XG-7100-1U Works With a Graphics Card!



  • Hello, I would just like to throw it out there that the XG-7100-1U does in fact work with a graphics card. I haven't tried anything fancy like trying to run the GUI (didn't have too much time and I need the 4-port NIC, but it probably can be done with some BSD know-how), but it gets to the ssh/serial command line interface and works with a USB keyboard just fine.

    Background:
    I recently got an XG-7100-1U for a network, and when I initially contacted Netgate sales to ask various questions about the product--one being why there are 3x USB ports on it--I was informed that it was a holdover for an old idea to get graphics support (one port for mouse, one for keyboard, and the USB 3.0 port for recovery, etc.). The rep also mentioned he'd be "tickled" if someone actually got a graphics card working in there... So, what the heck, I had some time before deploying it and, well, it worked pretty much straight out of the gate.

    Requirements:
    -The right angle PCIe x4 adapter that comes with the PCIe 4-port NIC upgrade option
    -A PCIe x4-to-x8 or x4-to-x16 riser, like this one: https://www.orbitmicro.com/global/pexp16-sx-16-4-p-4568.html
    -A graphics card that consumes <25W. Note that PCIe x1, x4, and x8 are all only rated for 25W, so if a card has one of those edges and no external power port, that's a good sign. Unfortunately some popular servers allow 35W through PCIe x8 slots sometimes, so it's important to double check the power consumption figures on any card.

    I've compiled a list of graphics cards that appear to fit the <25W bill, and they're all <$100:

    With x8 edges:
    -One model of Nvidia GT 1030 DDR4 (NOT a GDDR5 model!!)<--Recommended. This is the one I'm using; see Note 1 below for details.
    -Many models of Nvidia GT 710, 720, 730 -- Some GT 710 models even have an x1 edge, which would fit in the x4 riser that is used in the right-angle adapter.
    -Some models of Nvidia GT 630

    With x16 edges:
    -AMD Radeon HD 5450, 6450, 7350, 7450

    Other:
    -Note that a regular PCI slot also maxes at 25W, but I'd recommend just using a PCIe card.

    Note 1: It's made by EVGA and it actually uses PCIe x4 (the circuit board is wired for x4)--the part number is 02G-P4-6232-KR. The card is probably just using an x8 edge for mechanical support for the heatsink, which in fact fits very nicely in the XG-7100-1U case. This is a pretty recent card and easy to find, but make sure it's a DDR4 version and not a GDDR5 version. I think the ones with x8 edges may all be DDR4 to stay within power consumption spec.

    Due to being by far the most modern option, the GT 1030 also supports PCIe 3.0 and high resolution HDMI 2.0 monitors. Oddly enough, it can be found at lower cost than a number of the older cards listed, so it's more like super-duper recommended unless one already has an older card on hand. It can probably also be made to play DOOM at reasonable settings or something. I know Micro Center sells them in-store in the US, and EVGA sells them online directly.

    Setup:

    1. Plug the card into the risers per the install guide for the XG-7100-1U optional expansion card:https://docs.netgate.com/pfsense/en/latest/solutions/xg-7100-1u/optional-expansion-card-installation.html
    2. Plug in a monitor. Plugging a keyboard into a USB port is probably also a good idea. :)
    3. Turn on the XG-7100-1U and the boot loader will show up on-screen and proceed. There will be a point where the boot process looks like it's hanging with a frozen cursor in the top left. Just wait, it's still booting. If the serial cable is attached to a PC the boot process can be seen proceeding normally.
    4. Log in using the USB keyboard and that's it!

    Anyways, this was a fun little experiment. Maybe someone out there will find it useful. :)

    P.S. Netgate sales reps rock. I don't think I've ever had a support experience where the sales rep could answer all of my "esoteric use case" hardware questions before. 👍 👍 👍


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