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First Look: Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite

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EdgeMAX EdgeRouter Lite
At a glance
ProductUbiquiti ERLite-3 EdgeMAX EdgeRouter Lite   [Website]
SummaryVery 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: $98  Check NewEgg  Check Amazon

Introduction

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

Ubiquiti ERL front and rear panels

Inside

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

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

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.

Feature Summary

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

  • Ethernet
  • 802.1q VLAN
  • PPPoE
  • GRE
  • IP in IP
  • Bridging
  • Bonding (802.3ad)

Addressing

  • Static IPv4/IPv6 Addressing
  • DHCP/DHCPv6

Routing

  • Static Routes
  • OSPF/OSPFv3
  • RIP/RIPng
  • BGP (with IPv6 Support)
  • IGMP Proxy

Security

  • ACL-Based Firewall
  • Zone-Based Firewall
  • NAT

VPN

  • IPSec Site-to-Site and Remote Access
  • OpenVPN Site-to-Site and Remote Access
  • PPTP Remote Access
  • L2TP Remote Access
  • PPTP Client

Services

  • DHCP/DHCPv6 Server
  • DHCP/DHCPv6 Relay
  • Dynamic DNS
  • DNS Forwarding
  • VRRP
  • RADIUS Client
  • Web Caching

QoS

  • FIFO
  • Stochastic Fairness Queueing
  • Random Early Detection
  • Token Bucket Filter
  • Deficit Round Robin
  • Hierarchical Token Bucket
  • Ingress Policing

Management

  • Web UI
  • CLI (Console, SSH, Telnet)
  • SNMP
  • NetFlow
  • LLDP
  • NTP
  • UBNT Discovery Protocol
  • Logging



Related Items:

SmallNetBuilder Giveaway Results: Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite
SmallNetBuilder Giveaway: Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite
Ubiquiti EdgeMax EdgeRouter Pro Reviewed
How To Configure Your Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite
SmallNetBuilder Giveaway: Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Pro

User reviews

Average user rating from: 5 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: 
 
4.6 Features :
 
4.4 Performance :
 
5.0 Reliability :
 
4.4
 
Ratings (the higher the better)
Features*
 
Performance*
 
Reliability*
 
Comments*
    Please enter the security code.
 
 

1 Year Later: even better!

Overall rating: 
 
5.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by GordP
June 13, 2014
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After 311 days' uptime, it was time to upgrade the firmware. Today, exactly 1 year after writing my original review, it's time to share my longer take on this unit: It's awesome!

First off - the reliablity and stability. In the consumer-realm, my experience with D-Link, Netgear, Linksys and others have fallen disastrously short, in comparison - some would struggle to achieve 11 days uptime, let alone 311 days :-O Under the heaviest domestic load, I am limited by my ISP (25Mb/s down), not the ERLite3.

Now that there have been some firmware-updates (1.4.1 at the time of writing this), I'm pleased to see that some items identified previously have been addressed:

-Hairpin NAT (loopback, reflection)
This is now one-click easy, with their port-forward Wizard. Suppose you port-forward Port 80 to your web-server... now, the Wizard auto-opens the firewall port for you, and clicking another check-box enables hairpin NAT. Super-easy, and all my household members behind the ERLite3 were instantly able to access my web-server with the same URL they use off-site (that's what hairpin NAT does). The Wizard made it so easy to set up hairpin NAT, that I did the same for a number of Web ports (80, 443), and quite a few SSH ports too.

-IPv6
There is now improved GUI support for IPv6, but the basic functionality remains the same: rock-solid and fully-functional.

I don't think this is quite a 5/5 unit, but the drop-down Ratings box won't let me choose something like 4.75 for features. It's a very, very good product, still a bit challenging to configure, and nicely updated after 1 year of flawless service. The ERLite3 remains the top-ranked wired router here on SmallNetBuilder, but now with an even lower price.

 

High Performance Routing Without Things You Don't Need

Overall rating: 
 
4.7
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by zentec
September 07, 2013
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Just like others have stated and in the review, this is not your typical home router because it really *isn't* a home router. You will spend quite a bit of time configuring this box.

I purchased mine because I needed better performance between LAN and DMZ (the DMZ is used for my work) that couldn't be achieved with OpenWRT running on hardware like a Netgear WNDR3700 and a TP-Link WDR4300. Offerings from Linksys and Zyxel didn't impress due to features/cost, cheaper alternatives missed things like SNMP.

So for pretty much the cost of a router at any big box store, I solved a problem usually not seen on home networks.

Performance is great.

If you are familiar with Vyatta, you can ditch the web interface and go right to the heart. If you don't know anything about Vyatta, the 1.2 firmware UI is decent enough to get started and experiment, but you'll still be at the command line to set up things like Dynamic DNS, L2TP/IPSec and nuking messes created with the web UI.

If you are comfortable with Linux IP tables, advanced networking and thinking about building your own router out of PC hardware, this is worthy of consideration. If you need something that you pull from the box and is pretty much what you want at the first boot (there is nothing wrong with that), be advised that this isn't that kind of device.

 

Fast, Powerful, Stable... but a bit rough, and not too friendly

Overall rating: 
 
4.7
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by GordP
June 12, 2013
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I'm a bit of a geek, and I bought this router for two main reasons:
-form an endpoint for my Hurricane Electric IPv6 Tunnel, so that my whole house could benefit from IPv6 throughout
-stability. I've been through most of the consumer-grade products, and they always seem to disappoint :-( Particularly when they're being a bit stressed (ie someone watching IPTV, couple of other family members surfing/streaming, a few wifi connections, and me remotely SSH'ing in with a couple of connections).

In both these regards, the ERLite3 is rock-solid.

It's a router only, so when you need WiFi in your home or small business, you'll have to add that separately. Same for multiple computers - I already have a 48-port GigE/IPv6 switch, and you'll need something external like this - the ERLite is only a router, and it excels at that.

The unit runs warm, so allow for ventilation... I've mounted mine in my "network closet" (well, under my stairs in the basement, actually), on the edge of a 2x4... this gives me about 5.5 sides of ventilation, which "feels" about right - don't set this on a fuzzy towel and expect it to run cool - it won't.

While I have a lot of Linux familiarity, the Linux in the ERLite is hidden beneath a bunch of Vyatta configuration-scripts. Once you get the hang of using these "set/show/configure" style of commands, they're actually OK. But - I warn you - best to set aside an entire day to get this thing up-and-running for a basic configuration, and expect to lock yourself out and de-stabilize things a couple of times during the first week. After that, it will do what it's told for most of eternity :-)

Because the Linux is so hidden, you don't need to know anything about Linux, but you can drop out of their EdgeOS command environment, and access the Linux command-line with a quick 'sudo su'. But, you may never have to, unless you're a real geek :-)

During the first day, you will get really good at Factory Reset, and saving/restoring working configurations. The learning curve is indeed steep, and you should not be the type of person who is quickly frustrated...

For me, configuring IPv6 was jumping into the deep-end with both feet: the GUI is nice, but offers nothing in the way of IPv6 settings - perhaps a later version of the GUI will offer that, but for now you'll have to hit the EdgeOS command environment. For setting up a Hurricane Electric tunnel, HE does offer some cut-and-paste commands which help tremendously and worked perfectly. Test this with lots of 'ping6' commands, from the router and from your other machines...

But even from the EdgeOS command environment, there are still some things which cannot be set: rDNSS servers in radvd.conf for one example (only applies to a small subset of IPv6 users, I think). OTOH, at the Linux command-line, you can add Debian stuff like 'ddclient' and more, if you want.

Second issue: Hairpin (aka Reflection or loopback) NAT. I run a home-webserver, which is a virtual-server that co-exists with other virtual-servers on a single physical machine. It's not suitable for use in a DMZ, and setting it up for outside (public) access went fairly well... however, from inside my home, I always only got the ERLite's config-page every time I tried to browse to my home-web-server :-( This took *a lot* of searching, liberally mixed with trial-and-error, before it worked. This is in-contrast to some consumer-grade products with a single check-box, and everything "just works"....

Like Mark L below, I would class the EdgeMax ERLite3 as a "prosumer" router, entirely suitable for demanding home and small-business use. And, IMHO, it delivers tremendous bang for the buck - after 1 month of usage, I'm very satisfied.

I'd give it the highest rating if IPv6 settings appeared in the GUI, and if Hairpin NAT were tremendously simplified.

 

Extremely configurable, incredibly powerful, beautiful web GUI

Overall rating: 
 
5.0
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
5.0
Reviewed by Mark L
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

Overall rating: 
 
3.7
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
2.0
Reviewed by James Tenniswood
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.