In 2001, I bought the Titanium PowerBook G4 and setup my first home Wi-Fi network. It was ridiculously expensive, and often flakey, but it was also magical. I could sit on the couch and check email.
Wi-Fi has come a long way since that original “flying saucer” Airport Base Station was released. But there are still a lot of pain points. In my own (fairly modest) home I have trouble with Wi-Fi reception dropping out in certain edge locations and have opted for wired connections for optimum speed. My parents have a much larger brick home with a split floorpan and I’ve gone to great lengths, including adding additional ethernet drops and installing range extenders, to ensure a basic level of coverage in all their living areas.
The underlying problem with Wi-Fi seems to be that one wireless router isn’t enough to cover many homes with a strong Wi-Fi signal. In smaller spaces, like apartments or condos, though one router may have enough reach to cover the square footage, a problem arises with multiple routers in and area interference created from neighbor’s access points.
Along comes Eero. Eero is a new Wi-Fi system that promises to solve these problems and simplify things. Eero is a system consisting of three wireless routers that work together to form a mesh network to blanket your house in Wi-Fi. I first heard about Eero when Walt Mossberg reviewed it for The Verge, but Clayton Morris really brought it to my attention when he sang its praises on a recent episode of Mac Power Users.
The Eero device is very sleek, it looks like something that would come out of Cupertino. The device itself is a 4.75“ square white box with rounded corners and a curved top. There are ports on the back for power, USB and two ethernet connectors. One Eero must be connected to your modem. That ”master" Eero will then share its network connection wirelessly with the other Eeros that make up your network. The secondary Eeros all act as access points, thus creating the mesh network and can be connected wirelessly (except for the power cable). If your house happens to be wired (like mine) you can connect multiple Eeros to a wired network and it will figure out what makes the most sense to use.
Eero setup was very simple and all done through a companion iOS App. The App walks you through naming your network, setting up a password, creating a guest network if you like and then finding optimal placement and adding your additional Eeros as access points. The Eero App includes advanced configuration options for setting up things like DNS, port forwarding, family profiles (parental controls) and even includes a speed test function built-in. I’ve always praised Apple’s Airport routers for their ease of setup and configuration, but Eero may have them beat.
However the real question is does Eero deliver in the network stability and speed? It did. Candidly, in my 1,800 square foot house, I didn’t really expect Eero to make much of a difference. I had a current generation 802.11ac Apple Airport Extreme centrally located and really never had problems with my Wi-Fi network - or so I thought. I installed one Eero centrally in my living room (replacing my Airport Extreme) and the others on opposite sides of my house, on in my bedroom, another in my home office. After using Eero for a few weeks, it has solved problems I didn’t know I had.
At any given time, I have more than 25 devices connected to my network. Don’t laugh, they’re easy to collect when you think about all the Internet connected devices we have in modern homes. Heck, even some of my lightbulbs and electrical outlets are Wi-Fi connected. But all of these devices can take a toll on network performance. Particularly, I had several smart home devices that were on the outer edges of my home, lights that were outside or outlets that were connected to far walls that were never particularly reliable. I chalked it up to the devices themselves being flakey or the technology being new. But since installing the Eeros those devices have been rock solid. I’m convinced now it’s because they weren’t getting great Wi-Fi reception. With Eero, they are.
Eero is still a new technology and there is room for improvement. The biggest objection most people will have to Eero is the price. The starter set of Eeros, which includes 3 units, costs $499. That’s a heck of a lot more expensive than most wireless routers. You can extend the system by adding additional individual units at $199 each if you have a particularly large home or want to extend coverage into a yard or an exterior building . By comparison, an Airport extreme costs $199 and most wireless routers cost a good bit less. However, for most people a single wireless router may not solve all their wireless needs. So, if you take into account buying multiple devices and time involved in solving common Wi-Fi problems, the cost of the Eero starts to seem a little more reasonable.
Eero was designed for wireless networking, thus it is light on Ethernet ports. Your primary Eero will only have one port available, and secondary Eeros will only have one or two depending on if they are connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. This means if you plan on connecting wired devices to your network you’ll probably need a couple of wired routers. Also, the USB port on the Eero is reserved for support and diagnostics. However, in my talks with Eero’s executives they’ve hinted at future functionality.
Overall, I’ve been very happy with Eero in my home and I have no plans to go back to my Airport. In fact, since I wrote the initial version of this review I’ve pulled the Apple hardware out of my parent’s home and replaced it with an Eero system as well. They’ve had no trouble and no complaints. Eero is expensive, but if you’ve had Wi-Fi trouble, it’s worth a look.
Disclosure: the Eero public relations heard the MPU podcast with Clayton Morris and sent David and I units to try for ourselves and that is the basis of this review. Since I originally wrote this review for ScreenCastsOnline (mid-July of 2016), Eero has sponsored one episode of Mac Power Users.
This article first appeared in the August Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly on the iPad. You can find out more at [https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits/)