Nano Pi Fire 3
  • Price
  • Performance
  • Ease of Setup
4.7

Summary

The Nano PI Fire 3 is a great alternative to the Raspberry Pi Model 3B+. Priced at the same £35 but comes with an extra 4 cores making this device almost twice as powerful!

I recently purchased two FriendlyARM NanoPI Fire 3’s for my homelab project. This is an honest non-sponsored review.

The NanoPI Fire 3 is a small SBC that is slightly larger than the Pi Zero at 75x40mm. It features an 8 core Samsung S5P6818 CPU and 1GB DDR3 RAM, gigabit ethernet 1x USB 2.0 type B and micro HDMI. Along with the standard 40 pin Pi compatible GPIO.

The board design is compact but functional featuring a Power and Reset button, LED power status/system LED and a connector for a RTC battery.

Android is supported out of the box and Debian and Ubuntu are supported in the form of Armbian Bionic and Armbian Stretch.

NanoPI Fire 3 Board Layout

The board is capable of booting via either USB or MicroSD – No EMMC here but thats not a big deal at the base cost of £35 – Shipped to the UK.

The board is shipped with a small but functional Aluminium HeatSink – This is absolutely necessary as the clock speed does begin to throttle at around 75ºC. A fan would be useful as this does occur at High CPU usage such as browsing the web.

NanoPI Fire 3 with HeatSink installed.

I went for the Armbian Bionic distro, logged in with the default creds of: root/1234 and created a user account. I quickly ran armbian-config and disabled the install of X/LXDE as I wanted to use this headless.

I installed LXC and I run multiple web servers and Application servers per board without any performance issues. This takes us to the benchmarks:

Benchmark – Unixbench

Single core performance is 13% faster than the Raspberry Pi 3B+
Multi core performance is 44% faster than the Raspberry Pi 3B+

The multi-core score was: 1096 – 44.4% faster than the 759 of the Raspberry Pi 3B+

Single core performance is 13% faster than the Raspberry Pi 3B+

All tests were performed with the same SanDisk Ultra A1 64GB SD Card.

Power Consumption

Using my cheap but functional Laqiya USB power meter I performed two tests, Idle power consumption and power consumption under full load.

The Idle test was performed with the board booted into a base install of Armbian with no peripherals connected. The load test was performed by running stress-ng

stress --cpu 10 --io 10 --vm 10 --hdd 10
stress: info: [2455] dispatching hogs: 10 cpu, 10 io, 10 vm, 10 hdd

Interestingly the Maximum power draw seemed to be 0.73A. The recommenced Power supply is 2-3A but running these headless it seems that a good quality 1A supply should probably work just fine.

Stability

My boards are currently on 35 days uptime, I did have some weirdness/crashing occur when trying to compile packages but this was down to cooling. Make sure the Pi’s are in a well ventilated place or add a fan and they are solid. They also need a 2-3A Power supply to function stably.

Conclusion

Are these better than the Raspberry Pi equivalent?

Although there is not a comparable PI by size, price wise this is the same as a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ and it is substantially more powerful. You don’t get the same level of community support that you get with Raspbian although Armbian is fine and it has its own following.

Are there any issues with the board?

During my testing I didn’t have any issues at all. The only things that I would like to see would be more RAM (2GB) and EMMC although for the price 1GB is absolutely fine.

Are their any Accessories?

You can buy Displays, Cameras and various breakout boards. The GPIO pins are PI compatible so if it works on a Raspberry Pi it will probably work on this. The one thing lacking however is the availability of a case or housing, unless you have a 3D printer you’re going to have to run this board naked.

Nano Pi Fire 3
  • Price
  • Performance
  • Ease of Setup
4.7

Summary

The Nano PI Fire 3 is a great alternative to the Raspberry Pi Model 3B+. Priced at the same £35 but comes with an extra 4 cores making this device almost twice as powerful!

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  2. James
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9 Comments

  1. What’s the I/O like? My main use case for a SBC is as a low-power NAS, and after my experience with the Raspberry Pi’s, I just want to make sure I have something which isn’t going to make me split bandwidth between the storage (in this use case a USB hard drive) and the network. 8 cores with a higher base clock speed at the same price point is quite tempting, however

    1. Although the board does have gigabit Ethernet connected directly to the SOC it would be difficult to fully utilise it with only an SD card and USB 2.0. It would work fine as a NAS but not much better than a Raspberry Pi 3B+.

      Something with USB 3.0 would be much faster!

    1. That depends on the output of the solar panel and whether you would also have backup batteries.

      This board needs around 2-3amp so it’s probably not best suited for this, a raspberry pi zero would be your best bet.

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