Sunday, February 28th, 2021

Firewalla Gold Review: Expensive but Totally a Keeper

Firewalla Gold Front Ports
The Firewalla Gold is the top-tier version of the Firewalla family of mini firewall hardware.

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.

READ NOW!  Firewalla Blue / Plus Review: A Little Capable Watchdog with Some Catches

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.

Firewalla Gold

0.00
8.5

Performance

9.0/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Firewalla Gold vs Firewalla Blue Plus
The Firewalla Gold next to the Firewalla Blue Plus.

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.

GoldBlue+BlueRed
Price$418$199$179$109
Packet Processing Speed3Gbps500Mbps500Mbps100Mbps
Memory4096 MB2048 MB1024 MB512 MB
Number of Network Ports4111
Active Protect Entries 40,00020,00010,0001000
CPU64bit Quad-Core Intel 2.2ghz (AES NI)64bit Quad Core ARM 1.2ghz64bit Quad Core ARM 1ghz32bit Quad Core  ARM 1ghz
VPN Encryption Speed120Mbps70Mbps70Mbps28Mbps
Storage 32 GB16GB16GB16 GB
Console Port1NoneNoneNone
Power Usage  (Watt)~10W to 12W~7W~5W~5W
Size5.12 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)
Weight19.9 oz (565 g)2.15 oz (61 g)1.59 oz (45 g)1.52 oz (43 g)
Operating Temperature32°F to 122°F32°F to 95°F32°F to 95°F32°F to 95°F
Common Features (*)YesYesYesYes
Site to Site VPN10x connections1x connection1x connectionClient only
Geo-IP Filtering / Regional Blockingno limit10 countries3 countriesNone
Web Interface (beta)YesYesYesNone
Custom or 3rd Party Software AppYesYesYesYes
Inline FirewallYesNoneNoneNone
Simple  Smart QueueYesYesNoneNone
Advanced Smart Queue + Rate LimitYesNoneNoneNone
New Device QuarantineYesYes  (beta)NoneNone
Docker ContainersYesYesNoneNone
Can Work as a RouterYesNoNoNo
Firewalla variants
(*) 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.

More ports

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

Firewalla Gold out of Box
Out of the box, the Firewalla Gold comes with a huge power adapter and handy mounting accessories.

Firewalla Gold Side
The firewall has a full-metal housing that looks quite impressive.

Firewalla Gold USB Ports
On the front the Firewalla Gold has two USB 3.0 port and a HDMI port.

Firewalla Gold Front and Box
On the back there are four Gigabit network ports and one console port.

Firewalla Gold Underside
The underside of the Firewalla Gold. Note the QR code that contain setup information (and license.)

Firewalla Gold Top on Hand
Firewalla Gold’s top.

Firewalla Gold USB Securre Dongle
The Firewalla Gold in action. Note the red secure dongle that needs to remain plugged in at all time.

Firewalla Gold 6
The Firewalla Gold has a good heft and feels solid.

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.)

Firewalla Gold App
You can set up the Firewalla Gold as a router from the beginning or change its role at a later time.

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.

Keep in mind that 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, for most home users, the Firewalla Gold works best as an add-on unit, exactly like the Firewalla Blue Plus. And in this case, it’s the same, 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.

Shortcomings

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 Intenet.

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 part of a separate subnet. In other words, devices connected to these port belongs to a different NAT 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 a double NAT setup, 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.

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.

In a spending mood? (•)

Conclusion

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.

16 thoughts on “Firewalla Gold Review: Expensive but Totally a Keeper”

  1. I like the idea of having a firewalla gold in the basement and some access points providing wifi at different levels on a house. But that brings a couple of questions :

    – performance ? Based on the review seems not to be affected.
    – security?
    – if wanted wifi 6 or 6e, do you have any recommendations for access points for this case?

    Or, is it better to have regular router and firewalla working as a device on the network.

    Reply
    • The Fold is quite limited (and can be annoying due to the lack of a local web interface) as a router. But it will work. There are not many Wi-Fi 6 access points right now (let alone 6E), so you’re better off getting a router and use it in the AP mode, but then, why not just use the Gold in the add-on mode?

      Reply
      • I thought that a firewall had to be between the ISP and your network to filter traffic. If is in the network as a device your only monitor the traffic around it. Am I missing something?

        Reply
        • Read the review of the Firewall Blue, Luis — linked above my note at the top of this review. And you’re right, a firewall needs to be in the middle and the Firewalla is, even when it’s not physically so.

          Reply
  2. Great post and very cool router…I have a Synology mesh, with such a router implemented is there still an advantage to running the Synology mesh in AP mode vs getting a set of APs with a central controller like Ubiquiti? I have ethernet everywhere. Do you see the Asus XT8 or Orbi852 or Alien as a significant improvement in capacity or range from the Synology 2600RT? Thanks in advance for your truly excellent site.

    Reply
    • I actually did and did again just now. There was no option as shown in the link (even in Route mode). It must have been some firmware/interface issue. I’ll keep digging. Thanks for the input!

      Reply
  3. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for this review, I’ve had Firewalla Gold for a while, and have just got Amplifi Alien and Mesh point. (our last chat you suggested the Orbi 75x or the Netgear… but I decided to buy redundancy in the Alien!) I now have amazing coverage across the house.

    Just keen to know your thoughts with regards to which order you’d go with?

    a) 1Gb/s Fibre Firewalla Gold (as router) Alien (in Bridge Mode)
    b) 1Gb/s Fibre Alien (in Router Mode) Firewalla Gold (as appliance)

    I’d always assumed that the FWG should be in-line to act as a firewall, but your review seems to suggest that it’s not performant enough!

    Thanks again,
    Tom

    Reply
    • Either will work, but I’d go with b, Tom. The Alien can do more as a router. You might need to reset the Firewalla to set it up from scratch.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much. Alien now working as router, great speeds throughout.

        Will reconfigure Firewalla shortly. I think I can instruct it to change to DHCP overlay mode or simple mode. Fingers crossed!!

        Reply
        • If you reset it and set it up from scratch, then pick it to work as an add-on unit, it’ll figure things out by itself. Your data *might* remain, by the way, since it’s linked to the hardware.

          Reply
          • Want a laugh? The Amplifi Alien in router-mode will not allow you to disable DHCP, therefore the Firewalla’s only option if not used as a router is to work in Simple Mode … which then means it’s reliant upon ARP. Isn’t it great when everything just works!! 😛

            Reply
            • I never thought of that. Well, Tom, if you don’t mind digging, the Gold can work fine as a router. Come to think about it the two are quite similar since they both require an app. But either way will work. 🙂

              Reply

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