Jetson Nano: Getting Started

Jetson Nano

The demand for edge computing is increasing significantly in my projects recently. I decided to buy the Jetson Nano to do some experiments at home. I’m going to detail all you need to start playing with this fun device.

1. Introduction

Nvidia describe their device as “NVIDIA® Jetson Nano™ Developer Kit is a small, powerful computer that lets you run multiple neural networks in parallel for applications like image classification, object detection, segmentation, and speech processing. All in an easy-to-use platform that runs in as little as 5 watts”.

Here is the configuration of the device:

CPUQuad-core ARM A57 @ 1.43 GHz
GPU128-core Maxwell
Memory4 GB 64-bit LPDDR4 25.6 GB/s
StoragemicroSD (you have to buy it)
Video Encode4K @ 30
Video Decode4K @ 60
Camera1x MIPI CSI-2 DPHY lanes
ConnectivityGigabit Ethernet, M.2 Key E
DisplayHDMI 2.0 and eDP 1.4
USB4x USB 3.0, USB 2.0 Micro-B
Dimensions100 mm x 80 mm x 29 mm

The CPU/GPU is actually a Tegra X1 SOC that is similar to what the Jetson X1 was using. Regarding the software stack, Nvidia developed NVIDIA JetPack SDK. It includes several tools like Cuda (for developing codes on Nvidia GPUs), cuDNN (optimized library to run deep neural networks on Nvidia GPUs), TensorRT (optimize tensorflow/pytorch neural networks models for inference on Nvidia GPUs), VisionWorks (various tools and computer vision examples) and NVIDIA L4T, the OS. L4T is based on Ubuntu 18.04, with a GUI that facilitate the visualizations.

One difficult point that you might have is the lack of support for Docker. You will be able to run containers but the GPU is not easily accessible. They are working on it.

2. Preparing the Hardware

Let’s start by looking at the hardware. For my use, I’m planning to run some deep learning models. On Nvidia Jetson products family you can use TensorRT to optimize your models. But it needs some memory to do this and the 4Gb memory of this device is quite tight. So I will create some swap. Also I need to store the public dataset to run some tests. For those reasons, I choose a 128Gb sd card and an external HDD. The SOC

Here is what I’m using:

  1. The development kit itself
  2. Intel 8265 AC for the Wifi and Antenna Intel 7265 ngw (can also use the Ethernet port)
  3. A fan Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V + Screws M3 x 12 mm (need 4) (optional)
  4. A Raspberry pi power supply (you might reach some power limitations, see note below)
  5. Samsung EVO Plus micro SDHC Card 128 Gb (cat 3, for faster writings/readings)

Adding to this, you will need also the regular (usb) mouse, keyboard and HDMI cable to plug the device to a display (that you need also…).

This fan is quite hard to install and you will have to reverse it (see pictures in the introduction). Which exposes the blades… But it keeps the heat-sink very cool.


  • I had some issues with the mini-usb power supply. In this setting, the Jetson is not able to provide enough power to the usb ports. There are 2 solutions: switching to the 5W power mode (explained in this article in “4. After Installation”) or using the jack power connector.
    In this case you will need:
    4a. Universal AC adapter 4A 5V
    4b. 1 Jumper 2.54mm on “J48” to switch the power Jumper on J48

  • The Jetson Nano has a MIPI CSI camera connector. So it means you can buy a regular “raspbery pi camera” and it will work.

3. Preparing the Software

Now your hardware is set. You have to download the JetPack SDK (5.2Gb): JetPack

Once the download is finished, Nvidia recommends a nice tool: BalenaEtcher. This tool allows you to write the JetPack SDK on your SD card very easily.

You can download Etcher on their website: balenaEtcher - Home

If you’re using a debian based OS, you can check on their github[1].

  1. Add Etcher to your repositories:
echo "deb stable etcher" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/balena-etcher.list
  1. Trust’s GPG key:
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 379CE192D401AB61
  1. Update and install:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install balena-etcher-electron

Once Ether is installed on your system, you can insert your SD card in your reader and start writing the JetPack image your just downloaded: Jumper on J48 Figure 1: Click on Select image to load the JetPack zip file you just downloaded

Jumper on J48 Figure 2: You don’t have to extract the archive. Load it as it is.

Jumper on J48 Figure 3: Make sure the device on which the image will be written is your SD card by clicking on Change. Here I’m using a 16Gb but my Jetson Nano is running on a 128Gb.

Jumper on J48 Figure 4: Here you can confirm that this is our SD card. Click on Continue. Then click on Flash to start writing the files.

Jumper on J48 Figure 5: Now you just have to wait.

Once it’s finished, you can insert your SD card into the Jetson Nano slot. It can be a bit tricky to find it. The figure 6 is showing it.

You’re now all set. You can plug the HDMI cable, your mouse, keyboard and finally the power supply (mini-sub in my case). Once your device is running and everything loaded correctly, you will be asked a few questions:

  1. Review and accept NVIDIA Jetson software EULA
  2. Select system language, keyboard layout, WiFi and time zone
  3. Create a username, password, and computer name
  4. Wait about 3min30 for installation
  5. Log in

Before starting anything, it might be good to update everything:

    sudo apt update

4. After Installation

There are few things you might want to setup before starting to play with the device. I’m listing my own here.

  • Switching the Jetson 5W power mode:

    sudo nvpmodel -m 1

  • 10W (default and higher performance):

    sudo nvpmodel -m 0

  • Setting python 3 as the default version:

    sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/python python /usr/bin/python3 10

  • Installing pip:

    curl -o

  • And pipenv:

    pip install pipenv


[1] Install Etcher on debian based OS: balena-io/etcher

comments powered by Disqus