Any version of ESXi which is still available from the download site can be used with a free Hypervisor license key.
May I know what are the issues you are facing with 6.5
These are the issues need to troubleshoot, this doesn't have anything to check with free vs paid. Elaborate your issue in more details.
I suspect the original poster is having the same issue as I am. I get the following message when I select any 6.5.0 version from the downloads page at this link:
"You either are not entitled or do not have permissions to download this product. Check with your My VMware Super User, Procurement Contact or Administrator."
Besides the message at the above link, the "Download Now" and "Download Manager" buttons are greyed out.
But if I go to this link:
I am able to download software, but only 6.5.0a is available for download.
So there is a disconnect between the availability of the free version of ESXi and the paid version of ESXi.
It was always that you can use for free only 'previous' version. It means that 6.5U1 will be available for free when when 6.5U2 is released.
My experience is so bad I cannot believe it passed qa. I am sure a piece of it may be non hcl hardware, I bought a dell t30 recently for homelab use. I have had to reboot the host to get into the web admin page, I have had numerous vm creation fails, often around negative max ram values, and chrome flat out cant be used. I get prompted to reload often, which means logout and back in. It is really awful. I used 3.x-5.x a bunch in the past; I have a decent idea how to do this.
A lot of issues are related to the Embedded Host Client rather than to the Hypervisor itself. It may be worth updating the Client with its latest supported version 1.21.0-5724747.
This can be done from Help -> Update. If your host has Internet access you may update it using the URL.
My colleague has just bought this few weeks ago, this is working fine. Probably the issue how your'e managing this, as mentioned above check with updated version of host client.