Firewalla’s Gold Plus firewall refreshes its Gold model with a faster CPU and higher network throughput. Backed by an excellent mobile app and frequent firmware releases, the box will provide peace of mind when web surfing, filtering content on the fly without hiccups, and guarding against external attacks. The hardware is protected against obsolescence since it supports adding more memory in terms of RAM and storage.
The Gold Plus keeps the same form factor as previous Firewalla products, housing the embedded computer in a small metal enclosure. The passively cooled unit provides four 2.5Gbit Ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 connectors, and an HDMI output, giving the Linux-based OS a display console. The case becomes warm when used, while the lack of moving parts increases the device’s reliability.
Firewalla Gold Plus: Pricing and availability
Firewalla has a range of domestic firewall appliances, with their least expensive at $199 and featuring basic filtering without any Internet routing capability. The Gold Plus is their best performer and will set you back by $589. The Firewalla Gold is slightly slower at processing packets but costs $485.
Firewalla Gold Plus: Design
The Gold Plus ships with all accessories needed to connect to an Internet hub, including an Ethernet cable, a 40W 12V power adapter, and a wall mounting kit. The Gold Plus metal box, which acts as a heatsink, will get warm when used for a long time. The unit measures 13cm x 11cm x 3.4cm and weighs 565g. Four rubber pads on the bottom of the case support the firewall when placed horizontally.
The Firewalla Gold Plus has two USB3 ports on the front, one hosting a red license dongle that also serves as a Bluetooth interface and a second that can connect to a WiFi dongle. An HDMI connector on the front outputs the OS console to a screen. Four rear 2.5Gb Ethernet ports combine to give an aggregate throughput of 5Gbps. A push button sporting a blue LED serves as the power switch.
Under the hood, a compact motherboard hosts an Intel J4125 Quad Core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC. The RAM is installed in a single SODIMM socket and provides an upgrade path if more memory is required. Four Intel I226-V controller chips implement the 2.5Gb Ethernet subsystem and are superior to a Realtek-based solution, which is notorious for lacking proper Linux support. The firewall’s fourth port works as the WAN port and connects to the ISP’s Ethernet port.
The Gold Plus consumes less than 15W of power on average. Firewalla products have a one-year warranty with support from their website and forum.
Firewalla Gold Plus: In use
Connecting the AC power supply boots the system immediately and is practical in the event of power-lost. A buzzer then beeps, signaling the PC is doing its POST sequence. The OS boots within seconds, thanks to the fast eMMC interface. A reset button is included on the front panel but should rarely be used. Finally, a console port at the back connects to an RJ45 serial cable and helps troubleshoot the unit.
The hardware installation of the Gold Plus is as simple as connecting the unit between the ISP router and the intranet. The router mode can assign IPs to connected devices while monitoring inbound and outbound traffic. The routing capability can be disabled if one is on the network, which turns the unit into a 2.5Gb firewall.
Firewalla’s mobile application, available on iOS and Android platforms, provides the main user interface to control the firewall. The setup requires scanning the QR code at the back of the unit. The procedure takes a few minutes to complete and requires the user to answer a few questions. The app eventually opens a dashboard containing live statistics about the health and utilization of the network.
Firewalla’s products shine by how different pieces, such as the threat database, are integrated seamlessly into their ecosystem. The app plays a critical part by controlling features such as the VPN or the Adblocker. Alarms triggered by intrusion attempts generate notifications on the mobile device’s status bar.
Firewalla Gold Plus: The competition
Firewalls such as the Gold Plus are hard to find since they target the general public and include hardware, software, and services like the threat database. Off-the-shelf computers suit hackers and tinkerers who want to deploy Linux-based firewalls and require a steep learning curve. Others, such as the WatchGuard Firebox T40, are tailored for small businesses, often requiring a subscription to get all services.
The WatchGuard Firebox T40 is a compact firewall box powered by a 1GHz Quad-core processor. With 4GB of RAM, 16GB of non-volatile memory, and five 1Gbit Ethernet ports, one supporting PoE, it is close to what the Gold Plus provides. However, Firewalla’s unit offers better packet processing with a more powerful processor and 2.5Gb Ethernet. The Gold Plus is also more compact and costs less than the T40.
Firewalla Gold Plus: Final verdict
Firewalla’s Gold Plus firewall is out to conquer the home office, and the chance of it succeeding in this endeavor is high. The powerful hardware provides a good base for many software extensions and more threat analysis without dropping packets. The setup and everyday use are a treat, thanks to a snappy mobile application.
On the other hand, the Gold Plus could have had built-in WiFi and been a tad less expensive. The annoying buzzer, even if seldom used, could also have been quieter. As with any cloud service, users will ask how their data are used and who keeps Firewalla in check to prevent leaks.