter
  • Operating temperature — -20 to 70℃
  • Dimensions — 60 x 45mm; 8-layer PCB
  • Weight – 30.25 g
  • Operating system — Linux 4.4 LTS with U-boot 2014.10; Android 7.1.2 or 8.1 (requires eMMC module); Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit); FriendlyCore 18.04 (64-bit), FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit); Armbian via third party;

Further information

The NanoPi Neo4 is available for a promotional price of $45 (regularly $50) plus shipping, which ranges from $16 to $20. More information may be found on FriendlyElec’s NanoPi Neo4 product page and wiki, which includes schematics, CAD files, and OS download links.

This article originally appeared on LinuxGizmos.com on October 9.

FriendlyElec | www.friendlyarm.com

COM Express Card Sports 3 GHz Core i3 Processor

Congatec has introduced a Computer-on-Module for the entry-level of high-end embedded computing based on Intel’s latest Core i3-8100H processor platform. The board’s fast 16 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes make it suited for all new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications requiring multiple GPUs for massive parallel processing.

The new conga-TS370 COM Express Basic Type 6 Computer-on-Module with quad-core Intel Core i3 8100H processor offers a 45 W TDP configurable to 35 W, supports 6 MB cache and provides up to 32 GB dual-channel DDR4 2400 memory. Compared to the preceding 7th generation of Intel Core processors, the improved memory bandwidth also helps to increase the graphics and GPGPU performance of the integrated new Intel UHD630 graphics, which additionally features an increased maximum dynamic frequency of up to 1.0 GHz for its 24 execution units. It supports up to three independent 4K displays with up to 60 Hz via DP 1.4, HDMI, eDP and LVDS.

Embedded system designers can now switch from eDP to LVDS purely by modifying the software without any hardware changes. The module further provides exceptionally high bandwidth I/Os including 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbit/s), 8x USB 2.0 and 1x PEG and 8 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes for powerful system extensions including Intel Optane memory. All common Linux operating systems as well as the 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows 10 and Windows 10 IoT are supported. Congatec’s personal integration support rounds off the feature set. Additionally, Congatec also offers an extensive range of accessories and comprehensive technical services, which simplify the integration of new modules into customer-specific solutions.

Congatec | www.congatec.com

Pico-ITX and 3.5-inch SBCs Feature Dual-Core i.MX6 SoCs

IBASE Technology has announced two SBCs, both powered by an NXP i.MX 6Dual Cortex-A9 1.0GHz high performance processor. The IBR115 2.5-inch SBC and the IBR117 3.5-inch SBC are designed for use in applications in the automation, smart building, transportation and medical markets.
IBR115 and IBR117 are highly scalable SBCs with extended operating temperature support of -40°C to 85°C and an optional heatsink. Supporting 1 GB DDR3 memory on board, the boards provide a number of interfaces for HDMI and single LVDS display interface, 4 GB eMMC, Micro SD, COM, GPIO, USB, USB-OTG, Gbit Ethernet and a M.2 Key-E interface. These embedded I/Os provide connection to peripherals such as WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, storage, displays, and camera sensors for use in a variety of application environment while consuming low levels of power.

Both models ship with BSPs for Yocto Project 2.0 Linux and Android 6.0. They both run on dual-core, 1 GHz i.MX6 SoCs, but the IBR115 uses the DualLite while the IBR117 has a Dual with a slightly more advanced Vivante GPU.

IBR115/IBR117 Features:

  • With NXP Cortex-A9, i.MX 6Dual-Lite (IBR115) / i.MX 6Dual (IBR117) 1GHz processor
  • Supports HDMI and Dual-channel LVDS interface
  • Supports 1 GB DDR3, 4 GB eMMC and Micro SD (IBR115) / SD (IBR117) socket for expansion
  • Embedded I/O as COM, GPIO, USB, USB-OTG, audio and Ethernet
  • 2 Key-E (2230) and Mini PCI-E w/ SIM socket (IBR117) for wireless connectivity
  • OpenGL ES 2.0 for 3D BitBlt for 2D and OpenVG 1.1
  • Wide-range operating temperature from -40°C to 85°C

IBASE Technology | www.ibase.com.tw

Cavium Octeon-Based SBCs Provide Networking Solution

Gateworks has announced the release of the Newport GW6400 SBC, featuring the Cavium Octeon TX Dual/Quad Core ARM processor running up to 1.5 GHz. The GW6400 is the latest Newport family member with an extensive list of features, including five Gigabit Ethernet ports and two SFP fiber ports. The GW6400 comes in two standard stocking models, the Dual Core GW6400 and the fully loaded Quad Core GW6404 (shown)..

The GW6400 and GW6404 are members of the Gateworks 6th generation Newport family of single board computers targeted for a wide range of indoor and outdoor networking applications. The SBCs feature the Cavium OcteonTX ARMv8 SoC processor, up to five Gigabit Ethernet ports, and four Mini-PCIe expansion sockets for supporting 802.11abgn/ac wireless radios, LTE/4G/3G CDMA/GSM cellular modems, mSATA drives and other PCI Express peripherals. A wide-range DC input power supply provides up to 15 W to the Mini-PCIe sockets for supporting the latest high-power radios and up to 10 W to the USB 2.0/3.0 jacks for powering external devices. Power is applied through a barrel jack or an Ethernet jack with either 802.3at or Passive Power over Ethernet. The GW6400 does not have SFP Ports loaded.

Gateworks | www.gateworks.com

The Voting Results are in. We Have a Winner!

Circuit Cellar’s sister website LinuxGizmos.com has completed its 2018 hacker board survey, which ran on SurveyMonkey in partnership with Linux.com. Survey participants chose the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, as the favorite board from among 116 community-backed SBCs that run Linux or Android and sell for under $200.
All 116 SBCs are summarized in LinuxGizmos’ recently updated hacker board catalog and feature comparison spreadsheet.

GO HERE TO READ THE SURVEY RESULTS WITH ANALYSIS

Deadline Extended to June 22 — Vote Now!

UPDATE: We’ve extended our 2018 reader survey on open-spec Linux/Android hacker boards through this Friday, June 22.   Vote now!

Circuit Cellar’s sister website LinuxGizmos.com has launched its fourth annual reader survey of open-spec, Linux- or Android-ready single board computers priced under $200. In coordination with Linux.com, LinuxGizmos has identified 116 SBCs that fit its requirements, up from 98 boards in its June 2017 survey.

Vote for your favorites from LG’s freshly updated catalog of 116 sub-$200, hacker-friendly SBCs that run Linux or Android, and you could win one of 15 prizes.

Check out LinuxGizmos’ freshly updated summaries of 116 SBCs, as well as its spreadsheet that compares key features of all the boards.

Explore this great collection of Linux SBC information. To find out how to participate in the survey–and be entered to win a free board–click here:

GO HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY AND VOTE

 

 

Linux and Coming Full Circle

Input Voltage

–Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

JeffHeadShot

In terms of technology, the line between embedded computing and IT/desktop computing has always been a moving target. Certainty the computing power in small embedded devices today have vastly more compute muscle than even a server of 15 years ago. While there’s many ways to look at that phenomena, it’s interesting to look at it through the lens of Linux. The quick rise in the popularity of Linux in the 90s happened on the server/IT side pretty much simultaneously with the embrace of Linux in the embedded market.

I’ve talked before in this column about the embedded Linux start-up bubble of the late 90s. That’s when a number of start-ups emerged as “embedded Linux” companies. It was a new business model for our industry, because Linux is a free, open-source OS. As a result, these companies didn’t sell Linux, but rather provided services to help customers create and support implementations of open-source Linux. This market disruption spurred the established embedded RTOS vendors to push back. Like most embedded technology journalists back then, I loved having a conflict to cover. There were spirited debates on the “Linux vs. RTOS topic” on conference panels and in articles of time—and I enjoyed participating in both.

It’s amusing to me to remember that Wind River at the time was the most vocal anti-Linux voice of the day. Fast forward to today and there’s a double irony. Most of those embedded Linux startups are long gone. And yet, most major OS vendors offer full-blown embedded Linux support alongside their RTOS offerings. In fact, in a research report released in January by VDC Research, Wind River was named as the market leader in the global embedded software market for both its RTOS and commercial Linux segments.

According the VDC report, global unit shipments of IoT and embedded OSs, including free/non-commercial OSs, will grow to reach 11.1 billion units by 2021, driven primarily by ECU-targeted RTOS shipments in the automotive market, and free Linux installs on higher-resource systems. After accounting for systems with no OS, bare-metal OS, or an in-house developed OS, the total yearly units shipped will grow beyond 17 billion units in 2021 according to the report. VDC research findings also predict that unit growth will be driven primarily by free and low-cost operating systems such as Amazon FreeRTOS, Express Logic ThreadX and Mentor Graphics Nucleus on constrained devices, along with free, open source Linux distributions for resource-rich embedded systems.

Shifting gears, let me indulge myself by talking about some recent Circuit Cellar news—though still on the Linux theme. Circuit Cellar has formed a strategic partnership with LinuxGizmos.com. LinuxGizmos is a well-establish, trusted website that provides up-to-the-minute, detailed and insightful coverage of the latest developer- and maker-friendly, embedded oriented chips, modules, boards, small systems and IoT devices—and the software technologies that make them tick. As its name in implies, LinuxGizmos features coverage of open source, high-level operating systems including Linux and its derivatives (such as Android), as well as lower-level software platforms such as OpenWRT and FreeRTOS.

LinuxGizmos.com was founded by Rick Lehrbaum—but that’s only the latest of his accolades. I know Rick from way back when I first started writing about embedded computing in 1990. Most people in the embedded computing industry remember him as the “Father of PC/104.” Rick co-founded Ampro Computers in 1983 (now part of ADLINK), authored the PC/104 standard and founded the PC/104 Consortium in 1991, created LinuxDevices.com in 1999 and guided the formation of the Embedded Linux Consortium in 2000. In 2003, he launched LinuxGizmos.com to fill the void created when LinuxDevices was retired by Quinstreet Media.

Bringing things full circle, Rick says he’s long been a fan of Circuit Cellar, and even wrote a series of articles about PC/104 technology for it in the late 90s. I’m thrilled to be teaming up with LinuxGizmos.com and am looking forward to combing our strengths to better serve you.

This appears in the April (333) issue of Circuit Cellar magazine

Not a Circuit Cellar subscriber?  Don’t be left out! Sign up today:

Circuit Cellar and LinuxGizmos.com Form Strategic Partnership

Partnership offers an expanded technical resource for embedded and IoT device developers and enthusiasts

Today Circuit Cellar is announcing a strategic partnership with LinuxGizmos.com to offer an expanded resource of information and know-how on embedded electronics technology for developers, makers, students and educators, early adopters, product strategists, and technical decision makers with a keen interest in emerging embedded and IoT technologies.

The new partnership combines Circuit Cellar’s uniquely in depth, “down-to-the-bits” technical articles with LinuxGizmos.com’s up-to-the-minute, detailed, and insightful coverage of the latest developer-  and maker-friendly, embedded oriented chips, modules, boards, small systems, and IoT devices, and the software technologies that make them tick. Additionally, as its name implies, LinuxGizmos.com’s coverage frequently highlights open source, high-level operating systems including Linux and its derivatives (e.g. Android), as well as lower-level software platforms such as OpenWRT and FreeRTOS.

Circuit Cellar is one of the electronics industry’s most highly technical information resources for professional engineers, academics, and other specialists involved in the design and development of embedded processor- and microcontroller-based systems across a broad range of applications. It gets right down to the bits and bytes and lines of code, at a level its readers revel in. Circuit Cellar is a trusted brand engaging readers every day on its website, each week with its newsletter, and each month through Circuit Cellar magazine’s print and digital formats.

LinuxGizmos.com is a free-to-use website that publishes daily news and analysis on the hardware, software, protocols, and standards used in new and innovative embedded, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  The site is lauded for its detailed and insightful, timely coverage of newly introduced single board computers (SBCs), computer-on-modules (COMs), system-on-chips (SoCs), and small form factor (SFF) systems, along with their software platforms.

“The synergies between LinuxGizmos and Circuit Cellar are great and I’m excited to see the benefits of this partnership passed on to our combined audience,” said Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief, Circuit Cellar. “LinuxGizmos.com has the kind of rich, detail-oriented structure that I’m a fan of. Over the many years I’ve been following the site, I’ve relied on it as an important information resource, and its integrity has always impressed me.”

“I’ve been a fan of Circuit Cellar magazine since it was first launched, and wrote a series of articles for it in the late 90s about PC/104 embedded modules,” added Rick Lehrbaum, founder and Editor-in-Chief of LinuxGizmos.com. “I’m thrilled to see LinuxGizmos become associated with one of the computing industry’s pioneering publications.”

“I see this partnership as a perfect way to enhance both the Circuit Cellar and LinuxGizmos brands as key information platforms,” stated KC Prescott, President, KCK Media Corp. “In this era where there’s so much compelling technology innovation happening in the industry, our combined strengths will help inform and inspire embedded systems developers.”

Read Announcement on LinuxGizmos.com here:

Circuit Cellar and LinuxGizmos.com join forces

Don’t Miss Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power Newsletter

Analog & Power is where stuff gets real. Converting signals to and from analog is how embedded devices interact with the real world. And without power supplies and power conversion, electronic systems can’t do anything. Circuit Cellar’s Analog & Power MFG_IB048E096T40N1-00themed newsletter is coming to your inbox tomorrow.

This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op-amps, batteries and more.

               Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your “Analog & Power” themed newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Remember, our new enhanced weekly CC Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Microcontroller Watch. This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. The Internet-of-Things (IoT) phenomenon is rich with opportunity. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.

Embedded Boards. This content looks at embedded board-level computers. The focus here is on modules—Arduino, Raspberry Pi, COM Express, and other small-form-factor —that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up production volumes.

Don’t Miss Circuit Cellar’s Newsletter: Embedded Boards

Board-level embedded computers are a critical building block around which system developers can build all manor of intelligent systems. Circuit Cellar’s Embedded Boards themed newsletter is coming to your inbox tomorrow. COM Express mm

The focus here is on module types like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, COM Express, and other small-form-factor modules that ease prototyping efforts and let you smoothly scale up to production volumes.

Already a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber? Great!
You’ll get your “Embedded Boards” themed newsletter issue tomorrow.

Not a Circuit Cellar Newsletter subscriber?
Don’t be left out! Sign up now:

Remember, our new enhanced weekly CC Newsletter will switch its theme each week, so look for these in upcoming weeks:

Analog & Power. This newsletter content zeros in on the latest developments in analog and power technologies including DC-DC converters, AD-DC converters, power supplies, op-amps, batteries, and more.

Microcontroller Watch. This newsletter keeps you up-to-date on latest microcontroller news. In this section, we examine the microcontrollers along with their associated tools and support products.

IoT Technology Focus. The Internet-of-Things (IoT) phenomenon is rich with opportunity. This newsletter tackles news and trends about the products and technologies needed to build IoT implementations and devices.