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Firewalla Gold Review: An Expensive but Totally-a-Keeper Add-on Firewall

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.

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

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 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
The Firewalla Gold next to the Firewalla Blue Plus.

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
Gigabit 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:
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
YesYesYesYes
Site to Site VPN10x connections1x connection1x connectionClient only
Geo-IP Filtering  
Regional Blocking
no limit10 countries3 countriesNone
Web Interface (beta)YesYesYesNone
Custom or 
3rd Party Software App
YesYesYesYes
Inline FirewallYesNoneNoneNone
Simple  Smart QueueYesYesNoneNone
Advanced Smart Queue 
and Rate Limit
YesNoneNoneNone
New Device QuarantineYesYes  (beta)NoneNone
Docker ContainersYesYesNoneNone
Can Work as a RouterYesNoNoNo
Firewalla variants

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 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 ports and an 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 contains 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 times.

Firewalla Gold 6
The Firewalla Gold has 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.

The exciting router mode that proved complicated

I was initially quite excited about the Gold’s router role.

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 later.

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 still work out well as a router.

Truth be told, I consider myself quite an advanced user, and I found the Gold’s router mode 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.

It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly is annoying or, well, strange, but right off the bat, things are hard to work with when you don’t have a real, 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 an enlarged 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 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 Internet 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 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, the Gold’s LAN ports are still part of a separate subnet when working as an add-on unit. Consequently, devices connected to these ports belong to a different NAT (different local network) and can’t talk to 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 as an add-on unit and have been happy with it. (Before this, I also used it 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.

Conclusion

Unlike the Firewalla Blue Plus that can not handle Internet speeds faster than 500Mbps, the Firewalla Gold will not throttle your broadband speed at all — that’s unless you have 3Gbps or faster Internet which is highly unlikely.

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. And the (annoying) router role can be an added bonus for advanced users, too.

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 bit of a hard call.

But if you decide to get the Firewalla Gold, chances are you’ll find it a keeper. I know I do.

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35 thoughts on “Firewalla Gold Review: An Expensive but Totally-a-Keeper Add-on Firewall”

  1. I’m curious, what routing functionality did you find lacking? I’ve been using a Gold as my router for the past six months and I’m happy with it

    Reply
  2. Hi, great article!

    I was wondering, does it heat uyp a lot? Like, when you touch it, is it very hot?
    I am curious because I had a similar machine at home from another company and it used to heat up at like 115 ºF or so.

    Thanks again.
    Mary

    Reply
  3. Hey Dong,

    Great review. Very concise- both this one and the one on Firewalla Blue Plus.

    I am wondering which device you would suggest for a home business? I was interested in the Gold primarily because it came with the option for “Network Segmentation,” which (if I understand correctly) is capable of ensuring my roommates’ internet remains separate from my business’ activity, despite running with the same modem and ISP. Would you agree? Am I correct that the blue plus does not have this option?

    Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    Reply
    • Yes, Tyler, you’re correct. The Gold can be a bit of a trip to set it up for special needs, but if you guys only care about the Internet access, it’s a walk in the park.

      Reply
  4. I really wanted this to work well. I need a gigabit router with some advanced features let alone common ones. Right now I’m running OPNsense and it’s great except that it is very touchy. You can bring down you internet hard even if all you are doing is following an official process. pfSense is no better. I am now cautious about Unifi so I’m not sure where to go next.

    Reply
    • Things usually don’t work as you want, do they? 🙂 And no, as I mentioned in the review, Nnuyan, you shouldn’t use this one as your router, but as an add-on security device.

      Reply
  5. Dong-

    Terrific article. I was wondering your thoughts on the following.

    I have Verizon Fios Gigabit in my home. I am using their provided gateway (Actiontec G1100). Ethernet ports throughout house. I also have Fios set-top box/DVR for TV service (Coax from the gateway to the set top box i.e. MOCA).

    I own the Firewalla Gold but have NOT yet installed it. I bought it to act as a router and then add a better wifi access point or mesh system (using ethernet backhaul). However, I realize that to be able to continue to get the info guide on my TVs and on-demand programming, I will need to keep the Fios router to act as a MOCA bridge (or get a third party MOCA bridge). Searching the web I’ve found folks who have figured out ways to make the above work. But most involve creating a double NAT situation. This won’t work for me as I need port-forwarding for one or two things.

    Reading your article, it seems best anyhow to use Firewalla Gold as an add-on. I am fine with this. However, if I set it up in DHCP Overlay Mode, then I will lose the on-screen TV guides most likely (as the Fios router needs to dole out the addresses to the set top boxes)?

    This leaves simple mode. And so my question is, in simple mode am I likely to see network performance (i.e. speed) degrade? I’d love to use the Gold as you suggest in the article but not if it comes at the expense of dramatically slowing down the system.

    Thanks for any thoughts or other suggestions for how to set it up.

    And thank you for the great work you do on the site.

    Reply
    • I can’t be specific about your Verizon box, Allen, since I don’t use it. But you should be able to use the Gold in the Simple mode and it won’t affect your network performance at all.

      Reply
  6. Hello Dong,

    I am looking at the Firewalla Gold for my 1gig speeds to act as a Firewall and VPN server for my TPLink AC3150v2. I would like to have access to a Remote Desktop while keeping my network secure via VPN. I prefer not to pay recurring costs for a VPN service and use the Firewalla. Do you think it would be a good fit or would you recommend something else?

    Reply
  7. Hi Dong,

    I’ve got a CUJO in between my router and the rest of my network that’s being forcibly retired in just a few days, and found your article while looking for a replacement. I’m on CenturyLink 1gig fiber, and recently replaced my old router with an Edgerouter 4 (which, if I’m being honest, is just too complex for me to do anything with besides initial simple setup and whatever vlan tagging I had to do for CenturyLink). I’m loathe to spend the $400, but the possibility of protection with easy setup and without network slowing is pretty appealing. Would the Gold work as an edgerouter replacement, or should I keep that and look elsewhere for simple in-line protection?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • You can, Zach. But it’s not as easy as you think as a router if you want to customize your network a lot. On the other hand, if you just want a device with the routing function, it’ll work out well. Note that it has no Wi-Fi, so you’ll need an access point.

      Reply
  8. Hi Dong,

    Great article. Quick question: when you say ‘In router mode, only devices connected to its LAN ports are protected’ are you saying that anything for which it assigns an IP address – for example, if I had other APs and switches coming back to these ports all devices connected to these would be secure?

    Reply
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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!! 😛

          • 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. 🙂

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