If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Raspberry Pi Foundation and its Founder Eben Upton should feel flattered . . . again. FriendlyELEC, a lesser-known Chinese board manufacturer, is poised to release a Raspberry Pi clone called the NanoPi R4S.

First spotted by CNX Software in a hidden page on FriendlyELEC’s Wiki, the NanoPi R4S is listed as having dual Ethernet ports and a Rockchip RK3399 Arm CPU that has two 2-GHz Cortex-A72 cores and four 1.5-GHz Coretex-A53 cores, for a total of six cores. It also sports either 1GB of DDR3 or 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and dual USB 3.0 ports, but no form of video-out. So presumably you’ll be controlling it remotely using SSH or VNC.

At 66 x 66 mm, the square-shaped NanoPi R4S is notably smaller than a Raspberry Pi 4 (88 x 58 mm), but actually a little taller than its nearest Pi competitor, the Raspberry Pi 3A (65 x 57mm). It doesn’t have a GPIO like a Raspberry Pi, but it does have a 5-pin header with two I2C and two SPI pins, along with a 3-pin USB 2.0 header and a Debug UART. It gets power via a USB Type-C connection and, like the Raspberry Pi 4, it needs a 5V / 3A power supply.

FriendlyELEC hasn’t officially announced the NanoPi R4S, so we don’t know anything about how much it will cost or when it will ship. However, the company has numerous Raspberry Pi clones already on the market, including the $20 NanoPi NEO3, which we reviewed a few months ago and the $70 NanoPi M4V2, which has the same RK3399 CPU, along with a 40-pin GPIO, HDMI out, a set of PCIe x2 pins and dual CSI camera ports. 

Since the NanoPi R4S uses the same processor as the NanoPi M4V2, it probably will support the same operating systems, which include FriendlyDesktop 18.04 (a port of Ubuntu), Android 10 and Lubuntu 16.04.

Clearly, with no screen and no Wi-Fi and no GPIO, the NanoPi R4S is no Raspberry Pi killer. But depending on what it ends up costing, it could be a solid solution for users looking to build inexpensive home servers.

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