Lanner NCA-1515A Review This is the Home Lab Deal of the Year

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Lanner NCA-1515A Power Consumption

On the power side, the 12V adapter is a 5A 60W unit from FSP. This is a nice power supply.

Lanner NCA 1515A FSP PSU
Lanner NCA 1515A FSP PSU

One of the big features is that it has a screw-on DC barrel jack so it stays connected. That is something that lower-end units do not have.

Lanner NCA 1515A Locking DC 12V
Lanner NCA 1515A Locking DC 12V

As for the power consumption, we saw 20-21W idle in a fully configured state. Maximum power consumption we saw around 30W. That can go up or down a bit based on configuration. Something to keep in mind is that the power consumption for just the BMC is around 4W. We did not try it, but one should be able to pull out the BMC module if they did not want remote management and get lower power consumption and a smaller security surface as a result.

The noise was good, but not great. The single fan registered around 38-40dba in our 34dba noise floor studio. While it is far from silent, if this is tucked away anywhere it will be hard to hear.

Key Lessons Learned

The value of this system depends on a few factors. The Intel Atom C3758 is plenty of CPU for a 1GbE appliance. Indeed, it is probably too much CPU, especially with QAT onboard. If you want a faster CPU or a CPU with an iGPU, then this is the wrong machine. On the other hand, using the Atom C3000 series means we get ECC memory support which is something often lacking on CPUs with integrated graphics in this power range.

Lanner NCA 1515A SSD WiFi LTE
Lanner NCA 1515A SSD WiFi LTE

The big one is also going to be how you feel about the speeds. This is only a 1GbE box, not a 2.5GbE box. It uses high-quality 1GbE NICs, like the Intel i350, but if you want 2.5GbE or 10GbE speeds, this box will not cut it. On the other hand, if you just need 1GbE networking and need a really nice and well-documented box, then this is a good option. Lanner sells these primarily as OEM boxes for uCPE and other markets. While folks in the embedded space may know Lanner, others may not.

With that said, the machines we purchased were in the $215-250 range on ebay and had this awesome configuration. We thought we were getting barebones units, but then they had 16GB of ECC memory, a 64GB SSD, a Qualcomm-based 802.11ac module, and a LTE modem module, plus the BMC card. We purchased a few of these as wireless backup boxes for a few sites where we used ISP-supplied kits with LTE backup or did not have backup connections. On that note, we would have strongly preferred WiFi 6(E) and 5G onboard. We can replace components as well.

Lanner NCA 1515A 8x 1G Ports
Lanner NCA 1515A 8x 1G Ports

Another way to look at these, however, is that if you are still using Intel Atom C2000 series machines as firewalls or other network devices, these boxes may be a great upgrade.

Final Words

Overall, this is a great system. The normal retail price we expect is well over $250. Lanner is a fairly well-known embedded systems vendor. As a result, the system has an awesome manual that is a far cry from some of the low-cost boxes we see.

Lanner NCA 1515A Angle
Lanner NCA 1515A Angle

For many of our readers, 1GbE, 802.11ac WiFi, and 4G LTE is going to feel like a step backward. Realistically, this is not the latest generation tech. Something like The Everything Fanless Home Server Firewall Router and NAS Appliance (or the 1U version) costs only a bit more, and if you are not using 5G/ LTE and WiFi, it is a slightly more expensive box with much faster 2.5GbE and 10GbE networking.

Still, for those who want something like a WWAN gateway, with IPMI, this is a really neat option. Also, if we are talking about Raspberry Pi homelabs, this offers so much more at a cost probably less than two Raspberry Pi 5’s with power supplies, SD cards, and cases.

Where to Buy

Although a bit unusual for a server review, since we got these as new stock on ebay at an awesome price, we figured we would share where we got them. Note, the configuration you receive may not be fully configured like we got, but even barebones, these are fairly awesome boxes. Here is the link we used:

Note: We may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through this link.

14 COMMENTS

  1. It’s a neat board, but the C3758 is just SOOOO slow. Not really sure what I would use this for being that slow.

    An N100, despite only being 4 cores, can beat a C3758 in basically every benchmark. For single threaded loads an N100 is like 2.5x faster…

  2. @Jason – You do not need a screaming fast CPU to run a firewall unless you are applying very complicated rule sets and packet transforms.

    My own home firewall is based on an Intel N3710 SoC @1.6GHz with only 4 cores and driving 4 GigE ports (3 ports via PCIe switch). So that N3710 SoC would be slower than the C3758 … but charting CPU performance over an extended 1 year period of time reveals that my CPU load is negligible (consistently under 1%) for the amount of firewall rule filtering that I do. Even when the Internet interface is jamming packets as fast (300 Mbps and increasing every year) as it can that little SoC just keeps plugging right along “holding the load” without a complaint.

    But then there is always the YMMV disclaimer to consider.

  3. I don’t understand why people think the N100 is better for a router? The C3000 series was made for 10G firewalls and VPN boxes. Even if you’re virtualizing at 1G speeds, it’s more than enough and you can use more physical cores for vCPUs.

  4. Price, availability, idle power usage, peak power usage, availability with 2.5G ethernet… Take your pick?

  5. That Qotom has 2 NVMe, 6 SATA, 5 2.5G, and 4 10G. 64 GB ECC. You can’t do that on N100. C3758-R is NAS and firewall combined.

  6. @AldiK, I do like the C3000 series (got one SM board), and they are plenty fast for a firewall. But the N100 will beat a C3000 cpu in performance/watt which is why it could have been interesting to see this appliance with an N100/305 CPU.

  7. I guess my point is that I don’t see how this is the “Home Lab Deal of the Year” when it is a device that can really only be used for a firewall (or MAYBE a small router).

    For pretty much every other use there are many other devices are a better fit, better performant, and often better price/value.

  8. @casper but it ONLY wins when you’re talking CPU-only, and not about vCPUs in that. These do virtualization too.

    @Jason I’ve got a few of those Qotom’s. You can easily virtualize on them and they’re making great lab systems. This is plenty to make a firewall, vpn endpoint, router, backup wwan appliance, and still have a few other VMs or containers on.

  9. The only thing that bothers me with things like this is what if you use it for real work and start to rely on it? Like I have a remote site I need LTE for, so what if I got this and set it up out there, and then a year later it breaks? It probably won’t be available for sale in a year’s time, so I won’t be able to buy another one and swap it over and keep going. I’ll have to find a different product, reconfigure everything (e.g. udev rules for the different LTE device in the new product) and basically set it up from scratch again, do all the testing to make sure everything works, etc.

    It’s for this reason I’ve ended up going with Raspberry Pis and USB LTE adapters, because although they are slower and don’t have as much crammed into the same space, replacing any failed devices is much easier over the long term.

  10. Does anyone know if the Sierra Wireless AirPrime EM7455 in this unit will work with pfSense or OPENSENSE?

  11. I picked up a few of these for testing in my datacenter for a remote access appliance and so far the IPMI experience is pretty bad. You cannot log into the web UI with Firefox at all. Google Chrome works, but the KVM does not work. There is nothing on Lanner’s site for the NCA-1515A in terms of BMC firmware updates and Lanner’s support has been silent on any of my help requests.

    The price is right on these for sure but I think you get what you pay for. Not having a working IPMI is kind of a show stopper for my usecase.

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