NanoPi NEO4 review: A powerful Raspberry Pi rival but with drawbacks

    Whether the shortcomings of the board overshadow its strong efficiency relies on what you wish to do with the $50 NanoPi NEO4.

    Raspberry Pi: The inside story of the $35 laptop
    The co-creators of the credit-card-sized board inform the within story of how the breakthrough laptop was born.

    The NanoPi NEO4 is a curious machine, a single-board laptop that is each higher and worse than the Raspberry Pi’s flagship 3 B+.

    In what’s an all too widespread downside with machines pitched in competitors to the $35 Pi within the low-cost computing market, it is a board that must be sooner and extra succesful however whose shiny specs do not inform the total story. Whether these shortcomings overshadow some strong efficiency relies on what you wish to do with the $50 NanoPi NEO4, which like different single-board computer systems is aimed toward builders constructing software program and hardware. The bother with the NanoPi NEO4 is its contradictions. It’s actually not simply highly effective on paper, with its superior specs paying off in artificial benchmarks, as you’ll be able to see within the graphs beneath, with the NEO4’s six-core CPU beating all different boards in some assessments, together with the Pi and the succesful Rock Pi 4.SEE: More Raspberry Pi protection (TechRepublic Flipboard journal)

    The downside is the NanoPi’s edge over its opponents was generally troublesome to discern in follow or hampered by different damaged options. Using the board’s official FriendlyDesktop working system, a customized model of Linux-based Ubuntu 18.04 OS, was a haphazard expertise. It wasn’t irredeemably compromised, however at each flip one thing did not work as anticipated. The Wi-Fi linked, however solely to the slower 2.4GHz community and never the sooner 5GHz networks, which weren’t even acknowledged. The USB 3.0 port labored, however slower than anticipated, transferring knowledge to and from the pc’s SD card storage solely barely sooner than the USB 2.0 ports on the Pi 3 A+. The default Chromium browser initially loaded all of the websites thrown at it, however promptly froze after opening Gmail, Google Docs and a few JavaScript-heavy information websites. That might sound like so much to pile onto the NanoPi, but it surely was solely 4 tabs, one thing each the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and the Rock Pi 4 had been in a position to deal with, regardless of the Pi 3 additionally being restricted by solely having 1GB of RAM. When it got here to putting in and upgrading software program, the command-line Apt package deal installer threw up all types of errors, initially a ‘useful resource quickly unavailable’ message, which was fastened by a reboot, after which getting caught whereas “processing triggers for man-db”. Individually, not one of the issues above might matter, as it is not as if the majority of customers choose up these boards to run them as an on a regular basis PCs, and for a lot of customers the additional CPU pace alone could also be definitely worth the worth, notably when given the NanoPi’s respectable efficiency within the Phoronix Test Suite’s language benchmarks. But it is value declaring that the efficiency benefit demonstrated within the artificial benchmark would not give the total image. One space the place I encountered the fewest issues was utilizing the NanoPi NEO4 as a media participant, a comparatively widespread use for single-board computer systems.

    Playback of native video, saved on the machine fairly than streamed over the web, was just about flawless. The default video participant was in a position to play a x264-encoded 1080p and a 4K/30FPS video easily and and not using a hitch. Online video playback was extra spotty, with good efficiency when enjoying 1080p/30FPS and 720/60FPS movies on YouTube however 1080p/60FPS video saved stopping and beginning. Comparing 3D efficiency with different single-board computer systems was tough, as a result of lack of an appropriate benchmark. I used to be unable to compile Quake 3 to run the benchmark on the NanoPi NEO4, whereas the glmark2 3D benchmark would not appear to work correctly on the Pi (it ran however the graphics had been corrupted). Basically the NanoPi NEO4, as with different Pi rivals I’ve examined to this point, is lacking the identical key ingredient that made the Pi the success it’s at the moment. Yes the Pi is a very low cost laptop, sure it’s sufficiently small to slide into your pocket, and sure you need to use it to construct your personal selfmade devices. But a big a part of what made the Pi profitable is its stability, that it provides all of these issues in a package deal that just about simply works, eradicating the uncertainty that comes with shopping for a $35 laptop. Years of funding by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in bettering the core desktop of the Raspbian OS to spice up its efficiency, reliability, and options has paid off handsomely. In comparability, the NanoPI NEO4 is rougher across the edges. Despite its respectable efficiency in benchmarks, it as soon as once more appears to be one other low-cost board saddled with so-so software program assist. If you are a whizz in relation to the Linux terminal instructions and do not thoughts delving into the nuts and bolts of an OS to tweak efficiency and repair options this can be the single-board laptop for you. For the much less technically inclined, nevertheless, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ will not be solely $15 cheaper but additionally stays the higher selection. You may not get the identical uncooked efficiency, however you may get extra certainty that the board will work as anticipated. The NanoPi NEO4 is accessible right here for $50.Specs comparability: NanoPi NEO4 vs Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+The NanoPi NEO4 has a sooner processor and extra cores than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ The RK3399 system-on-a-chip (SoC) utilized by the NanoPi NEO4 depends on two units of CPU cores, a dual-core 2GHz Arm Cortex-A72 paired with a quad-core 1.5GHz Arm Cortex-A53 in a Big.LITTLE configuration, which swaps duties between cores for larger energy effectivity. The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ has a quad-core 1.4GHz Arm Cortex-A53 CPU.The NanoPi NEO4 has barely worse wi-fi connectivity than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ The NanoPi NEO4 solely provides 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, in comparison with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.The NanoPi NEO4 has barely sooner reminiscence than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ The NanoPi NEO4 is accessible with 1GB of DDR3-1866 reminiscence, in comparison with 1GB of DDR2 reminiscence within the Raspberry Pi 3 B+.The NanoPi NEO4 has sooner Ethernet than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Both boards have gigabit Ethernet, however the pace of the Raspberry Pi’s Ethernet is constrained by counting on a USB 2.0 bridge, which limits the utmost throughput to about 300Mbps.The NanoPi NEO4 has sooner USB ports than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ however fewer of them The NanoPi NEO4 has one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port, in comparison with the 4 USB 2.0 ports on the Raspberry Pi 3 B+. That stated, as talked about the USB 3.0 port appeared to work at speeds corresponding to the USB 2.0 ports on the Raspberry Pi 3 B+.The NanoPi NEO4 Model B has sooner storage than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Alongside microSD card storage, the NanoPi NEO4 sports activities an PCIe x2 interface supporting as much as a SSD, and you can too add as much as 32GB eMMC storage to the board by way of a socket. The Raspberry Pi helps as much as 128GB microSD card storage and when you can add an SSD, it is necessary to attach it by way of USB, limiting its throughput.The NanoPi NEO4 is roughly half the dimensions of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ The NanoPi NEO4 is 60mm × 45mm, in comparison with the Raspberry Pi B+’s 85.6mm × 56.5mm. That stated if you wish to use the you wish to use the NEO4 for any critical duties you may in all probability wish to choose up the $5.99 warmth sink, which provides considerably to the load and bulk of the board.The NanoPi NEO4 Model B will not be 100% appropriate with the Raspberry Pi’s hardware add-ons There’s a 40-pin growth header for connecting to boards, sensors and different hardware, with the primary 26 pins appropriate with the Raspberry Pi, which can imply the board works with some current Pi hardware add-ons.The NanoPi NEO4 can output to 4K shows and is able to easy 4K video playback The NanoPi NEO4 helps HDMI 2.0a, in a position to output video to [email protected] shows and might playback 40Ok/30FPS x264-encoded video easily, in comparison with the Pi 3 B+, which is able to easy video playback at resolutions as much as 1080p and has a HDMI 1.3 output.The NanoPi NEO4 runs fewer working programs than the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ however does formally assist Android The NanoPi NEO4 helps fewer open-source working programs than the Raspberry Pi, which runs a variety of Linux-based desktops, media heart programs, in addition to curios like RiscOS and Plan 9. The NEO4 helps a variety of Linux-based working programs, together with a customized model of Ubuntu 18.04, Lubuntu 16.04 and Android 8.1 (in case you purchase an extra 16GB eMMC module for $12).The NanoPi NEO4 makes use of a USB Type-C port for energy The NanoPi NEO4 makes use of a USB Type-C port for its energy provide, in comparison with the micro USB energy connector on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B +.PerformanceGeneral efficiency: NanoPi NEO4 vs Raspberry Pi boards The Dhrystone benchmark measures the overall CPU efficiency, specializing in calculations utilizing integers.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    The Whetstone benchmark measures one other facet of processor efficiency, this time how the CPU handles floating level calculations.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    Used in supercomputer testing, the Linpack benchmark additionally measures how quickly a machine can deal with floating level calculations.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    In all the above CPU assessments, the NanoPi NEO4 considerably outperforms the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. Sysbench is one other measure of common CPU efficiency – right here exhibiting single-core and quad-core efficiency of the 2 boards.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    Connectivity: NanoPi NEO4 vs Raspberry Pi boards This iPerf benchmark measures the pace at which knowledge is transferred between two computer systems, on this case between an Ethernet-wired PC and the single-board computer systems examined. These figures are a information fairly than absolute measures, since community pace could be affected by many elements.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    The NanoPi NEO4 delivered comparable speeds to the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ within the 2.4GHz band however didn’t detect 5GHz networks.Web shopping: NanoPi NEO4 vs Raspberry Pi boards The Octane benchmark gives an thought of how the Chromium browser within the Pi’s default Raspbian OS handles JavaScript, the default scripting language of the online. If your browser is sluggish at JavaScript, it is sluggish full-stop.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    Despite its superior specs the NanoPI NEO4 achieved broadly the identical rating because the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ within the Octane benchmark when operating within the default Chromium browser, and in follow truly felt slower when shopping a number of heavier websites.Data switch: NanoPi NEO4 vs Raspberry Pi boards Shown is how lengthy it took to switch a 1.3GB Raspbian img file from the Pi’s microSD storage to an connected 16GB USB stick.
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic
    Despite sporting a USB 3.0 port, this nominally sooner port labored on the identical pace because the USB 2.0 on the Raspberry Pi 3 A+.NanoPi NEO4 specsCPUModel: Rockchip RK3399Variety of cores: massive.LITTLE, 64-bit Dual Core Cortex-A72 + Quad Core Cortex-A53Frequency: Arm Cortex-A72(as much as 2.0GHz), Cortex-A53(as much as 1.5GHz)GPUMali-T864 GPU, helps OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL, DX11, and AFBCVPU4K VP9 and 4K 10bits H265/H264 60fps decoding, Dual VOPMemory1GB DDR3-1866StorageeMMC: no Onboard eMMC, however has a eMMC socketmicroSD Slot: microSD*1 for exterior storage as much as 128GBConnectivityEthernet: Native Gbps EthernetWiFi: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 combo moduleAntenna*1: IPX ConnectorAudioAudio output: HDMIVideo InputOne 4-Lane MIPI-CSI, as much as 13-megapixelsVideo OutputHDMI*1: HDMI 2.0a, helps [email protected], HDCP 1.4/2.2USBUSB 3.0*1: USB 3.0 Type-A portsUSB Type-C*1: Supports USB2.0 OTG and energy inputUSB 2.0*2: USB 2.0 Host, one is Type-A, the opposite is 2.54mm headerPin-headerGPIO1: 40pin2 X 3V I2C, 1x 3V UART/SPI, 1 x SPDIF_TX, as much as 8 x 3V GPIOsPCIe x2PWM x1, PowerKeyGPIO2:1 x 1.8V 8ch-I2SGPIO3:debug uart, 3V stage, 1500000bpsUSB 2.0 x1LEDPower LED(Red)*1GPIO Controlled LED(Green)*1OthersRTC Battery: 2 Pin 2.54mm pitch through-hole padWorking Temperature: -20℃ to 70℃PowerDC 5V/3AOS assistAndroid 7.1.2 (eMMC Module required)Android 8.1 (eMMC Module required)Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit)PleasantCore 18.04 (64-bit)FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit)Armbian (third)Kernel modelLinux-4.4-LTSU-boot-2014.10PCB8 LayerDimension60*45mmWeight30.25g
    Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

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