OPNsense/pfSense on the HP T730: Use Broadcom NICs, not Intel

I recently picked up an HP T730 as my OPNsense firewall, mainly to repurpose my previous HP ProDesk as a desktop. With that, I also initially tried an Intel NIC primarily because the de-facto NIC choice for OPNsense/pfSense is in fact Intel. To my surprise, the T730 froze with the Intel-based NICs I tried, both igb and em based cards.

Many people have reported on pfSense’s subreddit that certain Intel-based NICs actually do freeze on the T730. However, not all Intel-based NICs freeze.

However, my gut told me that instead of hunting down the right Intel NIC and hoping it works, just buy a Broadcom-based NIC and ignore the “advice” of the community. I then decided to then buy a two-port Dell Broadcom BCM5720 for my T730, and it actully worked. I installed the Broadcom card yesterday and the system works even today.

I haven’t heard the same freezing complaints for Broadcom NICs on the T730, so it may not have the same issue (but it may). Or the pfSense/OPNsense community convinced people to only buy Intel so nobody tested Broadcom further.

I’m not saying that Broadcom is perfect. Broadcom Wi-Fi in an older Dell laptop meant no Wi-Fi on FreeBSD. And maybe Intel is better than Broadcom 99% of the time. But in the case of the HP T730, just stick with Broadcom for this one.

If you had success (or failure) on the HP T730 with a Broadcom (or any non-Intel) NIC, please tell me at neel AT neelc DOT org and I will (hopefully) update this article.

UPDATE: The Broadcom/T730 setup worked well for many months with a HP T730 on a “Gigabit” connection, albeit one with occasional slow transit/peering. “Genuine” Intel i340/i350 cards should work as well (from what I’ve read).

If your ISP uses it (e.g. CenturyLink, Bell Canada, etc.), you may run into the igb bug with PPPoE queues. I never had CenturyLink or Bell, or any ISP using PPPoE as of writing so I can’t confirm. Surprisingly, I am hoping for the former’s FTTH offering where I move next despite PPPoE.