“Advanced Routing Technology for the Masses” is how Ubiquiti describes its EdgeMax routers. With Ubiquiti’s six EdgeMax routers, you can forward packets at high speeds (1 to 3+ million per second) and with Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability (depending on model).
As a variant of Vyatta 6.3, an open-source, specialized Linux distribution based on Debian, EdgeOS runs on EdgeMax routers. In the past few years, Vyatta has undergone many changes, including being purchased by Brocade, which recently sold it to AT&T. Vyatta is an open-source operating system, so these transactions do not affect EdgeOS.
In addition to a Graphical User Interface (GUI), EdgeOS has an integrated Command Line Interface (CLI) “for convenient access to advanced features”. I reviewed the EdgeRouter Pro with EdgeOS 1.4.0 in 2014, but Tim got it wrong when he reviewed the EdgeRouter Lite with EdgeOS v1.0.2 back in 2013.
Despite EdgeOS’ features, most of those features require the use of the CLI, which many consumers do not have. However, as gigabit-speed internet service has become more common in the U.S., as well as the ERLite’s reputation for being both fast and cheap, we wondered if it should still carry a “not for networking newbies” warning.
This review covers the EdgeRouter Lite running EdgeOS version 1.9.1. Other than switching from plastic to metal, the EdgeRouter Lite’s hardware remains the same (Cavium dual-core CN5020 @ 500 MHz, with 512 MB RAM). As such, I’m going to focus on the features and usability of EdgeOS v1.9.1. Also, because our router test process has evolved and has gotten more rigorous, we’ll find out if the ERLite is still a “gigabit” router.
As compared to v1.4, the EdgeOS User Guide now includes 104 pages. Tables of contents comparison of the two shows Traffic Analysis, VPN, and Quality of Service are updated. EdgeOS has several configuration tabs (Dashboard, Traffic Analysis, Routing, Firewall/NAT, Services, VPN, QoS, Users, Config Tree, and Wizards) on its dashboard, which represents the main page once your login.
In the far right corner, there is a Wizard configuration tab. To set up the router, you will probably want to use this first. I would have put it at the far left of the screen. EdgeOS offers five Wizards to simplify the initial setup:
- Basic Setup
- Load Balancing
- Load Balancing2
During setup, the Wizards erase the router, configure various ports, enable Network Address Translation (NAT), and set up the firewall. For typical Small Office Home Office (SOHO) deployments, the EdgeOS user guide suggests the Basic Setup Wizard.
With only three Gigabit Ethernet ports (eth0, eth1, and eth2), the EdgeRouter Lite is not the most powerful router. In the Basic Setup Wizard for the EdgeRouter Lite, eth0 is used to connect to your Internet Service Provider. A DHCP server is set up on eth1 and eth2 as LAN ports for the IP addresses 192.168.1.0/24 on eth1 and 192.168.2.0/24 on eth2. The remaining sections of this review were set up using the Basic Setup Wizard.
The Wizard manages the equal load distribution between dual WAN/Internet connections. Load Balancing Wizard on EdgeRouter Lite uses eth0 for your primary Internet Service Provider (ISP) and eth1 for your secondary ISP. This LAN port is used to provide DHCP servers for 192.168.1.0/24
By running a continuous ping from my PC to the Internet (ping 184.108.40.206 -t), I tested the default Load Balancing setup with two different Internet connections. In the EdgeRouter Lite, we saw 11 failures in ping traffic before a failover occurred leading to successful pings again. However, a quicker WAN failover would be preferable. Previously, I’ve seen failover occur in less than two pings on other dual WAN routers I tested (see LRT224 review). With the Config Tree menu of EdgeOS (covered later) or by using the CLI, you can change load balancing and failover settings.
With the Load Balancing2 Wizard, you can provide failover between two wireless connections (Wi-Fi bridges). However, I did not test it.
This wizard configures eth0 as a LAN port, eth1 as the Internet/WAN port, and eth2 as a LAN port, providing a DHCP server for 192.168.1.0/24. This Wizard works as advertised. There is no obvious difference in the WAN+2LAN Wizard and Basic Setup Wizard except for swapping eth0 and eth1.
Last, the EdgeOS user guide states that the WAN+2LAN2 wizard is the same as the Basic Setup wizard, so I have not tested it. The EdgeOS Wizards are a smart idea, but I think Ubiquiti can simplify EdgeOS by getting rid of redundant WAN+2LAN2 and WAN+2LAN options.
EdgeOS’s Traffic Analysis tool is useful for viewing bandwidth usage on your network. In order to measure traffic usage and the applications that generate it, Ubiquiti uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). Simply by clicking Enable in the GUI, you can see real-time transmit and receive rates (bps) and the total amount of traffic (bytes) for each device, as well as the applications consuming that traffic.
In the following image, you can see three devices connected to the EdgeRouter Lite. It generates traffic with SSL, Quick, Twitter, Web, and Other methods. The device with an IP address of 192.168.2.21 is my PC. 192.168.2.38 is the IP address of a wireless access point and 192.168.2.39 is the IP address of an iPhone.
Routing protocols OSPF and static routes can be configured with EdgeOS. In cases of RIP and BGP configuration, only the CLI or the config tree can be used. I’m impressed that the EdgeRouter Lite is capable of supporting OSPF and BGP. However, I did not test them or other routing options, as SOHO networks typically do not use them.
In EdgeOS 1.4, the Firewall/NAT configuration was done through Security (formerly the Firewall/NAT menu). In that menu, you were able to configure Port Forwarding, Firewall Policies, NAT, and Firewall/NAT Groups. EdgeOS GUI made setting up forwarded ports very easy.
Simply determine the interfaces, the port (Remote Desktop Protocol [RDP] = 3389), and the IP address of the PC you want to access via Forwarded Ports (screenshot below). My PC could now RDP from outside the LAN of the EdgeRouter Lite once the rule was enabled.
Additionally, I was able to configure a Firewall Policy to enable remote access to router administration, but I had to follow this Ubiquiti Community post since it wasn’t intuitive to me nor is it explained in the EdgeOS user guide. It was easy to follow the steps, but with a typical SOHO router, administrative access can be enabled by just clicking a few buttons.
With the NAT option, you can set up source and destination NAT rules. This feature is useful for setting up a static NAT rule for a particular device behind the EdgeRouter. An IP address range, IP subnet, or Layer 4 port group can be configured with NAT/firewall groups. NAT and Firewall rules can be set up using these groups.
By improving EdgeOS and EdgeRouter Lite, Ubiquiti is moving in the right direction, but they still have a long way to go before I am comfortable recommending the ERLite to the average router buyer. It’s great to have the Traffic Analysis tool, but sometimes the EdgeOS GUI menus and configurations are confusing, redundant, and/or difficult to navigate. Additionally, I discovered that VPN and other configurations and status displays still require the CLI.
All things considered, I still find the EdgeRouter Lite to be a very interesting router, with many features and great throughput. Under 100 dollars, it is priced to appeal to the masses. However, we still advise beginners to avoid it.