No love for PC Engines anymore?



  • I rarely see reference to the new PC Engines boards here:
    http://www.pcengines.ch/apu3a2.htm

    Is there a reason for that?  The ALIX boards were the darling of pfSense for years.  These new ones are (still) small, have 3 Intel NIC's, support AES-NI, perfect amount of RAM and plenty fast enough.  Is there a reason why more expensive offerings from Netgate or the official pfSense store are recommended over these?  I noticed Netgate doesn't carry the brand anymore.

    I've been out of the pfSense hardware game for a few years, so just curious.



  • Netgate is now pushing its own brand and APU2 is still a good option. Size, power consumption, 3 nic, msata, AES-NI.



  • The APU boards are nice, but these days you can get something from say Qotom and other manufacturers which have more powerful specs.  For example, the Q330G4 has a Core i3, HDMI port, and 4 Intel ethernet ports for around $200.



  • @rnatalli:

    The APU boards are nice, but these days you can get something from say Qotom and other manufacturers which have more powerful specs.  For example, the Q330G4 has a Core i3, HDMI port, and 4 Intel ethernet ports for around $200.

    It says no RAM, no SSD.  I'll have to do a cost comparison.  It also looks to be twice the power.  Hmmm.  OK thanks.



  • @rnatalli:

    The APU boards are nice, but these days you can get something from say Qotom and other manufacturers which have more powerful specs.  For example, the Q330G4 has a Core i3, HDMI port, and 4 Intel ethernet ports for around $200.

    Plus you have to add RAM and drive. My APU2C4 came ready to assemble for $156 shipped.



  • What kept me away from the pc engine stuff, was no case, needed serial to see console, old gen amd chip with low clock speed,

    Now we have intel NUC stuff, these APU devices seem obsolete.



  • @chrcoluk:

    no case

    ???
    Mine are all housed well.
    http://www.pcengines.ch/case1d2redu.htm

    @chrcoluk:

    needed serial to see console

    I'm glad they do.
    All my switches have a serial console port as well and it's a no-brainer to carry a serial-USB cable with me anyways.

    @chrcoluk:

    old gen amd chip with low clock speed

    well, sufficient. But more is always better. I'm mostly with you at this point.

    @chrcoluk:

    Now we have intel NUC stuff, these APU devices seem obsolete.

    I cannot remember having seen a NUC with 8W TDP and three NICs.
    Have you?


  • Banned

    @valnar:

    I rarely see reference to the new PC Engines boards here:
    http://www.pcengines.ch/apu3a2.htm

    Is there a reason for that?

    Personally I have no use for the LTE stuff. Overpriced and horrible FUP here with any operator.  It's not exactly meant to supersede APU2, I'd say.



  • The apu3 it's basically identical to the apu2 plus support for lte cards that most people don't need. They're just about the same price, so I've been know to buy an apu3 if the apu2 is out of stock. For the US market it remains the best value for a low power network device. (In other markets the pricing is much less competitive.) It will saturate gbe under Linux, but the max is a bit lower for pfsense. For a connection up to a couple hundred megabits it is still my go-to solution. Except…a lot of the recent inquiries ask about full gigabit or high speed vpn, and the apu2/3 can't compete with the goldmont solutions for those requirements. I don't know why someone above mentioned nuc, they don't typically have a network focus.



  • The qotom boxes are priced very competitively vs. the PC Engines. They were to make an APU with newer SoC (i.e. an Atom with AES-NI) or maybe even an ARM one, with Intel network cards, they would be back in the game (at least for me).

    They used to be my go-to for cost-constrained projects where quality is still needed but speed isn't that big of an issue, but with the increase of fast consumer connection, it simply isn't enough anymore.



  • What's the go-to box now with AES-NI support, small, low powered, CPU to handle most broadband (<500Mb ) and cost-effective?  The answer in the past with nanobsd was an ALIX board, when Internet connections were <85Mb.

    I see too much talk of Gigabit speed requirements when in reality, most of us don't need that!

    ie.  What's the primary alternative to the APU2 boards?



  • @valnar:

    What's the go-to box now with AES-NI support, small, low powered, CPU to handle most broadband (<500Mb ) and cost-effective?  The answer in the past with nanobsd was an ALIX board, when Internet connections were <85Mb.

    I see too much talk of Gigabit speed requirements when in reality, most of us don't need that!

    ie.  What's the primary alternative to the APU2 boards?

    For that requirement I'd still go with an APU2. The only lingering concern is that their support for things like bios updates is abysmal. If the APU[23] does what you want, it will continue to do that thing for years. If you need it to do something else that just needs some tweaking of the firmware, or is supposed to be supported soon, get something else. (To be fair, I wouldn't expect great long term support for the asus board of the month either–they just have more capability out of the box.) Thre's also the question of expectations. These little networking SBCs are designed to run for a very long time, consumer grade desktop boards are designed to last until the next upgrade cycle. There are no guarantees in life--insert sad tales of the soekris net6501 series or the rangeley parts--but I'd expect an APU[23] to outlive an ASUS MPC platform. (Of course it's also reasonable to say that you don't really care if the thing is still running a decade from now, because it would have needed an upgrade anyway. That kind of decision point is why there isn't just one computer on the market.) Then there's always the non-x86 killer board on the horizon, but there still hasn't been anything with the right price/performance/features to be a really comfortable option.



  • Currently, I'm just using china boxes (Qotom) until something better comes along. Had no failures so far. They come with Intel mobile CPU's, and Intel network cards.



  • @jahonix:

    @chrcoluk:

    no case

    ???
    Mine are all housed well.
    http://www.pcengines.ch/case1d2redu.htm

    @chrcoluk:

    needed serial to see console

    I'm glad they do.
    All my switches have a serial console port as well and it's a no-brainer to carry a serial-USB cable with me anyways.

    @chrcoluk:

    old gen amd chip with low clock speed

    well, sufficient. But more is always better. I'm mostly with you at this point.

    @chrcoluk:

    Now we have intel NUC stuff, these APU devices seem obsolete.

    I cannot remember having seen a NUC with 8W TDP and three NICs.
    Have you?

    I have seen an asrock one with a N3160 cpu (6W cpu) and 4 intel NIC ports.

    https://ark.intel.com/products/91831/Intel-Celeron-Processor-N3160-2M-Cache-up-to-2_24-GHz



  • I haven't seen a NUC version, ASRock industrial only does the generic 'network appliance' versions like the NAB-9602 and NAB-9601.

    An issue I have seen with most of them is that they often have LEDs on one side and ports on the other. Or they have LEDs, ports and power on the same side. With networking gear, you expect power in the back, the rest in the front.



  • @chrcoluk:

    @jahonix:

    @chrcoluk:

    Now we have intel NUC stuff, these APU devices seem obsolete.

    I cannot remember having seen a NUC with 8W TDP and three NICs.
    Have you?

    I have seen an asrock one with a N3160 cpu (6W cpu) and 4 intel NIC ports.

    I don't think "NUC" means what you think it means. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Next_Unit_of_Computing



  • yeah its not marketed as a NUC, a normal NUC doesnt need 4 network ports :)

    But its based on NUC design, low end desktop intel processor in small form factor.



  • @chrcoluk:

    yeah its not marketed as a NUC, a normal NUC doesnt need 4 network ports :)

    But its based on NUC design, low end desktop intel processor in small form factor.

    NUC is a specific intel product line, recommended for home entertainment, gaming, surveillence, signage–and, tellingly, not networking. You can continue to misuse the term to mean something else, but the rest of the world will continue to have no idea what you're talking about. It doesn't mean "single board computer", we have the acronym "SBC" for that; it doesn't mean embedded processor, we just say embedded processor; it doesn't mean "small form factor", "SFF" is the term to use for that. If you want to communicate effectively you have to use the meaning of words that other people also use. Telling people to buy a NUC that isn't a NUC is a failure to communicate.

    So, putting all that aside, yes, Asrock has some interesting designs like http://www.asrock.com/IPC/overview.asp?Model=NAS-9602 or http://www.asrock.com/ipc/overview.asp?Model=SBC-230 or http://www.asrock.com/ipc/overview.asp?Model=IMB-157  (Side note: none of those are marketed as "NUCs". They do have some products in the actual NUC form factor, with the expected single network interface and consumer video focus.) Anyway…I don't call these category killers at this point because I've never seen one for sale. I don't know if that's because they're focused on OEMs or what, but it doesn't matter how interesting they are if they're not readily available. (And who knows how expensive they are, since they're not readily available. If you could get one for $60-$70 + ram & case, they'd be a no-brainer over the APU[23]. Otherwise it'll be another decision about how much you want to spend based on actual requirements, rather than spending the same to get a bunch of extra functionality.)



  • NUC basically means "end-user device based on NGFF". The problem with all the marketing terms is that it makes it hard to know who's talking about what, since those generic terms lose their meaning rather quickly.



  • Getting a bit too serious for me, all I meant was I feel the APU product is now outdated as the market has moved forward with alternative products in small form factor and cost.

    If you guys disagree with me thats fine I wont make a fuss over it. :)



  • I haven't seen a reliable, small, low power box with three Intel Nics and AES-NI for cheaper than an APU2. The newer Qotom with AES-NI has 4 ports, but is twice as expensive once you add memory and storage.



  • @chrcoluk:

    Getting a bit too serious for me, all I meant was I feel the APU product is now outdated as the market has moved forward with alternative products in small form factor and cost.

    Yet, nobody's pointed one out…



  • Well, over here, the APU2 is by no means cheap. Once you are done with a board, a case and power, you're over 300 euros. For 100 less, you get a faster Intel box with 4 or more Intel NICs.



  • @johnkeates:

    Well, over here, the APU2 is by no means cheap. Once you are done with a board, a case and power, you're over 300 euros. For 100 less, you get a faster Intel box with 4 or more Intel NICs.

    Yes, I covered this in my first post to this thread: "For the US market it remains the best value for a low power network device. (In other markets the pricing is much less competitive.)" Clearly, if you can get something better for less you should get something better for less. Here, it costs ~ $150 (125 euros), and at that price nobody's pointed out a really compelling alternative.



  • @VAMike:

    @johnkeates:

    Well, over here, the APU2 is by no means cheap. Once you are done with a board, a case and power, you're over 300 euros. For 100 less, you get a faster Intel box with 4 or more Intel NICs.

    Yes, I covered this in my first post to this thread: "For the US market it remains the best value for a low power network device. (In other markets the pricing is much less competitive.)" Clearly, if you can get something better for less you should get something better for less. Here, it costs ~ $150 (125 euros), and at that price nobody's pointed out a really compelling alternative.

    Yep, that's true. Also, most of the time when people try to point at alternatives they end up with Realtek interfaces or CPU's without AES-NI.



  • @chrcoluk:

    … with alternative products in small form factor and cost.

    Would you mind linking two of those, please? I'm interested in buying but can't find anything reasonable.



  • Thread resurrection due to changes in the market since the OP. I'm looking at the fitlet2 as a possible successor to APU2.

    https://fit-iot.com/web/products/fitlet2/

    Has anyone gone from one to the other and can share their impression?

    On paper it looks like a reason to go this path would be for HDMI support while retaining serial console and a modest step up in single and multi core performance while only consuming a few more watts. Is this correct?



  • APU2: AMD G-Series GX-412TC, 4 x 1200MHz
    Fitlet2: Intel Celeron J3455, 4 x 1500MHz (boost 2300)

    Both can have up to 4 Intel LAN
    APU2 $110-130 needs a disk and a case.
    Fitlet2 $160 needs RAM and a disk.

    Interesting ;)



  • Correct. It's a matter of, if I'm looking at things correctly, ~30% higher speed in the case of the J3455 which might(?) help with users who have gigabit WAN connections. It's too bad the final price is more than 30% higher but for a system that should essentially stay in place for several years, I think that it's within the "fair" range if quality remains high.



  • @thuety said in No love for PC Engines anymore?:

    APU2: AMD G-Series GX-412TC, 4 x 1200MHz
    Fitlet2: Intel Celeron J3455, 4 x 1500MHz (boost 2300)

    Both can have up to 4 Intel LAN
    APU2 $110-130 needs a disk and a case.
    Fitlet2 $160 needs RAM and a disk.

    I can get an apu2 for about $150 all-in, the fitlet is at least 50% more expensive. So it's a bit faster, and a bit more expensive. If you need a bit more power it could be worth it. I don't think it's a game changer, because I don't think there are many cases where the fitlet would be fast enough if the apu2 isn't.