The Raspberry Pi is the undisputed king of cheap, small single board computers (SBCs). It has sold over 25 million units since its release in 2012, making it one of the most popular computers of all time.

No wonder so many competitors try to take the top spot with cheaper hardware, more power, or interesting setups. One such competitor is the NanoPi NEO4, a unique contender for the Pi.

What is NanoPi NEO4?

NanoPi NEO4 Single Board Computer

FriendlyELEC’s NanoPi NEO4 is a $50 SBC in a sub-average form factor. Measuring just 60 x 45mm, it’s not much bigger than a Raspberry Pi Zero. Despite its size, it is powered by the Rockchip RK3399 chipset, which combines dual and quad-core Cortex processors.

So it’s more powerful than any Raspberry Pi, smaller than most, and offers the same features. Could it be the Raspberry Pi Killer?

NanoPi NEO4 in numbers

Before diving into NEO4, let’s take a look at the specs.

  • CPU : Rockchip RK3399 Dual Core Cortex-A72 & Quad Core Cortex-A53
  • RAM : 1GB DDR3-1866
  • USB : 1 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x USB Type-C (supports USB 2.0 OTG and power input), 2 x USB 2.0 (1 Type-A, 1 via 2.54mm jack)
  • Connectivity : Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPU : Mali-T864 GPU supports OpenGL ES1.1/2.0/3.0/3.1, OpenVG1.1, OpenCL, DX11 and AFBC
  • Video processing : 4K VP9 and 4K 10bit H265/H264 60fps, Dual VOP decoding.
  • Memory : MicroSD up to 128GB, eMMC socket, SSD/HDD via PCIe
  • media output : audio / video via HDMI
  • Pin connector : 40 x GPIO with SPI / UART / I2C, 2 x PCIe
  • Dimensions : 60 x 45 mm
  • The weight : 30.25 g
  • OS support : Android 7.1.2 and 8.1 (requires eMMC module), Lubuntu 16.04 (32-bit), FriendlyCore 18.04 (64-bit), FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (64-bit), Armbian (3rd)

Buy : NanoPi NEO4 by FriendlyELEC

Why NanoPi NEO4 is better than Raspberry Pi

Tiny NanoPi NEO4

At first glance, NEO4 blows the Raspberry Pi out of the water. Its processor is much faster and while it doesn’t have more memory, DDR3 RAM is of better quality. The addition of USB 3.0 and the expandability that an eMMC port and PCI Express (PCIe) provide are also missing from the Pi.

While size isn’t necessarily a factor for many, the NEO4’s tiny frame is sure to be a draw for those building the board into their hardware projects. It can support multiple operating systems and seems to fit in anywhere the Raspberry Pi is already running. The extra $15 isn’t worth the big extra features you get.

Benefits of NEO4

NEO4 Chunky Radiator

The promise of 4K video will make NEO4 an attractive upgrade for people using the Pi as a media server. The small size suits this use case well, and would be even more suitable for mounting to the back of a screen.

A powerful processor will also make it very desirable as a small server. FriendlyELEC provides an Ubuntu 18.04-based FriendlyDesktop/Core operating system that supports Docker, making it ideal for modern container-based web development.

Since NEO4 has a PCIe port and supports Gigabit Ethernet, it can also become a powerful stand-alone NAS system. It still seems to have the rhythm of a Raspberry Pi. Is it all as good as it seems?

Disadvantages of NEO4

As detailed in the video above by YouTuber MickMake, the possibilities of 4K video seem a little unsure, including in a few other areas.

While this may be a roadblock for many, most SMB media servers don’t handle 4K well, so NEO4 is not alone. Anyone looking for a full fledged media server should be looking for something more powerful.

Some users have reported that FriendlyDesktop/Core 18.04 OS is not stable enough for everyday use. This won’t be a problem for advanced users who are happy to install a new operating system or get access to a built-in one. This can be a hurdle for those looking for an everyday system, especially since you can use the Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer. without these problems.

Can NanoPi NEO4 replace your Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi

The NanoPi NEO4 looks attractive on the surface, but is unlikely to usurp the Raspberry Pi anytime soon. Its small form factor is a big draw, but it’s also a downside. No Raspberry Pi HAT will be fully compatible with custom sized GPIO pins.

What about Pi Zero? It looks like NEO4 has won. While the NEO4 will outperform the Pi Zero, the bulky heatsink makes the size comparison unfair.

Everything is fine with NanoPi NEO4. It is powerful, small and feature rich. It seems that there is nothing that distinguishes him from others, except for his size. There are problems here and there, but in fact, almost all SBCs do this.

Using a Raspberry Pi isn’t always easy sailing either. The difference is that the popularity of the Pi has spawned a huge online community that has faced most of the problems in front of you.

Don’t count on FriendlyELEC just yet, but if you can stretch to $65, you can get the NanoPi M4. The extra 4GB of RAM makes it one of the most powerful SBCs on the market. M4 can be a real Pi killer.

Small Boards, Big Potential

The NanoPi NEO4 is a great little SBC, and worth the $50 entry fee. It just doesn’t take what the Pi is and perfect it like NodeMCU did for the Arduino.

The beauty of almost all SBCs is that they are similar enough to be interchangeable. Whichever board you choose, install Raspbian and then do something cool with it. !

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