|At a glance|
|Product||Ubiquiti ERLite-3 EdgeMAX EdgeRouter Lite [Website]|
|Summary||Very fast Gigabit Ethernet router based on Vyatta code running on dual-core Cavium CPU|
|Pros||• Pretty close to wire-speed Gigabit routing|
• Highly configurable
|Cons||• GUI is work in progress|
• Does not come plug-and-play out of box
• Documentation requires lots of reading between lines and Forum consultation
Typical Price: $99 Compare Prices Check Amazon
The SNB Forums have been abuzz about a new kid on the router block. Ubiquiti's EdgeRouter Lite (ERL) has been attracting attention due to its low price ($99), Gigabit ports and claims of wire-speed packet-forwarding rate.
So, having learned my lesson about Ubiquiti's (un)responsiveness to review requests when I reviewed its PowerAP N, I ordered one up. Following a lead posted in the forum, I ignored the Availability: March 2013 notice on Microm's order page and had the product in hand a few days later.
At 7 3/4" (W) X 3 1/2" (D) X 1" (H) the ERL was larger than I thought it would be. I was a bit surprised that a product aimed at no-nonsense business users would come in a plastic case, but that's how it was dressed.
The ports, lights and buttons are called out in the diagram below. The bottom panel has screw mounting slots that give you the option of mounting connectors pointing up or down. I can attest that the Reset button worked just fine, since I had to use it many times while getting set up.
Ubiquiti ERL front and rear panels
All it took to get inside was removing two screws so that I could snap the photos below. There isn't much to look at since the ERL has no wireless features.
ERL board top side
There isn't much to see on the bottom view either, except more heatsinking. This aluminum plate had a little block on its other side that contacted a thermal pad under the CPU. If you look closely, you can see 8 MB of Macronix flash memory peeking out of the bottom right side of the heatsink.
ERL board bottom side
The advertised 2 GB of flash storage is in the form of a mini USB key inserted into a connector on the board top (left side of topside photo)
I tried to twist off the heatsink to positively identify the CPU, but the adhesive was pretty firm. So after looking at various Ubiquiti Forum posts and getting a peek at the /proc/cpuinfo file, my best guess is that it's a Cavium OCTEON Plus dual-core CN5020. What I don't know is what speed grade it is, since the CN5020 comes in 300, 400, 500, 600 and 700 MHz flavors.
The table below includes the two routers that (you will see shortly) have higher downlink throughput in the current Router Charts. So there is nothing particularly magical about the ERL's hardware in achieving such high routing throughput. The key is really in the software running on it.
|Ubiquiti ERL||EnGenius ESR750H||ASUS RT-AC66U|
|CPU||Cavium CN5020||Ralink RT3883F||Broadcom BCM4706|
|Switch or Ethernet||Atheros AR8035 Gigabit PHY (x3)||Atheros AR8327||Broadcom BCM53125|
|RAM||512 MB||256 MB||256 MB|
|Flash||2 GB + 8 MB||16 MB||128 MB|
Table 1: Component summary
That software, as it turns out is a fork of Vyatta 6.3. Vyatta is an open source network operating system that first was available in 2006. It provides advanced IPv4 and IPv6 routing, stateful firewalling, IPsec and SSL OpenVPN, among other features. Vyatta was acquired by Brocade late last year, but the open-source "Vyatta Core" version is still available.
Vyatta made its bones on two things: performance and scalability. Ubiquiti apparently intends to capitalize on both Vyatta features with more powerful EdgeRouters in the works. Right now, though, the EdgeRouter Lite is the only version available.
The ERL has many features. But the ones you can get to depend on whether you are comfortable configuring a router via command line. We'll get into that more in a bit, but here's the feature list, straight from the ERL's User Guide.
Interface / Encapsulation
Average user rating from: 2 user(s)
NOTE! Please post product reviews from actual experience only.
Questions, review comments and opinions about products not based on actual use will not be published.
|User Rating [Back to Top]||Overall:||4.3||Features :||4.5||Performance :||5.0||Reliability :||3.5|
Extremely configurable, incredibly powerful, beautiful web GUI
April 19, 2013
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This is not for the average consumer for sure. You are supplied with a "blank slate". Everything is configurable...everything!
This is great for control freaks like me but is not for the average user.
Fortunately there's a default example configuration that you can install in minutes which will get the router into the same state as an average consumer-level router. What you do with it from there is entirely up to you.
The web GUI is by far the nicest I've ever seen in a piece of networking equipment. It's fast, it's professional-looking, it's well-organized, it's informative and it's deceptively simple. It does not allow all the configuration options you can get over the command line but it works for basic to intermediate things.
The unit is TINY. It runs downright hot I'd say. The power adapter is a small brick - for me this is a good thing because the standard-sized plug fits into a power bar as opposed to a wall-wart which blocks adjacent ports.
The configuration files are probably the nicest thing about this router. They are fairly small, less than 100 lines or so, and are actually pretty simple. Without learning much about the command line I was able to alter the following:
- change a bridged configuration, which does not employ packet acceleration, to a single LAN port, which does employ packet acceleration
- disabled one LAN port entirely (I'm doing everything through a switch)
- change DNS servers from OpenDNS and Google to my ISP's DNS servers, provided through DHCP
- set Debian package repositories and point them to a local server
I just observed how other interfaces and parameters were defined, copied, pasted, and altered them to suit. I made some errors the first few attempts, disabling the LAN port I was connected to which locked me out of the router, but a reset followed by re-installing a saved known-working configuration file got me back up and running within minutes.
The user community is small, composed mostly of networking professionals - this can be a little intimidating for a home newbie user, but they did treat me well and went out of their way to help. I wish the community was a little more active, here's hoping sales increase and more newbie home user types come on board.
In terms of "prosumer" or low-end commercial gear, it's this or MicroTik. This is much newer than most of the MicroTik platforms, even the ones with latest-generation CPUs. The CPU is more powerful than even the mid-range MicroTiks and the amount of memory and flash is in line with the mid-range MicroTiks. On Ubiquiti's website there's an independent third-party comparison with a fairly high-end MicroTik router, the RB1100AHx2, where the ERL compares quite favourably. Sure MicroTik's user interface has gotten quite feature-laden over the years but it has its limitations. You can do everything through MicroTik's GUI that you can do on the command line, but that makes it incredibly dense and complicated. Since everything is configurable on the command line in the ERL, if you delve deep enough you can do anything you need.
I guess my only problem now is - what do I do with all this million-packets-per-second power? :-)
Powerful, but still a work in progress
February 01, 2013
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Its a great bit of kit, but I had a first gen version which developed a memory fault. The service from ubnt has been excellent.
The power of the device is very impressive, but it isn't a consumer or prosumer level device, the learning curve is high, but worth it I'd say.
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