FriendlyArm NanoPi M4

Yesterday in the post came the singularly impressive-looking NanoPi M4 unit complete with supplied eMMC for Android 8 and 16GB uSD for Lubuntu Desktop and the most spectacular heat-sink I’ve ever seen, not to mention (oh, go on then, if you insist) ,  a tiny Apple-reminiscent mains power supply able to deliver 5v at a stunning 4 AMPS. I’m IMPRESSED already.

RK3399-based M4 board

This kit looks REALLY impressive.  The NanoPi M4 is a RK3399 SoC (system on chip) based ARM board. It has the same form of factor as the Raspberry Pi B3+ and has ports and interfaces compatible with RPi B3+ too.  It has a usb-C connector.

Heatsink for RK3399-based M4 board

My board came with 2GB DDR3 RAM – there is a 4GB LPDDR3 option. The NanoPi M4 has an onboard 2.4G & 5G dual-band WiFi + Bluetooth 4.1 combo wireless module, four USB3.0 Type A host ports, one Gbps Ethernet port, one HDMI 2.0 Type A port, one 3.5mm audio jack and one Type-C port. In addition it has a RPi compatible 40-pin connector, dual MIPI-CSI camera interface, PCIe x2, USB2.0 x2, eMMC socket, RTC port and more.

According to the FA FAQ “the NanoPi M4 supports Ubuntu Desktop 18.04(64-bit), Lubuntu 16.04(32-bit), Ubuntu Core 18.04(64-bit), Android 7.1 and Lubuntu Desktop with GPU and VPU acceleration. With these rich resources and powerful performance it can be widely used in applications of machine learning, AI, deep learning, robots, industrial control, industrial cameras, advertisement machines, game machines, blockchain and more”

I won’t fill space with even more specs and claims – you can find all of that on their FAQ –

More pics:

4A power supply

The FriendlyArm postbag

CLEARLY there’s a lot more to follow but I thought I’d make a start. You can see the size of my (normal) hand there – that’s a small but powerful supply. I would have preferred an EU plug but that’s what I got. And while I’m on that subject, a few weeks ago I received a neat phone charger which i really fell in love with.

Sadly after a few days of lying around in the car, the charger I mentioned was toast thanks to the REALLY rubbish American 2-pin connector. I’m British so you’d expect me to slag off everyone else’s plugs. On the contrary I think EU plugs are great. American plugs are however often just very thin metal, easily damaged. That is my only gripe here – the supply itself looks marvellous as do the board and heatsink.

The M4 board has PCi (you’ll need an adaptor apparently) as well as the normal GPIO and other interfaces inc eMMC.

On AliExpress, the NanoPi M4 starts at £62 depending on RAM etc.

AND THERE WE HAVE IT.. eMMC plugged in, power on, Android working out of the box. The FriendlyElec logo pops up, rapidly followed by the normal Android screen – bang up to date Android 8. A camera demo (which crashes un-ceremoniously as there is no camera), something called Lightening – which looks like a browser – but.. am I missing something here? Where is the PlayStore?

Android 8

Could this be about Google and their issues with Chinese censorship? It is at first glance hard to see how this board + Android can be useful without the Playstore or equivalent. I’ll ask FriendlyArm the question right now..

Meanwhile I’ve plugged in the lovely Sandisk Edge 16GB SD and…nothing – maybe I have to remove the eMMC. YUP, that’s it – straight into Lubuntu Desktop (based on Ubuntu 18.04 64) and hence to the Chromium browser, no problem.


Of interest while I’m here – UART0 is used by Bluetooth, UART1 is used by Gbps Ethernet, UART2 is the serial debug UART, UART 3 is also used by the Gbps Ethernet – which leaves UART4 or /dev/ttyS4 for general use. I’m glad I read that.

Ubuntu Software installer said that an update has been issued since Ubuntu 16.04, went off to get an update and immediately reported that the Application Software Updater had closed unexpectedly. Really !!? I went to “software updates” and that said there were updates and then that “closed unexpectedly”.

The WIKI is well worth a look…


36 thoughts on “FriendlyArm NanoPi M4

  1. That’s quite a rig Pete, case £90.00, 4 * Samsung EVO 860 approx £520.00 plus the M4 and HAT. I guess that’s quite reasonable for something like a 4TB NAS.

  2. Would the main use of the SATA HAT be for connecting SSD’s, or what other functions would be possible?
    Thank you.

    BTW: I’ve just purchased the M4 and trying to figure all of this out as I go along, and I’m probably a bit over my head here.

  3. Has anyone already found and tried the M4 SATA HAt for this device?
    Found a picture on Internet but could not find info on the FrendlyELEC website…

    Think this would be nice as a NAS with 4 x ssd drives

  4. Here’s the latest
    Just a couple of months ago FriendlyElec introduced the NanoPi M4, which was then the smallest, most affordable Rockchip RK3399 based SBC yet. But now they have launched a $45, Rockchip RK3399 based NanoPi Neo4 SBC with a 60 x 45mm footprint, WiFi/BT, GbE, USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0, MIPI-CSI, a 40-pin header, and -20 to 70℃ support — but only 1GB of RAM.

  5. Does Chromium HW Acceleration work?
    Could you pls. post the output of “chrome://gpu” when starting chromium-browser normally and with options –ignore-gpu-blacklist –use-gl=egl?

  6. Does Chromium HW Acceleration work properly?
    Could you pls. post the output of “chrome://gpu” when starting chromium-browser normally and with options –ignore-gpu-blacklist –use-gl=egl?

  7. to have google apps, and so playstore, you need to pass the google CTS certification… info in next links:

    the solution is plain and simple: STOP buying these boards if you plan to use them for android… unless manufacturer EXPLICITELY says his boards are certified (and NOT the dumb “we have an android image for this board” statement), buy a proper android box, with needed certifications and codec licenses if you plan to watch HD content… which is even cheaper, properly boxed and with a remote… SBCs are for tinkering, period…

    1. If I would want Android I clearly would purchase an el cheapo Amlogic TV box due to codec and ‘official’ support.

      But I fear I have to disagree wrt SBCs. Such gems like NanoPi M4 are not just for tinkering but also very nice, energy efficient and small servers.

      1. Well, Tkaiser I would like to agree with you. But right now, not only did Android not do the job due to no PlayStore or even an alternative, but first attempts at updating Lubuntu failed as well (using the recommended 4A power supply and lead) as the App updater keeled over immediately. Have you tried other options?

        1. Sorry, never used Android on an SBC. And no idea about their Lubuntu since I started immediately with Armbian (and I even created already an OMV image for NanoPi M4 since this is such a nice NAS thingy).

          While the OMV image is usable (only tested headless, never had a display connected to these things) the available Armbian images are marked ‘work in progress’ for a reason (still not all settings fixed):

          1. incidentally: is there any updated OMV image for the Odroid HC1? I’m still at the one you suggested a while ago, still based on debian Jessie… and what’s the correct way to upgrade without loosing my data on connected hybrid hd? Thanks

      2. sure, that was implied as i fundamentally use them for that, of course (real tinkering on esp8266 or arduino)…

        BUT, again, you’re buying an overpriced device you’ll never fully use… why paying for an 4k hdmi capable gpu you’ll never use in a server setup?

        My ideal board: a nanopi neo2 like form factor, 2 or more gb ram, 8 core at different speed, with wifi+gigabit, and 16gb emmc…

        1. > why paying for an 4k hdmi capable gpu you’ll never use in a server setup?

          It’s not about the GPU (2D/3D acceleration) but about the VPU (that’s the thing that deals with video) and being able to process input from up to two MIPI CSI cameras at the same time getting hardware accelerated h.264 streams (surveillance server) or do video transcoding accelerated on the VPU (media center NAS thingy) are some use cases where many ARM SoCs could shine even if no display is connected.

          I personally found RK3399 devices way to expensive too in the past. But this has changed with RockPro64 and the FriendlyELEC offerings now. With decent amount of DRAM, very fast IO and even PCIe (up to PCIe 2.1 x4 on RockPro64/NanoPC-T4 and x2 on M4 and NEO4) these things are reasonable priced especially once the software stacks are ready and VPU capabilities can be used.

          Currently video only works flawlessly in Android and as I understood those RK3399 devices do a great job here with camera input and simultaneous output to multiple displays at the same time (Android is not always about watching TV, using PlayStore and stuff)

          1. interesting use cases i had not considered, thanks 🙂
            nice little board that Neo4! Unfortunately with only 1gb ram…
            well, playstore is just the standard, easiest way to install stuff on android…

          2. Right, We have made a HD MIPI camera running on Ubuntu, also the general ov13850 module. It will be pretty useful for machine vision and etc

    2. That comment needs clarification – Android box, NOT Android TV box – I just threw out a Xiaomi Mi TV box because Android TV is severely crippled.

      I’m currently expecting an Android 8 box which I’m told will have the proper Playstore.

  8. I look forward to hearing more about this when you’ve had more time with it. I was an early adopter of some of their kit (the NanoPi2 Fire/another similar one) but the thermals weren’t great so I had no confidence in running the boards in ‘real’ projects through fear of overheating. I’ve got several abandoned FriendlyARM boards here as a result. The NanoPi/NanoPi NEO seem okay and their K2 had some grunt and reasonable thermals (I must dust that off and have another go with it) but just like many of the other Chinese SBC manufacturers, I think sometimes they just wheel out new boards too quickly.

    I will be keeping an eye on this one and will see how you get on rather than doing my usual rushing in and buying one to do my own research (I am an SBC addict).

    Keep us posted, Pete – I’m so glad that you appear to have bounced back healthwise and still have the energy and enthusiasm to maintain such momentum on this site/blog. Cheers!

      1. I find FriendlyArm very open to listening to feedback and I suspect they are going to get plenty of it soon. This board certainly looks interesting – expect more today on this subject. Nice to know that Armbian will presumably soon be added to the list of operating systems the board will handle.

        1. Hi Pete, I’ve got two of the 4GB option and Armbian appears to run very well on these boards – can you tell me how I can connect a serial cable via the pins to one of these UART thingies – I’ve done it on a Ras Pi with a cable from AdaFruit and it works well but I can’t fathom out which pins or indeed what cable I need for one of these.

          Keep up your interesting blog

          Pete Kane

            1. Yes, I believe the UART connectors are sandwiched between the USB ports unlike the pi that use GPIO – so what I should have asked is ! What cable do I need ? There are a lot of them out there some with three wires some with four and all with different colours ( as you can tell I’m no elecrical wizard ) Thanks for replying.

            1. Hi there and thanks for replying, if you see my reply to Pete what I need help with is sourcing the correct cable

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