pfSense/OPNsense Build: ATX or other?

Hi everyone,

Long time reader, first time poster. I have an old AMD Althon 4850e system (~2.5Ghz, dual core) that I have been wanting to use as an OPNsense router. I’ve been setting it up and planning to replace my aging ASUS AC68U, but I’m worried that the mobo is pretty old, as it was in a previous server that I used 24/365 for a number of years, and has been behaving erratically for me over the past few weeks while I’ve been trying to get it up and running. I think it’s probably on it’s last leg (RAM checks out, replaced PSU and CMOS battery even—which was a first for me). I got it configured, but I’m a little worried about putting it in charge of my network given how erratic it’s been. I’ve been contemplating throwing in a low power Xeon (based on reading the guide here), perhaps an E3-1220L or a E3-1260L with a new mobo (already have a NIC and SSD for it).

I did, however, recently run across PC Engines. Which looked like a really intriguing platform for this. I know there are some others (Qotom, Protectli) variants of that idea as well that seem to be well liked.

My network has about 5-6 end user computers, a server (home-lab if you will) and half dozen or so phones/tablets/etc plus a handful of misc IoT devices. My wife and I are both doing more teleconferences (as I’m sure we all are), so I think erring on the side of overkill is probably appropriate.

My question is this: assuming costs are more or less equivalent (I already have a case, PSU, SSD, NIC etc.) between the ATX build and one of the smaller form factor units, which would most recommend?

I definitely feel more confident troubleshooting and working with the ATX side, but think it’s probably overkill for my needs… Reliability is definitely high on my list, as I’m the sole tech support guy for my house and I’d hate to tinker with something like internet access when my wife needs that to be 100% reliable for her job too.

Any experience with the smaller more purpose build x86 units regarding reliability? If it dies, do you just have to have a second one laying in wait ready to deploy? Is a Xeon overkill?

Thanks for your thoughts!


I am in the exact same boat, down to the AC68U. Curious what you end up with. I have been looking for a while trying to find something with 2-3+ intel NIC but didn’t realize the PC engines were cheap & had the specs. Going to have to research those now too. Looks promising. My main want is something with relatively low power usage for the router side of my network.