ECS KBN-I/2100 AMD APU E1-2100 ITX board



  • I've been using PfSense for several years and firm believer of this project.  I was using dual core Intel ATOM ITX motherboard by JetWay for several years and decided it's time for an upgrade.  Biggest reason for the upgrade is passive heat sink and more RAM for packages.  Did some digging around for best board that won't break the bank so I found one on newegg:

    ECS KBN-I/2100 AMD E1-2100 Dual Core processor Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU/VGA Combo

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813135364

    After rebate it's around $50 which isn't bad at all.  But had to get a new power supply combo because the original jetway case the DC-to-DC converter only supplied 20 pins instead of 24 required on the new board.  I found a very neat product that actually puts all of this directly onto the connector thus saving some space inside the case:

    http://www.mini-box.com/picoPSU-150-XT-102-power-kit

    It's picoPSU-150-XT + 102W Adapter Power Kit which replaced the DC-to-DC converter and power supply with a beefier setup.  Pretty easy to install after I remove the old components out of the case.

    Then had to get the PCI-express riser card and dual gigabit NIC by Intel.

    Took awhile to get the old stuff removed and then had to modify rear of the the case to accommodate new PCI express card since it didn't align up exactly like my old PCI cards due to different height of the riser card.  Few mins with a wire cutter was able to remove extra pieces of the metal to make room.  Pretty easy to do.

    After I got all of the mix of old and new stuff together in the modified old case.  Off to fire up fresh PfSense CD to install.  Ran into an interesting quirk soon after I defined the NIC card as WAN and LAN it immediately rebooted.  This happened every time so had to fiddle around with the settings in the BIOS by turning off extra stuff I don't need.  Took awhile finally found it.  I had to disable the ACPI power management.  Soon as I did that system became very stable.  Everything else left as default in BIOS except disabled the onboard LAN which is by Realtek and didn't seem to recognize it.  No big deal since it's not a great network card to begin with.

    Then after reading around the forums about this type of APU processor I noticed somebody mentioned about AES-NI feature.  It was disabled by default in PfSense so I turned it on and reboot.  Behold got this in the log (yay!):

    kernel: aesni0: <aes-cbc,aes-xts>on motherboard

    So far it's been running great.  Performance-wise it's a little better over the dual core ATOM 1.6Ghz.  But like the idea the new processor runs alot cooler and low power consumption.

    Below is what I am using:

    AMD E1-2100 APU with Radeon(TM) HD Graphics
    Current: 400 MHz, Max: 1000 MHz
    2 CPUs: 1 package(s) x 2 core(s)

    4 Gigs of RAM PC12800 but running as 1066 which is fine.

    2.1-RELEASE (amd64)
    built on Wed Sep 11 18:17:48 EDT 2013
    FreeBSD 8.3-RELEASE-p11

    Enjoy!</aes-cbc,aes-xts>



  • Did you test the motherboard with the Jetway PSU?

    Most MB work just fine with 20pins PSU. I have several units using PicoPSU 80 without any issues.



  • No I didn't try it since I thought you had to use 24 pins for it to work instead of just 20.  Besides the power supply kit wasn't expensive and gave me decent power brick.  Already went through two fried power supplies the past couple of years even tho it wasn't drawing alot of power.  The latest incident made me think about just overhauling it anyway.

    Thanks for letting me know.


  • Netgate Administrator

    Any idea how much power it is drawing?
    Looks like an interesting board, I've been looking for something to replace an ancient VIA M9000 for a while now. It's well past it's use by date and not really up to the job for anything much.  :'(
    Can you get the Realtek NIC recognised using an updated driver? I thought the 8111E was supported out of the box by 2.1 though.
    https://forum.pfsense.org/index.php/topic,65355.msg365028.html#msg365028

    Steve



  • It didn't recognize the onboard NIC at all during install.  At the time I was having heck of a time to get it to be stable so I turned off alot of devices to see what is causing it.  At the end it was the power management feature that was messing it up.  Cool and Quiet works fine.  PowerD feature in PfSense works fine which correctly controls the clock speed of the processors.  Whatever reason the thermal sensors does not work in PfSense so may have to see if I can find a package that will.

    When I get a chance I will re-enable it and see if it sees it or not.  It's headless at the moment so have to hook up the monitor and keyboard to it so I can get into the BIOS.  Need to anyway to check on something.

    Also, this board supports secure boot.  It's one of those new BIOS that uses UEFI.  Fortunately FreeBSD 8.3 didn't have a problem with it.  Disabled or not it had no effect on booting.

    I took a risk using bleeding edge stuff that may run into problems with FreeBSD 8.3.  Other than that one glitch it's been working fine.  I will let you know about the onboard NIC and power draw.



  • Didn't get a chance to hook up the monitor and keyboard to enable the on-board NIC yet but able to get the power draw for you.  At boot up draws around 22 watts with the spinning hard drive going at full speed.  Then it hovers around 16-18 watts on average.  Never really got past 18 watts at full load of the processor, this includes heavy transfer via VPN IPSEC using AES feature built in the processor.  I'd imagine if you use squid it'll probably push the power draw around 20 watts.

    Not bad for a firewall that is going to be running 24/7.  This is with a 500 gig laptop hard drive and dual NIC server class Intel PCI express card.  The power brick can supply over 100 watts so definitely overkill with this setup.


  • Netgate Administrator

    Thanks for that. That's nice and low, should be ok in my passively cooled case.

    Steve



  • I just re-enabled the onboard NIC and it's a no go.  Tried a few things such as making sure the network cable is plugged in to be sure that power management wasn't turning it off.

    Nadda.  So yeah it's odd that FreeBSD 8.3 didn't seem to recognize it.  Even during install it never did.  It could be something with the chipset?

    Like I said I'm fine with my Intel add on card.



  • @stephenw10:

    Thanks for that. That's nice and low, should be ok in my passively cooled case.

    Steve

    Yes, since you mentioned it I have noticed my case is now alot cooler than my previous setup so going to ahead and set the fan to silent so it'll come on only if needed.



  • Ok, this is odd.  I've ran phpsysinfo and it sees the on board NIC:

    • re0: RealTek 8168/8111 B/C/CP/D/DP/E/F PCIe Gigabit Ethernet

    But nowhere to be found on the interface page to assign re0:

    Hmmmm


  • Netgate Administrator

    If it's a later revision 8111E or an F or G you will need newer drivers than ship with 8.3.

    Steve



  • That would make sense.  Probably FreeBSD 10 will have this covered.



  • Lovely work Darkk I am glad to see other people taking large note of finding an AES NI enabeled CPU for VPN/Openvpn use not to mention to find a cpu with low power draw like 10-20 watts !

    It would be awesome if the new pfsense got released for xmas with 10.0 support and updated nic drivers included.

    Was going to order something very similar as yourself but was going to go with the AMD A4-500 (1.5ghz quad) cpu which uses 15 watts max most importantly it supports AES, I may still get it and then a low profile HP NC360 intel dual nic card.

    I would be very interested if you can post performance (once up and running) of your bb speeds and how the cpu overhead is doing with AES enabled,  hopefully you max out your VPN connection and bb speeds :)



  • Hello, I just got the same board! I plan on making a proper router out of it. Still trying to figure out what mPCIe card to use that will actually work. All the ones I have lying around are Intel which have terrible hostapd support.

    As for the on board NIC (8111E) you can either compile the driver, instructions for which are on my blog in my signature (driver information is towards the end) or you can download the Realtek if_re.ko v1.83 amd64 driver I have built http://www.mediafire.com/download/18y790u3kuule6s/if_re.ko just put that at /boot/modules/if_re.ko and in /boot/loader_custom.conf or /boot/loader.conf add the line if_re_load="YES"



  • Sweet on the on-board NIC drivers.  I will give it a try soon.  I haven't tried using the mPCIe slots yet.  I was going to use the wifi card for it but already have an external dual band access point that works.

    I've tried using WiFi cards in the past and always had problems getting certain features to work due to driver issues.  I am willing to get a wifi card that works both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz in dual band but again drivers always been an issue.

    You will love the new board.  Let me know how it is working for you.



  • I got both the ECS KBN-I/2100 dual core, and the ECS KBN-I/5200 quad core. The quad is very fast, and I'm just now testing the KBN-I/2100. MSI and ASUS are coming out with their own versions that run at other clock speeds, so you'll be able to buy one that matches your needs.

    To get around the problem with the onboard nic I installed Ubuntu 13.10, (which recognizes the Realtek 8111) then I installed KVM and I'm running pfSense in a VM. That way, I can use the virtual network cards and pfSense has no problems with those.

    The KBN-I/5200 quad core is more than powerful enough to make this work, and it's too soon to say for sure but it does look like the dual core KBN-I/2100 is able to handle this as well. I need to do some testing to see if its fast enough for my Comcast connection.

    I have a dual-port ethernet card on order that also uses the realtek 8111 chips, so I have to wait until that comes in to do the testing. That will give me a total of 3 ethernet ports to use. (one for wifi)

    Were you able to get the updated driver to work?



  • I too am using the ECS KBN-I/2100 for PfSense as I said in my first post.  Same issue with the onboard NIC but since I am using the Intel Pro MT1000 dual NIC PCIe card it's not too big of a deal.  If I need additional networks I will just VLAN it on the LAN network since my switch is smart capable.

    It's interesting that you got it to work using KVM setup.  Pretty cool idea actually.

    The nice thing about this board it'll accept Mini PCIe cards so I've seen Intel cards that will fit in that slot.  So that would be another way to get additional NICs.



  • How is this board working out for everyone?

    I probably should have asked before I pulled the trigger on it :o Then again 35 bucks after rebate, worth a roll of the dice. I'm still gathering parts, so far I got the board, 1 stick of 8g ram, HP NC360T dual nic, and a pico psu. I guess I need a hdd or SSD, any suggestions on size or type- laptop  or standard size? I don't know what this little board can do, hopefully snort and maybe proxy?  I have 3 users with a WAN speed of 50/down 25/up . I never used PFsense before so this should be interesting.

    Thanks for any insights.



  • @jeepster:

    How is this board working out for everyone?

    I probably should have asked before I pulled the trigger on it :o Then again 35 bucks after rebate, worth a roll of the dice. I'm still gathering parts, so far I got the board, 1 stick of 8g ram, HP NC360T dual nic, and a pico psu. I guess I need a hdd or SSD, any suggestions on size or type- laptop  or standard size? I don't know what this little board can do, hopefully snort and maybe proxy?  I have 3 users with a WAN speed of 50/down 25/up . I never used PFsense before so this should be interesting.

    Thanks for any insights.

    I have a very similar setup as yours.  I used a 500 gig laptop hard drive for couple of reasons.  Low power and not too much heat.  Granted 500 gigs is way overkill for a firewall but price difference between 250 gigs and 500 gigs is like $10 more so figured what the hell.  Only paid less than $50 for it.  SSD are great drives but I am a little old school with certain things so you have to decide on that.  You really can't go wrong either way.  My old 80 gig laptop hard drive died on me after it's been running 24/7 for 4 years straight.  Not too shabby for a non-enterprise class.



  • Thanks for the info,  I just ordered a 2.5" WD black 360GB from amazon.

    I can't wait to play and learn!



  • @Darkk:

    It didn't recognize the onboard NIC at all during install.  At the time I was having heck of a time to get it to be stable so I turned off alot of devices to see what is causing it.  At the end it was the power management feature that was messing it up.  Cool and Quiet works fine.  PowerD feature in PfSense works fine which correctly controls the clock speed of the processors.  Whatever reason the thermal sensors does not work in PfSense so may have to see if I can find a package that will.

    When I get a chance I will re-enable it and see if it sees it or not.  It's headless at the moment so have to hook up the monitor and keyboard to it so I can get into the BIOS.  Need to anyway to check on something.

    Also, this board supports secure boot.  It's one of those new BIOS that uses UEFI.  Fortunately FreeBSD 8.3 didn't have a problem with it.  Disabled or not it had no effect on booting.

    I took a risk using bleeding edge stuff that may run into problems with FreeBSD 8.3.  Other than that one glitch it's been working fine.  I will let you know about the onboard NIC and power draw.

    Hello, Darkk

    My pfsense box is using same board as you….but it is very unstable. every time the box is rebooting itself.

    I re-enabled every thing but i dont know what was wrong.

    my box is...

    ECS e1-2100 with (corsair 2gb ddr 3 1333) x 2
    NIC : Intel 2 port gigabit Pci-E (from ebay)
    160gb wd hdd sata2
    Disable .. NIC, Sound...whatever i don't need
    Default : ACPI Power and CPU Setting...

    and 2.1 pfsense amd64 version

    please let me know your setting in bios & pfsense...

    thank you in advance



  • Default : ACPI Power and CPU Setting…

    Disable ACPI. I'm pretty sure I disabled mine before I had all the components for my build. Either in the first post or several down he mentions disabling it.

    There is also a driver available for the onboard LAN. I had some trouble figuring out how to get it on the box. I used winSCP, use root for login and your password, using admin for login will give you an error. Thanks poster for the driver! Works great!



  • Disable ACPI.  Also, after a month that's been running it started doing random reboots.  Saw strange characters on the screen.  Turns out the 2gig RAM DDR3 sticks were older design with higher voltage than the motherboard could supply.  So had to order one 8gig RAM stick from Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008TCPVC8/ref=oh_details_o06_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    If you are going with single stick it needs to be in DIMM slot 2.  Ever since I replaced the RAM it's been stable.

    Also, don't enable any power saving features in PfSense such as PowerD.  There is no real benefit with the current software.  Besides, the power draw is very low anyway.

    Hope this helps.



  • Anyone still running this board?  I built a pfSense box with this board and I am having reboots every 10 hours or so.  RAM is on the certified list, I disabled PowerD, How are you guys able to disable ACPI, if I do that via hint.acpi.0.disabled="1" in loader.conf.local then I get a kernel panic and it don't boot at all.



  • Hi chrispeden,  I have just grabbed my self one of these guys and have about the same problem.  I have tried swapping out just about everything, ram hdd, nic, cables, and adding fans to the case with no luck.  Mine reboots about every hour give or take with no error message.  The thing I have seen is high cpu usage which is odd since i moved from a athlon x2 which when just doing normal routing would peak at 10% this guy will max out the cpu.  Have you resolved your problem yet?



  • Zero, yeah I think I got mine resolved.  I am using a dell/intel quad port gigabit adapter, it uses the IGB driver.  after I turned off MSI-X interrupts it hasn't rebooted since.

    I hope this helps, if you have any questions feel free to ask.



  • I just built one box with this board. I am running pfsense inside ESXi, though. It is ok for what I use it for now, since I have very slow internet connection (10M/3M). The CPU usage is almost always above 80% under load, even though all I am running is just OpenVPN and squid. For the OpenVPN I am using AES-256-CBC algorithm and I did turn on AES-NI. However, I did not notice any performance improvement with the AES-NI turned on.

    I do get full speed with my relatively slow connection but I am already pushing the limit of this board. All in all, I would not recommend this board since N3150 and etc can be had for not much more money.



  • @chrispeden:

    Zero, yeah I think I got mine resolved.  I am using a dell/intel quad port gigabit adapter, it uses the IGB driver.  after I turned off MSI-X interrupts it hasn't rebooted since.

    I hope this helps, if you have any questions feel free to ask.

    How were you able to turn off MSI-X?


  • Rebel Alliance


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