There doesn’t appear to be a major company in networking that hasn’t launched a mesh Wi-Fi system. That’s because by using a mesh, manufacturers can ensure consistent, high quality wireless signal in all corners of the home. But it wasn’t always that way – in fact, mesh networking wasn’t really a thing until Eero came along, a company that has revolutionised the way users connect to their home Wi-Fi. Now, the company is back for round two, and it’s squarely aimed at the smarter home.
The second generation Eero router is tipped to be twice as fast and twice as powerful as its predecessor, all while maintaining the exact same form factor and footprint. That’s no mean feat, but this device isn’t just about performance under the hood and a svelte design. That’s because Eero has become the first manufacturer to build in fully-functioning Thread support to its product, something that will be key to smart home devices arriving in the next couple of years.
What is Thread you ask? Well, Thread is a new smart home communication protocol set to replace the likes of Z-Wave and Zigbee. While the organisations behind those standards will beg to differ, Thread is supposedly simpler and easier to deploy, meaning Eero is betting on it being the future smart home protocol of choice. The company isn’t alone either, Google’s OnHub routers also include a Thread radio, albeit one that is currently inactive.
The existence of an active Thread radio in the second generation Eero could lead to a faster adoption of the technology, although some won’t be all too happy about its growth. One such company will be SmartThings; with the company’s hub made obsolete once the Thread protocol proliferates on the market, as users will only need to connect smart home devices to their home router, rather than a separate hub.
Second Generation Eero Hub
The second generation Eero hub will be the product must people will acquire, after all it is the brains behind that all-important mesh networking system. This is also the product that is twice as powerful as its predecessor, alongside being the first Wi-Fi access point of its size with tri-band technology. That means range is greatly improved over other routers of this size, although that can be further expanded using Eero Beacons.
With its tri-band technology, Eero isn’t just about an improved range, but it’s also about improved connectivity. While the smart home functionality will be key to the success of the second generation Eero, it’s not the only benefit users will get. The tri-band Wi-Fi will also enable faster connection speeds, facilitating 4K streaming and online gaming, without any hiccups.
Eero is billed as the ultimate Wi-Fi router, which is why users won’t find many connections on the back for hardwiring devices. In fact, there are just two auto-detecting Ethernet ports on the rear of the second generation Eero, one of which will be reserved for the modem, leaving just one useable for devices such as printers or video game consoles. Of course, installers are always welcome to plug in an Ethernet switch for more hardwired connections.
While the Eero hub will be the centre of the Wi-Fi network, the Eero Beacon will provide much of the backbone for a fully mesh system. Installers wanting a robust Wi-Fi network for their clients will find that the Eero Beacon provides just that, boosting the signal in whatever room it is placed, and ensuring fast speeds in all corners of the home.
As expected for a device designed to go in several rooms throughout the house, the Eero Beacon is around half the size of the main hub. It also plugs directly into a wall outlet, making it really easy to install and forget about.
When Eero launched the company relied on users placing the main router throughout the house, quickly finding that more than half of its customers placed devices in stairwells, kitchens, and hallways – somewhere power cables are a hazard. That’s what led the company to create the Eero Beacon.
Due to its smaller size, the Eero Beacon is nowhere near as powerful as the main hub, and it also lacks the tri-band radio, but it still supposedly offers an improvement over the original Eero router – around 20% to 30% better, according to the company. That’s impressive considering this isn’t just a Wi-Fi router either, with it also managing to pack an LED nightlight that can automatically switch on depending on the ambient light.
With all this talk of mesh networking – how exactly does Eero’s Wi-Fi system work in comparison to a standard networking solution? Well, mesh networking works by daisy chaining several routers together to ensure there are no blackspots. That means rather than relying on a single router to cover every nook and cranny, carefully placing routers around the house will ensure a strong signal everywhere.
For Eero’s part, that clever technology works through its ‘TrueMesh’ software that makes it possible to add as many hubs and beacons as needed to seamlessly cover any home. The TrueMesh software will monitor the connection between each individual hub and beacon and then find the best route for the data connection, dynamically switching pathways through the network to avoid interference. Eero will also communicate with the device, switching its connection to different access points based on which one is the fastest, and offers the most reliable connection. This is all without the user having to do anything.
While a mesh networking system offers more devices in which to compromise, Eero has ensured that its system is fully secured. That’s why the company partnered with leading security firms to conduct end-to-end tests to ensure there were no vulnerabilities. If a vulnerability were ever discovered, Eero says that its security network will quickly and automatically update all online systems and ensure users are secure.
Amongst the security features included as standard are data encryption, WPA-2 encryption, profile logins and regular security updates. While many other routers offer these features – regular updates is something users won’t often get with their broadband provider’s router.
While the second generation Eero and Eero Beacon will offer better performance, users can rest assure that all of this technology will be the same across generations. That’s why the Eero and Eero Beacon are fully backward compatible, meaning users can simply slot in a Eero Beacon into their existing network, and not worry about compatibility problems.
Eero’s bread and butter will always be networking hardware, but the company is branching out with its latest products; debuting a new subscription service to offer even more protection to its customers.
With Eero, every Wi-Fi network is secure. That means that the traffic flowing between routers and out to the internet is encrypted and safe. However, if someone visits a harmful website or connects a compromised device to the network, it may inadvertently invite an external online threat into the home. From sophisticated phishing attacks that fool even the savviest of internet users, to botnet attacks that take over devices like connected cameras, there is an increasing risk to online threats.
With eero Plus, everyone using the network is blocked from accessing those site before they even load. Unlike built-in protections included in a web browser or email, the database of threats Eero Plus protects against — millions of malicious websites with ransomware, viruses, phishing scams, and more — is automatically updated every second to keep people protected.
It’s not just about security threats either, as Eero Plus will also come with advanced parental controls, allowing parents to ensure that their child doesn’t have access to adult, illegal, and/or violent content. Parents can also enable SafeSearch for specific profiles on the network.
As part of the Eero Plus subscription, users will gain priority access to the company’s customer support team with limited or no wait times before speaking to an expert.
The Competition – Eero vs Google Wi-Fi vs Netgear Orbi vs BT Whole Home Wi-Fi
There are countless new Wi-Fi solutions on the market, but how does the second generation Eero stack up to that vast array of products?
Google Wi-Fi has been the loudest entry into the market recently, and it promises much of the same simplicity as what’s offered by Eero. Unfortunately the company’s foray into the world of networking hasn’t been completely without incident. The satellite routers on the Google Wi-Fi supposedly underperform both the Eero and the Netgear Orbi, while the primary unit is said to be on-par. Performance is just one factor, however. Google Wi-Fi is regularly praised for its compact design, which the Eero Beacon will now compete with, while its simplicity is second to none. It’s also the least expensive mesh Wi-Fi system available from the big players.
Netgear Orbi is another model in the marketplace offering tri-band technology, much like the second generation Eero. Unlike the Eero, however, Netgear has locked down one of the bands and uses it for communication between routers. This ensures there’s no bottleneck on the network. Eero says its network should also not get bottlenecked, but rather than simply reserving a band, it switches between them seamlessly. Orbi is also better equipped for users wanting to use Ethernet as well as mesh networking – that’s because it comes with four Ethernet ports, compared to Eero’s two. Set-up is also more complicated than the Eero and Google Wi-Fi.
BT Whole Home Wi-Fi is one of the most notable mesh networking systems available in the UK and has thus far received rave reviews. BT’s system doesn’t offer any glaring advantages over the Eero, and actually has just a single Ethernet port for connecting to the modem. That makes it the least versatile of all the systems for hardwiring devices, and its dual-band nature could lead to bottlenecks on the network. It is available in the UK, however, something it has over the Eero.
Pricing and Availability
The second generation Eero Home Wi-Fi System will be available in the US in a few weeks, with pre-sales beginning today. Those wishing to acquire one can get it from a range of retailers and distributors, including Eero.com, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. The company is also partnering with 3,000 professional installers in the US to give consumers the peace of mind they need when it comes to installing the network.
While US availability was always on the cards, Eero has officially confirmed that it’s finally ready for an international roll-out. Unfortunately, that international roll-out is simply north of the border and not across the atlantic, with Canada the first country other than the US to get the Eero Wi-Fi system. CE Pro Europe asked Eero whether it had any plans to enter additional countries, to which a spokesperson noted that it was ‘looking to expand beyond soon’.
Pricing for the Eero Home Wi-Fi system is as follows:
- Home W-iFi System (one eero + one eero Beacon): $299
- Home WiFi System (one eero + two eero Beacons): $399
- Pro WiFi System (three eeros): $499
- eero Plus: $9.99/month (or $99/year) available soon