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NVIDIA Jetson Nano: A Feature-Packed Arm Developer Kit For $99 USD

One of the most interesting announcements out of NVIDIA’s 2019 GTC conference is the introduction of the Jetson Nano, NVIDIA’s latest Arm developer board featuring a Tegra SoC. This developer board is very different from the past Jetson boards in that it’s aiming for a very affordable price point: just $99 USD.

NVIDIA Jetson developer boards have historically been several hundred dollars or in the case of the latest high-performance offering, the Jetson AGX Xavier commands a $1,299 USD price. The Jetson Nano will retail for just $99 USD though obviously the performance won’t match that of the AGX Xavier. The Jetson Nano Developer Kit is passively cooled but there is a 4-pin fan header on the PCB and screw holes on the aluminum heatsink if you want to mount a fan for better cooling.

With this low-cost Jetson board, the Nano is using a Tegra chip similar to what was found in the Jetson TX1 a few years back. This Tegra X1 SoC has a quad-core Cortex-A57 processor and 128-core NVIDIA Maxwell graphics… Not nearly as interesting as the X2 or AGX Xavier, but still not bad considering the SoCs usually found in sub-$100 Arm developer boards.

The Jetson Nano also offers 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, Gigabit Ethernet, 12 MIPI lanes, four USB ports, and can drive up to two simultaneous displays. These features and the Maxwell graphics easily put the Nano’s capabilities well ahead of most (or even all?) Arm developer boards hitting for the sub-$100 market. One of the benefits in using the older Tegra X1 design is that the open-source Linux kernel support is in better shape than the just-released SoCs and there is even the open-source Tegra Maxwell graphics support within the Nouveau driver stack.

Unlike the higher-end Jetson boards featuring eMMC storage, the Jetson Nano relies upon a microSD card for storage. The connectivity on the developer kit includes four USB 3.0 Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, 40-pin header, MIPI CSI camera connector, micro-SD slot, M.2 WiFi slot, and Gigabit Ethernet. That’s one of the shortcuts on this board is there is no integrated WiFi but does require an external card if you are interested in wireless connectivity.

The Jetson Nano supports CUDA, TensorRT, and the other software components of the higher-end Jetson boards; the same JetPack software runs on the Nano. The “Linux 4 Tegra” on the Jetson Nano targets Ubuntu 18.04 LTS though we have seen other Linux distributions add support for other Jetson boards too.

Overall, the Jetson Nano is quite a compelling product at $99 USD and we’ve had it in our lab for a few days to deliver some preliminary benchmark results.


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