Is pfSense for me?
I recently upgraded from DSL to CABLE. Speeds went from 20/2 to 80/12 for the same price. I see upload speeds burst to 200 at times. For the most part, in the mornings and evenings, I'm getting 80/12.
Current setup is:
Netgear CM600 cable modem –> Apple Airport Extreme-->3 unmanaged switches--> FreeNAS, AppleTV, 2 Desktops, 3 Wireless Phones, 3 Wired TVs, and other less used wired devices.
We use quite a bit of internet for EVERYTHING including TV. No cable TV here. At Peak of day 3 TVs can be streaming Movies from WWW or local Plex. Or we are all on desktops or laptops working/studying off WWW at same time.
Currently, we don't access or LAN from the WAN. I do plan to add this in the near future to access PLEX on the road. I would like to also add the ability to access the FreeNAS box (securely of coarse) from the WAN in the future.
How can pfSense help me? Why would/should I add a pfSense box to my network? Will a pfSense box have better WAN performance than the Apple Airport Extreme?
I've never used Airport Extremes but I'd be very surprised if it wasn't able to do everything you outlined there. Surely it must be able to do port forwarding so you can access the LAN from the Internet.
Whether a pfSense box would be a better performer, well, it depends on the box. I'd say it's very likely. Though, for 80Mbps, I'm not sure it'd matter.
So, you don't need pfSense for any of that. However, I'm pretty sure it'd give you more control than what the Airport Extreme offers. Couple of things you might want to do in the future that pfSense would make relatively easy:
Control what IP ranges can try accessing the LAN devices you mentioned
Have complete access to the LAN from outside via VPN
Do some traffic shaping (3 TVs, movies and various Internet use; seems like there might be some stutter at times you might want to try and address)
If you feel like you need better control over what traffic is traversing between LAN and WAN and how, then pfSense is a good choice.
with pfsense you can have traffic shaping so it can distribute the bandwidth accordingly (and if you plan on using plex remotely believe me you need it), if you torrent pfs can handle all the open sessions and will not break a sweat, you can install squidclam AV to have a gateway AV if you are interested and much much more + x86 cpu can handle much much better workload then those cheep processors . Oh and btw the biggest advantage is security and stability