pfSense SG-4860 appliance – the hardware

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense top and side
Netgate SG-4860 pfsense top and side

Netgate, the company behind the popular pfSense project, recently sent us two pfsense appliances to test. Today we are looking at the pfSense SG-4860 appliance hardware. The basic summary is that the appliance is an Intel Atom C2558 based desktop system. Prior to receiving this system, there was a Supermicro A1SRi-2558F based pfSense appliance in the Mountain View, CA office. We will have more details soon, but this appliance has one feature that ended up leading to the replacement of the A1SRi-2558F in the office. Let’s take a look at the hardware.

pfSense SG-4860 appliance hardware

Opening the pfSense SG-4860 box there are two basic components we are looking for. The white box contains a power adapter that can accept different cords from the supply to the wall which can be used to convert to different outlet types. The pink ESD bag has the most exciting part of this setup: the SG-4860.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense unboxing
pfSense SG-4860 unboxing

Opening the bag we see the main unit. The front of the box has a big pfSense logo but little else. This is probably one of the tighetest fit chassis we have seen that fits a standard 6.7″ x 6.7″ mITX platform.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense front
pfSense SG-4860 front

One will notice that both sides and the top of the chassis have large vents to facilitate cooling.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense top and side
pfSense SG-4860 top and side

Moving to the rear of the chassis, one can see the business end of the unit. There are six RJ-45 ports labeled, WAN, LAN, then OPT1, OPT2, OPT3, OPT4 following pfSense naming conventions. Other key ports: a USB console port, two USB ports, activity lights, reset button and power input. There are also five cutouts that are meant for wireless antenna mounting. In our full review, we will test this unit with a WiFi card.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense rear
pfSense SG-4860 rear

Inside the pfSense SG-4860 we see a custom engineers motherboard. The first (and perhaps most exciting thing) one can see is a large heatsink. That heatsink is covering the 4 core, 15w TDP Intel Atom C2558. One of the great features is that it supports Intel Quick Assist technology. In competitive designs, smaller heatsinks are used which require active coolers. With the pfSense appliance, no fan is required (although there are 4-pin fan headers present.)

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense internals overview
pfSense SG-4860 internals overview

The pfSense SG-4860 has two mPCIe slots along the left side of the motherboard that can support add-in cards such as WiFi cards to add additional interface options.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense expansion slots
pfSense SG-4860 expansion slots

Along the bottom of the motherboard, there is another mPCIe slot which can also be used for expansion functionality. One configuration we have seen even includes a mPCIe SSD for the appliance. One also can see a single SATA port. There is no real room for a SATA drive, but the space is available.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense expansion slots 2
pfSense SG-4860 expansion slots 2

One interesting node this motherboard has a myriad of connector pads for components such as four additional SATA ports, a 9th memory chip and a 24-pin ATX connector. These components are not present, but the board was designed to potentially handle additional components and scenarios.

Next to the interface ports we see the Marvell Alaska 4 port PHY for the C2558’s onboard Intel i354 controller. There are also two Intel i210 controllers which make six total. The inclusion of 6x Intel gigabit NICs is a clear differentiator. Intel NICs are well-known for quality but they do add cost over less expensive options (e.g. Realtek NICs.)

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense NICs
pfSense SG-4860 NICs

There is also a 4GB eMMC memory module which holds the pfSense OS. 4GB is more than ample in *most* cases.

Along the top edge of the motherboard we see 8x Kingston chips. These are DDR3L 1GB chips. Since there is 8GB capacity and 8x 1GB packages the non-ECC spec seems to be confirmed.

Netgate SG-4860 pfsense RAM
pfSense SG-4860 RAM

One of the most frequent questions we received was around KVM-over-IP functionality compared to other Atom C2558 platforms. One can see from the internals that there is not an ASPEED AST2400 BMC/ IPMI controller present. The fact that there is a console port means that the unit does have some management capability outside of the slick pfSense interface. We have already used the console port during our testing. Console ports are usually unavailable on most lower end appliances (e.g. your average Linksys box) and are commonly found on higher-end competitive appliances from Fortinet, Dell/ Sonicwall and others. The ASPEED controller would provide IPMI/ remote KVM-over-IP functionality, video out and etc. The AST2400 also consumes a lot of power for a low-power passively cooled device like this and adds costs. On balance, this design decision makes sense.

Our full review is coming soon, but here are a few major selling points from a hardware perspective:

  • Console port for CLI management
  • USB for adding additional functionality
  • Three internal expansion slots
  • Passive (silent) cooling
  • ~11w power consumption
  • 8GB of RAM (more than adequate)
  • Onboard eMMC NAND storage for embedded OS

Here are the full specs from the company:

CPU Intel “Rangeley” Atom C2558 2.4 Ghz with Intel QuickAssist
CPU Cores Quad Core
Networking 6x Gigabit Ethernet Ports total:
4x Intel I350 ( SoC Intel I354 Quad GbE on-die MACs )
2x Intel I211
Storage 4GB eMMC Flash on board
Memory 8GB DDR3L
Expansion 1x mSATA, 2x miniPCIe
Console Port Mini USB
USB Ports 2x USB 2.0 ports
 LED Power/Status/SATA Activity
Enclosure Desktop 1.5″ tall x 6.8″ deep x 7″ wide
Form Factor Standard mini-ITX 170mm x 170mm
Cooling Passive
 Power External ITE P/S AC/DC 100-240V, 50-60 Hz, 12V 4.16A
AC Inlet: IEC320-C14 (3 PIN)
Power Cord: NEMA 5-15P to IEC320-C13
Environmental 32°F (0°C) to 104°F (40°C)
Power Consumption 7W (idle)
Certifications FCC, CE, RoHS, UL



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