FriendlyARM NanoPC T3 | Single Board Computer Review

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Product Introduction

The NanoPC-T3 is a single board computer designed and developed by FriendlyARM Company. It uses the Samsung Octa-Core Cortex-A53 S5P6818 SoC. Compared to the NanoPC-T2 the NanoPC-T3 its equipped with additional interfaces and ports, along with a more powerful SoC. Its dynamic frequency scales from 400MHz up to 1.4GHz. The NanoPC-T3 has 8G eMMC on-board flash, audio jack, video input/output interfaces, built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and Gbps Ethernet port. In addition, the NanoPC-T3 has power management chip, on board porcelain antenna and serial debug port.

Other features, include two camera interfaces: a DVP camera interface and a MIPI-CSI interface, and four video interfaces: HDMI 1.4A, LVDS, parallel RGB-LCD interface and MIPI-DSI interface. It has RTC interface pins, two USB 2.0 Host ports, and an additional two on board via external interface using an 8 or 9 pin header pin cable. That said, this board supports three popular OS systems: Android 5.1, Debian, Ubuntu and can be found in the following link posted below:

Buy It at FriendlyARM

NanoPC_T3_single_board_computer

NanoPC-T3 | Rear View

NanoPC_T3_back

NanoPCֹ_T3_Full_View

Review Focus:

  1. Product Introduction
  2. Specifications
  3. NanoPC-T3 Overview (Video)
  4. Accessories
  5. A Closer Look at the NanoPC-T3
  6. Hardware Platform
  7. Operating Systems, Software Support
  8. Performance & Benchmarks
  9. Basic Operation: Burning Images
  10. Network Throughput Test
  11. Final Words
  12. Pros / Cons

 

NanoPC-T3 specifications:

  • SoC: Samsung S5P6818 octa core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 1.4GHz
  • GPU: Mali-400MP
  • System Memory: 1 GB 32bit DDR3 RAM
  • Storage: 8GB eMMC flash, 1x SD card slot
  • Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet (RTL8211E) 802.11 b/g/n WiFi,  Bluetooth LE 4.0 (Ampak AP6212) with on-board chip antenna and IPX antenna connector.
  • Video Output / Display I/F: 1x HDMI 1.4a, LVDS, MIPI DSI, parallel RGB LCD
  • Audio I/O: HDMI 1.4a, 3.5 mm audio jack, on-board microphone
  • Camera interfaces: 1x DVP interface, 1x MIPI CSI
  • USB: 2x USB 2.0, 1x Micro USB 2.0 OTG port,  2x USB 2.0 host ports via 8-pin header
  • Headers: 30-pin GPIO header, 8-pin header for power signals, reset and LED 1-2
  • Debugging: 4-pin header for serial console
  • U-Boot : Boot selection button (SD card / eMMC)
  • 1x Reset button, 1x power
  • 2x user LEDs
  • RTC Battery header
  • Power Supply: DC 5V/2A
  • Dimension: 100 x 60 mm (6-layer PCB)

 

NanoPC-T3 Overview

Accessories

The NanoPC-T3 board is currently sold for a retail price of $60. If you need a extra accessories, such as a case or WiFi Antenna it will cost you additional few extra bucks. If you’r planing in buying a Heatsink this board comes with two mounting holes which provide tight surface contact for efficient heat conductivity, so I personally recommend buying it.

Jumping into the housing design. The NanoPC-T3 case is composed of two separate parts made of a transparent acrylic material, with built-in metal inserts for mounting the board and the upper case cover . to make the product more user friendly, company added printed on box labels with the interfaces descriptions.

Now, for the problems. The case design in generally was good, but I didn’t understand why additional venting slots where not added above the Heatsink to get the heat out more quickly, opposed to the lower case part that did had venting slots. In addition, on upper cover didn’t have any slots/holes for for the GPIO header, on-board USB Host, LVDS, LCD RGB-LCD,camera DVP and MIPI-DSI cables. The power, rest and u-boot button where positioned in such way that the user needs to remove the upper cover of case in order to gain access to use them, where the correct design is designing a housing that allow the user to operate all functions externally, without opening or removing any cover.

FirendlyARM offers an aluminium made passive Heatsink with a pair of  mounts that attaches to two holes in the PCB and provide decent cooling, but it’s highly recommended adding a 30 mm fan on top of it. The problem was with the case height, that was not enough for adding a fan and closing the case upper cover, so again, you will need to keep the case opened without the upper cover. Alternatively you can also replace the Heastink or just build a better case.

The NanoPC-T3 Inside the Case

     

    A Closer Look at the NanoPC-T3

    1. RGB LCD
    2. GPIO
    3. DVP Camera
    4. TF Card Socket (On the Back)
    5. RTC Battery Interface.
    6. USB Host x2 (On board Interface)
    7. Micro USB
    8. Boot selection button
    9. Ethernet LAN
    10. USB Host x2
    11. MIPI-CSI
    12. HDMI 1.4a
    13. MIPI-DSI
    14. Headphone jack
    15. Power DC Input
    16. Power Switch
    17. LVDS
    18. LED 1-2
    19. Reset Button
    20. On-board Antenna
    21. Power Button
    22. IP ANT (external antenna interface)
    23. WiFi & BT
    24. 8GB eMMC
    25. Debug UART
    26. AXP228 PMU (Power Power Management Unit)
    27. Microphone
    28. Reset/PWR/LED1-2 Pin-out
    29. RTL8211E
    30. 1x 512Kb RAM
    31. 1x 512Kb RAM
    32. Samsung SP56818 SoC (CPU + GPU: Mali 400MP).

     

    FirendlyArm NanoPC T3 Board Layout 

    nanopc-t3-layout

    NanoPC-T 3 | Full Board View

       

      Hardware Platform

      Hardware platform is based on the same S5P6818 Octa-Core Cortex-A53 Samsung 64-bit processor operating at clock frequency between 400 MHz Up to 1.4 GHz equipped with a Mali 400MP GPU which is also used in the previous NanoPi M3 board. for most computing tasks such as internet surfing, running office suite, streaming video this board provides a smooth and good experience, Just don’t expect the hardware to run heavy games.

      Few significant changes in this model are the additional 8GB eMMC flash, Manual power switch, boot selection button, on-board Power switch ,RTC Battery connector and the microphone. Just as with the M3 model, FriendlyArm also included on-board external USB Host interface to be used with a 8 or 9 pins header cable which provides two additional ports by using a special 9 pin cable or PCB type USB Host adapter (Shown in photo below).

      nanopc-t3-9pin-usb-host

      Operating Systems, Software Support

      Because FriendlyARM uses a relative less popular SoC for single board computer applications , made by Samsung so image selection is pretty limiting, and include three types: Android lollipop, Debian Jessie and Ubuntu Core. After playing with Debian Jessie and Android Images, general impression is that system worked well and stable.

      Android 5.x Lollipop | Screenshots

       

         

        Debian Jessie | Screenshots 

           

          Performance & Benchmarks

          The Nano PI T3 is based on the 64-bit Samsung S5P6818 Octa-Core Cortex-A53 SoC that provides excellent performance power consumption ratio. According to system information under Debian OS (32-Bit), each core operate at frequencies ranging from 400MHz up to 1.4 GHz.

          Operation: Burning Images

          The process of loading images from Micro SD card is very simple. you have two main tools ‘SDFormatter’ and ‘Win32Disk Imager’ for formatting the media card and writing images. If you want to write the images to the 8GB eMMC you will need to use the ‘eflasher’ Tool which is similar to the raspberry pi NOOBS operating system installer, that does it almost automatically through a GUI. There you select the preferred OS and the installation wizard does the rest of the job, without any special howto technical knowledge or skills on the user side.

          e-flasher | Screenshots 

             

            Network Throughput Test

            In this test one system must act as a server, while the other acts as a client. In this case I ran iperf-3.1.3 (win64) as a server on a Windows 7 workstation and the NanoPi T3 was the client.

             

            Step 1 – Finding out the Windows workstation &  NanoPi T3 IP Address

            1. CMD For Windows : ipconfig
            2. CMD For Linux: # ifconfig

             

            Step 2 – Running ssh service on the NanoPi T3

            sudo service ssh start

             

            Step 3 – Installing PUTTY ssh client and connecting to the NanoPi T3

             

            Step 4 – Downloading the latest ipref3 ( Windows OS ) :

            Download Link: https://iperf.fr/iperf-download.php

             

            Step 5 – Setting the Windows Workstation in Server mode (port: 45678)

            From Windows Command line running: iperf3 -s -p 45678

             

            Step 7 – Installing ipref3 package on the NanoPi T3

            sudo apt-get install iperf

             

            Step 8 : Running Tests from the NanoPi T3 on target IP (Windows Station):

             

            Final Words

            In terms of hardware the NanoPC-T3 is defiantly a good high performance board, that can be used also as a workstation / Mini PC to run Android and Debian Linux. As for software support, the user is limited only to three types of OS. FriendlyARM could have done a better job and provide more OS images.

             

            Pros / Cons

             

            Pros

            • High performance (Octa Core Processor)
            • Wide selection of on-board interfaces

             

            Cons

            • 1GB RAM
            • Limited software support (Linux, Ubuntu Core, Android).

             

            Company Links:

            friendlyarm_contact

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