The Eero Wi-Fi System is an easy way to blanket your home with wireless Internet access. Its three Wi-Fi units work in tandem to create a single, seamless network. And if the coverage still doesn’t go far enough, you can quickly increase the range by adding up to seven more Eero units.
But the system is expensive, costing $499 for a set of three, or $199 for a single unit. Australian and UK availability has yet to be announced, but those prices convert to around AU$690 or £350 and AU$140 or£70.
If extending your Internet access is all you’re looking to do, the Eero system is a simple way to do it, even if it’s not the most affordable. On the other hand, if you’re serious about customizing your network, or need to perform tasks that use a lot of bandwidth (like backing up your computers to a local server or sharing a large amount of data), the Eero system isn’t up to the job. On top of that, you need to connect to Eero’s server before you can manage your home network, which definitely raises some privacy concerns.
For this reason, power users, or those who don’t want to share their network details with Eero, should instead spend their money one of these top 802.11ac routers on the market. They’re all fast routers with long range, negating the necessity of a Wi-Fi extender like the Eero in most cases.
Design: It’s a (pricey) Wi-Fi system
The Eero Wi-Fi system consists of three identical Eero units, each measuring 4.75 by 4.75 by 1.34 inches (121 by 121 by 34 mm). Any of the units can automatically function as a router, a range extender or an access point, depending on how it’s connected.
As a router, the Eero eerily reminds me of the Google OnHub. It too has just two Gigabit network ports, Bluetooth (for the setup process) and a USB port that wasn’t functional at launch. Eero says it will add USB-related features later.
The Eero’s two network ports are LAN/WAN auto-sensing, meaning either of them can be used as a WAN/Internet port (to connect to the broadband modem) or a LAN port (to connect a wired device). This makes setting it up a bit more convenient than other routers, where you have to figure out what device plugs in to which port.
The Eero is actually a notch less powerful than the OnHub, featuring the dual-stream (2×2) setup of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, where the OnHub supports the faster 3×3 setup. This means the Eero has, on paper, a top Wi-Fi speed of 887Mbps.
This is where the other two units come into play. You connect one Eero to an Internet source using a network cable. After that, you put the other two within Wi-Fi range of the first unit to extend the Wi-Fi network further out.
This setup is the biggest selling point of the Eero system. Ideally, you want to put the two extra units within about 40 feet (12 meters) of the first, or closer if there are any walls or obstacles in the way. If you have a sprawling property, however, you can put the second unit some 40 feet from the first then the third another 40 feet from the second to extend the signal farther in one direction.
Alternatively, you can also daisy-chain the Eeros together using long network cables. But running a long network cables from one Eero to another can be a hassle, canceling out the ease of use and making the system way too expensive. You can get three Asus RT-AC66U routers for less than $400, for example. Using one as a router and the other two as access points will give you a faster Wi-Fi network with a lot more features than one powered by an Eero Wi-Fi system.
Easy setup process for smartphone users
The setup process is done entirely on the Eero mobile app (available on iOS and Android) so all you need is an Internet-connected mobile device. If you don’t have a smartphone or a tablet, you’re out of luck because there’s no alternative — you can’t set up the system using a browser or a computer.
Before you can do anything, you must register an account with Eero by submitting your email and a valid mobile phone number. While I understood the need for an email, the fact that I had to surrender my cell number made me feel a bit uneasy. Thankfully, that was the only thing that gave me pause during setup.
The app will walk you through a few steps to connect the first Eero to your cable modem (or your existing network). Your phone will then connect to the Eero using Bluetooth, and after just a few seconds the first Eero will be ready to go. It will then ask you to pick a name for the Eero, mostly to indicate its location (a long list of names such as Kitchen, Living room, Bedroom and so on is provided, or you can type in your own), another name for your Wi-Fi network and a password, and you’re done.
When you want to add another Eero to the network, just place that Eero near the first and tap the Add Eero button on the mobile app. After a few seconds, the second Eero will be added to the network and automatically extend your area of Wi-Fi coverage. You repeat this to add more Eeros to the network. In my trial, getting all three Eeros up and running took me about 10 minutes, and most of that time was spent figuring out where best to place them.
Scant feature set, Internet-dependent
As a router, the Eero doesn’t have much to offer. Other than the basic settings, it supports Guest networking and port forwarding and that’s it. There’s no parental control, access restriction or other router features you might look for. It’s so thin on features that I’d recommend using the Eero system with a full-featured router, using the Eero’s Bridge mode to extend your coverage.