You want Wi-Fi that just works, everywhere in your house. You don't want to think about it. And maybe, you'd prefer it were invisible, too -- no garish alien spider routers creeping in the corner of your room.
That's why you're considering the Eero, with its new Eero Beacons. They're about as simple and unobtrusive as can be: Just download the app, plug the chic white base station into your modem and stick a Beacon -- a self-contained range extender that hangs off your wall outlets like a nightlight -- anywhere your internet still can't reach.
Think of it like a Glade plug-in for Wi-Fi.
After weeks of testing, I'm happy to say the new-and-improved second-gen Eero platform mostly works as advertised. But is it the best Wi-Fi you can buy for the money?
At $300 (roughly £230 or AU$375) for an Eero with one Beacon or $400 (roughly £305 or AU$500) for two Beacons... not really.
While Eero may be the biggest name in mesh networking (where multiple routers band together dynamically, like Eero and its beacons), it's still not our top pick -- that'd be the Netgear Orbi (RBK40 or RBK50) if price is no object, or the Google WiFi if it is. (The Amped Ally Plus is also a great pick, but only has one extender.)
Besides, we doubt most people will need a mesh system to begin with: For apartments and smaller homes, a single powerful router may do the job just as well for hundreds of dollars less. (Here are our top picks.)
In fact, in some scenarios, I found the new Eero system wasn't any better than the original.
The basic idea, as before, is that Eero combines multiple access points into a single seamless Wi-Fi network that spans your entire house. Setup is a breeze: It took under 20 minutes for me to download the app, plug everything in and finish downloading software updates.
The hardest part (which wasn't very hard) was simply needing to move the Beacon a couple of times before the base station was happy with its position. It took a couple minutes each time.
Since I was replacing an existing router, I was impressed to find 95 percent of my existing gadgets had no trouble automatically connecting to the Eero's network, just by making sure the Eero's name and password were the same as my previous setup. (My Philips Hue lighting hub was the only exception.)
Speaking of hubs: since the primary Eero only has two Ethernet jacks and the new Beacons have none, you'll probably need to plug any wired devices into a network switch near your primary Eero.
It's also worth noting that Eero doesn't offer many advanced router features. You can pause the internet for certain devices or certain users (Hey Billy, it's bedtime!), set up a guest network (also useful if, like me, you previously maintained separate 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks) or use the Eeros solely as wireless access points instead of routers if you need to -- but that's about it.
Since never having to think about your router's advanced settings is kind of why you'd buy an Eero, I won't dwell on it.
Performance and range
What I will dwell on: How the new second-gen Eero and its Beacon range-extenders don't deliver any more bandwidth than the original unit -- or my own four-year old Netgear Nighthawk R7000 for that matter.
And how you'll need to have a pretty big or well-insulated house, or a particularly troublesome nook, to make the Beacons worthwhile.
In both my own two-story townhouse and the CNET offices, I measured speeds of up to 375Mbps in our short range wireless test, roughly 15 feet away from the Eero. That's nothing to sneeze at, particularly since I was still able to pull down 201Mbps in our standard long-range test as well.
But as you'll see in the chart, those speeds aren't anything special -- and when you're connected to a Beacon instead of the primary Eero, you'll only get a little more than half of that bandwidth.
(That's because like the first-gen Eero, there's no dedicated backchannel -- there's signal loss because each Beacon has to use the same Wi-Fi band to receive and rebroadcast the signal at the same time.)
Still, even a 50Mbps connection is plenty for practically anything you'd do on the internet today, to say nothing of the 130Mbps connection I saw across the room from an Eero Beacon. Unless you need every corner of your home to stream 4K video simultaneously -- or you're future-proofing -- you'd probably be just fine.
But that's assuming you'll even be using the Beacons in the first place. About a week into my testing, I discovered that my computer wasn't even connecting to Beacons most of the time.
It turns out that with the second-gen Eero, the company decided to focus on range and size instead of speed, increasing the output power of the primary Eero unit and adding a third 5GHz Wi-Fi band, while making the range extender units smaller than before.
Sounds great, right? But in practice, the extra power of the primary unit meant my devices would almost always connect to it instead of the Beacons, unless I was far away from the access point. That wasn't the case with the first-gen Eero, and it kind of defeats the purpose of having a mesh network in small to medium-size homes.
Here's the good news: the extra oomph of the primary Eero means you can now place the Beacons even further away than before. At our CNET offices, I was able to create a gigantic 50Mbps-or-better network spanning 16,000 square feet, most of an entire floor. (The open sightlines of our newly renovated office surely helped.)
And at that range, the benefit of the Beacons became clear: When I removed them, the range of my 50Mbps+ network had a 65-foot smaller radius than before.
So again: If you've got a huge or difficult house, the Eero might make good sense -- or perhaps one of its mesh network competitors. But for smaller areas, Eero just showed us that a single, more powerful and less expensive router might be even better.
My recommendation: Try that first.