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REVIEW PCEngines APU2C4

Discussion in 'Networking, Telephony & Internet' started by samus, Mar 27, 2018.

  1. samus

    samus Member

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    Baulkham Hills, Sydney.
    Hello again OCAU!

    20180316_132406.jpg

    I’ve written many words about PF and APU’s in the past, but here is an updated look at the basis for small networks everywhere. My last thread was way back in 2013 (im old). Now pf hasn’t changed all that much (it has, but we will get to that), but the hardware I’m showing you today certainly has.

    Firstly below are links to all the previous threads. Note that Standard Overkill is still in service, and has never, ever missed a beat, aside from power outages. Thats 6 years of flawless operation, with no subscription, or maintenance charges.

    Then we move on to my new toys.

    This is the PCEngines APU2c4, meaning their second generation APU, revision “C”, with 4GB of RAM. They do have other in this lineup, including ones optimised for LTE connections.

    20180316_132456.jpg 20180316_132612.jpg 20180316_132616.jpg 20180316_132619.jpg 20180316_132624.jpg 20180316_145126.jpg

    In comparison to the old “Alix” based board they used to sell, this has x64 support, Intel PHY’s, AES-NI on board and SD, mSATA and a SIM card slot. It still has GPIO, parallel and COM pinouts, as well as USB3. It’s arguably one of the most capable little boards out there.

    The processor is still an AMD however is is their updated “G-Series”, (an evolution of the Geode) quad core, single thread running at 1.2GHz. More than fast enough for a UTM for 50 people. PCEngines also supply SLC SSD’s and SD cards, so I picked them up at the same time.

    Just as an aside, I LOVE the anodising of the case, the colour is just wonderful.

    20180316_145144.jpg 20180316_145443.jpg 20180316_145454.jpg


    They supply the cases with an integral heat spreader and a few thermal pads.

    A ding over the old board, is that it requires 12v only now, it’s wont boot with anything else. I liked being able to run it 7v or 15v if I had to. Still it uses less power than the outgoing board.

    Assemble is very easy, you just need to remember to remove the hex nuts from the COM port. Stick on the heat spreader and thermal pads, and you are good to go.

    Once you have the board mounted, you can clip in the msata and SD card. I use the SD card just to store config files, makes recovery a bit easier.

    Installation is also a snap, grab the memstick image from pfsense, and write it to a flash drive using dd, or win32diskimager, or Rufus for Windows.

    You will need Putty or a terminal set to 115200 8,N,1. It’s not perfect, but it works. In my case, i think it was the cable I was using. You will need a Null Modem (remember those?) cable.

    The BIOS is very, very basic, but does exactly what you need. Simply make the mSATA top in the boot sequence.

    Finally, this cost me $425 landed, for both. Software is free of course, so i’m going to challenge you to find a cheaper HA-capable firewall solution for UNDER $500.

    I need another post!
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
  2. OP
    OP
    samus

    samus Member

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    More Photos!
    20180316_145645.jpg 20180316_145648.jpg 20180316_145649.jpg 20180316_145652.jpg 20180316_145654.jpg 20180316_145814.jpg 20180316_145905.jpg 20180316_145923.jpg
    Im not going to say too much more here. Thanks for reading!
     
    Madllama, adz and MUTMAN like this.
  3. LostBenji

    LostBenji Member

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    Up a tower somewhere....
    Not bad looking at all. I remember project overkill from way back.
    It will be interesting to see how this setup will go with pfSense / OPNsense and load it up a little with UTM features rather than stock Firewall configs.
     
    samus likes this.
  4. OP
    OP
    samus

    samus Member

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    Thanks mate! I do love that project, they are still chugging along.

    I can do that, they are going into service today at a remote site up the road, so ill load them up and give you some results.
     
    LostBenji likes this.
  5. waltermitty

    waltermitty Member

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    I've got one of these and they're rad, which coreboot version are you on? I'm running 4.0.7 as the later versions (4.5.x and 4.6.x) don't play nice with pfSense. There's flashrom in the the binary repos for pfSense as well, so just do pkg_add flashrom; flashrom -w apu2_XXXXX.rom -p internal.
     
    samus likes this.
  6. Technics

    Technics Member

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    Thanks for the review. I've been eyeing one of these off for quite a while. My current lower cost solution (and admittedly I'm cheating here) is to use a second hand HP T620 plus (needs to be plus to have the full size PCIE) thin client with a quad Intel NIC shoved in the PCIE slot. If you were to buy it new it would not be a cheaper option but they show up used on eBay fairly regularly (I picked up mine for about $100). They have a quad core AMD G series APU at 1.5GHz and usually come with 4GB of RAM and a 16GB M2 data SSD. They don't have the nice headless console coreboot support of the PCEngines board though. I'd love to port coreboot to one but it has a super IO chip that is custom to HP with no doco. It would be really nice to be able to enable the IOMMU mostly as I've been running 3 VMs on mine.
     
  7. octagonalman

    octagonalman Member

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    Thanks for the pics and write-up. I believe that the Jaguar CPU evolved from the Bobcat series. I think it might have more in common with the CPU in PS4 and XboxOne and less so with Geode.
     
  8. FOXH0UND

    FOXH0UND Member

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    Where did you order yours from mate?

    I bought one at the end of last year to run PFSense on but sold it as I ended up going to a Mikrotik. Neat little device.
     
  9. OP
    OP
    samus

    samus Member

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    Direct from PCEngines in Switzerland champ. Cheapest by far.
     
  10. OP
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    samus

    samus Member

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    Well I've got them in and working so here is a snapshot of what's running and the utilisation.
    usage.jpg packages.jpg

    This is a remote site, so the busy times are the early hours when the VPN is saturated with sync data. No real users on site.

    EDIT, yes they are running coreboot 4.0.7
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018

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