Over the past few weeks, the new pfSense CE 2.6.0 was released and that has allowed us to more directly use a machine we purchased some time ago. There is an inexpensive 4x 2.5GbE Intel i225 (B3) machine out there that now works with pfSense. OS support as a whole is not overly mature, but we have had Ubuntu running on these as well. It seems like now might be the time it is possible to upgrade to an inexpensive 2.5GbE firewall. Let us get into the box, and what it offers.
Inexpensive 4x 2.5GbE Fanless Router Firewall Box Review
We actually have a little video accompanying this one where we go into the experience, as well as discussing how it compares to an ISP-provided router and WiFi unit. You can find the video here:
As always, we suggest opening this in its own YouTube tab, window, or app for a better viewing experience.
The box itself goes by many names. Here is the unit we have on Amazon (affiliate link) and we will note it was quite pricey for the 8GB/ 256GB configuration. We would only recommend getting that much storage and memory if you have a good reason for a box, but since we wanted to use it with Linux as well until pfSense support arrived, we used the extra capacity.
The tricky part is that the same motherboard at the heart of this system gets used in many systems with different exteriors. We ordered the less expensive Topton version with a larger heatsink chassis via AliExpress, but that is making a slow journey being dragged across the Pacific Ocean, seemingly via a lobster.
We also have a few more of these smaller heatsink units, but our best advice is to look at the USB, VGA, and HDMI side to ensure it is this motherboard. Also, you will want to ensure you get the same revision of the Intel i225 NICs and likely the Intel Celeron J4125 as we did. Then it is a matter of cost. Let us now get to that hardware to see what we got.
Inexpensive 4x 2.5GbE Fanless Router Firewall Box Hardware Overview
Let us just start with the star of the show. This palm-sized box (you can see it in my hand in the video) has four ports, ETH0-ETH3. Each is a 2.5GbE port, a big upgrade over the previous generation 1GbE models that many of our STH readers use. We also get status LEDs and a 12V DC input on this side.
The other side has the power button. Our unit was configured to turn on immediately on AC power which is always nice. We also have two USB 3 ports, a HDMI port, and a VGA port. This unit does not have out-of-band management, and that is a good thing.
A quick note is that there is also a reset switch and there are two covers for WiFi antenna holes. We usually would not recommend WiFi in this box, and instead simply tell our readers to use dedicated APs. If you are spending a few hundred dollars on a firewall, then most likely you have dedicated WiFi APs as well.
The chassis is not completely closed, there are actually air vents on the side.
Cooling, however, is provided by the metal chassis with the small heatsink on the top. This unit absolutely sipped power, with most of our usage in the single-digit watts range.
The processor is an Intel Celeron J4125 quad-core CPU with a 2.0GHz base and a 2.7GHz turbo clock. It is part of the Gemini Lake Refresh series of CPUs. Since this is an Atom part, it has a paltry maximum TDP of 10W.
Inside the system, we have a few components. One that we are not going to talk about much is that there is a SATA data and power setup, and one can mount a 2.5″ drive to the lid. We instead have a mSATA drive.
Here is a shot of the inside of the system. The NICs are Intel i225-V SLNMH units and that means they are stepping B3. Earlier steppings of the i225 necessitated new steppings for stability.
Here we can see the single 8GB DDR4 SODIMM and our 256GB SSD. Again, this is overkill for most pfSense or OPNsense appliances, but if you want to run Linux, then it may make sense.
One can also see a SIM card slot and a slot for a WiFi card. Again, we suggest simply just getting external WiFi here.
Next, let us get to the software.