NanoPi R2S Review: Build a Secure Cheap Portable Router

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NanoPi R2S Review

Build a Secure Cheap Portable Router

After covering FrienldyElec FriendlyWrt (OpenWrt) Linux distribution advantages in providing excellent security at almost zero cost comes the newest fresh NanoPi R2S SBC. The new board comes with a few major hardware improvements compared to the “older” NanoPi R1 board series that were based on Allwinner H3/H5 Soc and only supported a single Gigabit Ethernet port and had 512MB of RAM.

The NanoPi R2S is a small form factor board that makes it compact with dimensions of 55.6 x 52mm and can be carried easily anywhere and plugged into any small portable device equipped with an ethernet port. It comes in two variants and features a dual two Ethernet ports powered by a Rockchip RK3328 processor with 1GB DDR4 memory, one Ethernet port using the GMAC from the chip. One Ethernet port relying on one a USB 3.0 to Ethernet controller. Because the NanoPi R2S board has the same dimensions and interfaces as the NanoPi R1S, it is expected to be fully compatible with the same yellow case used for NanoPi R1S.

The NanoPi R2S as with most of FriednlyElec boards supports FriendlyWrt (OpenWrt)as well as FriendlyCore, based on Ubuntu 18.04 Core. Probably due to cost issues and target market considerations the NanoPi R2S currently doesn’t have WiFi support and an eMMC storage option, but it’s feasible and I expected future models would have both.

NanoPi R2S | Rearview

NanoPi R2S | Back view

 

    NanoPi R2S Case     

NanoPi R2S Router Plastic Case

 


NanoPi R2S specification:

  • SoC: Rockchip RK3328 quad-core Cortex-A53 @ 1.5 GHz
  • GPU: Arm Mali-450MP2
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR4 RAM
  • Storage – MicroSD Slot, SPI flash footprint
  • Connectivity
    • 1x Gigabit Ethernet (WAN) up to 941 Mbps (measured)
    • 1x USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet (LAN) up to 941 Mbps (measured) via Realtek RTL8153
  • USB: 1x USB Type-A host port, 1x micro USB port (power + slave)
  • Debugging: 3-pin 2.54mm pitch header for serial console
  • Expansion: 10-pin GPIO header with GPIOs, I2C, UART, IR_Rx, 5V, 3.3V and GND
  • Misc: 3x LEDs (WAN, LAN, SYS), K1 reset button, fan header
  • Power Supply: 5VDC/3A via micro USB port
  • Dimensions: 55.6 x 52mm
  • Temperature Range: -20℃ to 70℃

Review TOC [Table of Content]

  1. NanoPi R2S Introduction + Specs
  2. NanoPi R2S Overview
  3. NanoPi R2S Heatsink
  4. Case Design
  5. NanoPi R2S Case Teardown
  6. NanoPi R2S + Case
  7. Software
  8. System Information
  9. Networking
  10. Final words

NanoPi R2S Board Overview

The NanoPi R2S is a small form factor SBC measures 55.6x 52 mm. It currently supports two types of Linux distributions. Ubuntu core and FriendlyWrt (OpenWrt) which is a customized version made by FriendlyElec and based on the known OpenWrt platform. The main purpose of the NanoPi R2S with OpenWrt is to offer a router, firewall well as VPN functionality that is convenient and very affordable. This board can be carried anywhere and connect to a standard Ethernet port a handy device, especially if you connect to unsecured networks while travelling abroad. The OpenWrt offers tons of functions up to a level you can filter ingoing/outgoing traffic and block malicious attacks by defining different firewall behaviour rules.

An additional function for the daily average is the option to use the NanoPi R2S as a small NAS backup server. For example, you can mount internal/external storage devices such as Hard drives or USB drives and connect to them remotely. FriendlyWrt platform comes with thousands of packages included in the software repository, and you can install the ssh service as with all Linux distributions.

On the downside, the NanoPi R2S doesn’t come with eMMC storage nor WiFi options. Therefore it can be used as a type of gateway firewall bridge connected via a wired connection. If you still need them, you can check the NanoPi NEO board series that have them. I feel that using a USB V2.0 host port is pretty obsolete. Adding a USB V3.0 Host in this type of configuration would be a wiser choice. That said, considering the low price tag of $20+ for the board, it’s still a reasonable configuration in terms of value for the buck ratio.

NanoPi R2S Board


NanoPi R2S Heatsink

The NanoPi R2S kit includes a very high-quality passive aluminium heatsink measuring 26x 95mm connected to the PCB using a pair of mount threaded Standoffs. It covers all of the board chips and should provide passive heatsink should more and enough for cooling the low consumption Rockchip RK3328 CPU. From my checking, the heatsink mainly covers the CPU chip, but the memory chips also need an additional thermal pad to make sure there any extra air gaps between the heatsink and the chips. You can solve this easily by buying another thermal pad or applying some thermal paste in small quantities.

 

  • NanoPi R2S Heatsink 1
    NanoPi R2S Heatsink 1


Case Design

Perhaps one of the most needed items I think is a ‘must-have’ item. The case provided by FriendlyElec is a well-crafted made from a plastic material. It has a good build, design as well as high-level shiny surface quality. According to your choice, the case is an optional item you can buy with or without the NanoPi R2S. If you don’t want to waste extra time in 3D printing a customized case buying a ready case is defiantly worth the cost.

The NanoPi R2S board is mounted inside the case using a simple snap-type assembly without any screws. The case unit is composed of two main plastic parts: the bottom cover and the main envelope (shell). FriendlyElec added few venting slots on both of the sides of the case walls to let the extra heat get out. The overall design is excellent and straightforward, even to none geeks/tech experts.

Another point worth mentioning is that the NanoPi R2S also comes with an onboard fan plug socket. You can buy and connect a small 2A fan but take into consideration that you will most likely need to drill little holes or even saw a window on the upper side of the case to let the hot air out to assure better air circulation vs the less optimal solution of making the heat build inside the case.

NanoPi R2S Case Teardown


NanoPi R2S + Case

  • NanoPi R2S 1
    NanoPi R2S 1
  • NanoPi R2S 2
    NanoPi R2S 2
  • NanoPi R2S 8
    NanoPi R2S 8
  • NanoPi R2S 3
    NanoPi R2S 3
  • NanoPi R2S 4
    NanoPi R2S 4
  • NanoPi R2S 5
    NanoPi R2S 5
  • NanoPi R2S 6
    NanoPi R2S 6
  • NanoPi R2S 7
    NanoPi R2S 7


Software

The NanoPi R2S is capable of running Ubuntu Core Linux based on the known Ubuntu distribution. It’s just slimmer lightweight distro without the desktop environment features. Because this board doesn’t have an HDMI output, all settings configured in Command-line mode. Most users would prefer using the board to boot FriednlyWrt software via MicroSD Card. Friendlier provides extended functionality that also exists in Ubuntu such as samba service,  FTP, SSH service, Adblocking package, firewall, and so forth that are available on the OpenWrt package repository.

Under the ‘Network’ settings, you have many highly advanced networking options you can use to control traffic flow in and out of your device. For example, with QoS, you can prioritize network traffic selected by the addresses, ports or services. Also, under the firewall section, you can limit traffic to specific Firewall zones, Enable SYN-flood protection, apply traffic rules, drop traffic between different LAN interfaces and also forward ports.

 

Fixing a minor repository problem

For some reason, one of the repository URL sources for the Opkg manager was wrong, so it was not possible to install or update to more newer packages. To fix this issue, you need to replace the first line in the distfeeds.conf file.

Step #1: Editing the distfeeds.conf

vi /etc/opkg/distfeeds.conf

Step #2: Replacing the first line in the distfeeds.conf

Replace:

http://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/18.06.1/targets/rockchip-rk3328/generic/packages

With the following URL:

http://downloads.openwrt.org/releases/18.06.1/targets/sunxi/cortexa53/packages/

Step #2: Updating the repository package list

opkg update


Mounting a Storage Device 

You can connect an external Hard Drive or a USB Disk to the NanoPi R2 Board. To do it, you will need to find the device designated name and mount it. You can do it in the command line (Terminal) mode or Access OpenWrt via a web interface ( LuCI web interface ) by entering the device IP address.

The most straightforward option is to use the Web interface. After you log in with the root username you will need to go to the ‘SYSTEM -> Mount points’ section. There you will find all the settings to mount/unmount devices, set swap space and add devices as needed. In the scenario of adding a simple external hard drive with USB interface, your device name would be assigned in the following order as sda1.. 2… 3 and so forth according to the number of connected devices.

 

Mounting a Western Digital 256GB External HDD

  • NanoPi R2S Harddrive 1
    NanoPi R2S Harddrive 1


System Information

Running ‘Top’ – FriendlyWrt

Approximately ~300MB of RAM is used from a total of 1GB.

System Information –  FriendlyWrt

Networking

Network Devices –  FriendlyWrt

Ethernet ports WAN & LAN – (Theoretical speed)

  • Interface: LAN
  • Device name: eth0
  • Interface: WAN
  • Device name: eth1

iPerf bandwidth/throughput tests

  • NanoPi K2 and NanoPi R2S are connected separately through RJ45 cable to a router.
  • Test Type: Test the network speed between two SBCs.

Test No. 1: UDP Port 5003

  • Server: NanoPi K2

Client: NanoPi R2S

Test No. 2: TCP Port 21

  • Server: NanoPi K2

Client: NanoPi R2S

Result: Max throughput of 884 Mbit/sec.


Final words

The NanoPi R2S is an excellent product I enjoyed testing. FriendlyElec invested highly in the quality of the case as well as the board design. I was expecting is to have is a pair of USB V3.0 Hosts and perhaps a MIPI Camera Serial Interface 2 (MIPI CSI-2) that would give an option to connect a camera module and use the board as an open-source-based IP surveillance camera solution. The bottom line, having such a device for domestic and traveling as a personal firewall solution, is worth the money and will not burn a hole in your pocket.

NanoPi R2S Review Summary

AndroidPIMP

Design
Quality
Value for Money
Software Support

Summary

4.5
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