FOX11, Los Angeles - One of the biggest issues for people using WiFi at home is often signal coverage throughout their homes. Well, beyond having an older router that is bottlenecking traffic to begin with. If you're also a wireless device heavy family with at least two children, access issues become more obvious and more problematic. That's why a few new startups have jumped into an area once populated only be expensive business-to-business solutions or range extenders and bridgeable routers which were a headache to set up for the less tech savvy among us. One company, Eero has created a no-muss, no-fuss product which purports to allow you to blanket your entire home in gloriously consistent WiFi coverage but that comes at a cost beyond the financial one. Let's dig into it!
Simplicity, that is the whole idea behind eero's mesh network WiFi routers and that is abundantly clear when you first unbox the product. Shades of glossy white Apple-inspired design greet you, along with just a couple cables: one for power and an ethernet cable. The eero boxes are small, white, rectangular affairs with just a power port, two Gigabit ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port. That's it. They should fit into, or hide among your decor pretty easily and won't look like a hunter/killer drone like some of their competitors- although I am admittedly a fan of such Terminator-esque design. The downside to the simplicity is that you're going to use one of those ethernet ports to connect to your modem, leaving you only one available port. If you like to have multiple ethernet devices connected, that could be a problem without adding a switch.
Unboxing your first eero and getting on the 'net is quite simple, just plug it into your modem via the supplied ethernet cable, then plug into power, the app walks you through the process. A few minutes later and you're internetting properly, but that's just one locale. Mirroring the simplicity of the hardware design is the user interface. There is no granular control here and most users won't mind that as find that most end users tend to be plug-and-play people. You'll be able to see the speeds you're getting, set up a guest network if you want, see which devices are connected to your network and the status of the individual connected eero units. There are competing products which will offer you more granular control and much more robust parental controls, but that isn't such a big deal as I generally admonish parents to go with a company which specializes in parental control software as the support is generally better.
Eero's routers are outfitted with dual-core 1GHz CPUs, two 802.11ac WiFi radios, and 5 antennas. Those WiFi radios are one 5gHz and one 2.4gHz radio for dual-band support compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac technology. This is where I have an issue with the simplicity of the eero software interface. I'd like the ability to prioritize traffic on my network so that my sons who play video games will have their XBox and tablets set as low priority beneath my laptop, iPad Pro and my wife's devices. We pay the bills, so we get priority. That said, I haven't noticed any lag or speed issues when watching Netflix and working on my laptop while my sons are in the other room playing games connected to two Xboxes, utilizing XBox Live, frequently video chatting with their friends simultaneously. For the record, they have jobs and bought their own "extra" Xboxes so they could game together online for single player MMOs like Skyrim. I am not Daddy Warbucks. As you can see in these screenshots, the speeds I'm getting on my 100mbps tier from my ISP are pretty consistent throughout my apartment where I'm never more than 40 feet, or so, away from an eero unit.
And that brings me to the whole point of eero's product, multiple devices to blanket your apartment or home. If you've ever tried to set up a range extender or repurpose and old router to work in bridge mode, you know how much of a pain that can be. Setting up a secondary network, maybe flashing the firmware on that old router, just configuring something to extend your network is not a simple task if you're not very savvy to begin with. And that's what Eero is purpose built to do. Just open up the app, click Add Eero and you're off within minutes. Eero recommends that you place each unit approximately 40 feet away from the other units for maximum effectiveness. And it is effective! My current router, an early version of Netgear's venerable Nighthawk line has some noticeable slowing in the bathroom at the rear-most location in my apartment but with an eero unit in my bedroom, the signal is strong and content that usually buffers slightly, doesn't at all. For my setup, I placed the first unit in my living room where the modem is, the other unit in my eldest son's room and the third unit in the Master Bedroom.
In my testing, I added one unit at a time and went through speed tests and used a WiFi analyzer to measure signal strength. With one unit active, my speeds throughout the apartment were great and still quite usable even as I moved more than 40 feet away from the first unit. My apartment is a bit over 1,400sq. Ft. so two units would've actually been sufficient. When I added the second unit, then tested from that back restroom, the signal was strong and throughput zippy. But, being from the Tim Allen Home Improvement school of thinking, more power is never a bad thing when it comes to radio signals in the home, so adding the third unit (they shipped me a three pack for review) was a "no brainer." After all, my wife and I may have at any given time, both of our laptops or tablets, the smart TV or Chromecast, the Sonos I'm currently testing, and Echo Dot going at the same time, so plenty of throughput in the back Master Bedroom is always welcome. Sometimes it seems as though the only thing without some need for wireless in our home these days is the dog.
For the parent readers out there, you can control your children's devices by creating a profile and then assigning all of their devices to that profile. Unfortunately, there's no granular control, but you can "pause" the internet on demand and set schedules for internet access. That all becomes moot when the little ones have smartphones which can access the 'net sans WiFi, but it's an option nonetheless.
Here's the thing, if you're looking for a WiFi router and you have a dozen or more devices connected to your network, I'd advise you to go with a router that is going to cost you in the neighborhood of $250-$400 depending on the area you need to blanket with wireless connectivity. I do so because routers at that price point are going to deliver the bandwidth you'll need to avoid video game and content streaming lag while also delivering the coverage you need. Additionally, people will use a router for years, so the expenditure is worth it over the life of the router. Eero meets those needs, while also providing a solution for effortlessly extending your network if you find that the signal strength is still weak in certain areas of your home or on the outskirts of your home network. A single eero will cost you $200, while the two and three packs run $350 and $500 respectively. If you're in anything three bedrooms, under 1500 feet, I'd advise you to start out with the two pack. Over 1500 feet, give the two pack a try, but if it doesn't work for you, return it and get the three pack. That's more cost effective than buying the two and adding a third.
Disclosure: Eero provided me with a demo unit for the purpose of this review.