The R86S Revolution Low Power 2.5GbE and 10GbE Networking

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GoWin R86s Web Cover
GoWin R86s Web Cover

Sometimes there are devices that are absolutely the best in their class. The R86S is the best in its class, albeit we are not entirely sure what that class is. In our review, we are going to take a look at how this small and low-power 2.5GbE/ 10GbE box is constructed, then hopefully start to delve into our best sense of its ultimate purpose. This little box exudes coolness.

The R86S Hardware Overview

For this one, we have a video that you can find here:

We get to show off a bit more of the system and let you hear the fan noise. Yes, this unit has fans despite its diminutive size. As always, we suggest opening the video in its own window, tab, or app for the best viewing experience. This may look like a Raspberry Pi-sized chassis, but it houses a surprisingly complex system.

R86S Lstopo
R86S Lstopo

This review took trying OpenWRT, pfSense, OPNsense, Ubuntu, Proxmox VE, Windows, and even VMware ESXi 8.0 so it was a relatively massive effort. Before we get to that, let us get to the hardware, starting with the outside of the chassis.

R86S Mini PC External Hardware Overview

This, is the R86S. To be more precise, this is the high-end “G3” version. It measures (minus the WiFi antennas) at 119mm x 79mm x 41mm. This is bigger than the average Raspberry Pi case, but not by that much.

GoWin R86s Angle 1
GoWin R86s Angle 1

On the side of the unit, we get USB 3, HDMI, and a TF card slot. TF is a term used in this category to avoid paying for MicroSD brand licensing. This side also has the system’s power button and HDD activity LED.

GoWin R86s USB HDMI TF Power Side
GoWin R86s USB HDMI TF Power Side

The real show here is the network port side. On top, there is a 12V DC input, a USB 3 Type-A port, and then lots of networking. The three RJ45 ports are 2.5GbE ports powered by Intel i225 NICs.

GoWin R86s 12V In USB 3x 2.5GbE 2x 10GbE Side
GoWin R86s 12V In USB 3x 2.5GbE 2x 10GbE Side

Below, there is one of the biggest options that drive price, power consumption, and capability. That is 10GbE SFP+ ports. We are going to get inside the system later and show you how those NICs are connected. It is fascinating.

On the rear of the unit, we get the two WiFi antenna ports.

GoWin R86s WiFi 6 Antenna And Small Vent For SFP
GoWin R86s WiFi 6 Antenna And Small Vent For SFP

Noting the top and the bottom of the unit, one may see fins, but this is not a fanless system. There are actually two fans. One uses the vent at the bottom of the above photo. The other one can see looking at the top of the unit.

GoWin R86s Top Angle
GoWin R86s Top Angle

On the bottom of the unit, we have rubber feet. We also have a panel that can be removed to get inside the system.

GoWin R86s Bottom With Cover On
GoWin R86s Bottom With Cover On

Next, let us get into the system and see what makes this really unique.

53 COMMENTS

  1. This would be a great firewall device except two concerns. First, I’m not sure that the CPU is beefy enough to do OpenVPN or Wireguard at full 1 Gbe. Second, none of these devices have IPMI, which makes administration annoying because they normally run headless, but sometimes you need to hook up monitor and keyboard to do something. These devices really need IPMI to be a server.

  2. Pros:
    1) yeah, finally SFP+ in a small package!
    2) extra 2.5gbe for backup connectivity.
    3) 8G or 16G RAM good enough for router stuff with the ability to potentially run other services

    Cons:
    1) I can only see it on aliexpress? No Warranty, I’m guessing limited support
    2) “The included power adapter does not have US regulatory markings” … this is a major turn off.. they could change stats at any point and ship junk..
    3) Mellanox. This is just my first hand experience. I used to use them as they were cheaper 10G solutions for used lab equipment compared to intel (typically) for sfp+ stuff but recently I’ve been having issues (more so on the windows side of things, and even throughput on Linux) compared to the intel sfp+ solutions. I’m guessing Mellanox because it’s cheaper?

    Ultimately I’m glad to see this getting the attention I’m looking for (small form factor 10G!) but I don’t think this is the right unit for me.

    thanks,
    Mike

  3. mlnx4, dpdk. i225/6 just saying youve been sleeping on this for too long. when are you gonna write up

  4. Aaron I don’t understand. That’s a garbage CPU, with less memory, storage, 1/4th the networking (even without the 10GbE that has less), less router OS support (pfSense/ OPNsense), and so forth. I don’t see how that is even in the same league. That’s closer to the fanless 4x 2.5g that are only like $40 more but are 2x the performance than that junk.

  5. @michael such as? more examples?

    This is right on the lines of what I’m looking for to replace an old 4 port 1gb opnsense firewall I use today (i7 4500U). Seriously tempted as it looks like it ticks all my boxes, so if there’s any alternatives I haven’t been able to find them!

  6. @patrick Would this have enough cooling to successfully use copper 10Gb SFP? For a while I was using a fanless Mikrotik switch but depending on the brand I had temperatures of 65 to 95 degrees C on the SFP.

  7. Thanks Patrick & the entire STH team for their remarkable efforts. To be honest I was waiting for this review since you showed the device earlier. Is it possible to swap the OCP 2.0 cards with different option? Bothe NVMe & OCP 7 connected via PCIe 3.0 can you confirm both are using 4 lanes each

    Thanking you again

  8. Lol can someone please remove that symbol – it was a shrug emoji but obviously emojis aren’t supported *facepalm*

  9. “As a quick note, we tried running the 10GbE SFP+ ports at 2.5GbE and 5GbE speeds, but the ConnectX-3 could not handle those speeds. Assume it is 1GbE or 10GbE.”

    Wait, are you saying it did not work at 2.5 and 5.0GbE with RJ45 copper transceivers running those speeds? I would think this has to do with the transceivers not the SFP+ ports or NIC. The transceivers convert those speeds to 10GbE so how or why should they not work on this box?!?

    Thanks,
    craigr

  10. Reason I care is that I would need a 5GbE connection to my modem. My current Mellanox MCX312A-XCBT CX312A with one copper transceiver has no issues at 5.0Gb with my model running OPNsense.

  11. Hi Patrick, big thank you to you and your team for such a wonderful review of our Gowin R86S-G3 model.
    We will keep move to design more innovative items like this.
    For the next step, we will launch portable 5G CPE and 5G SASE device,they are still X86 base,and with N5105,N6005 Intel CPU.
    For any topics about R86S series Firewall Router, let’s talk!

    David from Gowin Solution The creator for R86S series network device.

  12. @Mike Ciccarelli Hi Mike,thank you for the comments.Here is the official for GW-R86S series firewall routers. Please directly contact me for further discussion.
    We are collecting the comments to develop the next generation with 10GbE ports!

  13. Would having 32GB of memory make a difference for STH’ers use-case with this system? I’m curious. I personally find 16GB to constraining when running a hyp. 32GB has become my bare minimum (even for a laptop). NB k8s != guest os functionality

  14. @itronin Well, 32GB Ram sounds interesting, and we planed to use thet to the next generation with 5G and Wifi,also CPU goes to Alder Lake S series.
    But, let’s make sample for the current GW-R86S-P and G series to test.
    As the creator,we are willing to try all the solutions based on your ideas or requets.

  15. I have used the 10gbe Onti (bought off AliExpress) sfp in this unit. It will connect internally at 10gbe,but will negotiate with 1, 2.5, 5 & 10 gbe network equipment.
    I am just waiting for an optical GPON to connect directly with my ISP.
    So far it copes really well with my WG VPN on full line capacity

  16. For the next version, I would like to see more USB ports.
    Also not sure if it’s possible, but having a POE ethernet port would be amazing, as it would allow me to directly plus in my Ubiquiti Access Point

  17. Which GBics were tested? I’m confused which SFP modules to get – and after intensive research – still can’t find a compatibility list (so not sure what to order) – Amazon has 10GTek and QSFPTEK – but none say compatible with NVIDIA-Mellanox ConnectX-3 OCP NIC 2.0 – in fact, the 10GTek stuff explicitly states “does not work with Mellanox” . . .

  18. Is their anyway to get pfSense to see the Wifi Adaptor? seems pfSense does not support the Intel WiFi 6 chip in this unit.. 🙁

    Love the unit, if we just had 6 ETH, with 2 SFP and the Ryzen 4C/8T CPU and 32GB ram.. even w/o Wifi I’d love this as a travel unit.. I’d load Proxmox with FortiGate VM on it for site integration jobs.

  19. I would love a follow-up with information on SFP module compatibility. It seems really hard to find devices that will support 10Gbase-T transceivers.

    This device just crosses the “take a punt” price.

  20. @David Chupp
    The workaround you posted works perfectly on this device with internal MMC storage & Proxmox, I built it tonight.

  21. So I would really like to understand the range on the WIFI. I would like to know if I could place it in the center of my basement and easily connect to my second floor devices or device out in the yard. Compared to a dedicated WIFI Access Point that I can get for a little more than half the price, this device offers some pretty great features. Also, have you tried PFSense on it as well and have any insight on network support for the interfaces.

  22. Sorry for the late reply.

    Here are the SFP modules I have.

    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000340325163.html?spm=a2g0o.productlist.main.5.1a3868e05cKDjP&algo_pvid=5921a572-06e1-4cb0-9643-b459b9f3732e&algo_exp_id=5921a572-06e1-4cb0-9643-b459b9f3732e-2&pdp_ext_f=%7B%22sku_id%22%3A%2210000001402045384%22%7D&pdp_npi=2%40dis%21GBP%2184.58%2135.52%21%21%21%21%21%4021021d7b16734524868154227d0688%2110000001402045384%21sea&curPageLogUid=hyvNXBSvvzxO

    This definitely works. I don’t have 5Gb equipement, but I can connect to my 2.5Gb NIC at the proper speed. The SFP module connect to the r86s at 10Gbe but negotiates directly with your other equipment at the intermediate speeds.

    I also have this for connecting directly to my FTTP internet. The XPON stick works fine, I just can’t get the right log in details for my particular provider and they won’t give them to me either.

    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005003515662920.html?UTABTest=aliabtest366922_517363&dp=1a1435fac76a5582baab34edcc717145&af=1711151&cv=47843&afref=https%3A%2F%2Fanazar.com&mall_affr=pr3&utm_source=admitad&utm_medium=cpa&utm_campaign=1711151&utm_content=47843&dp=1a1435fac76a5582baab34edcc717145&af=1711151&cv=47843&afref=https%3A%2F%2Fanazar.com&mall_affr=pr3&utm_source=admitad&utm_medium=cpa&utm_campaign=1711151&utm_content=47843&aff_fcid=5fd28f9c47a144d8b977b9e7d987bcf9-1673452367243-08429-_ePNSNV&aff_fsk=_ePNSNV&aff_platform=portals-tool&sk=_ePNSNV&aff_trace_key=5fd28f9c47a144d8b977b9e7d987bcf9-1673452367243-08429-_ePNSNV&terminal_id=91d581637b214092bca8b6fcb07c574d&OLP=1084701508_f_group0&o_s_id=1084701508&afSmartRedirect=y

    There is another module on amazon that should also work, but its nearly three times the price.

    Hope this helps.

  23. @Rodi I have a variant of these SFP+ “10GBase-T RJ45 SFP+ Module, 10G SFP+ RJ-45 Copper Transceiver for Cisco SFP-10G-T-S, Ubiquiti UniFi UF-RJ45-10G, Mikrotik, Fortinet, Netgear, D-Link, Supermicro, TP-Link (CAT.6a/CAT7, 30m) 2 Pack” bought on Amazon last time about eight months ago. They work at all speeds in my Melanox cards:

    Amazon ipolex 10Gbase-T SFP+ Module

    I bought the two packs.

  24. I have a R86S G3 (N6005, 16GB / 128 GB, NVMe), running Linux 5.15.0 (Ubuntu 22.04 LTS), FTLX8571D3BCV-IT (10 base SR), 9000 MTU.

    Temperatures: CPU max ~75 C under stress-ng, NVMe max ~50 C.

    Bandwidth in/out/route (no iptables) (iperf3): TCP (128K): 9.90 Gbits/sec, UDP (36b): 800 Kpps
    Wireguard in (iperf3): TCP (128K): 7.32 Gbits/sec, UDP (36b): 450 Kpps

    Very good for such a small box.

    The NVMe is limited by the PCIe speed though, maxes out at ~800 MB/s.

  25. A few complaints: the fan is a bit loud, but understandably so as it needs to cool 10W CPU + 2×10 GBe, and the box came with Intel AX201 which does not support AP mode over 5G.

    I am getting a R86S B3 (N5100, 16 GB / 128 GB, NVMe), fanless, + AMD RZ608 WIFI (MT7921K). This should be ~10% slower, but more than enough for a travel router, silent, and hopefully different challenges in setting up WIFI AP.

  26. The AX201 does support AP mode over 5G but it does it in a really really stupid way, where it listens for other networks in it’s area to figure out what country it is in. It will not let you set the country code manually. This is entirely Intel’s fault (or regulators fault) and it can be remedy’d by starting 2.4Ghz on AP mode, then the 5Ghz can “see” which country it’s in from the 2.4 specs, and then will let you start AP mode.

  27. Also to David Chow – you guys have made a really wonderful product, the case is nice, and everything looks very professional. The price for the top-end version is a little high (over $499 is high for a home router) so it is shame that there are no DIMM slots as then i’d have probably bought the 8G version with the plan to upgrade to 18G if it wasn’t enough. Instead I buy a Rock5b with Intel X520, but the Mellanox cards are good too, and because this is x86 i would have prefered to have an R86S. I just don’t have the money right now – soon I will buy one. It would be a BIG help if you had an official store on Aliexpress, I tried for a long time to find an official store or website, and the website I did find looked very bad with links not working, but the product’s quality speaks for itself, it’s clearly very well made and very well thought out.

  28. Anyone an idea regarding the FAN? Can this be replaced with a silent one? I am afraid it makes noise when i watch movies etc. :/
    Also, can the wifi nic(s) be replaced by another one?

  29. Hi Guys,we have launched a new version GW-R86S-G4 with Intel N6005+32GB RAM+128GB EMMC+3*2.5G Intel i225V+2*10.0G SFP+ Port. Does anyone want to try?
    We also plan to release a new 5G SASE Device with the battery /5G module/Wifi6 inside.I will invite STH team to make a professional video review again.It should be in the middle of April.

  30. Where is the official store to buy R86S?
    Are there any plans to develop an AlderLake-N series version such as N100 or N200?
    In my country there are wireless restrictions, so I would be happy to have a model without WiFi, with SPF+ port and a lot of RAM on it.

  31. @acc about Where is the official store to buy R86S?
    Are there any plans to develop an AlderLake-N series version such as N100 or N200?
    In my country there are wireless restrictions, so I would be happy to have a model without WiFi, with SPF+ port and a lot of RAM on it.
    Gowin Updates on AlderLake-N series , we have started the layout.We will get the motherboard demo in the middle of this April.
    Based on your request,we will keep M.2 Slot for Wifi and for Nvme SSD,and try 8GB/16GB/32GB RAM.

  32. So, I have a stupid question. I have ATT fiber and the connection from them is SFP that plugs into their BGW320-505 modem/router. Can this R86S unit take the SFP from ATT as an uplink so I can use one of the eth ports and connect it to a switch?

  33. We plan to launch the R86S-T and R86S-U models at the end of April
    Data of R86S-U4:
    Intel N6005 CPU+32GB Ram+128GB eMMC+3*2.5GB Intel i226v+2*10.0Gbe SFP+Lan por+Type-C power in,we also upgrade the cooling system
    Is that sound good to you? Send me message for details.

  34. Hi David – pretty excited about this product. I think you’ve hit a niche, it’s hard to find mini pcs with 10gbe capability. For me I’m wanting to use them as mini server nodes in my homelab, so beefier CPU is important, within the confines of the form factor and heat requirements, of course (not expecting 65W CPUs).

  35. Hi Joe,thank you for the comments,the Intel N5105 and N6005 are with 10W CPU, still works well especialy with 32Gb Ram, the only problem is about cost and heat.
    We are design the next generation of Gowin R86S with Alder Lake N100 start,that would be very powerful but no problem with heat or noisy.And the new motherboard will be used to design a new 1U server for homelab.That’s the plan.

  36. Updates
    We launched the new model R86S-U4, which is upgraded from R86S-G4, main features
    InteI® Pentium® Silver Processor N6005 4M Cache,Up to 3.3GHz
    Intel® UHD Graphics 450MHz-900Mhz ,support eDP/DP/HDMI/MIPI-DSI,support 60Hz 4K
    32GB Ram,128GB eMMC,1*M.2 NVME SSD slot
    3*intel i226V 2.5G /2*10G SFP+ lan port
    2*USB3.0/1*USB2.0/1*TF/1*Mirco-HDMI
    Type-C Charger 12V-4A

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