|At a glance|
|Product||Ubiquiti EdgeMAX EdgeRouter Lite (ERLite-3) [Website]|
|Summary||Inexpensive wired-only router based on Vyatta code running on dual-core Cavium CPU|
|Pros||• Highly configurable (if you know what you're doing)|
• High performance for the price
|Cons||• GUI is still a work in progress|
• Throughput drops considerably with QoS enabled
• Does not come plug-and-play out of box
• Support via Ubiquiti Community forum only
Typical Price: $100 Buy From Amazon
Ubiquiti bills its EdgeMax routers as "Advanced Routing Technology for the Masses". Ubiquiti's six EdgeMax routers provide high speed packet forwarding (1-2+ million packets per second) with varying amounts of physical ports and Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability (depending on model) at low cost.
The EdgeOS operating system for EdgeMax routers is a fork of Vyatta 6.3, an open source, specialized, Debian-based Linux distribution. Vyatta has gone through many changes since, including purchase by Brocade, which recently sold it to AT&T. These transactions do not affect EdgeOS, because it is based on the open source vesion of Vyatta.
EdgeOS has a Graphical User Interface (GUI), intended to simplify configuration and an integrated Command Line Interface (CLI) "for convenient access to advanced functions". Tim's first look at the EdgeRouter Lite (ERLite) with EdgeOS v1.0.2 back in 2013 and my review of the EdgeRouter Pro with EdgeOS v1.4.0 in 2014 both concluded EdgeRouter performance was impressive, but ease of use was not.
Although EdgeOS is full-featured, many of those features required using the CLI, which put it beyond the skills of most consumer router shoppers. But with "gigabit"—or at least 500 Mbps+—internet service becoming more common in the U.S. and the ERLite's reputation for being both fast and cheap, we thought it was time to revisit whether the ERLite should still carry a "not for networking newbies" caveat.
In this review, I'm going to explore the ERLite with EdgeOS v1.9.1. Except for a switch to a metal case from plastic, hardware in the EdgeRouter Lite hasn't changed from our original review (Cavium dual-core CN5020 @ 500 MHz with 512 MB RAM). So I'll concentrate this review on the features and usability of EdgeOS v1.9.1. Since our router test process has evolved and become tougher, we'll also see whether the ERLite still earns its reputation as "gigabit" grade.
The EdgeOS User Guide has expanded from 57 pages for v1.4 to 104 pages for v1.9. Comparing the table of contents between the two shows updates include Traffic Analysis, VPN, and QoS. The below image of the EdgeOS dashboard, which is the main page once you log in, shows the configuration tabs (Dashboard, Traffic Analysis, Routing, Firewall/NAT, Services, VPN, QoS, Users, Config Tree, and Wizards) for EdgeOS v1.9.
The Wizards configuration tab is on the far right. I would have put it to the far left, as this is the first thing you're going to want to use to get the router up and running. The EdgeOS lists five Wizards to simplify initial setup:
- Basic Setup
- Load Balancing
- Load Balancing2
Each Wizard erases the router and sets up various port configurations and enables Network Address Translations (NAT) and the firewall with default settings. The EdgeOS user guide suggests the Basic Setup Wizard for typical Small Office Home Office (SOHO) deployments.
The EdgeRouter Lite has just three Gigabit Ethernet ports (eth0, eth1, and eth2). With the Basic Setup Wizard on the EdgeRouter Lite, eth0 is the Internet/WAN port used to connect to your ISP. Eth1 and eth2 are set up as LAN ports providing a DHCP server for 192.168.1.0/24 on eth1 and 192.168.2.0/24 on eth2. I used the Basic Setup Wizard for the remaining sections of this review.
The Load Balancing Wizard allows for equal load balancing between dual Internet/WAN connections. With the Load Balancing Wizard on the EdgeRouter Lite, eth0 is an Internet/WAN port used to connect to one Internet Service Provider (ISP) and eth1 is another Internet/WAN port used to connect to your second ISP. Eth2 is set up as a LAN port providing a DHCP server for 192.168.1.0/24. You can see the status of the eth0, eth1, and eth2 in the below image from the dashboard with the EdgeRouter Lite configured with the Load Balancing Wizard.
I tested the default Load Balancing setup with two different Internet connections by running a continuous ping from my PC to the Internet (ping 22.214.171.124 -t). I disconnected the Ethernet cable on the EdgeRouter Lite to the active Internet connection carrying the ping traffic and saw 11 missed pings before failover occurred and the pings were successful again. This default EdgeOS WAN failover is acceptable, but could be quicker. On other dual WAN routers I've tested (see LRT224 review,) I've seen failover occur in less than two pings. You can modify load balancing and/or tweak failover settings via the Config Tree menu of the EdgeOS (covered later) or if you venture into CLI configuration.
The Load Balancing2 Wizard is designed to be used with dual Wireless links (Wi-Fi bridges) and provides failover between them. I didn't test this Wizard.
The WAN+2LAN Wizard configures eth0 as a LAN port providing a DHCP server for 192.168.1.0/24, eth1 as the Internet/WAN port, and eth2 as a LAN port providing a DHCP server for 192.168.2.0/24. I tested this Wizard. Other than swapping eth0 and eth1, it doesn't appear the Basic Setup and WAN+2LAN Wizards are any different.
Last, the EdgeOS user guide says the Basic Setup and WAN+2LAN2 Wizards are the same, so I didn't test WAN+2LAN2. As a concluding thought on the EdgeOS Wizards, I think setup Wizards are a good idea, but it seems like Ubiquiti could simplify EdgeOS by getting rid of the redundant WAN+2LAN and WAN+2LAN2 options.
The Traffic Analysis menu in EdgeOS is a useful tool to view bandwidth use on your network. Ubiquiti uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to measure traffic utilization and the applications generating the traffic. With this feature enabled by simply clicking Enable in the GUI, you can see real-time transmit and receive rates (bps) and total transmit and receive traffic volumes (bytes) by device, as well as the applications consuming that traffic on each device.
As you can see below, there are three devices connected to the EdgeRouter Lite. The top device with IP 192.168.2.21 (my PC) has generated traffic using SSL, QUIC, Twitter, Web, and Other. The middle device with IP 192.168.2.38 is an Access Point and the bottom device with IP 192.168.2.39 is an iPhone.
EdgeOS supports configuring static routes and OSPF routing protocols. RIP and BGP routing can be configured via the Config Tree or CLI only. I'm impressed the EdgeRouter Lite has the horsepower to support OSPF and BGP. But I didn't test them or other routing options, as they aren't are typically used in a SOHO network.
The EdgeOS Firewall/NAT menu (formerly the Security menu in EdgeOS 1.4) allows you to configure Port Forwarding, Firewall Policies, NAT, and Firewall/NAT Groups. Configuring Port Forwarding was easy with the EdgeOS GUI. I simply identified the WAN (eth0) and LAN (eth1) interfaces, the port (Remote Desktop Protocol [RDP] = port 3389) and the IP address of the PC (192.168.1.140) I wanted to access via Port Forwarding (screenshot below). Once the rule was enabled, I could RDP to my PC from outside the EdgeRouter Lite's LAN.
I was also able to configure a Firewall Policy to enable remote access to router administration, but I had to follow this Ubiquiti Community post, because it wasn't intuitive for me, nor is it explained in the EdgeOS user guide. The steps were pretty easy, but in a typical SOHO router, the steps to enable remote administration access are point and click.
The NAT menu allows for configuring source and destination NAT rules, which can be useful if you want to set up a static NAT rule to a specific device behind the EdgeRouter. Firewall/NAT groups are a tool to configure groups of IP addresses, IP subnets, or Layer 4 ports. These groups can then be used in configuring Firewall and NAT rules.