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At some point in the future, I'd like to replace my home router with a x86 box running pfsense. I'm rather fond of the NUC form factor for things like this but finding a suitable one has been tricky. My requirements?

  • No soldered in ram. Might happen, who knows. I'm happy with a single slot tho
  • I'm not picky about the processor. Atom x3 or better. Passively cooled would be awesome.
  • Msata, M2 or regular sata is fine. I'll possibly boot off USB anyway
  • dual gigabit network ports built in. Essential. Would be awesome if one or both are intel. (To make it doubly clear - ethernet ports, gigabit ethernet capable, copper, RJ45 compatible, quantity 2).
  • NUC form factor, though I'm fine with any varient.
  • Optionally built in wifi adaptor that supports hostapd.
  • Available in/will ship to singapore or the US
  • Reasonably priced - dosen't make sense for me to pay 2x what a regular nuc class machine costs just for a spare ethernet port. I accept there will be a small price premium.
  • No I will not use a dongle. I considered it. I may do it. Its unacceptable for the scope of this question
  • Do you have a rack? There are plenty of 19" items and some are quite shallow depth, but they're not even vaguely like a NUC in size. However you would get more physical interfaces. – Criggie Nov 4 '15 at 1:01
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    Nucs have high paf/waf. I'd love to have a rack but these things are insanely practical for home servers. – Journeyman Geek Nov 4 '15 at 2:48
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I specifically recommend you consider specifically a PC Engines APU. http://www.pcengines.ch/apu.htm

They come with 2 or 3 gig interfaces, and have internal mini PCIe slots too. You can choose between the 2GB or 4GB ram models, unfortunately it is soldered onto the board. The mSATA cards listed are confirmed to work with pfsense.

They use a serial console rather than VGA, and are proven to run pfsense fine. Added bonus, they're only a dozen watts of power draw and are passively cooled.

The cases are larger than a NUC but a lot slimmer too.

enter image description here

I own one, it works perfectly in pfsense, specifically addresses the OP's question.

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  • Those are nice but I'm uncertain of local (singapore) availability. Upvoted, but not as neat as being able to stack these little things up, with standard 12V power, and essentially swappable machines. – Journeyman Geek Nov 4 '15 at 3:28
  • @JourneymanGeek They are standard 12V power, and the cases are plain aluminium boxes which could be stacked fine. – Criggie Nov 4 '15 at 3:32
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    I've seen these in action before, good stuff. Would also recommend, though I don't own one. – ArtOfCode Nov 4 '15 at 8:38
  • Meh. I'll see about picking one up when I've settled into job +1. This is the sensible answer, and dosen't involve cutting holes in a case and voiding warranties. – Journeyman Geek Nov 8 '15 at 12:13
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    Current version of this built into a system can be gotten here: mini-box.com/ALIX-APU-Systems – ftrotter Dec 1 '17 at 7:00
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If you like the NUC then stay with it.

A NUC or other small hardware can run pfsense well with one NIC, provided you have a managed ethernet switch, and you're prepared to have full duplex 500 Mbit through your firewall rather than full duplex gigabit.

I had a small shuttle board/case with one onboard NIC, and no provision to add anything else. USB was not a good solution either, due to CPU usage and general messiness.

So I simply set vlan10 on my procurve 2520 switch, and connected my pfsense box to a single trunk switchport that was configured to carry vlan1 untagged (the LAN) and vlan10 (the internet, tagged)

I swapped that box out for a 3 port APU, and it still runs on just one port.

If you have several NUCs for various purposes, then consistency helps later on if you want to swap and change them around. Flexibility and reuse are important.

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    Plan would be to not have a managed switch. That said, I seem to have found a decent solution. – Journeyman Geek Nov 4 '15 at 0:39
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Mini PCIe gigabit ethernet is a thing it seems.

enter image description here

Some hacking needed (and warranty voiding maybe?) or maybe a 3d printed lid if its a proper NUC. I'd tradeoff wifi, I suppose, but there's reasonable workarounds for that.

It might also work with my current brix, though I need to work out how to cable it though

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    Do you have a chipset for this? If it was intel it would be great, if it was broadcom then fine, however if it was a cheap realtek I'd not touch it with a bargepole. – Criggie Nov 4 '15 at 0:59
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    More likely a realtek. Nuc class systems are a mixed bag, and at this price its unlikely to be an Intel. – Journeyman Geek Nov 4 '15 at 2:46
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Here's my experiment with Intel NUC:

I managed to add a second nic by cutting a hole in NUC.

Intel NUC pfSense build (i3, 8GB, flash drive as boot device)

More details here: https://serialize.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/intel-nuc-pfsense-build/

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    That's an.... Interesting approach. And might allow adding on 10gbe – Journeyman Geek Mar 8 '19 at 20:33
  • Size of the box will be a limitation if you want to keep it clean. Not sure if there are any 10gbe cards that are less than 4"x4" in size – Vivek Mar 8 '19 at 20:39
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Consider the Logic Supply ML100G-10.

  • RAM is a single SODIMM
  • CPU is an Intel Celeron
  • mSATA drive
  • 2×1GbE
  • NUC

My company uses a lot of NUC-class machines. While I have no experience with this particular model, we haven't had any significant issues with Logic Supply products.

I can't speak to availability or how you feel about the pricing, but it is a NUC and it does have twin GbE ports.

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0

Its not exactly an NUC, but I ended up going with ars technica's recommendation and ordered something similar from Qotom (went with a core i3, 4gb of ram, and 128gb ssd, since I may choose to run other things on it - this is the specific model). They have more practical 2 port models, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I paid about 280USD, which compares well to a NUC, even if its slightly dated hardware.

I'm planning to run a few other things on it, and I went with a ubuntu based setup with firewalld and dnsmasq, which works great for me.

A few little technical notes -

The wireless adaptor that comes built in is a AR9287. Its single band, and probably something I will replace in future. Its mini PCIe not M.2. Its probably worth dropping and replacing with something else. I'm not sure if the option without wireless comes with the mounting holes for the antennae so I left it in place.

It has a msata slot (populated by an off brand, presumably MLC drive), and a power+data interface.

It has 4x intel I211 adaptors (not multiple adaptors on one interface).

It has 4x USB (2x 2.0 2x3.0), Serial (which was slightly amusing) and HDMI out for video.

Its silent, and has been running like a champ for the past 6 months.

enter image description here

I'll take a beauty shot later, but that's in comparison with a NUC class machine.

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