Recommend Tiny PC For Router

Lately I've been warming up to the idea of deploying a refurbished tiny-form-factor PC—like those from Lenovo, Dell, HP, etc—as a residential firewall/router (running either OpenWRT or pfsense).

I like that tiny PCs from even a few years ago cost about the same as a new high-end consumer router but have the added benefit of more powerful, upgrade-able components (with the drawback of higher energy costs, but that's okay).

The problem I've encountered is finding one that has either dual Ethernet ports or a PCIe slot. Some tiny PCs have these facilities but most do not.

Does anyone have any model recommendations? I'd like to set up some alerts on Kijiji and eBay.

I would recommend against refurbished devices for 24/7 tasks, the electricity bill usually pays for itself by using -well selected- hardware (most existing devices are not built with this in mind, obviously there are exceptions to the rule).

What, specifically do you think would fail? I would likely replace the HDD with an SSD.

A USB3 gigabit ethernet adapter or router on a stick with an external vlan switch is another option.
I'm using a Intel NUC i5-5250U as my server and virtual router, combined with an external AP.

Yes, I've considered USB3 Ethernet adapters but how will I know if the one I choose is compatible with OpenWRT or pfSense?

Also, while I'm sure I could come up with ways to secure a dongle, there's something reassuring about knowing that all the critical hardware is inside of a steel box, and not dangling from a USB port.

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PC --> might be of interest (some use Realtek NICs, some use Intel)
ARM64 --> PINE64 RockPro64 + Dual Port Intel NIC (Intel T350-T2 or a clone of it works well for me in FreeBSD and some Linux distros at least), no idea how well it works using OpenWrt
Radxa ROCK Pi E might also be of interest, one of the few dual ethernet boards that doesn't utilize USB for ethernet however due to hardware limitations one port is 100Mbit only.

I have a RTL8153 which is supported by the r8152 module in linux. I run OpenWrt as a container using the Ubuntu 18.04 kernel, but I guess it also should work with the kmod-usb-net-rtl8152 package in OpenWrt.

I don't expect failure, but unless your hardware is chosen very well, its power requirements will be higher than a new (targeted) device.

try some thin clients like igel m820 / fujitsu futro s900/ hp t610/620 plus , they can be found dirty cheap on ebay. those tc are build for daily use in large company offices, work solid, or setup two of them in high availibility in pfsense/opnsense . works like a charm and performance is better from all soho aio routers.

Well, I found some HP T610 Plus clients for sale locally. They use an AMD T56n APU which is rated at 18W TDP. How does that strike you?

I also have a 2009 Core 2 Duo Mac Mini with 4GB RAM. USB ports are 2.0 but I reckon 100Mbit WAN ought to be fast enough for my 75Mbit internet connection.

It also has a 1394b port but I've never seen a FireWire-to-Ethernet adapter.

On second thought, the Mac Mini would do better as a media or torrent server.

Dell Wyse 5070 extended with a pcie nic card?

I could not find good prices in Europe, so I went for a dell optiplex sff w/ pcie nic card, i5-6500, ssd + 3.5 inch hdd. Currently runs proxmox and openwrt in a container as an VPN gateway. Earlier I had some problems but now the host kernel (proxmox) seems to work just fine driving the lxc openwrt container. This box is not tiny though

Honestly, I don't see much of a point in using decade-old PC hardware in this case. They are not smaller and they are not cheaper than contemporary router hardware, at least for the performance you require to handle such a line.

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Yes, I agree; the 2009 Mac Mini is not a good contender for WAN router.

I will add my 2c here. I am also considering a dedicated router now and in my case I would just go with a wrt3200acm with radios disabled. It is a purposely built device, low power, fast CPUs, and not running wifi will free up tons of CPU for routing and SQM. Might cost less or comparable to a thin client PC solution that needs an NIC card, BIOS updates, etc and uses more power. Gl.iNet has a Brume (GL-MV1000), which could do the same. I am hoping to buy one during the sales later this year.

None of the "cheap old mini PCs" are. A $25 NanoPi R2S or a $50 Edgerouter X will serve you better than a geriatric mini PC that was low-end to begin with. The only good reason to use a PC as an OpenWrt router is if you require something that is much more powerful than contemporary consumer router hardware, for example to saturate and regulate fiber speeds. And even then you would use current hardware, not the PCs they are selling for $10 just to save themselves the trip to the recycling center. Sorry.

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Ubiquiti erx will manage SQM at 100 mbit (+ a bit more).

ODROID-H2+ may also be an option. Requires uefi boot which isn't supported by openwrt using regular builds. Someone at this forum did get it working though.

Finally, it seems to be a lot of activity in the rp4 thread, may also be worth checking out

I've been keeping an eye on the NanoPi R2S. It seems as though it still requires a bit more time before it comes into its own for OpenWRT use. Edgerouter X is also an option but I want something with USB for storage and for installing something like YAMon.

They were low-end PCs but surely they are as capable, if not more capable than most inexpensive router appliances, no?
Also, I want something with inbuilt storage, or at least USB storage for logging traffic and such.

As far as energy consumption goes, the HP T610 Plus boxes would cost in the neighborhood of CAD$20/year to operate 24/7/365, which is perfectly acceptable for SOHO.