NanoPI NEO Challenges the Raspberry Pi

If you were looking for Raspberry Pi (RBPi) alternative, the NanoPi NEO would be a good fit. For a starting price of about $7, and measuring just 1.6×1.6 inches, it is smaller than the smallest RBPi Zero W, and is equally capable of running Linux. At its basic price, the RAM it carries is 256 MB. However, for a couple of dollars more, there is another version available and it has 512 MB RAM on it.

The best thing about this tiny challenger to the RBPiZW is the bunch of accessories available. This includes a battery, compass, LCD, and camera add ons. In addition, the maker has also launched a case, with which, you can easily build a networked-attached storage (NAS) from the tiny computer, the NanoPI NEO.

The NAS kit for the NanoPi NEO is made of aluminum, has a heat sink, and a board to allow you to connect an SSD hard drive or a 2.5-inch SATA hard disk. The case dimensions are 6 x 3.9 x 1.9 inches, and for silent operation, there is no provision for a fan. However, it needs a 12 VDC, 2 A power supply, which you have to buy separately. The price for the case does not include the price of the hard disk, so you have a wide choice there.

On the hardware side, the internal processor is an Allwinner H3 quad core with three UARTs. The board has a micro SD card slot, one USB port, a micro USB OTG port. Two additional USB ports are available via headers. On the expansion port, there are the usual I2C and SPI available. The board has no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but has an Ethernet port. It also does not have an HDMI port, which means you need to log in through SSH. The board also does not have an audio port, but you can get audio out if you solder the 0.1-inch edge connector.

On the software side, you will need to get an ARMBIAN, especially for this board, and a specific version of the legacy Jessie installation from the Armbian site. If you flash the Armbian code into a 16 GB SD card, you can boot up the NanoPi NEO board.

Initially, you should see a dim green LED coming on, and it will brighten up after a few seconds. About 30 seconds later, you should see a blue LED start to flash regularly, along with the green. About a minute after you have plugged the board into the local net via Ethernet, you should be able to see the NanoPi NEO board in its address range.

At this stage, you should be able to log in through Putty or SSH, with login credentials as root and password as 1234, and effect an initial password change.
Although it uses the same Allwinner processor, as does the RBPiZW, the NanoPi NEO runs a lot hotter. That is why the makers are supplying a heat sink along with the case for the NAS kit.

The NanoPi NEO is a marvelous and cute little board. Another version of the board does away with the Ethernet port, but adds Wi-Fi and two USBs.