Non-Intel NICs: Ok for <1000Mbits?


  • With the current version of pfSense and the amount of (stable) drivers it has, is it ok to use non-Intel NICs for less than Gigabit WAN?

    Or is it better to stick to Intel NICs like last time?


  • Depends on the other hardware, but you should be fine.  Even the modern Realtek NICs work great with pfSense, and unless you have a very high speed connection and a slow CPU, they won't hold you back in any meaningful way.


  • If "modern" means any onboard Gigabit Realtek NIC from the last few years, I think I will be fine. The model I am looking at is the Realtek 8111C/D


  • @darkarn:

    If "modern" means any onboard Gigabit Realtek NIC from the last few years, I think I will be fine. The model I am looking at is the Realtek 8111C/D

    Yes, that's what I mean.  Even my 1Gbps Realtek NICs on motherboards as old as 10 years are capable of hitting line speed, at least near enough that it doesn't matter.


  • Thanks! This certainly makes my planning a bit easier. And can even cut a bit of costs here  ;D


  • I should clarify my statement a bit… The 10 year old motherboards I'm referring to are now running Linux, not FreeBSD.  But I have run many Realtek NICs (and some Marvell and VIA NICs) with pfSense over the years and haven't had any stability problems.

    When I say "near line speed," I'm referring to iperf 2 with default settings.  Usually tests at ~950Mbps or so under Linux or Windows.  I can't get near those speeds with pfSense as the server or client even with server class NICs (have tried both Intel and Broadcom).  But then again I haven't really tried tweaking settings.

    YMMV.  Out of curiosity, what kind of WAN connection do you have?  And what does the rest of your hardware look like?


  • @whosmatt:

    I should clarify my statement a bit… The 10 year old motherboards I'm referring to are now running Linux, not FreeBSD.  But I have run many Realtek NICs (and some Marvell and VIA NICs) with pfSense over the years and haven't had any stability problems.

    When I say "near line speed," I'm referring to iperf 2 with default settings.  Usually tests at ~950Mbps or so under Linux or Windows.  I can't get near those speeds with pfSense as the server or client even with server class NICs (have tried both Intel and Broadcom).  But then again I haven't really tried tweaking settings.

    YMMV.  Out of curiosity, what kind of WAN connection do you have?  And what does the rest of your hardware look like?

    Hmm looks like I should learn how to iperf seeing that it may be needed to test NASes too.

    Meanwhile, I am on a dual broadband plan: a 1Gbps fiber broadband and a 100Mbps cable broadband plan (this is why I needed a dual WAN setup all these while).

    My setup is this:
    Q6600
    GA-EG41MF-US2H (onboard Realtek: cable broadband)
    4GB DDR2 RAM
    Dual NIC Intel Card (Fiber broadband + LAN)


  • I'm confused, then.  Sounds like what you have works fine, no?  Are you planning a new build?


  • @whosmatt:

    I'm confused, then.  Sounds like what you have works fine, no?  Are you planning a new build?

    I will need a new build eventually as all these hardware are on loan; I will have to eventually return them. I asked mainly out of curiosity of the state of drivers in pfSense and also, to see if I need to order more Intel NICs seeing that I have only one dual-port and another single port card (that I may want to deploy to a NAS instead)


  • @darkarn:

    I will need a new build eventually as all these hardware are on loan; I will have to eventually return them. I asked mainly out of curiosity of the state of drivers in pfSense and also, to see if I need to order more Intel NICs seeing that I have only one dual-port and another single port card (that I may want to deploy to a NAS instead)

    Got it.  If buying new hardware and not looking for embedded, I wouldn't be afraid of a motherboard with an onboard Realtek, especially if you plan to use it for your slower connection.  Then again, there's always hardware like the HP NC364T at around $40 on Amazon right now.  4 1Gbps Intel NICs on a single card, and cheaper than anything except the bottom of the barrel cards you can find at Fry's or some place like that.


  • @whosmatt:

    @darkarn:

    I will need a new build eventually as all these hardware are on loan; I will have to eventually return them. I asked mainly out of curiosity of the state of drivers in pfSense and also, to see if I need to order more Intel NICs seeing that I have only one dual-port and another single port card (that I may want to deploy to a NAS instead)

    Got it.  If buying new hardware and not looking for embedded, I wouldn't be afraid of a motherboard with an onboard Realtek, especially if you plan to use it for your slower connection.  Then again, there's always hardware like the HP NC364T at around $40 on Amazon right now.  4 1Gbps Intel NICs on a single card, and cheaper than anything except the bottom of the barrel cards you can find at Fry's or some place like that.

    I am trying to use what I have first before ordering more stuff from Amazon due to shipping and currency issues adding to the costs, but that's really tempting! Depending on what hardware I can get, I may need more single NICs that are PCIe 1x though