eero Wi-Fi System – Part 2

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We previously introduced you to the eero Wi-Fi System that creates a Mesh Network in your home.  If you missed our report or want a refresher on what a Mesh Network is, you can read Part 1 of our review here.

Apple Tech Talk Scorecard

Pros Cons
Unbelievably easy set-up No USB support
Automatic firmware upgrades Inconsistent Speed Test Results
Limited User Configuration Options

The eero Name

One thing we didn’t discuss in Part 1 of our review of the eero Wi-Fi system but which we have received several inquiries about is what the name erro means.

The eero product line, and in fact, the who company was named for the famous Finnish American designer Eero Saarinen, who is probably best known for his design of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.  Coincidently, he also designed the elementary school of eero CEO, Nick Weaver. According to Weaver;

“[D]esign is a really huge focus for us. From the name down to the design of the site, the product and the user experience. The sweeping form of the top of the device, the nice clean lines — it’s all influenced by Eero.”

Eero Wi-Fi System Test Results

eero wi-fi system topdownAs we have done in the past, our intention was to see how seamless it would be to replace our AEBS with the eero Wi-Fi system and still have connectivity to all of the network devices with little to no additional effort on our part.

We intentionally did not set up our second eero right away because we were interested to see how a single eero compared to the performance of our AEBS and other routers we tested.

For this test we used Internet service provided by a Cisco DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with 100Mbps downstream service.  The modem is located in the lower level office of a moderate sized two story house. This has always been a fairly good spot for the router since it sits almost directly in the center of the structure and provides the best overall location for a Wi-Fi signal. We connected the primary eero to the modem and had it sitting right next to it.

To our surprise, the little eero provided, what seemed to be, adequate Wi-Fi throughout the entire structure.  We tested our Wi-Fi connection in all of the usual locations and seemed to get service on par with the AEBS and the other routers we have tested in the past.  Based on that alone, we were impressed with the overall performance of the eero.

We connected our Netgear ReadyNAS RN202 (read our review here) to the open Ethernet port on the primary eero unit and it was immediately visible in Finder.

In addition, the eero recognized all of the wireless devices on our network including the three older Airport Express (g) units, used to stream music via Airtunes.

All of the devices on our network immediately connected with no additional intervention from us.  The only exception was our Brother HL-2270DW laser printer, but that printer has not connected to anything but our AEBS and we are pretty confident that this is solely an issue with the printer and does not have anything to do with the eero.

As a side note, we are going to take the Brother printer issue on as a separate project and will report on our findings in the near future.

But using a single eero as your router seems to defeat the whole purpose of the eero system and for anything less than a very small apartment or single room, we would not look at a single eero as the Wi-Fi solution of choice.

With everything up and running and Wi-Fi available pretty much everywhere, we decided to connect our second eero and here is when things got more interesting.

We decided to install unit #2 in an upstairs office which generally has gotten good reception but is at what would be considered one of the farthest points from the main router.

We plugged the eero unit into an AC outlet and within a minute or two, the eero app found it but reported that it was not in an optimal location.  While this was never a “dead-spot” on our network, it is very close to where one of our Airport Express units is and the “weak” signal may account for the many drop outs we get when streaming music. The ability to advise that a signal is present but weak is certainly important and see this as going a long way to ensure uniform coverage in your home.

The app suggested we move the eero closer to the primary unit to improve performance.  We moved unit #2 down the hall and plugged it back in and now the app confirmed this was a good location and completed the set-up.

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If we thought the set-up of the first eero was easy, the set-up of the second unit was almost mindless.  Other than plugging it in, hitting the “Add eero” icon on the app and selecting a location from the list, there was nothing to do.

To complete the installation process and fill out our Mesh Network, we connected the third eero at the other end of the upper level, near where we originally placed unit #2, primarily to see if that additional unit would eliminate the music drop-outs we mentioned.  This was actually a little farther away from the original unit #2 location but this time, the eero app liked the location and immediately completed the set-up.

This was probably our best example of how a Mesh Network works.  A location that was clearly in a weak signal area when trying to connect to the primary eero unit was now getting a stronger signal, no doubt because it was also seeing unit #2 which was getting its strong signal from the primary eero unit on the lower level.

Eero – Overall Performance

The eero app has its own speed test built in and as soon as we hooked up the primary eero, the app reported download speeds of 147Mbps and upload speeds of 13Mbps. Since the speed test is running on the eero, we did not have to deal with the expected slowdown of the signal from the router to the wireless client running the test.

Although the upload speeds were a little disappointing, the download speed was one of the fastest we have seen from any router we tested.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.  After the first software update, the speed test reported much slower download speeds ranging anywhere from 39 Mbps to as high as 93Mbps.  The upload speeds never changed from the 13Mbps.

It should be noted that although the app reported what might be considered dramatically slower speeds, we did not really notice much of a difference in our network’s performance.  All of our devices were still on the network and performance like wireless printing, web browsing and email service seemed unchanged from our original observations.  We also streamed video to our LG TV and had no stalls or buffering, which we experienced with other routers.

We also confirmed that the decrease in reported download speed had no impact from the number of eero units on the network.  Regardless of the number of units or which unit we were closer to, the speed reports remained consistent.  Traditional range extenders tend to degrade the signal quality with each “hop” that it makes.

As we mentioned earlier, because the eero talks to the master Cloud Controller, the eero technical staff can look at your network performance and assist with configuration or performance issues.  We reached out to our contact at eero and reported the significant decrease in reported speed.  They came back and advised that their engineers had “looked” at our network and suspected that we were actually getting speeds faster than what the app was reporting. To test that theory, we ran several tests on the www.speedtest.net site provided by Ookla.

We ran the first test on our MacBook Pro which had a wireless connection to the eero network.  That test showed a download speed of 79.51Mbps and upload speeds of 11.91Mbps.  Keep in mind that those results are somewhat limited by the speeds of a wireless Wi-Fi connection since the test is running on our computer.  Those speeds were almost identical to the speed test we ran on the eero app at the same time.

For our second test, we connected the MacBook Pro to the eero unit using an Ethernet cable.  This would give a much more accurate speed rating since we didn’t have to deal with the Wi-Fi limitation.  That test came back with download speeds of 130.98Mbps and upload speeds of 11.62Mbps. Clearly the eero was providing much faster speeds than its own app was reporting.

We circled back with a member of the eero Customer Support Team and learned that they have received this “complaint” from other users.  eero says the difference in the numbers is due to several things including how they run their test to how ISPs deliver service. That said, it is an issue that the eero engineers are looking at and may address in a future firmware and/or app upgrade.

Finally, we wondered why there was no provision to wall mount the eero units and whether there was any consideration of selling some sort of bracket or holder.  This is apparently another common request for the erro Customer Support team and this answer was much more straight-forward.  Because of where the antennas are located within the eero units, mounting them against the wall would dramatically change the pattern of the Wi-Fi signal, sending it vertically up and down the wall surface rather than on a horizontal plain across the structure. This would seriously decrease the efficiency of the eero and work against the whole principle of how a Mesh Network operates.  So much for that idea.

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Purchasing eero

The purchase decision for the eero Wi-Fi system is a little more complicated than other routers.  erro is offered as a single unit for $199.00, a two unit “Starter Pack” for $349.00 or a three unit “Home Wi-Fi System” for $499.00 (all prices are MSRP based on the eero store web site).  We’ve already said that if you think you only need one eero, this may not be the best choice for you, and it’s hard to know if two eeros are enough or if three is too many until you start hooking them up so you may not be sure which package is right for you.

At first glance, it may seem that an eero Wi-Fi system is expensive but we think you need to consider what you are getting for your money and how it compares to the competition.

If you have been following our series on routers, you know that prices have ranged from $200.00 to $400.00 (MSRP) depending on the brand but for that price, you only get a single unit.  If, after setting up your router you find dead spots, you would need to buy a Wi-Fi Range Extender, which do vary greatly in price but can be as much as $150.00 or more.  In addition, setting up a range extender is not nearly as easy as adding another eero to your network.  Add to that the ability to monitor your network remotely and the promise that eero will get more features and functions in the future, and the price suddenly seems much more reasonable.

In addition, as we found in our testing, areas where you have coverage may be marginal and having an extra eero available to fill that gap may save you money in the long run.

eero Support

The eero web site has a Help Center which has a wide variety of FAQs which seem to cover just about any question you might have.  If that isn’t enough, you can submit a support request using their on-line form, send an email or contact them by phone.  Support is available 7 days a week, Monday–Friday: 8am–8pm PT, Saturday and Sunday: 8am–6pm PT.  We found the support representative to be extremely friendly and helpful.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to home Wi-Fi, we think it is very possible we have seen the future, and its name is eero.

The eero Wi-Fi system is still fairly new and based on our testing there is still room for improvement.  We think the lack of a usable USB port is a negative, especially considering that many of today’s routers not only support a printer connected to the router but allow you to connect an external hard drive to set up at least, a basic network storage device.  We also found that while the eero app is good, it lacks some of the more advanced network management that many users may want, like parental controls or even a minimal DLNA service.

That said, at the most basic level, we install routers in our homes, first and foremost, to provide uninterrupted Wi-Fi service without dead-spots and service interruptions and for that, the eero performs beautifully.

While not an inexpensive option, eero seems competitively priced for what it delivers and always leaves you the option to start small with one or two units and add more as needed.

There are several other companies that are looking at a mesh network system and all seem to be in a race to enter what appears to be the next big thing in home Wi-Fi, and while being one of the first to market isn’t everything, it does say something about the company behind the product.

The folks at eero have definite plans for improvements and enhancements and have designed their system in such a way that even early adopters will be able to take advantage of the benefits of a mesh network today and still see the benefits coming tomorrow.

In addition to the eero store, the eero system is available from Amazon.

We wish to thank the folks at eero for providing a Home Wi-Fi System for our review.

If you liked this article, please consider sharing it with your friends and leaving a comment below.

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