Tiny Quad Core Module Available Soon

We get a lot of new product announcements here at Hackaday, and we run across even more. As excited as a manufacturer might be about their latest Raspberry Pi killer or cheaper Arduino clone, we usually don’t have much to say about new products unless there is something really interesting about them. Our attention was piqued though when we saw the Neutis N5. Shipping in April, the device packs a quad-core ARM processor running at 1.3 GHz with 8 GB of flash memory and 512 MB of RAM, has an extended temperature range, WiFi (802.11N), and Bluetooth (including BLE). There’s also a crypto chip, and all this is packed into a tiny package. Really tiny. Less than 41×30 mm square and less than 4.5 mm thick. There’s a Debian-based distribution and a development board. Oh and the really interesting thing is the price, which is $49 in single quantities.

Some of the I/O ports are multiplexed, but there are plenty of options including audio, Ethernet, HDMI, USB, and more. They clearly mean for these to be put into products. The module claims UL and CE certification, each unit has a unique serial number, and there is a gang programming capability.

For comparison purposes, an SD card is 32 mm x 24 mm and not quite as thick (2.1 mm). So the N5 is a little larger, but not by much. A Raspberry Pi is huge by comparison at just under 86 mm x 57 mm. Even a Pi Zero is 65 mm x 30 mm.

Admittedly we haven’t seen one of these yet, and everything always looks good on paper. Still, if it lives up to its promise it could give a run for the money to the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone markets. Especially if you are trying to build it into something.

We have seen lots of cheaper or smaller Pi killers, like the Orange Pi. If you want to go the opposite direction on the price and performance scale, there is always try the HiKey 290.

43 thoughts on “Tiny Quad Core Module Available Soon

  1. The position of the 2 DF40 connector seems to be compatible with other SoC, but I can’t remenber which. Any info about that ?
    In a way, it could be the “new” Edison, so maybe can be very interresting

    1. There’s a family of Freescale/NXP I.MX-based CoMs that have an Edison-compatible connector plus two more DF40-70s carrying other signals. This is similarly designed, but not even the same number of pins (80 each vs 70 each) and unrelated layout.

    1. Exactly. I read until Allwinner, which means I had to read nearly the complete page, because they obviously didn’t want to shout it from the rooftops that it’s an Allwinner H5.

      Thanks, but not thanks. I don’t buy anything from Allwinner anymore.

  2. As an embedded board with no ports on it, it isn’t competing with the regular Raspberry Pi, it is competing with the Raspberry Pi Compute module 3. It has double the eMMC but half the RAM, and other similar differences in specifications, at a higher price point.

    Like the Raspberry Pi Compute modules, It isn’t usable without either a development kit or a custom PCB.

    1. If you want to do anything significant, I find even headless servers see 512MB as about half what it should be in general.

      Even on more efficient 32bit systems, the “>1GB RAM per GHz per CPU core” rule seems to still define “good-enough” desktop class devices with minimal resource waste. The pi2/3 with 1GB RAM is always just a little bit of a squeeze for media applications, but it has set the markets “minimum specification” expected for these SOM devices.

      It is not really the hardware, but the fact modern bloat in apps like browsers can be larger than the OS footprint. I like that VLC with hardware acceleration works in midori on Pi3, but a minimum OS still eats about 650MB of system memory on youtube…. and nobody is maintaining the ad-blocker since 2014.
      This trend unfortunately suggests that the minimal efficient ram-footprint user-programs tend to become deprecated, and by the time someone gets around to fixing things the hardware is out of date.

      Maybe I am missing something here, but I have a pile of older 512MB ARM6 modules (now cost $5/pc) that are limited to basic networking tasks, as the user interfaces are too annoying for human users.

      1. yes, since everyone expects to throw on a fully fledged linux distro with all the bells and whistles. i know this is “affordable” right now, but we end up having folks running around with SoCs doing 1×1 tasks running from a 8Gig uSD card. it does certainly help to get things going, but it became the standard and everything is bloated now.

  3. HDMI included, but no LVDS or MIPI DSI interface? This is something that a lot of these new modules get wrong. If your goal is to get customers to build these into their products, give them interfaces they need for building their products. HDMI is useful for set-top boxes, but chances are, people aren’t building set-top boxes.

    Along that thought, one of the most annoying things about the RPi3 Compute Module is that it breaks out the DSI pins, but there is absolutely zero documentation on it and it is only compatible with the official display.

  4. As a component which can’t be used on its own,it’s outside the scope of CE marking and should not have a CE mark.
    I believe the provision of an antenna connector ( i.e.not an integrated antenna ) also means that a finished product using it would need full RF testing for CE marking for Europe.

  5. 3.3v how many amps for idle, and when using wifi and under load?

    While it gives a temperature operating range, given my SoC’s have been coming with heat sinks, wonder how quickly it’ll throttle to keep below 85C and wondering how quickly ’til they release a big heat sink.

    $49 but how much for the dev board?

    1. The H5 gets hot pretty quickly, if they haven’t coupled the SoC to the metal shield with some good thermal-conducting material this thing is going to be throttling pretty much all the freaking time and no external heatsink can fix that.

  6. all of us out here know that is a bull*hit whe we read “1.3 GHz” about H5. just marketing bull*hit.
    with 8 GB of flash memory. Ok but “normal”
    and 512 MB of RAM. ok but “normal”
    WiFi (802.11N), and Bluetooth (including BLE). ok but “normal”
    There’s also a crypto chip, good.
    and all this is packed into a tiny package. Really tiny. Less than 41×30 mm square and less than 4.5 mm thick. good
    There’s a Debian-based distribution and a development board. good
    Oh and the really interesting thing is the price, which is $49 in single quantities. WTF?!?!?
    dude, you have your particular concept of “interesting”.
    PS don’t forget the cost to add the “carrier” to allow to that module to be usable.

    i stay to 40×52 mm board nanopineo plus2. 35$
    all of above but with 1GB ram, H5, wifi/bluetooth, 8GB, no crypto chip (i dont need it).

  7. I’m looking for an easily embeddable CPU of some sort for a stand alone audio system. At first this seemed like a possibility but as I kept reading comments it seems like a bit of a disappointment. I may just have to go with a fully custom MCU board like I was planning instead of an MPU and skip Linux. The real problem is all the good processors use BGA so I’ve been looking for something small like this to get around that issue. Closest I’ve found is the VoCore2 though the documentation is a bit sketchy.

  8. I was also interested until I saw the allwinner. I’ll stick the the Pi Zero W for now. The crypto is the nice. My issue with the Pi is keeping my code secret. The Pi Compute Module is nice but then I lose the wireless.

      1. On the Pi it is as simple as taking the SD Card and mounting it. Atleast on with the other system it could be a little more difficult. Code could be run from the eMMC and the executable decrypted via a code stored in crypto. With the Pi someone could easily by a Pi and just copy my SD card. I’ll be adding some sort of EEPROM to assist in verifying authenticity on the Pi.

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