DIY Projects

#Test: unpacking Orange Pi Lite, installing Armbian with WiFi, keyboard, screen configuration

The Orange Pi Lite is a very cheap small computer board that comes to compete with the Raspberry Pi Zero. Many Linux distributions (Armbian, Raspbian, Android …) can be installed. It is not as compact as the Raspberry Pi Zero but it offers 2 USB ports, WiFi or Ethernet connectivity (Model One) and most importantly it can be obtained quite quickly from China. The Orange Pi Lite is a small computer board very well adapted to projects of objects connected by its small size, its low consumption, its GPIO and its WiFi connectivity. It can be used for example to make a surveillance camera (a next project). In tutorial, we will prepare the SD board with an Armbian distribution adapted to its configuration.

Orange Pi Lite or Orange Pi One

The great strength of Orange Pi is to have known how to decline its mini-computers board according to the applications. The difference between Pi One and Pi Lite lies in connectivity. The Pi One offers an Ethernet connection while the Lite offers a Wi-Fi connection. In the table below, you can compare these two models compared to the Raspberry Pi Zero. It is actually the model that comes closest in terms of compactness and gross power.

Orange Pi Lite Orange Pi One Raspberry Pi Zero W
CPU H3 Quad-core Cortex-A7@1.2GHz H3 Quad-core Cortex-A7@1.2GHz Broadcom BCM2835@1GHz
GPU Mali400MP2@600MHz Mali400MP2@600MHz
Memory 512 Mo DDR3 512 Mo DDR3 512 Mo LPDDR2
USB 2.0 2 1 0
Micro USB (OTG) 1 1 1
Video Output HDMI (HDCP) HDMI (HDCP) mini HDMI 1080p60
Video Input 1x CSI*

max. 1080p@30fps

1x CSI*

max. 1080p@30fps

Yes, from v1.3
Audio Output via HMDI via HDMI No
Audio Input Micro Micro No
WiFi Yes No Yes for PiZero W

For old models, use WiFi USB dongle or this (in french)

Ethernet No 10/100M RF45 No, USB adaptor 
Led Power, status Power, status Power, status
GPIO 40 Pins

compatible B+

40 Pins

compatible B+

40 Pins


Alimentation 5V, 3A max. 5V, 3A max. 5V micro-USB OTG
Dimensions 69mm × 48mm x 17mm 69mm × 48mm x 17mm 65mm x 30mm x 5mm
Poids 60g 36g

(shipping cost)

Aliexpress: €12 (about €3.50) 

Banggood: €19.20 (free)

GearBest: €16.08 (free)

Aliexpress: €9.60 (ship about €3.50)

Banggood: €17.90 (free)

GearBest: €15.15 (free)

About $28 in a pack

(*) Connector not compatible with cameras for Raspberry Pi.

The Orange Pi Lite (or One) is a bit less compact but in the end if you have to add WiFi or Ethernet to the Raspberry Pi Zero it is not obvious that the Zero wins. Side power, without making benchmark, impossible to pronounce, but on paper the OrangePi is more powerful than Raspberry Pi.

Top view of the Orange Pi Lite board

Below side. The CSI connector of the camera is located opposite the SD board reader. There is also the second module of 256MB of Ram DDR3.

Source of the pictures :

Unpacking Orange Pi Lite

Orange Pi ships its boards in a small soft card box. The board is simply packed in an electrostatic shock bag. The costs of postage on Alipress are chargeable but in return we have a follow-up (some time with insurance). I received my board in about 2 weeks (excluding Christmas period). I ordered a 5V @ 3A transformer and an 8GB SD board (class 10) at the same time.

Click to enlarge

Which distribution to install?

As we saw in the previous article, the organization Orange Pi offers numerous distributions for its boards. This is a good thing but the proposed distributions are often rather heavy (they usually contain a graphic office). It’s great if you’re just starting out with Linux, but if you want to keep control over the size of your system, it’s best to start on Armbian who specializes in preparing images for ARM mini-board computers .

Can you use the SD board of a Raspnberry Pi?

NO, impossible, the architecture is totally different. You must start with an OrangePi or Armbian image.

Find the Armbian distribution for Orange Pi

Armbian offers ready-to-use distributions for virtually every mini computer manufacturer. Armbian also offers a command line utility (CLI) to “make” its own image. Unless you need a very recent or very special board, you should find your happiness on the site of Armbian.

Go to the download tab and choose the type of microprocessor to filter the boards

Finally go to the page that corresponds to yours. In the case of this article, we will go on the Orange Pi Lite. Two distributions (in general) are proposed. The version includes a desktop and a light version that only has the command prompt (server version). If you’re new to Linux, go for the Desktop version. If you have a project that does not require a graphical interface (programming in Scratch, Internet browsing …), choose the Desktop version. On average, the server image weighs 300 MB and the Desktop image is 650 MB.

Preparing the SD board

The preparation of the SD board is absolutely identical to that of a Raspberry. The easiest way is to use Etcher as I have already presented in this article. After recovering the Armbian image, unzip it there. Run Etcher, enter the path to the image, the SD board and press Flash! It only takes a few minutes for the operation to proceed.

Connect the Orange Pi to a TV (if DVI does not work)

All Orange Pi models offer HDMI HDCP output. For me, that was the first difficulty to overcome. Indeed, I use in old Dell 24 ” monitor that I usually connect to my Raspberry Pi 3 using an HDMI/DVI adapter. With the Raspberry Pi 3, it’s plug and play, but for the Orange Pi, it does not work, whatever the distribution installed. The only alternative is to plug the Orange Pi into a relatively new monitor or TV. In my case, I used an Optoma video projector because the image was cropped on my television. Not easy to use the terminal when you do not see what is requested. Finish the installation, we’ll see how to change the video configuration a bit further.

First start: root password and creation of the main user

Now that the SD board is ready, connect the Orange Pi to a compatible display (a recent TV) and insert the SD board into the player. Plug in a keyboard. Connect the power supply and press the small switch located next to the jack. A small green LED indicates power-up. The first startup is longer because it incorporates a configuration phase. At the end of the startup, you are at the login prompt. By default, the user is root and the password is 1234.

Once identified, Armbian prompts you to change the root user password. Change it, but do not forget that your keyboard is still configured in QWERTY!

Then Armbian asks you the name of the primary user. If you are used to using a Raspberry, why not create a user pi also. You will then need to enter the password (note the QWERTY keyboard). A series of questions (optional) are then asked: full name, email …

DVI compatible video configuration

After creating the user account, Armbian suggests you change the video configuration. If you want to connect your Orange Pi to a DVI monitor, now is the time to properly configure the video output. Accept by pressing ‘Y’.

Depending on the Orange Pi used, the video formats may differ. For the Lite here is what it is possible to choose

480i	use "-m 480i" or "-m 0"
576i	use "-m 576i" or "-m 1"
480p	use "-m 480p" or "-m 2"
576p	use "-m 576p" or "-m 3"
720p50	use "-m 720p50" or "-m 4"
720p60	use "-m 720p60" or "-m 5"
1080i50	use "-m 1080i50" or "-m 6"
1080i60	use "-m 1080i60" or "-m 7"
1080p24	use "-m 1080p24" or "-m 8"
1080p50	use "-m 1080p50" or "-m 9"
1080p60	use "-m 1080p60" or "-m 10"
1080p25	use "-m 1080p25" or "-m 11"
1080p30	use "-m 1080p30" or "-m 12"
1080p24_3d	use "-m 1080p24_3d" or "-m 13"
720p50_3d	use "-m 720p50_3d" or "-m 14"
720p60_3d	use "-m 720p60_3d" or "-m 15"
1080p24_3d	use "-m 1080p24_3d" or "-m 23"
720p50_3d	use "-m 720p50_3d" or "-m 24"
720p60_3d	use "-m 720p60_3d" or "-m 25"
1080p25	use "-m 1080p25" or "-m 26"
1080p30	use "-m 1080p30" or "-m 27"
4kp30	use "-m 4kp30" or "-m 28"
4kp25	use "-m 4kp25" or "-m 29"
800x480	use "-m 800x480" or "-m 31"
1024x768	use "-m 1024x768" or "-m 32"
1280x1024	use "-m 1280x1024" or "-m 33"
1360x768	use "-m 1360x768" or "-m 34"
1440x900	use "-m 1440x900" or "-m 35"
1680x1050	use "-m 1680x1050" or "-m 36"

The desired format is indicated to the command. Either in the explicit format, for example -m 1280×1024, or by the number – m 33. If you are using an HDMI to DVI converter, you have to specify it with the -d parameter, which gives for example

h3disp -m 33 -d

Restart (sudo reboot) to take the configuration into account.

Note. Use the h3disp command at any time to change the video configuration.

After updating the system with the apt-get upgrade command, the display is likely to be reset. It will be necessary to re-run the command h3disp with the -d option to return to normal. For that, use a SSH connexion.

Configuring the keyboard in your language

To change the keyboard, you must be logged in as root. If this is not the case, run

su -

You will be prompted for the root password (created in the previous step).

Now run the following command

dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration

Go to the bottom of the list and choose Other. In the list that appears, go to your language (french in this case) and validate.

Then the type of keyboard used. Left everything by default for most keyboards.

Restart the Orange Pi with sudo reboot to take the changes into account.

Enable Orange Pi Lite WiFi Connection

The Orange Pi Lite has only a WiFi connection. This is the main difference with his sister (or his brother as you want) that it has only one Ethernet port.

The configuration is really simple with the Armbian distribution. Open the interface configuration file

sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces

And configure the connection like this. Do not forget to comment on the allow-hotplug line so that the WiFi connection is activated as soon as the system starts up.

# Wireless adapter #1
allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
        wpa-ssid "SSID"
        wpa-psk "WIFI_PASSWORD"

Log in SSH to Orange Pi Lite

The Orange Pi Lite is very well adapted to realize projects of connected objects, it will not necessarily be connected to a screen and a keyboard. Instead, it will be integrated into a project. To connect, nothing better than an SSH secure connection. Good news, with the Armbian distribution, once the WiFi is activated, one can directly access its Orange from another computer using any SSH client. To learn more about the SSH connection, I refer you to this article.

Useful links

Orange Pi Comparison Chart

  • Model
  • SoC
  • RAM
  • eMMC storage
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • GPRS
  • FCC/CE certificated
  • Connector (!not compatible with Raspberry Pi)
  • Misc
  • Best prices

Other tutorials based on Orange Pi Lite


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