“Furthermore, those are probably the maximum "turbo” frequencies being quoted, which are unlikely to be
sustained under any kind of real multi-core load. "
A simple google search could have supplied him the answer to this, which is extra weird since he did link to the intel ark for the i5 chip. Spoiler: The atom does not have a “turbo” mode.
The atom also isn’t a terrible option, as it does have some benefits. The atom supports up to 64GB of ECC ram, and supports up to PCIE x16, which could be handy if you need to slap in a 10g chelsio or something. I think the atom also has a larger L2 cache (I vaguely recall the i5 having a smaller L2 cache, but a larger L3 cache). The atom chip is also a bit cheaper.
I do agree that the integrated stuff from netgate/pfsense does seem a bit pricey. The ones from the pfsense store come with support though – cheaper if you don’t need the support to simply purchase directly from netgate without support.
It gets worse. That’s actually an 8-core Rangeley CPU ( a variant on Avoton, which was pitched as a “server-grade atom”), which was designed for routing/comms situations. Factoring the 8 cores in, it actually performs about the same as his chosen i5-5200U. Rangeley featured Intel QuickAssist, which does a lot of crypo offloead - basically exactly what you want for a VPN endpoint, the stated intended use.
Of course, for $1400 you get a lot of scooter computers. They’re almost certainly the right fit for him, as he ended up using them for other things. If I wanted a cheap VPN endpoint I’d go for an Ubiquiti Edgerouter Lite at the moment - sub $100, hw accel forwarding @ gige. It’s not a generic “scooter computer” though…
Edgerouter lite’s are pretty nice. I have one in fact! I got it to fiddle around with – I currently use a lanner box with pfsense on it for my home FW. However, do note that if you aren’t using ipsec, the vpn throughput is going to be slow, as openvpn does not utilize the edgerouter offload/acceleration chip. Just something to be aware of.
As to $1400 buying lots of scooters… this (or even just the board) is a bit more comparable if you don’t need support for pcie/10g stuffs.
I picked up a “tedu special” for a similar purpose and it works well.
At $WORK we have several hundred of these Zotac D2550-ITX boards OEM-ed and fielded. Depending on your purpose, the NM10-based Atom stuff is a good choice given the TDP (we measure ~12W draw for our entire system at full tilt). These are a little under-powered in CPU and Graphics when compared to a developer’s desktop but so much better than typical embedded systems that we almost don’t think about it.
Ten years ago, Atwood would definitely be running Gentoo.