OrangePi 4G IoT — review single-board computer for IoT with LTE

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OrangePi 4G IoT. Source: orangepi.org 

On the market came a new board for the Internet of things – OrangePi 4G IoT! In this review, we will take a closer look at the nuances of launching the board, software support and how much the board meets the expectations.

0. Short hardware review

With software support declared Android 6.0, Android Things is not supported. The working image of Linux at the time of writing the article did not exist. This, of course, limits and complicates the use of a board for connecting sensors with interfaces i2c, SPI, 1-Wire, etc.

Hardware specification

Processor MT6737
CPU Quad core ARM® Cortex-A53, Main frequency up to 1.25GHz
GPU • ARM Mali-T720 MP1
Memory 1GB DDR3
Emmc 8GB EMMC Flash
Wireless WIFI / BT / FM / GPS Four in one
Radio frequency GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
WCDMA: B1/B2/B4/B5/B8
TD-CDMA
CDMA2000
FDD-LTE: B1/B2/B3/B4/B7/B17/B20 
TDD-LTE: B38/40/41B
Display HD
Capacitance touch Support
Camera 13M (25pin ZIF Connector)
Accelerometer Sensor Support
IR Control Support (Adapted iDroid remote controller)
Fingerprint Identification Support
SIM Card mini Single SIM Card
TF Card Support hot-plugging
Audio Earphone: For audio input / output
Mic: For audio input 
USB USB Host × 3: Support OTG
Micro USB × 1: Only for writing image 
LED Power Indicator LED:Red
Status Indicator LED: Green
Key Power
HDMI Support
Low-level peripherals 40pin Headers: 1.8V, SPI × 2 , I2C × 3, UART × 2
Power DC : 5V 2A
Battery:Connection through a weld plate
OS Android 6.0
Programming support C、C++、Kotlin、Java、Shell、Pyhon

Interface definition

Size 55mm × 85mm
Weight 43g
Orange Pi is trademark of Shenzhen Xunlong Software CO., Limited

Table 1. Official hardware specifications. Source: orangepi.org

The board slightly exceeded expectations:

Type Specifications
 Declared  Actual
 RAM  1 GB  2 GB
 EMMC  8 GB  16 GB

Table 2. Compare declared and real specifications

All other correspond to the declared. However, and so a good bonus 🙂

 

In comparison with other motherboards of this manufacturer, 4G IoT costs a lot – $ 45 (not including shipping costs), but it is well-founded.

 Type  Name  Wireless     interfaces  Price
 Modem  SIM808  2G  from 15 $
 Modem  SIM7100A  4G/3G  from 10$ (just chip) to 43 $ (board)
 Modem  Sierra Gobi5000 EM7355  4G/3G/2G  from 29$
 Modem  USB modems  4G/3G/2G  от 20$
 Single board   computer  OrangePi 4G IoT  4G/3G/2G, WiFi, Bluetooth  45 $

Table 3. Compare OrangePi 4G IoT with another modules

If we also take into account that when using an external module, add the same components to be equivalent to 4G IoT – we will exit almost at the same price + it is necessary to take into account the availability of software.

 

1. Run board and access to Android using Vysor

1.1 Short introduction

In the official documentation absent part of how to connect to board without display and keyboard. For example, for OrangePi 2G IoT you can use Vysor. But in the documentation for OrangePi 4G IoT micro USB port can be used only for, quote: Only for writing image. Sounds bad. But based on previous experience with specifications, I think, we have some easter eggs for this board.

And indeed it is! Onboard micro USB port has to modes – for firmware and for MTP Device. For change mode just remove J5. I got it experimentally way. Good bonus again 🙂

 J5 Status  Mode
 Set  Firmware
 Remove  MTP Device

Table 4. Micro USB port modes

 

1.2 Install software

Install Mini ADB and Vysor (OS Windows).

 

1.3 Connect to board

By default, on the board must be installed Android 6.0. Check it  – remove J5, connect 4G IoT to USB and press Power Button on five seconds. Wait, when to light up green led. In the system, a new device should appear MTP Device. If not, please wait 8-10 minutes, first run can be a long time.

If after 8-10 minutes board don’t start, then you must flash the firmware. You can see it in the official manual.

Attention! For flash firmware don’t forget set J5 on board!

 

1.4 Driver installation

If device successfully running, in Control Panel a new device appears.

Picture 1. Control Panel

Wait when drivers installed or install manually. Right click on device Android and choose Update Driver Software. 

Next, Browse my computer for driver software-> Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer->Choose MTP USB Device

 

Picture 2. Choose driver

Picture 3. Choose driver

Picture 4. Choose driver

Picture 5. Choose driver

 If driver successfully installed, you must see next in Control Panel:

Picture 6. Successfully driver installation

 

If OrangePi successfully started and driver successfully installed, run Vysor and connect.

 

1.5 Run Vysor and access to Android

Run Vysor and check that device is visible. Then press View. Wait for connection and APK installation.

 

After this, you can connect to Android!

2. Review

2.1 Kernel and Android

It’s an Android 6.0 with patches to 5 May 2017.

Kernel version is 3.18.19

 

2.2 CPU, RAM, EMMC – CPU-Z

Added screenshots from CPU-Z. RAM – 2GB, EMMC – 16 GB! Not bad)

 

2.3 WiFi and 4G

I can’t test 4G now but tested WiFi interface. And WiFi on Orange Pi 4G IoT support 5GHz!

 

2.4 Additional functionality

OrangePi 4G IoT has microphone and IR sensor on board, but I couldn’t test it. But in Android, I found FM Radio application and it works. But don’t know any real case, wherein IoT need the radio 🙂

Also, the board has HDMI, but it realized using external chip LT8912B and haven’t a driver. In my test, I couldn’t connect my monitor to this board.

Capacitance touch sensor, Fingerprint Identification, Accelerometer Sensor, and GPS – very interesting points, but it necessary external components.

 

3. Conclusion

OrangePi 4G IoT has a very interesting hardware specification. Android support – good variant for development but for IoT it’s a not popular as a Linux. Android Things doesn’t support this single-board computer, so need to realize some functions for i2c, SPI, and GPIO on Android yourself or transfer from Android Things. 

It’s a very interesting variant for IoT with support 4G/3G/2G networks and 5GHz WiFi. If you planning work with video/audio streams or in your country unavailable 2G networks or you Android developer, who want create something for IoT – OrangePi IoT 4G will be a good choice. But for simple meteorology stations or solutions which not require very speed internet or powerful CPU and RAM – it will be an expensive board. OrangePi have more another cheaper single-boards with Linux and Android support for this cases.

P.S. If you have questions or wishes – just write it in comments!

Updates after 28 July 2018.

After upgrade to Android 8.1 RAM – 1 GB, storage – 8 GB. Fantastic)

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