I am planning to get a beefy, but low energy consumption MiniPC.
My plan is to use it for a while for learning and experimenting with containers, Kubernetes and other tools. After that period I want to use this device with OpenWrt to replace my current router. This new router should ideally last for many years, which is also why the specs of the device should be way more than is needed for a router today. With this overhead I assume to be able to feel relaxed about higher bandwidth internet, more complex SQM/QOS algorithms and so on in the future.
In short, this device should:
manage up to 500 MBit/s internet with SQM (future-proof, currently only at 100 MBit/s)
be very silent (fanless if possible)
very low power consumption since running 24/7 can get quite expensive with the current energy prices in Europe, especially in idle or low workloads
have an architecture and enough CPU power to install a normal Linux and on top of that some containers (I believe this is only possible with arm or x86, but unrealistic with MIPS or RISC-V CPUs, please correct me if I'm wrong)
last for as many years as possible
So far, I found NanoPi R6S and R6C which should tick all those boxes. I know that there is no official OpenWrt support yet, but there is already a nice person building unofficial images and since support for the Rockchip RK3588S was added in 6.3 (or 6.5?) kernel, I have high hopes that an official image will follow at some point in the future,even if in 1-2 years.
NanoPi's documentations seems quite good (they have a wiki) and from what I read in reviews they seem well-built. They are both available for around 190€.
If you have other suggestions than the NanoPi's though, please let me know!
Now, I'm unsure if the R6S or the R6C would be better suited for my needs.
The only differences I can see are
R6S: IR receiver (which I don't need)
R6C: more GPIO pins (which I most likely won't need)
R6S: their doc says "5V Fan connector" but I can't see one and the case doesn't seem to have room for a fan anyway (correct me if I'm wrong)
The biggest difference is however, the R6S has one 1GBit LAN and two 2,5GBit LAN ports, while the R6C has only one 2,5GBit LAN port (in addition to the 1Gbit), but has space for an NVMe drive. I am unsure if I will ever need that NVME slot, since I can't think of any use for it (maybe you have suggestions?).
Will a second 2,5GBit LAN port make any difference at all if I use an ethernet switch anyway to connect multiple devices via ethernet? Or can you think of any scenarios at home where a second port on the router could be useful in addition to a switch?
As you have correctly identified, OpenWrt doesn't support either of these models. I would recommend that you consider if running official OpenWrt is important (now or in the future) since there is no guarantee that support will be added (hopefully it will, but you shouldn't rely on it until there is a known path and a git-commit in place to add support).
At this point, given that this device doesn't run pure OpenWrt, you'll be relying on other people/projects for both firmware (and additional package repos) as well as support. The OpenWrt forum cannot support what is effectively a black-box firmware, even if it is 'based on' OpenWrt -- the maintainers of the firmware you use will have necessarily made significant changes, and we don't know what has changed, why, how it should ideally operate, and how it is configured. Is that sufficient for you? If not, select hardware that is supported by OpenWrt officially.
Yes, I am fully aware of that. I am not in the immediate need of a new router right now. I am just considering getting a device now that I can later repurpose as a nice OpenWrt router.
If the NanoPi won't get OpenWrt support, I am sure I'll be able to make use of it in other projects.
I am particularily interested in any insights for my last question, which is why I asked in this forum, since I believe there are many talented networking people here with experiences in different use cases and scenarios
But additionally, I am also open for other device suggestions.
Consider an Alder Lake-N N95/ N100 mini-PC with four 2.5GBASE-T ports instead, supported right now and in the ~130-250 EUR range (complete, with SSD, RAM, case, PSU, everything, ready to deploy). Fast, easy and 'boring' (in the good sense).
I do recommend against mixing containers and routers, stick to the bare iron for that, from a security point of view alone.
If you really need that beefy, you can look at Topton from AliExpress, it has a multiple 2.5G (can't remember 4 or 6) and equipped with AMD Ryzen 5000U series (the big brother is 5825U which is 8C16T)
I own R6S, I believe the fan connector is not for you when using with the original metal case, but it's not really needed since the heat dissipation is good.
Another option for you if you really like SBC, Orange Pi 5 Plus, it has 2 x 2.5G ports, which is almost the same as R6C (of course, bigger, and no case), currently it has OS support from Armbian, so you can start with it, running containers/VM inside to do your task now.
This is within the capability of a NanoPi R5C, which also has two 2.5G ports and, while not currently OpenWrt supported, there is a PR providing support based on the 6.1 kernel, so official support sooner for the R5C appears more probable.
Of course, if you only get an R5C you won't be able to spend anywhere close to that much money on a router or your electricity bill . In all seriousness though, it sounds like an R5C would meet your needs and for the cost of an R6C or R6S, I would instead look for low power fanless x86 solutions.
Thanks, I will consider the R5C as well. I am unsure yet how much horsepower I will need for my experimentings with containers, kubernetes and so on.
I am considering those as well. Though I have no idea how much power they consume. The N100 is low-power, but I don't know about the whole PC. There is already a big difference in 3W vs 7W idle power consumption (15€ per year). Is generic x64 supported by Openwrt without any problems?
Thanks for the name Topton. I did find some intel N100 for under 200€ with 8/16GB RAM. Ryzen 5800U was 300€ which is way above my budget and I don't need that much horsepower.
I never ordered on ALiexpress before though. If they're shipping from China and I have to pay VAT+customs in addition to the price, those are gonna be too expensive as well...
The R6S is reported to handle 1.5 Gig upload/download and 2 Gig download SQM here. CAKE runs on a single core, so if the R6S can handle 1.5 to 2 Gig SQM, then it seems like a 6W TDP N100 with ~1.7X faster single core than the R6S would probably handle 2.5 Gig SQM. Both have plenty of CPU cores left over for other work.
I have recently purchased, r5c , and I will say that it is the best option of existing, it is super compact, in addition, if you choose r6c/s you are guaranteed to overheat, it is not much written about it, but it has too powerful processor, for this purpose there is a connector for additional cooling, if it is properly configured it will not be silent, (it has four additional cores cortex a76 which will overheat it, also from the disadvantages of 1 port 2.5g, and no m2 slot with key A, E for wifi module), unlike the r6 the r5c is fine with this, it is weaker in power but it is super compact and what few people realize it has a m2 slot super necessary with keys A, E, supporting installation of the best budget wifi module m2 mt7922 supporting wifi 6e, (best buy for r5c).
I recently managed to buy at a good price r5c 65$ + set with wifi 6e (pigtail ipex4 to rp-sma-k 5 pieces and two antennas) at a discount, all cost 85$.
and I want to remind you that in the future you can upgrade wifi and raise your capabilities,
other m2 modules are worse, not suitable (no drivers or different compatibility problems, the one that comes as a default installation option rtl8822ce, if you chose this option, this module from realteck does not support AP mode, supports client only mode, which is also not bad for the first time, but as a router will not work), be extremely careful in choosing another wifi module. mt7922 almost nothing is better for internal installation in nanopi. there are other m2 wifi but they are worse in my personal opinion for r5c, also keep in mind newest m2 module from intel and broadcom on arm are poorly compatible.
if you want buy is the best choice
I own R6S and I don't really think it overheats (I even tried to use it as desktop, connecting 4K output for video playback), with the original metal casing it's quite warm when you touch it but it's not really "overheating".
4k playback is done with hardware acceleration on the video accelerator (Mali-G610), that's why there is no heat in this scenario (from specifications: 8K@60fps H.265 and VP9 decoder, H.264 decoder, 4K@60fps AV1 decoder, 8K@30fps H.264 and H.265 encoder), it hardly loads it. I know this because I have a r5c it has the same processor as the r6c only 4 cores less.
To test it you need to run a high speed data transfer for half an hour or more, at least 500+ mbit/s.
The power consumption is about ~3.5 watts idle and between 5~6 when downloading and/or watching videos. Transcoding is not available yet, waiting patiently on Collabora to finish their work on the OrangePi5 with the rk3588(s) and hopefully Marty Jones will come through when that is upstreamed to the Linux kernel. After that its not too long for official OpenWRT support.
Only drawback, you'll have to trust Marty's builds. If you can't do that go Intel/AMD.
The TDP isn't really all that relevant here, as the overwhelming time of the day the idle power usage applies - and even an i9 can do a good job at that - the mainboard is the major distinguishing factor here. The short amounts of high system load disappear in the background noise.