All photos: Adam Clark Estes
Let me make one thing brutally clear: I love Eero’s wi-fi routers. I love how the company brought mesh networking into the mainstream. I love how the hardware’s designed. I love how elegant the software is. But Eero’s promise isn’t new any more. So when it came time to test out the company second-generation tech, I wanted one thing. I wanted Eero to impress me again.
Now in its second year on the market, the Eero router’s promise hinges on the idea that wi-fi routers should look great, work even better, and generally make your life connecting to the internet easier. Accordingly, the company’s sophomore product is a lot like the original but with some subtle upgrades that make the whole concept feel more grown up.
The basic Eero Gateway is still the star of the show. This piece of hardware looks almost exactly like the original Eero routers: square, white, svelte. The new Eero flagship boasts a tri-band wi-fi radio that offers three networks—2.4GHz, a 5.2Ghz, and a 5.8GHz—simultaneously. This effectively means you can run high bandwidth applications on two separate networks in the 5GHz range without interfering with devices that have more basic needs. Those can talk to the 2.4Ghz network. The older Eero routers only offered the 2.4HGz and a single 5GHz radio. But in human speak, the new Eero Gateway is a workhorse with bigger muscles than its predecessor.
What really thrilled me, however, was Eero’s new form factor that lets you expand your home wi-fi network without cords. They’re called Beacons.
The Eero Beacons basically blend into the background, especially if you have white walls.
The new Eero Beacons are half the size of a Gateway, and they plug directly into the wall, like a night light. In fact, they double as night lights, a feature that seems gimmicky until you stumble to the bathroom at 3am and realize that a next-generation wi-fi router is keeping you from tripping over the pair of shoes you forgot you’d left in the hallway. The Beacons aren’t quite as powerful as the Gateway; they’re still packing dual-band wi-fi antennas that more closely resemble the original Eero routers. However, this won’t really matter as long as you keep your bandwidth hogs in a central location near an Eero Gateway, where they can best access the strongest wi-fi signal. You also have the option of using only Eero Gateways, but that setup is more expensive and wire-tangled than the new Beacon approach.
All this means is that your Eero Gateway should be close to your TV, set-top box, gaming console, and VR rig (LOL). Those are the kinds of gadgets that will require the most bandwidth. You won’t even notice the difference in speed if you’re just streaming music or surfing the web from other corners of your house. If you need to hardwire any of your devices, the Gateway also includes two ethernet ports alongside a USB-C port that powers the device. The Beacons, on the other hard, don’t have any ports.
Look at the ports, and look how svelte the whole unit is.
So let’s talk about speed. I tested the second generation Eero against three different routers: the Fios Quantum Gateway (Verizon Fios’s standard high-speed rental), and the Google Wifi (a cheaper mesh networking system). I conducted the tests using LAN Speed Test, which gives you a nice idea of the theoretical max speed for a router when it isn’t having to deal with slowdowns from your modem or ISP (in the US your router’s theoretical max speed will always be way higher than whatever the ISP provides). All three routers were pretty damn close, with the Verizon rental inching past the mesh routers.
You should bear in mind that these speed tests all took place a few feet away from the Eero Gateway or respective router. When you venture many yards away, where the Beacons take over, speeds drop a lot. Then again, world you shouldn’t count on using Beacons for heavy-lifting.
Let me be clear again: speed isn’t my favorite thing about the new Eero routers. As someone who never plays video games, streams lots of music and movies, and gets bullied into at least one video chat per month, I don’t really notice a difference.
What I do love is a good user experience. Wi-fi routers are historically awful, in part, because for years, interfaces were designed for network technicians and not for the average consumer. Eero was one of the first companies to focus on making wi-fi routers easy to use, and its second generation of routers doubles down on that promise.
Everything about the Eero app is lovely.
It took me roughly 60 seconds to set up my new Eero system. I downloaded an app, plugged in the Gateway, picked a password, and connected to the internet faster than it takes a Radiohead song to find the chorus. Setting up the Beacons was even easier. The app told me to plug one in, and a few seconds later it was live, extending my network and giving me a brand new night light. (Seriously, I love the night light feature.) Changing the network name or password is equally easy. Instead of logging in to some weird web portal that looks like a malware farm, I just open the app, tap through two menus, and update the settings.
The ease of use is not a new feature to the Eero. However, with the second generation of devices, the company also launched a new program called Eero Plus. For a month, you get some extra security features that promise to prevent you from visiting sites with malware or potential phishing scams. You also get a little more control over user profiles and what kinds of content the related devices can access. Put simply, you can prevent junior’s laptop from downloading porn. Eero Plus also lets you skip the line, when you call the support line with questions.
The network security aspect of Eero Plus is fairly mysterious, but the Safe Filters function works brilliantly.
After enrolling in the free trial, it took me less than an hour to realize that I didn’t need any of the Eero Plus features. I feel generally capable of avoiding dangerous websites on my own. I don’t have kids. And frankly, the Eero system is such a cinch to use, I don’t anticipate calling the support line very often. Plus, the updated Eero wi-fi system is expensive enough. One Gateway and one Beacon, the cheapest option, will set you back 0. Adding another Beacon to that package brings the price tag up to 0. The “pro package” includes three Gateways (zero Beacons) and costs 0.
So I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that the Eero system is designed for people with money to spend who don’t want to tinker with their wi-fi. The ideal Eero customer probably lives in a large house full of Crate and Barrel furniture—actually, CB2 is more likely—and likes to buy the newest iPhone as soon as it comes out. This hypothetical person might own a shirt or two from Everlane, probably drives a Volvo, and enjoys the occasional craft cocktail.
Full disclosure: I’m one of these people. Except for the house and money part. I live in tiny apartment in Brooklyn, where Eero’s mesh networking technology actually makes little sense. I’m also a blogger. So, even though I’m a big fan of the gadget, I probably wouldn’t even drop 0 on the cheapest Eero set up. I know people who live in big houses, own Eero systems, and can’t imagine life without them. But if you live in a home that’s less than 1,000 square feet and get satisfactory speeds with your current set up, you probably don’t need the Eero system either. You might want it, though.
This very grainy photo was taken in the dark, so you can see what a nice little nightlight the Beacons become after hours.
Good wi-fi technology should be invisible. You should set it up, connect your devices, and then forget that it’s even there because everything works like magic. You can tell from the new Eero’s design that the company is making great progress towards this idea. Unlike your current wi-fi router—which is probably a hideous nest of wires and antennas—the Eero Beacons sort of disappear into the text of your wall. The Gateway, shiny and white, looks like it could be a nice sculpture you put on your shelf. As such, you might want to spend a little extra dough on an Eero just to own the best version of a useful gadget and love it. If you’re familiar with the Apple tax, this idea should make sense to you.
All that said, if I moved into a bigger place next month, I actually would buy the Eero system. Having lived in an apartment plagued by dead zones, hell yes I’d join the mesh networking club, and yeah sure, I’d drop some coin on the best possible device. I actually believe strongly in the idea that you should invest prettiest bedroom in the world pictures in products that you use every day. Aside from my phone, my wi-fi system is probably the single device I use most often. It might cost me an extra hundred to buy the Eero over a competing system like Luma or Google Wifi.
The Eero Gateway basically blends into your home decor, especially if you put it on top of a white cabinet.
But that wouldn’t bother me. I love the Eero, and if I needed to create a mesh network, that’s what I’d buy. Like I said a second ago, I live in a one bedroom apartment, and I just don’t need an Eero right now.
- The new Eero is faster, more powerful, and just as expensive as the original Eero.
- The new Beacons don’t compete with the beefier Eero Gateway routers, but they are wonderfully small, plug into the wall, and become amazing night lights.
- If you live in a small apartment, you don’t need the Eero system’s mesh networking features—not even close.
- The whole proposition is alluring, expensive, and appealing.
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