FriendlyARM NanoPC T3 | Single Board Computer Review

Nanopcֹ t3 m3 review
NanoPCֹ T3 M3 Review

FriendlyARM NanoPC T3 | Single Board Computer Review

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 a power management chip, onboard 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 onboard via an external interface using an 8 or 9 pin header pin cable.


NanoPC-T3 | Rear 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


The NanoPC-T3 board is currently sold for a retail price of $60. If you need extra accessories, such as a case or WiFi Antenna it will cost you an additional few extra bucks. If you’re planning in buying a Heatsink this board comes with two mounting holes that 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 transparent acrylic material, with built-in metal inserts for mounting the board and the upper case cover. to make the product more user-friendly, the company added printed on box labels with the interface descriptions.

Now, for the problems. The case design, in general, 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 have venting slots. In addition, on the upper cover didn’t have any slots/holes for the GPIO header, on-board USB Host, LVDS, LCD RGB-LCD, camera DVP, and MIPI-DSI cables. The power, reset and u-boot button was positioned in such way that the user needs to remove the upper cover of the case in order to gain access to use them, where the correct design is designing housing that allows the user to operate all functions externally, without opening or removing any cover.

FirendlyARM offers an aluminum-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 open without the upper cover. Alternatively, you can also replace the Heatsink 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 (Onboard 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-T 3 | Full Board View

Hardware Platform

The 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.

A 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 an 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 the photo below).


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, the general impression is that the 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 an excellent performance power consumption ratio. According to system information under Debian OS (32-Bit), each core operates at frequencies ranging from 400MHz up to 1.4 GHz.

Operation: Burning Images

The process of loading images from the 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:

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


  • High performance (Octa-Core Processor)
  • A wide selection of onboard interfaces


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

Company Links:

Friendlyarm contact

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