Mini PC or router?

Hi all, I am looking for simple hardware that I will use simply as a remote device to be a VPN server. It will be neither a router nor even an Access Point, but a simple client of a wifi network, and run an ssh server. I want to run the latest OpenWrt on it.

I was about to purchase a router, but I have a nagging feeling that it makes no sense to do it with a router. It seems to me a router is like a PC with extra capabilities (mainly radios). So I looked at mini-PC, but they seem to all cost quite a bit more than routers. That does not make a lot of sense to me, I feel I should be able to buy a very simple hardware that is like a router without radios.

Can anyone comment on:

  1. The ease with which one can install and maintain openWrt on a computer instead of a router? (it is very easy and convenient on a router).
  2. Why I am not seeing small computers in the same price ranges as routers?

H3 available.


Nowadays the custom routers are very powerful, there are ARM devices like nanoPI BananaPi, MangoPi etc… that are easy to install, you don’t have to compile your firmware, you can follow the snapshot builds easily using the online builder, there’s the online forum support, the consumption is way inferior than a mini PC, are handful because they already have some 2.5gbps ports and most important: they’re less expensive!

So, unless you need to do some specific work or you need a veeery fast routing/VPN I would go with a “lazy” router :slight_smile:

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Raspberry Pi? Also is there a need for OpenWrt at all?


Rasperry Pi is a great candidate. The only thing I wonder is that they seem really expensive nowadays.

When I look on Amazon, I see that they go for $200. This is still within my budget, but online guides all talk about $75, and the official website say they should start at $35. So I thought Amazon's prices are a rip-off right now? What do you think? Are they still good value at $200?

The question on whether it should run openWrt is a great one as well. The main reason is that I am now familiar with openWrt, and I feel it's easy to run, maintain. I keep updated on when I need to upgrade. Whereas if I run a different OS, I feel it's a new thing to learn.

Though I am very happy to hear contrary argument, if my reasoning is flawed.

VPN choice would dictate whether a Pi is a good choice or not, I would suggest that with that calibre of HW the C4 would be a better selection. Or some flavour of this

  • get a x86, if high VPN throughput is important and power consumption is less important (VPN encryption needs CPU power)
  • grab any raspberry pi, you can find for reasonable price in stock (pi 4 is unavailable for month now, except for very high prices from scalpers. Vendor claims this wont get better before March 2023).
  • though not particular best of breed for VPN, netgear wax 202 is a recent cheap recommendation in some countries, if your country has it in any shop for less than 60 bucks. Maybe watch for sales.
  • though not particular best of breed for VPN, you can also check the recent posts of cheap recommended routers in the HW section and check availability of each one in your country, to find one which is available in your country + cheap

Rather do not start your first advanture on OpenWRT with expensive hardware. Get used to it first on cheap PoC HW, with this get a feeling, how it behaves for your specific need in daily use and then buy follow-up HW that better fits your need.


Mini pc, any day of the week.

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Thanks Pico. I have installed OpenWrt on a few routers, so I am already familiar with it. I have never used it on a mini PC though.

Performance is not important. Power consumption is not a concern.

Ok, is it as easy to install and maintain on a mini PC as on a router ?

Yeah, no difference what so ever.

Try booting openwrt on your regular pc, from a flash drive, see if you can spot any difference.

NICs might not be supported ootb, that's the only risk, imho, but you can always use the image builder to add the required packages.

It'll behave jus as a router, if you use the squashfs. Ext4 gives you more options, but behaves like a regular Linux FS.

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Ok, good to know. That sounds great. Any recommendation for brand/device?

I saw an inexpensive Intel NUC NUC7CJYH on Amazon.

It seems like a good solution to me spec wise. Does it seem like a good option to you guys?

Imho Raspberry Pi prices should be well below 50 EUR/USD to be attractive.

Thin x86_64 clients (older) may be had for a similar price and would probably be fit for purpose too.


watch the power consumption, not sure what TDP 7th gen offered…

Ok seems to be 10W TDP, should be fine :+1:

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You didn't specify the vpn speed.

I've been recommending the CR15ING/CR15WING/CR25ING/CR25WING/CR35ING recently.

They're cheap, and gigabit capable.

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VPN speed does not have to be high. Say 20 Mbps.

I am confused by the products CR15ING/CR15WING/CR25ING/CR25WING/CR35ING. They seem to be firewall devices, not generic mini pc ?

Does it matter?
I bought my CR25ing for $25, on US eBay,
and a Trustwave TS-25 for 25 EUR on DE eBay.

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Impressive hardware specs for such a tiny stuff :wink:

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Ah, thanks for the HOWTO. I am not familiar with these devices, but if we can install openwrt on it, I don't see any issue.