Mesh routers are the hot new thing in tech, with tons and tons of names big and small throwing their hat in the ring. Google has their own set of mesh routers, but there are lots of smaller companies looking to power your home network, too. And with everything moving towards a constantly connected state, this backbone of your smart home is incredibly important.
One of those companies is eero, a newer entry into the market that wants to mesh up your network and solve your WiFi woes. Today, we’re reviewing the second generation of eero’s set of routers and beacons to see if it’s worth the investment.
Before we get into the eero system itself, you might be wondering exactly what a mesh network is. Without breaking things down into an overly complex lesson, a mesh network is like a group of routers and range extenders that all communicate with each other and shift devices and traffic around to maintain a solid connection to everything within range. Not only can they extend the range well beyond your typical router due to their multiple access points, but they offer potentially more bandwidth as they can shuffle devices around to different parts of the network.
In a nutshell, that’s how eero works. You’ll connect the initial little box to your modem, then find other appropriate spots around your house for the smaller beacons. It’s pretty much all done via the eero app, and it’s easily one of the most painless experiences ever.
I did hit a few snags trying to put the beacons either too far away or too close together, but the app guides and suggests locations for you based on what your house layout looks like. Within 20 minutes or so, I had the eero and two beacons up and going, blanketing my house in WiFi connectivity.
Fortunately, those boxes are slick and fit in just about anywhere, which is great since you may not be able to hide all of them. The main box is a glossy white puck with two ethernet ports and a USB-C port for power on the back. There’s a single power button and an LED on the front, but otherwise, you might mistake it for a streaming box.
The beacons plug directly into a wall outlet and double as night lights, which can be adjusted within the app. They definitely stick out more than the main box, but I don’t think you’ll ever have issues with them calling attention in a negative way. They also have a single LED indicator to show you their current status at a glance.
In my case, I have a two bedroom home that’s a little less than 2,000 square feet, so the two-beacon setup is probably a little overkill, but performance was outstanding. With normal, decent routers (my previous router was an AC1200) my wireless connection usually floated around 70 or 80mbps downstream. I pay for 150mbps.
With the eero network, I easily get the 150mbps I pay for, and it’s not uncommon for speed tests to brush 180mbps, which is about 20% faster than what I’m supposed to get. I’m not saying eero is going to improve your network speeds by 20%, but it will certainly challenge the notion that you need to stay hardwired for the best performance.
So how exactly does eero pull that off? Well, if you keep an eye on the app while things are working on your network, you can actually monitor and check which devices you have and which eero device they’re communicating with. If your streaming box in the living room is using up lots of bandwidth, it makes sense to put that on a beacon by itself then move your other devices onto the other devices in your house. This frees up room for the streaming box to do its thing, but still allows your smartphones, tablets, and laptops to work without stuttering.
99% of the time, eero was like magic. However, I did get snagged with the system trying to keep an NVIDIA Shield TV on the 2.4GHz portion of the network when I was using NVIDIA’s GameStream, and if you’re familiar with how those things work, you can bet it wasn’t a great experience.
See, your router will have two sections of network to work with; the 2.4GHz band, and the 5GHz band. 2.4GHz has much better range, but lower bandwidth, while 5GHz bands are the opposite. Anything that needs low bandwidth but long range, like a smartphone, benefits from sticking to the 2.4GHz band. It also frees up the bigger pipes for devices that need heavier lifting. So when trying to do something like stream a game over a local WiFi network, you want the extra bandwidth to make sure it’s not a jittery mess.
The good news is that eero learns which devices use the most bandwidth and will start to move them around accordingly, so even though I had a headache dealing with GameStream at first, after a few days of using the Shield TV the eero understood to keep it on the 5GHz band. No more problems!
For most people, that “magic” is going to happen totally in the background. No fiddling or tweaking settings (mostly because eero won’t let you) to maximize your performance, you simply set the eero up, let it learn, and enjoy the boosted network performance.
eero does take things a step further and does more than just upgrade your hardware, though. They offer a subscription service called eero Plus that’s $9.99 or $99 per year, and yes, I get the hesitation. A subscription fee for my router after I’m already paying an ISP for internet access?! No way!
eero Plus is optional, so keep that in mind, but it legitimately does offer some features that some of us will find are worth the price of any other subscription.
The eero by itself is an incredibly secure router. It sticks exclusively to WPA2 encryption, and it encrypts as much of your traffic as it can while blocking malicious devices off your network and regularly updating itself automatically. If you go with eero Plus, though, those security features get cranked up, including getting built-in antivirus and anti-malware that protects your devices from malicious attacks and phishing attempts.
You’ll get access to a VPN with encrypt.me, a password manager with 1Password, and Malwarebytes for the antivirus. So for $9.99 per month, you’re actually getting a VPN, password manager, and antivirus software bundled together and integrated with your router. When it breaks down like that, it’s actually priced pretty aggressively.
Oh, and top of those extra features for your router, eero Plus will also allow you to block ads at the network level, which is by far the best feature of any of this.
If you’re extra tech savvy, you’re probably ready to drop a comment about how you can set up a Raspberry Pi with Pi-Hole to block ads anyway, and you’re right. There are multiple ways to just block ads on your network with other hardware, but none of them are as integrated as eero. All you need to do (once you’re subscribed, anyway) is turn on the ad block setting in the eero app, and voila. Most ads are gone.
It doesn’t block all ads, which might make it less worthwhile for some people. There are certain ads that eero can’t blacklist because it would break websites, too, but from testing it out I noticed removed ads in most mobile games I tested, blocked commercials in TV apps like Spike or Comedy Central, and allowed no ads on Reddit. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it a significantly improved internet experience? Absolutely.
In the rest of the app, you can also set up a guest network for visitors to your home, and eero Plus opens up a family profiles setting. This will allow you to create profiles to block certain content from certain devices on your network or even block off devices from specific times of the day. Not much of a feature for me, but for anyone trying to manage a family’s WiFi network, I can see the appeal.
Oh, and eero integrates with Alexa. So, yeah, you can talk to your Echo devices to check on your network. Also extremely neat.
And those features are really what set eero apart from something like Google WiFi. Sure, you get the Google name with their own hardware, but you’re never going to see Google willingly blocking ads across your entire network. The extra subscriptions are also a big bonus, and the app itself is genuinely pleasing to use.
eero is also more expensive than Google WiFi, so unless those extra features sound really appealing or you’re invested in Amazon’s ecosystem, it’s a tough choice. But on its own, you can’t argue about the fantastic app, slew of features, and top-notch performance that eero gives you.
Buy it now: Amazon