Banana Pi M5 Pro Quick Review

My old ODROID-U3 has been giving me quite some headaches. Its old USB 2.0 ports and 100Mbps Ethernet port are also very limiting in 2023. Its power supply is not the best (not an uncommon issue with HardKernel’s products, certainly not uncommon among the older generation of single board computers). A hardware upgrade is therefore necessary.

I don’t really use it for anything else other than a humble home server to stream videos, music, and sometimes photos. Generally used as a private file share system at home. I already bought an 1 TB USB 3.0 HDD, so I definitely need a device that supports USB 3.0 at least. To not have a limiting network I/O, it should also have 1Gbps Ethernet port.

Why not buying a popular Raspberry Pi 4? Well, I tried, but it’s out of stock everywhere. That’s why I turned to its alternatives, initially I was going to buy another HardKernel’s ODROID product, but its pricing in Europe is just way too high than the price on its website. Unfortunately, (not sure if this has anything to do with Brexit), there is a minimum order requirement to ship to the UK. I’m building a cluster or something, so looking again…

Ta-da! I found Banana Pi, the name is a bit.. knock-off, and the manufacturer is in China, I’ll let you connect the dots. Banana Pi M5 is not the newest model, but it’s comparable to Raspberry Pi 4 and ticks all of my boxes. Long story short, I bought it from Ali-Express where it’s much cheaper than Amazon or other local retailers here. They were also running some sales on bundles, so I ended up buying it with a metal case, yet paying less.

On paper, it provides even better performance than Raspberry Pi 4! More importantly, it’s readily available! One thing I did pay extra attention to is the availability of upstream Linux images, having suffered quite a bit there with HardKernel’s products. Thankfully, Banana Pi has Armbian support (rated platinum for Banana Pi M5, whatever platinum means). To save even few more pennies, it comes with an onboard 16GB eMMC storage!

It’s been faithfully serving its purpose on the shelf next to the router for a couple of weeks now. Reliable little machine that’s fast and responsive! If you’re thinking of buying a single-board computer like Raspberry Pi, but couldn’t find available stocks, Banana Pi might fit in.

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