In this article, we’re going to look at the best pfSense hardware. pfSense is a free and open-source firewall and router. One of the biggest benefits of pfSense is that it can be installed on various types of hardware. With a compatible network card, you can turn an old PC or thin client into a router or even run it as a virtual machine. If you’d like to purchase a new device, you have various options and that’s what we’ll look at in this article.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer on the best pfSense hardware that you can use, but the items below are some of my personal favorites.
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Why Use Your Own Hardware for pfSense?
Choosing to use your own hardware for pfSense can be advantageous. Firstly this option could be significantly more cost-effective than purchasing the device directly from Netgate. Second, using your own equipment gives you full control over the specifications, allowing you to set the exact device that you’ll need based on your specific requirements
Finally, personally sourced hardware often outperforms many standard consumer-grade routers, leading to better overall network performance and greater data processing capabilities. In general, it’s great to run pfSense on existing hardware, but purchasing some of the options below will give you awesome performance at an affordable price.
Best pfSense Hardware Recommendations
I want to be clear that if you want to purchase a device that has pfSense installed on it by default (and has the option for support), you should purchase the device directly from Netgate. They have various devices that are extremely powerful and will fit almost any budget.
However, if you’d like to install it manually or pick your own hardware, this is some of the best pfSense hardware that you can select. We’ll look at them below, but let’s first look at why you might want to use your own hardware.
Protectli Vault FW2B
The Protectli Vault FW2B is a two-port mini PC that has an Intel Dual Core 64-bit processor and 4GB of RAM. It comes with a 32B mSATA SSD. Since this device has two ports, one will be used for your WAN (from your modem) and one will be used for your LAN (to your switch).
I want to be clear that pfSense will not be installed on this device by default, but the install process is very straightforward and you’ll be up and running quickly and efficiently.
Protectli Vault FW4B
The Protectli Vault FW4B is a four-port mini PC that has a Quad Core 64-bit processor and 8GB of RAM. It comes with a 120GB mSATA SSD. It’s extremely similar to the Protectli Vault FW2B, but has four Gigabit ethernet ports as opposed to two. It also has a faster processor, more memory, and a larger hard drive.
You’ll have to install pfSense on this device, but this is a good device for users who are interested in having more than two ports. If you will only use two ports, go with the Protectli Vault FW2B.
The HUNSN RS34g has an Intel Quad Core, 64-bit processor with 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The benefit of this device is that it has 4 x 2.5GbE ports as opposed to the 1GbE ports that come standard on the Protectli devices. If your network speeds from your ISP are greater than 1Gbps, you will need to use 2.5GbE to get the full, advertised speed.
If your current ISP speeds aren’t greater than 1Gbps, 2.5GbE is a “nice to have”, at least from a WAN perspective. You can get faster local network transfer speeds with 2.5GbE, but the devices connected must have 2.5GbE NICs as well.
The Beelink EQ12 is quite possibly the perfect Mini-PC to use with pfSense. It’s very reasonably priced, comes with an N100 processor which is extremely powerful and energy efficient (6W TDP), and has two 2.5Gb NICs.
What I love about this device is that it comes with Intel NICs as opposed to Realtek, so the overall performance and reliability are better with pfSense. You can get away with Realtek NICs, but if you have to choose, go with Intel which is what I love about this Mini-PC. The downside is you only get two NICs, so if you want more, this isn’t going to be your best option.
AWOW Mini PC
The AWOW Mini PC has a quad-core Intel J3455 processor with 6GB of DDR4 memory and a built-in 128GB SSD. This device has two Gigabit NICs that can be used for the WAN/LAN ports in pfSense. However, only having two ports is a downside for some users who would prefer to set up separate networks like a DMZ.
However, if two ports are all that you need (you can still configure VLANs if desired), this is a great device that will work extremely well.
Intel I350 Gigabit NIC
If you have an old device lying around or you’d like to install pfSense on a virtual machine, there’s no reason to purchase new hardware (unless you would like the form factor). An inexpensive Intel I350 NIC can be installed in the device you have (assuming you have a PCIe slot available) which you can then use inside of pfSense.
This device has two ports, and you’ll be able to use one as your WAN (connected from your modem) and one as your LAN (connected to your switch).
This is a great option for people who are interested in using pfSense with existing hardware.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
In my opinion, the Protectli FW4B is the best pfSense hardware you can purchase if you don’t want to use a Netgate device. It offers more than enough for pfSense, has a fanless design, and has enough ports for configuring VLANs and your overall network.
However, there is an endless amount of hardware that you can use pfSense on, these are just some of my personal favorites. Whether you want to purchase a stand-alone device or an individual NIC that will allow you to run pfSense as a virtual machine or on old hardware, you have tons of options.
Thanks for checking out the article on the best pfSense hardware. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments!