What's pfSense?

First things first, pfSense is an open-source firewall and router computer software. If you want your own firewall and route, this can be installed on a machine or a computer. The great thing about this upgrade is that you can configure it without a hassle and moreover, you can easily alter the FreeBSD system.

In this review, we will guide you through the different features these devices offer. Netgate, OPENsense, and Desico are all competing for for open firewall sources, but pfSense is the most reliable commercial firewall software. But since it needs hardware to work and there are many options on the market, we have grouped the very best hardware for you.

Why pfSense and Not Commercial Routers?

Even though pfSense is, as we mentioned above, open-sourced, this might be considered a concern due to the fact that is community-based, However, there are many advantages that pfSense has over standard routers and firewalls.

First of all, pfSense is reliable, unlike the common mass-produced routers. These off-the-shelf routers have a limited utility due to manufacturer lock-down; plus software vulnerabilities. You see, fabricators of common routers don't have many reasons to patch software bugs, performance problems, or even serious security holes.  

On the other hand, pfSense is frequently updated and quickly takes care of any security issues. For this reason, pfSense's potential issue becomes its strongest link. With this software, you are in control of your networks with reports that you have access to. It also has a tool called 'p0f' and this tool allows you to observe what type of OS has tried or is trying to connect to your router. And most importantly, pfSense records all of your traffic. There are packages you can install to sort out bad traffic, making it an excellent firewall.


Since using a VPN will increase the CPU requirements, the AES-NI acceleration can decrease the CPU significantly. In addition, Captive Portal users also need more power of CPU. Moreover, State Tables affect the hardware (CPU) usage as well.

Generally, 1 KB of RAM is needed for a single state table. So let's consider this example: a firewall of 1GB RAM needs 100MB of RAM for all the state tables. For this reason, you need suitable hardware with sufficient RAM available to ensure proper performance of state tables in a large environment that comprises thousands of connections.

Minimum CPU- 500 MHz / RAM-512 MB
Recommended CPU- 1GHz / RAM- 1GB
Full Installation CD-ROM or USB / 1 GB hard drive

First, when it comes to selecting a hardware, Network Card Selection is an important factor. since Network cards (NICs) are vital for performance. Consequently, inexpensive NICs can drench your CPU and then, cause difficulty in handling. Network cards on Intel chipsets are more effective and efficient in working when they are used in conjunction with PfSense.

The CPU selection is an important factor as we have described the usage of the CPU above. According to the information we've gathered, these stats can be increased or decreased slightly. First, for 10 to 20 Mbps the recommended modem is Intel or AMD clocked at 500 MHz. On the other hand, for 21 to 100 Mbps the recommended modem is 1.0 GHz Intel. Next, for 101 to 500 Mbps & a modem of at least 2.0 GHz is needed. And lastly, for 500+ Mbps and multiple cores at 2.0+ GHz are fundamental. Hence, high throughput secures a Wireless network with PfSense.

Let's dive into the best hardware for PfSense:

Best Hardware for PfSense (Comparison)

Best Overall
Our Score 9.5 Out of 10
Check price amazon.com
Our Score 9.2 Out of 10
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Our Score 8.8 Out of 10
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Our Score 8.2 Out of 10
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Firewall Micro Appliance Intel Celeron E3865U (Protectli)

Our Score 9.5 out of 10
Protectli Vault 6 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core, AES-NI, Barebone
Protectli Vault 6 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Dual Core, AES-NI, Barebone amazon.com Check price

THE VAULT: Secure your network with a compact, fanless & silent firewall. Comes with US-based Support & 30-day money back guarantee!
CPU: Intel Dual Core Celeron 3865U, 64 bit, 1.8GHz, 2MB Smart Ca...

Protectli's E3865U device is compatible with a number of open-source firewall developments. The body is fan-less, solid, and small designed for a firewall router. This vault has undergone many tests to examine the compatibility with many of the famous open firewall source software. Usually, the FW6A-0 barebone version comes without RAM and mSATA storage. This way, customers can select the most convenient option for them.

Its compatibility includes PfSense CE, VyOS, OPNsense, Untangle, and Windows. Some of the listed hardware specifications are Intel Celeron Dual-Core CPU E3865, 64 bit, and 1.8 GHz 2MB smart cache. Also, AEI-NI hardware supports the 6X Intel 82583V NIC ports. Consequently, this device features the 6X Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC ports. This hardware support up to 32 GB DDR 1866/2133 MHz RAM. Plus, there are four USB ports 3.0 and 1x RJ-45 COM port & 1x HDMI port.

To ensure smooth and easy use that doesn't compromise sleek design, this device has been equipped with Power Button LED, Power LED, and HDD activity LED. This has a Power supply of 15 watts approximately that uses a US cord to run and also a 15W wireless card kit is available. Most importantly, the card can be easily fixed thanks to the already drilled holes of USB communication.

For all of these features to work properly, the ideal operating temperature for this hardware is 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. The aluminum enclosure is a giant heat sink that keeps the CPU cool.

This E3865U firewall and router are solidly efficient, it's compatible with several of Open Sources Software Distribution as well, and it comes with a maximum of 6 ports. Secondly, it is quite sturdy and has a fanless silent operation. Lastly, it easily runs on approximately 15 Watts under moderate load.

  • Efficient & silent operation
  • Compatible with many open source software distributions
  • Sturdy design
  • Doesn’t have a watchdog timer

Firewall Micro Appliance Intel Celeron J1900

Our Score 9.2 out of 10
Protectli Vault 4 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core, 4GB RAM, 8GB mSATA SSD
Protectli Vault 4 Port, Firewall Micro Appliance/Mini PC - Intel Quad Core, 4GB RAM, 8GB mSATA SSD amazon.com Check price

THE VAULT: Secure your network with a compact, fanless & silent firewall. Comes with US-based Support & 30-day money back guarantee!
CPU: Intel Quad Core Celeron J1900, 64 bit, 2.0GHz, 2MB L2 Cache...

Protecli is a California based firm that has a vast range of firewall devices of 2,4 and 6 ports. They have designed this Firewall Micro appliance. It's a tiny PC that can be used as a firewall/router and includes 4 port network devices with Intel Celeron J1900 processor which is  64-bit, 2.0 GHz, and 2 MB L2 Cache.

It also consists of 1x USB 2.0 and 1x USB 3.0 ports. There is an mSATA slot and DIMM slot. The mSATA slot is used for a boot device and it comes with a pre-installed 8GB mSATA SSD. The DIMM slot uses DDR3L Ram which is easy to understand and it has a 4GB DDR3L Ram. In addition, there is also a PCIe port where you can fit the optional wireless card. And as a matter of fact, Protectli distributes WiFi cards at an affordable price.

All of these features in this device give you the freedom to use different open source firewall software like PfSense and Netgate for instance. Moreover, it's compatible with different operating systems.

While all of these details are great, there's a downside: it doesn't have HDMI ports. For home users, this is a disadvantage, even though in the traditional environment, the VGA port works best. Also, the vault uses regular Intel components (Network ports) that are incompatible with some operating systems.

This vault is also fanless so it also has no moving parts. Protectli designed its aluminum case very intelligently because it works as a giant heat sink, keeping the CPU cool. Just like the first product, the ideal temperature for this is 14 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. It runs on approximately 10 Watts under moderate load with 18W max.

The Firewall Micro is an incredibly durable platform that meets a variety of needs, making this device durable and environment-friendly.

  • Fan-less product
  • 4 processor cores
  • Integrated Intel HD Graphics
  • Compatible with many open-source software distributions
  • Doesn't support AES-NI
  • No HDMI; only VGA


Our Score 8.7 out of 10
Quad Core Mini pc Router Qotom-Q190G4-S02 2G ram 8G SSD Intel Celeron Processor J1900, Apply to Router, Firewall, Proxy, Linux Mini PC pfSense
Quad Core Mini pc Router Qotom-Q190G4-S02 2G ram 8G SSD Intel Celeron Processor J1900, Apply to Router, Firewall, Proxy, Linux Mini PC pfSense amazon.com Check price

CPU:Intel Celeron Processor J1900 (2M Cache, up to 2.42 GHz),Quad Core
4 Gigabit Ethernet+VGA+2 usb 2.0
It supports Windows, Linux, pfSense, Sophos, VyOS, Linux iptables, Unta...

Shenzhen Qotom Technology Co., Ltd is a China-based firm that was established in 2004 and distributes a wide range of mini pcs and mainboards. This Q190G4 hardware has Intel Celeron Processor J1900(Quad-Core 2M Cache,2 GHz, up to 2.41 GHz).

Also, it includes 3x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0 ports. As you know, it’s always good to have many USB port options. Not to mention that there is an mSATA SSD slot & DIMM slot. And its memory slot has the following: Support 1333/1600MHz, 1.35V, Non-ECC, and DDR3 SO-DIMM Memory. But there's no hard drive and RAM installed. It's must be no surprise to know that you have to install these by yourself.

Although it has predefined holes in it for the WiFi antennas, you'll have to install it as well. You can run it on any available operating system like Windows 7, 8, and 10. But it has no pre-installed operating system on it. Don't fret! This is a good opportunity for you to buy it and customize the storage, memory, and operating system according to your needs. It can be used with firewall software but pfSense v2.5 requires AES-NI which Q190G4 doesn’t support. Therefore, keep in mind that v2.5 and future versions of pfSense are not supported.

There's no price for real peace of mind since many manufacturers aren't so kind to offer a high level of quality. This is why the good thing about this mini Pc is its whole year warranty. This company tests each device before it's delivered to the customer. So, if you're not satisfied with the configuration, you can return this product right away.

Mini PC QOTOM- Q190G4 can act as a host to a home, an office, library, hospital–basically, anywhere. This hardware is also fanless so it works quietly. And you can easily run tons of applications with this. Without a doubt, Q190G4 is highly recommended.

  • The best option for customization
  • Low-cost device
  • Fan-less quite operation
  • No RAM & SSD storage
  • No Wi-Fi
  • No Operating System
  • Doesn't support Intel AES-NI

SG-5100 NetgateSecurity

Our Score 8.3 out of 10
SG-5100 Netgate Security Gateway Appliance with pfSense Software
SG-5100 Netgate Security Gateway Appliance with pfSense Software amazon.com Check price

The ONLY appliance with pfSense software pre-loaded, ready to use right out of the box.
Flexible GUI config for Firewall, VPN, Router, Gateway, Cloud Edge networking platform. Built-in Amazon VPC W...

The SG-5100 is the first and only pfSense software device that lets you enjoy the most unique features. The elegant and exceptional GUI made it more exciting to use. This security gateway appliance manages your Firewall, VPN, Router, Gateway, Cloud Edge networking, and many more platforms. Another unique attribute we have to talk about is the already in-built VPN wizard. The feature securely enables VPN connections with Amazon EC2.

Considering the compatibility and versatility, this Netgate device is supportive of IPsec, OpenVPN, IPV6, NAT, BGP, and many more formats. The device employs the Intel Atom CPU Quad Core 2.2 GHz which provides the utmost high performance, enhancing the AES-NI performance effectively. The AES-NI features make sure that all the data you’re sending via the device is safe and encrypted. And you can attain the speeds of 3.8 Gbps/ 1.3mbps quantity, using your six ports on the device that are supported by the DDR4 RAM.

You don’t need to unbox it and perform a setup since it comes with a built-in pfSense software. And the device's passive cooling system makes it more convenient for long time use.

For all of these reasons, the SG-5100 device is functional right out of the box. Furthermore, its built left us in awe because of its passive cooling system that's completely fanless and keeps the device safe from overheating.

  • DD4 RAM
  • AES-NI technology
  • Intel Atom CPU Quad Core 2
  • 2 GHz
  • Not beginner-friendly

Overall Conclusion

Since pfSense is pretty flexible, it can easily be adapted to many applications ranging from a normal home router to a large corporate network firewall. Even though it can be overwhelming, this system is easy to install and it contains many features that are often only found in very expensive commercial routers. It also easy to maintain and it doesn't sacrifice useful web-based user interface. Keeping all of this in mind, we hope that with this article, we've made your selection easier.

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