PC Engines APU2 - Recommended!

So I am jumping the gun a little here as I just put this little beauty together last night, so we'll see what stability is like in the long run... But so far so good!

APU2D4 + Their red case.
1 x Mirkotik R11e-5HnD 5.8ghz QCA9880
1 x Mikrotik R11e-2HPnD 2.4ghz AR9582
1 x Transcend 16GB mSATA

I was about to throw Debian on it but thought lets stay with OpenWRT since I don't plan on doing much besides regular 'router' stuff on it.

Really nice little piece of kit. Only downside so far is its a bit pricy... In USD I guess you're looking at about 300USD for a 2+5ghz unit.

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I'm also currently investigating getting a PCEngines x86 device for my next OpenWRT router.

Could you explain why you decided to use 2 separate miniPCI express WIFI cards for 2.4Ghz and 5GHz instead of a single, dual band card?
Also why have you chosen to go with the Mikrotik WIFI cards over the Compex WIFI cards offered by PCEngines?
From what I can tell, a single Compex WLE900VX is cheaper, better (offering 3x3 MIMO) and will use less power being a dual band card.

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Same as a Swiss watch: Also a bit pricy :slight_smile:
I am using APU2/APU3 myself. Very reliable, like my watch.

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Yeah its a dual band card, but you either go 2.4ghz or 5.8ghz, not both at the same time.

DBDC (Dual Band Dual Concurrent) cards are starting to hit market, but nothing available yet.

The closest I was able to find was one by Compex as well, WLE1216VX (double check, I dont recall 100% if this is the model #).

But everywhere had it listed as arriving April 2020 "Pre Order". Now with corona who knows.

Plus these MikroTik mini pcie cards are pretty top end, and at about 50-60usd a piece, not a bad deal.

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Oh that is good to know! I assumed those dual channel cards were indeed Simultaneous Dual Band. I was not aware of the fact that it can only operate in one band at a time.
On the other hand it then makes sense why they sell enclosures with 6 holes for SMA connectors. It's so you can add 2 of those 3x3 MIMO cards...

As for the WLE1216VX: according to a post in the terrible PCEngines forum it is not supported as it draws too much power being a wave 2 device. It's supposed to draw 13W.
But if I have to add 2 Compex WLE900VX cards a 5W each, then it is not so much different....

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That could well be the case, but honestly, I never gave it much thought... I probably should have.

What I can say for sure is I am running:

R11e-5HacD x 1
R11e-2HPnD x 1

And have not had any issues. They are both cranked up to 30dBm and 29dBm.

Also, mikrotik does make a 3 chain 5ghz mini pcie adapter. I opted to go with the 2 chain because I like symmetry and the 2ghz is only available in 2 chain. 4 antennas look nicer then 5 :wink:

I have the 3 chain up here in my Hystou H5, which serves as my upstairs router / primary iot gateway.

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Anyone tried mt76 based wireless cards?

Like this one:

At least the first three should be supported by the mt76 driver.
For the last i created a issue to ask if they are supported...
But the last two are fitting only if we use the middle pcie and leave the other pcie slots empty.

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I have no experience with those WIFI cards yet. I'm still window shopping :slight_smile:

The MT7615 seems to be a wave2 device which is also able to use both bands (Dual Band Dual Concurrent) like the Compex WLE1216VX. If you don't need the left most mSATA PCIE slot for an SSD (e.g. because you use a CF card for the OS), then it might be an option over 2 separate 2,4 and 5 GHz cards. But there is also deliberately(?) no mentioning of power consumption in the spec sheets like for the Compex card.

Oh and another interesting wave2 card based on the Atheros QCA9984 is the jjPlus WMX6401. It's 4x4 MU-MIMU, but I don't know if it can do DBDC.
Are all wave2 devices able to use both bands concurrently or is this feature depending on a specific card design? E.g. I could not find any mentioning of DBDC in the QCA9984 chipset specs...

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For what its worth, it is possible to purchase a simple (10 dollars or so) mini pcie extension cable.

The image below is not quite what you would need but if you dig around, its available... Even on amazon.

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Heh, you are going through exactly what I went through about 2 months ago.

I checked out all of those cards you listed... I wasn't able to get a concrete yes / no if it would be DBDC so I opted to go this route.

Another thing, although not THAT important... The two adapters I use (MikroTik ones) are both 29dBm on the 2.4ghz, and 30dBm on the 5ghz. Most of these DBDC cards are about 20dBm... I'm sure that would be fine for most setups but worth mentioning.

What ever you decide to go with as far as wifi cards go, I am fairly sure you will be happy with the APU2 it self.

The only issue I had is my serial cable is a little bit finicky. To get it to work properly I have to unplug and replug it to make it work. But this is only used during initial setup or when you need a "display" from the APU2 and I will mention I ordered a random one off Amazon not the one they recommend on the pcengines site so I'm sure thats why.

Besides that, a flawless device.

PS : Pick the APU2 model correctly, I do not recall exactly what one but the one with 2 sim card slots, one of the mini pcie slots is USB only or something like that which is fine for LTE but a no-go for a proper 802.11 wifi adapter.

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Yes, I have to admit your build is very good and I'm considering a very similar one as of now. I'll probably go with the Mikrotiks cards for my APU2E4. I'll not need all the output of the high power 2.4 GHz model, but I prefer the MMCX connectors over the IPEX ones. I'll probably go with 3 chain model for 5 GHz and a slightly bigger Transcend 230S SSD. The red case with the 6 SMA connector holes is IMHO a must have. I think I'd even get it for a non-WIFI/LTE build.

But I have to say, finding good antennas is quite hard. If you do not want to use dual band antennas, but specialized ones for the 2.4 GHz resp. 5 GHz band, then it's really hard. And the worst part is that most of the antennas in the shops don't even have a brand or model name that one could use for an investigation. A proper data sheet with specs and actual measurements is super rare :weary:

Well, so far the best in the 3-5 dBi range I could find are these

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@anom3 Many of the Compex cards have problems in either mPCIe 1 or mPCIe 2 on the APU2 boards (see https://github.com/pcengines/apu2-documentation/issues/115). Did you have any problems getting the kernel to see either the R11e-5HnD or the R11e-2HPnD in your APU2D4 board?

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@dhess

None what so ever. I was surprised at how seamless the install went as I read some of the mpcie issues AFTER placing the order but before it arrived.

I use the non-ct driver for the 5ghz card (ath10k NOT atk10-ct) as I found the throughput to be about 70mbits higher.

Just a note, this APU2 sits at the lowest floor in my home. Its where my WAN connection exits the wall. That being said, its not a heavily used floor as our living room is up stairs, and bedrooms even higher... Both floors have their own access points connected via ethernet. On my living room floor I have a TL-RE650 only because its most aesthetically pleasing (power socket right next to ethernet port) and on my top floor I have a Hystou H5 that acts as both my main iot server (OpenHAB etc...) and my accesspoint (again, dual mikrotik mpcie adapters).

So the adapters on the APU2 are not that heavily used... Although I have 4 iot devices that sit on them 24/7 (2 x 5ghz, and 2 x 2.4ghz).

No issues what so ever. I haven't pushed an uptime of over 2 weeks as I tinker quite a bit and have been updating my build with the git release every while.

I also run the latest (released 2 or so weeks ago) firmware on it.

Oh last but not least, I run it using the performance governor, so its staying clocked at 1GHZ 24/7. It gets (and stays) a little warm. but I am not looking to save $0.25 on my power bill and like to see these kinds of load numbers: :wink:

root@OPENWRT-PRIMARY:~# uptime
 12:20:46 up 8 days, 12:07,  load average: 0.00, 0.03, 0.06
root@OPENWRT-PRIMARY:~#

Here is my lspci dump for the APU2:

root@OPENWRT-PRIMARY:~# lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Root Complex
00:00.2 IOMMU: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Mullins IOMMU
00:02.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Host Bridge
00:02.1 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h Processor Functions 5:1
00:02.2 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h Processor Functions 5:1
00:02.3 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h Processor Functions 5:1
00:02.4 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h Processor Functions 5:1
00:02.5 PCI bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h Processor Functions 5:1
00:08.0 Encryption controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Kabini/Mullins PSP-Platform Security Processor
00:10.0 USB controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH USB XHCI Controller (rev 11)
00:11.0 SATA controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH SATA Controller [AHCI mode] (rev 40)
00:13.0 USB controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH USB EHCI Controller (rev 39)
00:14.0 SMBus: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH SMBus Controller (rev 42)
00:14.3 ISA bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH LPC Bridge (rev 11)
00:14.7 SD Host controller: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] FCH SD Flash Controller (rev 01)
00:18.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Function 0
00:18.1 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Function 1
00:18.2 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Function 2
00:18.3 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Function 3
00:18.4 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Function 4
00:18.5 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Family 16h (Models 30h-3fh) Processor Function 5
01:00.0 Network controller: Qualcomm Atheros QCA986x/988x 802.11ac Wireless Network Adapter
02:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation I210 Gigabit Network Connection (rev 03)
03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation I210 Gigabit Network Connection (rev 03)
04:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation I210 Gigabit Network Connection (rev 03)
05:00.0 Network controller: Qualcomm Atheros AR958x 802.11abgn Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01)
root@OPENWRT-PRIMARY:~#
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@dhess

Oh, also worth noting I use my 'own' power supply to power the APU (as well as my switch). Only because I wanted 1 power supply... I use a meanwell 5A 12V adapter with 2 leads coming out of it, one into the APU2 and 1 into my Mikrotik 5 port switch.

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@anom3 Thank you for the extremely detailed (and fast) reply!

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Thanks to @anom3 I'm using exactly that same mikrotik wifi cards in my apu2c4 without any problems since over one month.
I use the apu2c4 as my main router and wifi access point and i'm very happy with it.

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I build my new apu2 accesspoint with compex wle1216vx is pretty fast card but now i waiting for the Y Cable no chance in germany to get there , i have also made the hardware mode to run this card. :smiley:

For 2,4 ghz i use compex wle200nx.

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Caution: You need a stronger
Powersupply my configuration need 2,333A :wink:

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Thanks for sharing.
Could you please explain why you are using a separate wle200nx for 2.4 GHz? Shouldn't the wle1216vx be able to do Dual Band Dual Concurrent and use both bands simultaneously? I assumed that a single module would be sufficient in this case...

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You are mistaken, while it can either tune into a 2.4 GHz channel or a 5 GHz one, it cannot serve both bands concurrently.

That's the difference between dual-band and concurrent dual-band, the later requires two radios, two dedicated WLAN cards[0].

--
[0] yes there are some exotic cards that merge two radios on one card, but those are rare, expensive, oversized, require more power and cooling than mini-PCIe is specified to deliver and are basically unobtainium; this card is not one if them.

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