Two Intel Core i7 Fanless 6x 2.5GbE Firewalls Surprisingly Different

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Two 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Options 1
Two 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Options 1

Today we are going to have an unusual piece for STH; we are going to have a double century of a review. We will look at not one but two Intel Core i7-1165G7 fanless firewalls as part of our recent series. Normally we like to do reviews of single products, but this time we have a review of two units at once because they are largely similar, yet with a few important features different between them.

STH Mini PC Overview

The two units we purchased from different Topton vendors via AliExpress over the summer. We were actually going to have a review of the first one before the second came out, and we held the review for that one. Then early August hit (the second was ordered in late July), and our team was on vacation. As a result, we have an accompanying video with a twist. This video also covers a third unit. Here is the video:

The video goes into these two units and the Intel Pentium N6005 version. The common thread is that they all have 6x 2.5GbE ports on them. Expect the accompanying N6005 review to be in the next few weeks. As always, we suggest opening this in its own browser, tab, or app for the best viewing experience.

Three 6x 2.5GbE I225 Options Intel Core I7 1165G7 And N6005 2
Three 6x 2.5GbE I225 Options Intel Core I7 1165G7 And N6005 2

We purchased these two Topton units at different points this summer. The first one was $539, the second was $525. The prices for both were as barebones units.

The systems we outfit with lower-cost, but more importantly, lower-power WD Blue SN570 NVMe SSDs. If you see Will’s review of that drive, it is not a fast SSD, but it remains cooler than higher-end drives in the market. Typically in fanless systems, we aim for lower power and heat than higher performance.

6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good WD NVMe SSD Installed 1
6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good WD NVMe SSD Installed 1

We also added DIMMs. While usually, we like testing 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB with these, we had two primary configurations. One was a 16GB configuration, and the other was a 12GB configuration. Some of the questions we have received on these units are if they can handle mixed-memory. So we used two DDR4-3200 DIMMs but one 4GB and one 8GB. The system worked fine. While one can theoretically use 2x 32GB in these systems, that adds more DRAM chips and heat, so we wanted to stay away from that configuration.

Next, let us get to the units to see what they are capable of.

6x 2.5GbE Intel Core i7-1165G7 Firewall Hardware Overview

We are going to call this unit the “Good” unit and the other the “Less Good” unit. As you can see from the front of the Good one, we have four USB 3 ports, a HDMI port, and a serial console port.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Front USB Console HDMI 1
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Front USB Console HDMI 1

The less good version has the same layout because, as we will see soon, these have the same motherboards inside.

6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good Front USB Console And HDMI
6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good Front USB Console And HDMI

Here is the other side of the good unit. We can see a DC12V input and six 2.5GbE RJ45 ports.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Rear DC Inputs And 6x RJ45 Ports 3
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Rear DC Inputs And 6x RJ45 Ports 3

That is the same on the less good unit.

6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good Rear DC Input And 6x RJ45
6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good Rear DC Input And 6x RJ45

These units were both sold as Topton units, but they were very different in terms of the chassis. The one we are calling the good unit can be identified by this through hole on the side of the chassis:

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Rear Chassis Side
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Rear Chassis Side

After weighing the units, this one was just over 13% heavier than the less good unit. The AliExpress Topton sellers claim better cooling. Some users in the forums have reported things like gaps between the CPUs and chassis on other units. (See the thread here.) While consistency can be quite varied, the newer system being 13% heavier is likely due to more mass on the chassis since the motherboards are the same. That extra mass seems to help with cooling, and that is the big reason we say that one is better than the other.

Next, let us get inside the systems to see what is going on there.

6x 2.5GbE Intel Core i7-1165G7 Firewall Internal Hardware Overview

One other big chassis difference is the bottom cover. Four screws allow you to get inside the systems, but the bottom covers are different. Here is the good unit.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal Overview With Lid Rubber Feet Side
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal Overview With Lid Rubber Feet Side

Not only are there perforations on the bottom cover, but many of them are covered by mesh. One can still access the 2.5″ drive mounting holes on this cover without the mesh, but if you did add a 40mm fan, it would require removing or modifying this mesh. Still, we have seen similar covers in the past without this mesh.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal Overview With Lid Mesh Side
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal Overview With Lid Mesh Side

The less good unit has a smaller cover, and the cover does not have as much airflow.

6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good Internal Overview With Bottom Lid
6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good Internal Overview With Bottom Lid

Here is the overall layout of the unit’s internal configuration starting with the good unit.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal Overview
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal Overview

The less good unit has the same motherboard inside. Given that this is the same between the two, other than where the CR2032 battery is placed, we are going to just use the good platform for the rest of this.

6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good M.2
6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Less Good M.2

Inside we have two SODIMM slots. These are DDR4-3200 SODIMM slots. Again, we used 16GB and 12GB configurations here, but one can put up to 64GB of memory. That feels like a lot of RAM for this platform, and one also needs to be mindful of cooling.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good DDR4 SODIMM Area
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good DDR4 SODIMM Area

Something interesting here is that the 2.5GbE NICs are Intel i225 SLNMH, so B3 stepping NICs. Some of the 4-port units have been transitioning to the i226. Perhaps the fun part is that in these two 6-port systems, the NICs are on both sides of the motherboard. There are two on the memory and M.2 SSD side. The other four are on the CPU side.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal 2x SLNMH I225 B3 NICs
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Internal 2x SLNMH I225 B3 NICs

Unlike many of the 4-port units, this does not have a mPCIe slot, but it does have a SIM card slot.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good M.2 Area
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good M.2 Area

Something that is also different here is that it seems like someone forgot how long a M.2 2280 (80mm) SSD was. Instead of having a SSD placement parallel to the motherboard, it is raised above a small metal platform. It seems like this is there so that the drive does not make contact with the DC barrel jack input or the ETH0 NIC. Here is a view of the WD SSD in this system so you can see how strange this looks:

6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good WD NVMe SSD Installed 2
6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good WD NVMe SSD Installed 2

Another strange part of this is that we have a number of headers that we have seen on other units, except they are a bit different. The SATA port is the same, but the power header is different from most of the 4-port fanless systems we have seen. Also, the fan header is in the same area and is a 3-pin fan header, not a 4-pin. We are unsure why these were not standardized across 4-port and 6-port chassis.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Fan Header
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good Fan Header

Our units included a cable to attach power and data to a 2.5″ drive.

Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good SATA Data And Power Cable
Topton 6x 2.5GbE I225 Intel Core I7 1165G7 Good SATA Data And Power Cable

Next, let us get to performance and power consumption before getting to our key lessons learned and final words.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I def would like to know how this would perform with IDS enabled, as well as VPN enabled. I have a large Dell 8th gen i7 desktop, with 16 gig of RAM. It boasts 6 cores and 12 threads. I would love to shrink this footprint but want to ensure these units have adequate performance.

  2. Can you tell me the Mac address I’m wondering who is the Mac address owner.

    Don’t need the entire 12 digits just first 6.

  3. I mean this has more CPU and more memory capacity for starters and it’ll be better for a firewall box than the Ubiquiti.

  4. Since the power supplies were different, did you ever rerun the tests to see if the “Bad One” temperature, throttling and performance would be the same if you switched power supplies?
    I’d bet you would get the inverse results of both being the same 19V is a lot compared to 12.
    The good one I bet will be the bad one, and vice versa.
    Rerun the tests, it’s only fair, someone sent you the wrong power supply.

  5. You mention Proxmox but were you able to get ESXi 8.0 loaded on the i7-1165G7 units? I have a Qotom device that seems to only want to install ESXi 6.7U3 and even with that will do sporadic reboots. Obviously these are not on the HCL, so you get what you get sometimes.

    I would also love to hear your thoughts on the Asrock BOX-1260P… it only has two ports but seems like it would make a great ESXi home lab.

  6. So, what I’d really like to see here is actual benchmarks of these devices as firewalls. Throw on OPNSense or pfSense or whatever, with a few different configurations (low, medium, and high numbers of firewall rules, plus different configurations of OpenVPN versus WireGuard, etc…), and then see how much speed you can actually sustain across these things in various conditions — direct LAN to LAN configs, across a high speed WAN that is nearby, a high speed WAN that is far away, etc….

    You’re doing benchmarks that show how the bare box can do on CPU benchmarks, but you’re not showing us how this could function in an actual firewall application configuration.

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