NanoPi M4 Review – A Powerful High End Raspberry Pi Alternative

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NanoPi M4 | Product Introduction

The NanoPi M4 is a single board computer (SBC) based Rockchip RK3399 SoC. It features the same form factor as well as ports and interfaces that are compatible with Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ SBC. Measuring only 85 x 56 mm, making this compact board an ideal platform for rapid product prototyping, including a wide selection of industrial and commercial applications.

The NanoPi M4 has an onboard 2.4G & 5G dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth module, four USB3.0 TypeA host ports, one Gbps Ethernet port, one HDMI 2.0 Type A port, one 3.5mm audio jack and one Type-C port. In addition, it has an RPi compatible 40-pin connector which populates dual MIPI-CSI camera interface, PCIe x2, USB2.0, eMMC socket, RTC port and etc.

The NanoPi M4 comes in two editions with different RAM configurations. 4GB RAM LPDDR3 and 2GB RAM DDR2. Both boards can be booted from either TF card or an external eMMC module (purchased separately). The NanoPi M4 supports Ubuntu Desktop 18.04 (64-bit), Lubuntu l6.04 (32-bit), Ubuntu Core 18.04 (64-bit), Android 7.1 and Lubuntu Desktop with GPU and VPU acceleration. With these rich resources and powerful performance, it can be used in a wide selection of applications, such as machine learning, AI, deep learning, robots, industrial control, industrial cameras, advertisement machines, game devices, blockchain and more depending on your imagination.

Buy It Now from FriendlyElec

NanoPi M4 | 2GB RAM Edition

NanoPi M4 ARM Board - 2GB EditionNanoPi M4 | 4GB RAM Edition

NanoPi M4 ARM Board - 4GB Edition

NanoPi M4 Review  (TOC)

  1. Product Introduction, Main highlights, Specs
  2. Package
  3. Unboxing
  4. Hardware
  5. Quality
  6. Cooling
  7. Operation Temperature 
  8. storage
  9. Connectivity
  10. Software Support & Benchmarks
  11. Final verdict
  12. Pros & Cons

 

Specifications:

CPU SoC: Rockchip RK3399; CPU: big.LITTLE,Dual-Core Cortex-A72(up to 2.0GHz) + Quad-Core Cortex-A53(up to 1.5GHz)
GPU Mali-T864 GPU,supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL, DX11, and AFBC
VPU 4K VP9 and 4K 10bits H265/H264 60fps decoding, Dual VOP, etc
DDR3 RAM Dual-Channel 4GB LPDDR3-1866, or Dual-Channel 2GB DDR3-1866
Storage Onboard eMMC Socket (Module is purchased  separately)
Network Native Gigabit Ethernet
USB Host USB 3.0: four USB 3.0 Type-A ports; USB Type-C: Supports USB2.0 OTG and Power input
WiFi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo module, dual antenna interface
Audio input/output Port Audio Out: 3.5mm Dual channel headphone jack, or HDMI; Audio In: one microphone input interface
Debug Serial Port/UART0 One Debug UART, 4 Pin 2.54mm header, 3V level, 1500000bps
Video Input one or two 4-Lane MIPI-CSI, dual ISP, up to 13MPix/s,supports simultaneous input of dual camera data
Video output: HDMI: HDMI 2.0a, supports [email protected],HDCP 1.4/2.2; one 4-Lane MIPI-DSI
microSD Slot microSD Slot x 1
GPIO 40Pin GPIO Extension ports:3 X 3V/1.8V I2C, up to 1 x 3V UART, 1 X 3V SPI, 1 x SPDIF_TX, up to 8 x 3V GPIOs, 1 x 1.8V 8 channels I2S. 24Pin Extension ports:2 independent native USB 2.0 Host, PCIe x2, PWM x1, PowerKey
LED 1 x power LED and 1 x GPIO Controlled LED
RTC 2 Pin 1.27/1.25mm RTC battery input connector
PCB Dimension 8 Layer, 85 mm x 56 mm
Power DC 5V/4A
Working temperature 0℃ to 80℃
OS Support
  • Android 7.1.2
  • Android 8.1
  • Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit)
  • FriendlyCore 18.04 (64-bit)
  • FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit)
Kernel version Linux-4.4-LTS
U-boot-2014.10

Package

Unboxing Main Package (Basic Package)

Package Content:

  • 2x Wire WiFi Antennas.
  • 1x NanoPi M4 Board.

NanoPi M4 | Items

  • NanoPi M4 | Heatsink
  • NanoPi M4 | 5V-4A Power Adapter
  • NanoPi M4 | USB-micro USB Cable
  • NanoPi M4 | eFlasher OS Micro SD Card
  • NanoPi M4 | eMMC 16GB Module

NanoPi M4 | All Unboxed Items

NanoPi M4 itemsQuality

All items, including extra accessories, came well packaged in excellent condition. The only small thing that was missing for me was the specs sheet paper usually added inside the board package, summarizing the hardware specs and explaining about the board basic operation to a none geek person.

 

NanoPi M4 | Board view

  • NanoPi M4 | Front view
  • NanoPi M4 | Back view
  • NanoPi M4 | Full view
  • NanoPi M4 | Rear view
  • NanoPi M4 | Front view
  • NanoPi M4 | Left view
  • NanoPi M4 | Right view

Storage Space

To make the M4 board cost-effective and flexible for the end user FriendlyElec incorporated an onboard eMMC socket that allows you to add a 16GB eMMC Module for a price of $12.00. it’s not a “must have” item, but if you want to gain quicker file read/ write speeds vs. loading all of them from a Micro SD Card its a definitely worth investing few dollars.

 

NanoPi M4 | With eMMC Module

Hardware

Without digging into all the board details, if are planning on using this board as a type of Mini PC or a workstation, the hardware will provide above decent performance suitable to running OpenOffice, Apps, surfing the webs and also watching 4K videos. The NanoPi M4 comes in two types of variants with a different configuration, 2GB, and 4GB. The 2GB RAM will be enough for doing all and much more. Having said that, my best experience was running FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit) operating under the light resources LXDE desktop environment worked much smoother compared to Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit) and the general feeling was of no visible lags while moving windows across the screen or opening apps in the background.

 

Cooling

One of the main highlights of this package and worth considering buying is the passive cooling Heatsink unit which costs $6.99. It’s composed of an aluminum block slightly larger than the PCB dimensions, and a set of 4 Philips type screws along with a silicon thermal pad. Assembling the board is very simple. The back side of the board is placed above the heatsink, where the main RK33999 chip is located while applying pressure against it.

NanoPi M4 | Heatsink Unit

 

NanoPi M4 | Board With Heatsink

 

NanoPi M4 | Putting All together

Operation Temperature & Power Consumption 

The power consumption range for the NanoPi M4 is approximately 2.2W in Idle mode, without overloading system resources. In more moderate usage 7W is the normally an acceptable range for RockChip Hardware. As for CPU temperatures, the normal standard range is between 36-44C.

Power Consumption | In Idle Mode

CPU Temperature:

Software Support & Benchmarks

If you are planning on using this board as a type of Mini PC or a workstation, the RK3399 hardware will provide above decent performance suitable for running OpenOffice, Apps, surfing the webs and also watching 4K videos. The NanoPi M4 comes in two types of variants with a different configuration, 2GB, and 4GB. The 2GB RAM will be enough for doing all and much more, but if you need extra RAM the 4GB edition will cost you an additional $30. Having said that, my best experience was running FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit) operating under the light resources LXDE desktop environment worked much smoother compared to Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit) and the general feeling was of no visible lags while moving windows across the screen or opening apps in the background.

 

Benchmarks

Based on the following benchmark test results performed under FriendlyDesktop 18.04 environment, the Hardware performance was pretty good for a $65 SBC (Single Board Computer) with processing power that is slightly lower to a low-end Desktop PC.

NanoPi M4 | Benchmarks

 

NanoPi M4 FriendlyDesktop

 

NanoPi M4 Lubuntu

Final verdict

I was very satisfied with the general quality of all the package items, as well as the board performance and stability under Ubuntu GUI. Bottom line, it’s a very good SBC I highly recommend buying.

80%
Awesome
  • Design

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