Embedded Computers

NanoPi NEO3 Review: Tiny SBC Powered With OpenWrt

Nanopi Neo3
Written by androidpimp

FreielndyElec launches NanoPi NEO3 SBC | NanoPi NEO3 Review

NanoPi NEO3

FriendlyElec just released their new NanoPi NEO3 SBC (single board computer) powered with a low consumption RockChip RK3328 Quad-Core CPU. The new board is even more cost-effective compared to the Nano Pi R2S SBC starting at a start price tag of $20 for 1GB RAM model.

NanoPi NEO3 comes in two variants. 1GB and 2GB of DDR4 RAM and can be used for most low power consumption applications such as a personal portable firewall to protect yourself from cyber-attacks when connecting to a none secure network. You can install OpenWrt software, which offers high-end free security and routing features. Additional Linux distributions that are supported are FriendlyCore, Debian, Ubuntu, and the very lightweight DietPi distribution designed especially for embedded devices.

Additional specifications include USB 3.0 Port, 1x Type-A interface, 1x Gigabyte Ethernet port, x1 GPIO, 1x Serial Debug Port. This small form factor board has dimensions of 48x48mm, so it can be can fit in tiny spaces or industrial environments.

You might think this board is less practical without and HDMI interface. But it can be used in a wide variety of applications such as networking monitoring tool, to monitor server bandwidth/loads, or to send commands to run specific tasks on a remote server, a mini NAS server, and much more depending on your imagination.


NanoPi NEO3 SBC

Nanopi Neo3 3
Nanopi Neo3

NanoPi NEO3 – Interfaces & ports

Nanopi Neo3
Nanopi Neo3

NanoPi NEO3 – Hardware Specification

  • Soc: RockChip RK3328, Quad-core 64-bit high-performance Cortex A53
  • RAM: 1GB/2GB DDR4
  • LAN: 10/100/1000M Ethernet with unique MAC
  • USB Host: 1x USB3.0 Type-A and 2x USB2.0 on 2.54mm pin header
  • MicroSD Slot: MicroSD x 1 for system boot and storage
  • LED: Power LED x 1, System LED x 1
  • Key: User Key x 1
  • Fan: 2Pin JST ZH 1.5mm Connector for 5V Fan
  • GPIO: 2.54mm pitch 26 pin-header, include I2C, UART, SPI, I2S, GPIO
  • Serial Debug Port: 2.54mm pitch 3 pin-header, 1500000bps
  • Power: 5V/1A, via Type-C or GPIO
  • PCB Dimension: 48 x 48mm
  • Working Temperature: -20℃ to 70℃
  • Weight: 22g

NEO3 vs. NEO2

If we compare the previous generation NanoPi NEO2 based in the Allwinner SoC to the latest new NEO3 SBC there are few significant changes in hardware specifications listed on the table below:

Nanopi Neo3 Vs Neo2
Nanopi Neo3 Vs Neo2

Case

The NanoPi NE03 features an optional white color square-shaped case accessory made from plastic in dimensions of 45mm. It has curvy edges and a series of venting slots on the bottom to get the extra heat out of the case.

My impression of the quality was nothing but excellent. Keep in mind that If for some reason, you will need to re-open the case, it will become a more difficult task as the case two parts assembled in a one-time snap-type assembly.

  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P1
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 1 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P2
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 2 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P3
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 3 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P4
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 4 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P5
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 5 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P6
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 6 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P7
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 7 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P8
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 8 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P9
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 9 of 10
  • Nanopi Neo3 Case Asm P10
    NanoPi NEO3 + Case | PIC 10 of 10

Passive Cooling

Located on the backside of the NanoPi NE03 board you will find a RockChip RK3328 CPU with passive cooling aluminium heatsink mounted with two screws that cover both CPU and also the RAM chips. If you need a fan, I am sure that even squeeze a slim 5 mm fan can fit inside the case and connect the power through the GPIO header pins.

Nanopi Neo3 Heatsink
Nanopi Neo3 Heatsink

Software

The NanoPi NE03 currently supports two major Linux distributions you can boot to using a TF-Card. Still, the one you should that gets all the most focus is probably the FriendlyWrt Image, based on the known OpenWrt operating system designed for embedded devices. OpenWrt possibilities are a hug in terms of the amount of features included in the operating system.

NanoPi NE03 can be used as a personal portable firewall device or as a monitoring tool. For example, to monitor network bandwidth and usage. You can also set QOS connections limitations and many other options all accessible through LuCI Web Interface.

  • Friendlywrt-5.4 (OpenWrt 19.7)
  • Friendly core-bionic
Nanopi Neo3 Friendlywrt
Nanopi Neo3 Friendlywrt
Nanopi Neo3 Friendlycore Bionic
Nanopi Neo3 Friendlycore Bionic

Needed Accessories

The NanoPi NEO3 Package only includes the SBC so to power the board, you will need to use a standard USB-Type C cable connected to a 5V- 2.1A power adaptor.

Nanopi Neo3 Accessories
Nanopi Neo3 Accessories

How do I mount an external hard drive?

To connect an External Hard Drive, you will need to plug your drive into the NanoPi NEO3 USB Host and navigate to ‘Access- > Mount points’ there you should see that your device is recognized. Usually, you will find it under the ‘Mount Points‘ section under the name mnt/sdax/ where x indicates the device number, for example, 1..2..3 and so forth. You can also manually select your device filesystem from a list, but setting the auto option should work just as well well.

Nanopi Neo3 Mount Points P1
Nanopi Neo3 Mount Points PIC1
Nanopi Neo3 Mount Points P2
Nanopi Neo3 Mount Points PIC2

Benchmark USB Flash Speed (Read/Write)

  • Tested media:  Kingston DT50/32GB
  • Interface: USB 3.1
  • File System: NTFS

Performing a data transfer rate test bypassing hard drive’s buffer cache memory thus reading directly from the disk.

Testing how much time it would take to make a bootable Ubuntu USB stick


System Resources

Based on FriendlyWrt (OpenWrt) statistics:

  • Processor usage: 0.7%
  • Used memory: 68.1M
  • CPU temperature: 53.9C
Nanopi Neo3 System Info
Nanopi Neo3 System Info

Stress Test

  • CPU Core frequency range: 408MHz – 1296MHz
  • Power usage in Idle/low resources mode: 2.3W
  • CPU temperature: 52C
Nanopi Neo3 Stress Test 01
Nanopi Neo3 Stress Test 01

Nanopi Neo3 Stress Test 02
Nanopi Neo3 Stress Test 02

For our test, we used the stress-ng tool to run up to 8 CPU stressors, 4 I/O stressors, and one virtual memory stressor using 1GB of virtual memory for one minute by executing the following commands below.

  1. stress-ng –cpu 2 –io 4 –vm 1 –vm-bytes 1G –timeout 60s –metrics-brief
  2. stress-ng –cpu 4 –io 4 –vm 1 –vm-bytes 1G –timeout 60s –metrics-brief
  3. stress-ng –cpu 6 –io 4 –vm 1 –vm-bytes 1G –timeout 60s –metrics-brief
  4. stress-ng –cpu 8 –io 4 –vm 1 –vm-bytes 1G –timeout 60s –metrics-brief
under loadMin CPU
Frequency
(GHz)
Max CPU
Frequency
(GHz)
Min Temp
(Celsius)
Max Temp
(Celsius)
Min Wattage
(W)
Max Wattage
(W)
1400 MHz1.2 GHz63854.25
2400 MHz1.2 GHz63 85 4.1 5.2
3400 MHz1.2 GHz63 854.2 5.3
4400 MHz1.2 GHz65 854.1 5.2

Test #1

Test #2

Test #3

Test #4

Test results

  • The NanoPi NEO3 operated well under high-stress CPU loads and reached core temperatures up to 85C.
  • The power consumption of the NanoPi NEO3 range between 4 up to 5W.

Final Words

The NanoPi NEO3 is a good product I enjoyed testing. I liked the case design, including plastic surface quality. Keep in mind that this SBC is designed for low power applications that don’t require an external display. OpenWrt V19.7 support is defiantly a perfect option to have from a user standpoint but I was expecting a bigger selection of images like OPNsense and few others.

According to our tests, the NEO3 board is very stable because due to its low power consumption CPU and passive heatsink that significantly helps in providing excellent cooling. The bottom line, it’s very cheap and worth the money. If you liked the product your welcome to check more details in FriendlyElec official website:

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androidpimp

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