Hardware

Raspberry Pi challenger: Tiny NanoPi Neo Plus2 is cheap but powerful

On paper, the NanoPi Neo Plus2 has a lot going for it, offering similar specs to the flagship Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.

The latest competitor to the $35 Raspberry Pi computer packs practically the same specs onto a cheaper board that is half the size.

On paper, the NanoPi Neo Plus2 has a lot in common with the flagship Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. Like the Pi it runs on a quad-core, ARM Cortex A53-based system-on-a-chip, has 1GB of RAM and offers built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. It even trumps the Pi 3 in some regards, with gigabit Ethernet and 8GB of built-in eMMC storage.

The NanoPi Neo Plus2 is also some $10 cheaper than the Pi 3, selling for $24.99.

However, the Pi appears to have offer a broader choice of software and better usability out of the box. The Pi can run multiple Linux desktop OSes, with the default Raspbian OS becoming increasingly simple to use and bundling office, web and programming software. In contrast the NanoPi Neo Plus2 runs Ubuntu Core, a minimal OS that typically requires users to remotely connect to the device from another machine via the command line.

A review of one of the board's predecessors, the NanoPi Neo 2, mentions the difficulty in finding software to interact with the pins on the board. That said, there appear to be a range of software libraries available for the NanoPi Neo Plus2, aimed at making it easier to control hardware via its 36 GPIO pins and to develop software using the board. These libraries include QT-Embedded, RPi.GPIO, WiringPi and FriendlyElec's BakeBit.

As with other Pi rivals, the NanoPi Neo Plus2 also won't enjoy the extensive community support that has grown up around the multi-million selling Pi since it launched five years ago.

FriendlyArm, the firm behind the NanoPi Neo Plus2, is pitching the board as being suited to different use case to the Pi, which can function as a full desktop PC. Instead FriendlyArm is highlighting the NanoPi Neo Plus2's low-profile and full-speed gigabit Ethernet, which it says "perfectly suits" small IoT appliances.

The NanoPi Neo Plus2's IoT focus is also reflected in its lack of a HDMI port for hooking it up to a display.

neoplus.jpg

The size of the NanoPi Neo Plus2 relative to the Raspberry Pi 3.

Image: FriendlyArm
nanoneospec.jpg

Read more about the Raspberry Pi

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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