Another look at the Partaker B5

Having previously tried out pfSense 2.2.6 on the Inctel Partaker B5 with rather poor results, I thought I’d see if there’s any improvement when using pfSense 2.3 nightly (20160307-0922).

The first thing you’ll notice when upgrading to pfSense 2.3 is the new, beautiful GUI.

fw.int.albatorsk.com-Status-Dashboard

Apart from that, other changes include the underlying OS being updated from FreeBSD 10.1 to 10.3-PRERELEASE, with all that that entails.

Realtek gigabit network adapters has historically had some problems under FreeBSD, so I’m going to run a few benchmarks and see what, if anything, has changed.

Starting with iperf, the first test I ran was using the Partaker B5 running pfSense as the client, and my home server with a NetXen NX3031 NIC as the server.

[2.3-BETA][root@fw]/usr/local/bin: ./iperf -i 1 -n 1024M -c server
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to server, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 65.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  3] local 10.11.12.250 port 54867 connected with 10.11.12.1 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  3]  0.0- 1.0 sec  69.6 MBytes   584 Mbits/sec
[  3]  1.0- 2.0 sec  68.0 MBytes   570 Mbits/sec
[  3]  2.0- 3.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3]  3.0- 4.0 sec  68.0 MBytes   570 Mbits/sec
[  3]  4.0- 5.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3]  5.0- 6.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3]  6.0- 7.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3]  7.0- 8.0 sec  67.6 MBytes   567 Mbits/sec
[  3]  8.0- 9.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3]  9.0-10.0 sec  68.1 MBytes   571 Mbits/sec
[  3] 10.0-11.0 sec  67.6 MBytes   567 Mbits/sec
[  3] 11.0-12.0 sec  68.0 MBytes   570 Mbits/sec
[  3] 12.0-13.0 sec  67.8 MBytes   568 Mbits/sec
[  3] 13.0-14.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3] 14.0-15.0 sec  67.9 MBytes   569 Mbits/sec
[  3]  0.0-15.1 sec  1.00 GBytes   570 Mbits/sec

570 Mbps is ok, but nothing to write home about. The same hardware gets about 940 Mbps running Linux. Although a definite improvement from pfSense 2.2, it’s still pretty underwhelming.

However, what’s really interesting is the throughput. So, I hooked up one computer directly to the LAN port, and one directly to the WAN port. I started by using the computer on the LAN port as the server, with the one on the WAN port as the client.

$ iperf -i 1 -n 1024M -c 10.11.12.2 
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 10.11.12.2, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  3] local 10.11.100.2 port 46278 connected with 10.11.12.2 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  3]  0.0- 1.0 sec   106 MBytes   890 Mbits/sec
[  3]  1.0- 2.0 sec   104 MBytes   872 Mbits/sec
[  3]  2.0- 3.0 sec   104 MBytes   871 Mbits/sec
[  3]  3.0- 4.0 sec   102 MBytes   860 Mbits/sec
[  3]  4.0- 5.0 sec   104 MBytes   872 Mbits/sec
[  3]  5.0- 6.0 sec   104 MBytes   872 Mbits/sec
[  3]  6.0- 7.0 sec   102 MBytes   860 Mbits/sec
[  3]  7.0- 8.0 sec   104 MBytes   872 Mbits/sec
[  3]  8.0- 9.0 sec   103 MBytes   863 Mbits/sec
[  3]  0.0- 9.9 sec  1.00 GBytes   870 Mbits/sec

870 Mbps; now we’re talking. Ok, and now, turning the computer on the WAN port into the server, with the one on the LAN port as the client.

$ iperf -n 1024M -i 1 -c 10.11.100.2
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 10.11.100.2, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  3] local 10.11.12.2 port 44610 connected with 10.11.100.2 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  3]  0.0- 1.0 sec   110 MBytes   924 Mbits/sec
[  3]  1.0- 2.0 sec   106 MBytes   888 Mbits/sec
[  3]  2.0- 3.0 sec   108 MBytes   902 Mbits/sec
[  3]  3.0- 4.0 sec   106 MBytes   891 Mbits/sec
[  3]  4.0- 5.0 sec   106 MBytes   893 Mbits/sec
[  3]  5.0- 6.0 sec   106 MBytes   890 Mbits/sec
[  3]  6.0- 7.0 sec   106 MBytes   892 Mbits/sec
[  3]  7.0- 8.0 sec   108 MBytes   903 Mbits/sec
[  3]  8.0- 9.0 sec   106 MBytes   890 Mbits/sec
[  3]  0.0- 9.6 sec  1.00 GBytes   897 Mbits/sec

897 Mbps. All else aside, there’s been a massive improvement when using Realtek network adapters (or I did something catastrophically wrong when trying out pfSense 2.2).

If you don’t absolutely need that last, “missing” 100 Mbps, and don’t mind running a nightly snapshot of pfSense, the Partaker B5 can definitely hold its own against much more expensive hardware.

Comments

comments

9 thoughts on “Another look at the Partaker B5”

  1. Hi,
    Can you dump the BIOS so I have a look on it till mine arrive, ordered from aliexpress so it will take some weeks till I can look on mine..
    Trying to find some info about this board, interested to see if COM ports can be added/enabled, asked my seller about manual/BIOS and he have none, probably is just reseller.
    Did you managed to find any additional info about this board?

    Thanks for the hq pics and info , they helped me to chose this board. 🙂

    1. Hi Cezar,

      Let me know how, and I’ll dump the BIOS for you. Also, keep in mind that even though the BIOS contains settings for COM ports, they may be inert. I’m not saying they’re most likely inert, since I have no idea. And quite frankly, it’s been running so well since I got it that I never got around to soldering a buzzer and a COM port to the MB, as I had originally planned.

        1. Unfortunately, I run pfSense and not Windows on mine, so the tool wont work. And, seeing as I use it as my only gateway for internet access, it’s really messy to take it offline for installing Windows, even if it’s just for a short while. If you can find a good method of dumping the BIOS in FreeBSD, I’d be happy to oblige.

          Oh, and good catch on the missing IC! I hadn’t even noticed. Please let me know if you’re successful in connecting a buzzer!

          1. On FreeBsd I have no other idea then flashrom: https://www.flashrom.org/Downloads still not sure if this SOC is supported, try and see if it complain.
            Best idea is to use Intel FPT tools for UEFI but will require you to boot from a UEFI shell: https://justpaste.it/FlashBiosViaUEFI and use Intel UEFI FPT(Flash Programming Tool) from Intel ME System Tools to dump it:
            http://www.win-raid.com/t596f39-Intel-Management-Engine-Drivers-Firmware-amp-System-Tools.html This SOC probably will work with:
            Intel ME System Tools v9.5 r1 – (Updated: 13/10/2016) For Haswell mobile systems which come with ME firmware v9.5
            I made for you a zip that have to be unpacked on FAT32 stick so you have on the root: EFI folder plus fpt.efi and fparts.txt https://www.dropbox.com/s/swqp7iv9rjz9w23/ForStick.zip?dl=0
            Boot from shell as selecting stick from motherboard boot manager.
            Then as on guide from https://www.dropbox.com/s/swqp7iv9rjz9w23/ForStick.zip?dl=0
            map -r
            Assuming your stick is on fs1:
            fs1:
            fpt.efi -D partakerb5_backup.rom

            Have fun!

  2. Hi There, I just bought one of these little boxes, having a bit of trouble trying to get my Atheros 9280 PCIe card working inside, apparently there is some sort of bios bug that messes up the atheros serial eeprom. Do you have any idea where to get a newer BIOS?

    1. Hi Ian. No, I’m afraid not. The official site links to a Google Drive with a bunch of BIOS files, none of which on a cursory glance appears to match the B5. Mini PCIe 802.11n and 11ac seems to be a dime a dozen though, so I’d just try acquiring another brand/model and see where that gets you. The one delivered with mine seems to work fine, although I’ve not done any in-depth testing of it.

  3. I am interested in using the B5 as a home Internet gateway, as Per did. I already have another small box, from Lanner that would do the job perfectly, except that it does NOT power up without pressing the power button. Pretty annoying when power goes out and I am not at home to press the button; this prevents me to access my home network when I am away. I need that.

    So, my question is: does the B5 powers up upon power restoration without pressing the button?

    1. Yes, there is a BIOS setting for automatically powering on when power is restored. The setting is found under Chipset -> South bridge -> Restore AC Power Loss, and there are three options: Power Off, Power On and Last state. It’s set to the latter by default, but I have mine switched to Power On. I’ve also verified that it works by unplugging it and plugging it back in to see what happened.

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