Almost a Decade in the Making Our Fanless Intel i3-N305 2.5GbE Firewall Review

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear

We have been waiting for this for seemingly forever. Today is a day to get excited about as we are finally reviewing an Intel Core i3-N305 based fanless 2.5GbE router and firewall. For a decade, the low-end E-core only CPUs have suffered from paltry performance, four cores, and 1GbE. Today, that changes with what might be the biggest improvement in the space since the Intel Atom C2000 was launched in 2013.

Fanless 4x 2.5GbE Intel Core i3-N305 System Overview

Although we did a combined video for the N100/ N200 version, we have a dedicated video for the Core i3-N305 version of these.

As always, we suggest opening this in its own tab, window, or app for the best viewing experience.

We ended up with two units. The primary unit is from a company called CWWK which is the OEM for many of these systems.

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear Angle 1
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear Angle 1

We also purchased a unit from Topton because it showed a different chassis. The different chassis never shipped, and instead, we got the same chassis as the CWWK unit came with, just with an older H-board for M.2 expansion and a different power supply.

Topton N305 4x 2.5GbE Internal M.2 H Board 1
Topton N305 4x 2.5GbE Internal M.2 H Board 1

There was one enormous difference though. The CWWK one came with a small screwdriver (shown in the video) but also a board with mSATA, M.2, and SATA connections that could be configured via switches.

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Second M.2 Expansion SATA Board Installed
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Second M.2 Expansion SATA Board Installed

CWWK has grand plans for the platform and not only sent us an updated version of that configurable board just before the board went live but also this M.2 to 4x M.2 breakout board.

CWWK M.2 Expansion Board 2 1
CWWK M.2 Expansion Board 2 1

We will discuss those breakout boards a bit more in the Internal Overview section.

Overall, the barebones units are around $300, or about $90-100 more than the N100/N200 platforms. If you want to find affiliate links to the units on AliExpress, here is the CWWK listing and the Topton listing. CWWK also now has an Amazon store where these were listed briefly, and we hope they make a comeback.

Let us get to the hardware.

Fanless 4x 2.5GbE Intel Core i3-N305 External Hardware Overview

On the front of the unit, we get the power button, a recessed G button, and a clear CMOS recessed button. There are two USB ports and despite the superspeed logo, we found they were USB 2.0 ports.

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Front
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Front

The TF card slot is a microSD card slot without the associated licensing fees. There are also two WiFi antenna holes that are in the chassis but covered by plugs.

The chassis itself is one we saw on the Intel Core i5 6x 2.5GbE System by CWWK. It is larger than some of the early systems that we reviewed, but it is designed to better cool systems.

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear Angle 2
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear Angle 2

On the rear, we get many familiar features. There are two USB Type-A ports that we also found were running at USB 2.0 speeds. That seems to be the norm for the N100/N200/N305 systems right now. There are two display outputs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort. We also get the power input and four 2.5GbE (Intel i226-V) ports.

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Rear

The bottom of the system also has another small change. There is now a mesh covering the holes on the bottom of the chassis. We have gone from a solid bottom to having small holes, to larger holes, to now larger holes with mesh over the past 18 months or so in these fanless PCs.

CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Bottom
CWWK N305 4x 2.5GbE Bottom

Next, let us get inside the system.


  1. I promise I’ve been reading. I’ve known for months what a TF slot is. However – WTF is “a recessed G button” ???

  2. @Slash Its what you hit to turn the hot unit on.

    Any hint of these ever coming with ECC? Time for a new few devices but that last bit just seems like it no longer is in play.

  3. This cpu looks to be an amazing powerhouse with a thermal envelope that is reasonable. I have been looking for something like this since the day of the old atoms. Hopefully it ends up in a pot of devices

  4. Looks like where Huawei failed (to conquer network of democratic countries), CWWK is set to continue (at least from the SOHO side). And STH plays nicely along. Yet, a ton of alternatives exists either made in Taiwan (or if this is too close to P.R.C. for you) then even in EU (do not follow domestic makers in USA hence can’t mention that).
    What a pity…

  5. Regarding SATA data connector on H-Board – is on mainboard output for SATA power? And if so, is only 5V for laptop hdd or is also 12V for 3.5″ drives? Thanks

  6. Have you tested these N series processors with more than 16GB of RAM? There are some options in AliExpress offered with up to 32GB but Intel says they only support up to 16GB

  7. KarlG,
    It’s one thing to point out / remind people that networking devices from the P.R.C. might be compromised. It’s far different to accuse Patrick and STH of being complicit on their own site.

  8. If I’m a government trying to get into networks I’m not going after the customers buying $300 devices. I’m going after the Lenovo customers. Dell and HPE’s are made in China as well.

    I don’t know KarelG if you’re not shouting Lenovo is unbuyable by anyone on every website I don’t get what that is all about either like HerbM.

  9. Hello, I would be very interested in the review of the CWWK M.2 Expansion Board 2.1. For me, the ideal configuration is 1x 2.5 Gbit ethernet or 1x SFP+, 2-4x SATA and M.2 Expansion Board 4x NVME.

  10. If the OEM (CWWK?) would offer a CoreBoot BIOS it would help alleviate some of these conspiracy type theories that everything is a target.

  11. Today?

    Protectli have had 2.5Gb ports for a while now. I run one. Tbf, it’s a celeron, but it has more than enough oomph.

  12. I have no reference for CPU power needed for firewalls, are units with this CPU good enough for a 2man household office with bunch of 1gigabit wan traffic and 2.5gbe lan traffic?

  13. @ saeris – This is far in excess of what you would need. My previous gen J4125 is more than adequate and the N100 that replaced it can run the FW and 5-6 small VMs alongside it and still not use more than 10% CPU unless you start using intrusion detection etc.

  14. Would you be able to test the CWWK M2 expansion board in a different mini pc like the beelink pro? I’m really curious if the board would fit in other systems, maybe one that is more actively cooled.

  15. I know I’m a broken record, but how nice it would be if Intel would include vPro Advanced on these chips so that we could get remote controle without having to get an PiKVM. An Aspeed implementation will use too much power (7-9w).

  16. Would you recommend this unit instead of the i5-1235U in the same chassis for a proxmox server running a firewall (PFsense), a media server (PLEX) and a few other apps (Lidarr, Readarr, Sonaar etc) – to be used as a Home server?

  17. HerbM and heinrik: yes, HPE and Dell makes their devices in China too. In comparison with Lenovo and CWWK, their devices are still designed in free countries. Besides this HPE offer some supply-chain danger mitigation tactics — Patrick already wrote about it IIRC year ago or so. Those were special HPE servers build in US IIRC. You both seems to be concern by govs’ infra and leaving consumer infra free to P.R.C. Unfrotnately if large attack happen and your whole country consume infrastracture is in the hand of you r enemy, then well, I can only pray for your gov’s infra build with reliable/trusted components but running over the same cables…
    E.g. when flood happen, nobody is safe and tiping point may be quite close.
    So I would be careful even with simple consumer devices.
    Heck, on some other side you may read about car battery volt-meter made in P.R.C. using Bluetooth and app on Android/iOS to report battery health. This device is perfect spy as it scans wifis around and call back to China with what it found. It’s possible due to app requiring excess permissions for its core business. And that’s just silly device for few bucks. No imagine P.R.C. made EVs, what the hell may go wrong here…
    So be careful.

  18. Could you link to ram that works with this board? Typically manufacturers have a supported ram list, but not even sure how to look this up for these boards.

  19. I’m sorry but any board with the buggy I-225 or I-226 chipset is instantly a blocker. Google the chipset issues if you want to find out more, but they have been trying to fix it for three years now.

  20. Am I the only one furious that these Alder Lake-N CPUs exist, and yet Synology chose ancient Intel and embedded AMD trash for their ’23 refreshes?

  21. Not that anyone cares..

    using an M.2 breakout Adaptor to PCIe 3.0 x4 one can hook up some nice SFP+ Cards..
    in my case an Intel X520-DA2 10 Gigabit 10GBe SFP+

    it wont probably cut the same as a
    provided that the card uses PCIe 2.0 x8

    but still, it adds some dearly missing dual SFP+ connectivity, far superior and more common than 2.5 GbE connectivity..

    It is a great N305 system, superior to the

  22. A few weird items that make me feel off in using these for a firewall:
    – FreeBSD 14.0 and VMWARE 8.0u2 both show the presence of, but difficulty connecting to the TPM 2.0 module. This is a serious red flag for hardware capable of manipulating or snooping on secure traffic keys, such as VPNs and browser SSL
    – Units shipping today still have BIOS containing the LogoFail vulnerability; the company has not published an update to fix this and other major BIOS and ME issues
    – When clicking the CWWK website’s support link, Norton blocks the link due to suspicious activity
    – CWWK neither has non-Chinese language manuals or support sites hosting BIOS and Firmware outside of China. This is a significant software supply chain concern, as the CCP and state-sponsored hacking groups have ongoing access to manipulate software (See Double Dragon, APT41, BARIUM, Axiom, Winnti, Wicked Panda, Wicked Spider, TG-2633, Bronze Atlas, Red Kelpie, Blackfly, Brass Typhoon, … )

  23. Anyone know how to disable the SD reader. I have no idea where else to ask, but it seems that may be a fix for higher than expected iowait, I have gone over each bios setting and cannot see to find anything. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

  24. In case anyone ends up here looking for the same as card solution. I just ended up putting a SD card in the slot and the Iowait went away. Apparently you don’t have to use it just have something in the slot.

  25. I took the recommendation to buy two of these systems and am quite disappointed. Only one of them works properly. One is missing half of its network PCI devices. The support site is horrible–even if you can manage translating the chineese to figure out what is going on.
    The BIOS and UEFI appear broken; many setting changes are not saved. I’ve worked as an engineer for companies that ship servers, so I know my way around, but even I couldn’t figure out how to get this device to work properly. For now I have one sketchy server that works, and one that only half works.


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