At first, I thought the Firewalla Gold would make a cool, unique router, perfect for those needing a non-Wi-Fi one for the Internet drop in the basement and then run network cables from it to Wi-Fi broadcasters around a large home. And it sure can work as such.
Looking deeper, though, it’s best used as a souped-up version of the Firewalla Blue Plus. Specifically, you should consider it an add-on firewall / online-protection device of an existing network than a router that hosts a network of its own, where it makes things a bit too complicated for home users.
And you need to have fast Internet — 500Mbps download or faster — to justify the Firewalla Gold’s one-time hefty cost of $418. Those with slower Internet should go with the Blue Plus instead. That is if you want this type of device at all.
Dong’s note: The Firewalla Gold is very similar to the Firewalla Blue Plus version — almost the same in functionality and features — and, among other things, the two share the same mobile app. This review focuses on the few differences between the two. It is recommended that you read my take on the Blue Plus first.
- Super easy to set up and use as an add-on device, can work as a router
- Lots of useful and well-designed network protection, monitoring, and managing features
- Intuitive mobile app and web interface
- Intuitive mobile app with a helpful web expansion
- No subscription required
- High cost, privacy concerns caused by required login account
- No PoE support, no Multi-Gig, complicated yet limited as a router
- Can be overwhelming for novice users, no local web interface
- Bulky power adapter, excessive notifications
- Devices connected to LAN ports belong to a separate NAT
Firewalla Gold: It’s the Firewalla Blue Plus Plus Plus
There’s no typo in the heading. The Firewalla Gold is indeed the Firewalla Blue Plus on steroids.
You can guess that from the look alone. The Gold is some four times the size and nine times the weight compared to its lesser cousin. It now also comes in a full-metal housing instead of plastic and mounting accessories. It looks the part.
Since the Blue Plus is so tiny, though, the Gold itself is still quite compact. It’s smaller than even the smallest cable modem. Those with large hands (like mine) can still accurately call it palm-sized.
Firewalla Gold vs Firewalla Blue Plus: Hardware specifications
The Firewalla Gold is a much more powerful device than the Blue Plus. Among other things, it can handle up to 3Gbps of Intenet bandwidth, as opposed to 500Mbps. This allows it to work in homes or businesses with super-fast Internet without slowing down the broadband connection.
|Packet Processing Speed||3Gbps||500Mbps||500Mbps||100Mbps|
|Memory||4096 MB||2048 MB||1024 MB||512 MB|
|Number of Network Ports||4||1||1||1|
|Active Protect Entries||40,000||20,000||10,000||1000|
|CPU||64bit Quad-Core Intel 2.2ghz (AES NI)||64bit Quad Core ARM 1.2ghz||64bit Quad Core ARM 1ghz||32bit Quad Core ARM 1ghz|
|VPN Encryption Speed||120Mbps||70Mbps||70Mbps||28Mbps|
|Storage||32 GB||16GB||16GB||16 GB|
|Power Usage (Watt)||~10W to 12W||~7W||~5W||~5W|
|Size||5.12 x 4.33 x 1.34 in (13 x 11 x 3.4 cm)||2.13 x 2.13 x 1.34 in (5.4 x 5.4 x 3.4 cm)||1.77 x 1.77 x 1.18 in (4.5 x 4.5 x 3 cm)||1.77 x 1.77 x 1.18 in (4.5 x 4.5 x 3 cm)|
|Weight||19.9 oz (565 g)||2.15 oz (61 g)||1.59 oz (45 g)||1.52 oz (43 g)|
|Operating Temperature||32°F to 122°F||32°F to 95°F||32°F to 95°F||32°F to 95°F|
|Common Features (*)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Site to Site VPN||10x connections||1x connection||1x connection||Client only|
|Geo-IP Filtering / Regional Blocking||no limit||10 countries||3 countries||None|
|Web Interface (beta)||Yes||Yes||Yes||None|
|Custom or 3rd Party Software App||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Simple Smart Queue||Yes||Yes||None||None|
|Advanced Smart Queue + Rate Limit||Yes||None||None||None|
|New Device Quarantine||Yes||Yes (beta)||None||None|
|Can Work as a Router||Yes||No||No||No|
(*) Common features include: Active Protect, Deep Insights, Deep Insights, Ad Block, Device Management, Family Protect, Device Groups, Rules,
Alarms, Content Filtering, Bandwidth Monitoring, VPN Server, VPN Client, DNS over HTTPs, IPV6, DDNS,
Simple and DHCP Mode.
Thanks to the larger physical size, the Gold now comes with more network ports, including four Gigabit LAN ports and a Console port, all on its back.
The LAN4 port is designated to connect to the existing network, or an Internet source, like a modem. The rest of the LANs are for wired clients. Chances are you’ll never use the Console port, which is for advanced users to manage the firewall using a Secure Shell (SSH) application.
On the front, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports. One is occupied by a security dongle that needs to stay plugged in for the Gold to work — don’t remove it. There’s also an HDMI port of which the use is unknown.
Unlike the Blue Plus, the Firewalla Gold comes with 32GB of built-in storage instead of using an SD card.
Firewall Gold: Detail photos
Router function included, no Multi-Gig
The Firewalla Gold can work as a router — all you have to do is connect its LAN4 port to an Internet source, such as a modem.
In this case, this port will work as a WAN port, and the Firewalla will stay physically between the Internet and the entire home or office network. This type of in-line setup is actually ideal for a firewall device.
I was initially quite excited about this. Since this is a non-Wi-Fi device, it can work as the main router of a home where the Internet drop is at a place not ideal for a Wi-Fi broadcaster, such as a closet surrounded by thick walls in the basement.
You then can run network cables from it and use Wi-Fi broadcasters, such as access points, strategically placed around the home. There’s a high level of flexibility to be had with this setup.
(By the way, you can switch the Firewalla Gold between the router and add-on mode at any time. However, it’s a better idea to pick this from the beginning. You can always reset the device and set it up from scratch.
In the router mode, only devices connected to its LAN ports are protected — that’s normal since the Firewalla is supposed to be your only router. In the add-on mode, where you already have another router, the entire existing network is protected.)
Router mode a bit complicated
Unfortunately, the Gold’s router mode didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped. Mostly because it’s a bit too complicated yet lacking in settings commonly found in most home routers.
On top of that, the Firewalla Gold doesn’t have Multi-Gig ports. As a result, it can’t work with a Gig+ or faster Internet connection, nor can it host a fast server.
That said, if you’re an advanced user who understands the idea of VLAN, IP address, and segmenting your network, etc., the Gold will work out well as a router.
The thing is, I consider myself quite an advanced user, and I found it a bit annoyingly overwhelming yet lacking at the same time. It has too much of what most users don’t need and too little of what everyone does.
Part of that is the fact things are hard to work with when you don’t have a local web interface. This is especially true if you have a lot of settings and client entries to the program.
(Like the Blue Plus, the Gold does have a beta “web interface,” but it’s essentially just a larger version of the mobile app.)
In all, though, I find the Firewalla Gold works best as an add-on unit for most home users — it doesn’t have many things a standard router would give you. And in this case, it’s exactly like the Firewalla Blue Plus, just more powerful.
Excellent app, setup process, and feature set
Indeed, the Gold and the Blue Plus share the same Firewalla mobile app, the setup process, and features. The Gold can just do more.
For example, there’s no limit in how many countries from which the traffic you can block. And it won’t slow down your Intenet speed at all, no matter how fast your broadband connection is.
So, check out the review of the Blue Plus for more on what you can expect. The gist is the Firewalla Gold is an excellent firewall / online protection device that delivers. Among other things, it puts your entire network in your hand for you to monitor and manage with ease in real-time from anywhere in the world.
And just like the Blue Plus, the Gold has its fair share of shortcomings.
For one, like any vendor-assisted firewall, it places itself between your network and the Internet. As a result, all incoming and outgoing traffic goes through it.
And since the device is attached to a login account with Firewalla at all times, the vendor can potentially spy on you. Not that I say Firewalla would do that, but nobody knows. Here’s the company’s take on the privacy issue.
Also, the Firewalla app’s notifications can drive you nuts. There are a lot of them. You can tune them down a bit by manually tweaking the warning setting for each device at a time, but that takes quite a bit of work.
And finally, when working as an add-on unit, the Gold’s LAN ports are still part of a separate subnet. Consequently, devices connected to these port belongs to a different NAT (different local network) and therefore can’t talk to those of the existing network.
So if you choose to use these ports at all, you’ll have yourself one or multiple double NAT setups, and there seems to be no way to change that. Keep this in mind and use them only when you want to segment your network for some reason.
Firewalla Gold: Excellent performance
I’ve used the Firewalla Gold for more than a week now as an add-on unit and have been happy with it. (Before this, I also used it as in the router mode and was consistently not exactly happy.)
It’s a much better device than the Blue Plus, considering my broadband speeds are more than 700Mbps. It didn’t’ slow down my Internet at all.
The Firewalla Gold also ran cool in my testing. And it made no noise, other than a single beep during bootup to indicate that it was ready.
Unlike the Firewalla Blue Plus that can not handle Intenet speeds faster than 500Mbps, the Firewalla Gold will not throttle your broadband speed at all.
That, plus the powerful hardware and a ton of useful features, including the ability to work as a router for advanced users, make it an excellent (add-on) security device for a home or even business network.
But the $418 price tag is high — you can get an excellent Asus router with a similar (albeit far less comprehensive) built-in protection feature. And the potential privacy risks can be a thing, too. So this one is a hard call.
But if you decide to get the Firewalla Gold, chances are you’ll find it a keeper. I know I do.