I first checked out the Eero mesh Wi-Fi system at its launch. A set of three identical hardware units working in tandem to deliver Wi-Fi coverage over a residential property, the Eero brought much-needed streamlining to home Wi-Fi installation, but I was put off by its high cost, among other things. A year later, the Eero's price remains the same -- $499 for a set of three (roughly converted to AU$690 or £350), or $199 for a single unit (AU$140 or £70), but the field of competing devices has grown.
What's changed with the Eero since its release is the fact that after numerous software updates, many of which derived from data Eero has gleaned from its customers' real-world usage in the past year, the system is now slightly faster through a new approach to mesh networking Eero's company calls TrueMesh. The Eero also now has Alexa integration and a much more polished mobile app. Between those updates and the expanded competitive field, it's time to give the Eero another look.
At its core, the Eero remains a low-power Wi-Fi system that's easy to set up, and that delivers fast-to-mid-tier internet speeds around every room of your house, depending on the number of Eero units you install.
While the Eero works well, and it has some useful features, I still find it hard to justify its cost, especially considering the Google Wifi in particular delivers a similar experience for $200 less (£159 or AU$264).
Editors' note: This review was significantly updated on Feb. 1, 2017 to reflect new features and additional testing.
The $499 Eero system consists of three identical compact hardware units. You connect one unit to your internet modem, then place the other two around your home, within wireless range of at least one other unit. Once you follow the relatively simple setup process through Eero's mobile phone app, the units will work together to create a single, seamless Wi-Fi network.
You can also use a single Eero box as a standalone wireless router. Or, you can use the system in bridge mode to extend your existing Wi-Fi coverage to a wider area. Using bridge mode with a non-Eero router, however, means you can't use any of the Eero's features or settings.
The setup process happens entirely on the Eero mobile app (available on iOS and Android) so all you need to get started is an internet-connected mobile device. If you don't have a smartphone or a tablet, you're out of luck -- you can't set up the system using a computer web browser.
Once you download the free app, follow the onscreen instructions to register an account with Eero, sign in and the rest is self explanatory. The app will help you pick a name and a password for the Wi-Fi network and a name for each hardware unit, such as Office, Kitchen, Living room, Bedroom and so on. You can also type in any name you want. Generally, if you have used a smartphone before, the setup process will take you no more than 15 minutes.
Keep in mind that the Eero connects to the company's cloud-based server at all times. Privacy advocates, take note: Eero says is only takes in diagnostic data to better maximize the mesh network, not user activities such as websites they visit, movies they stream and so on.
Like most Wi-Fi systems, the Eero doesn't have many networking features. In fact it has just one main feature which is the ability to pause the internet for a group of devices, called Family Profiles. You create a profile by picking a name for it, "Kids" for example, after that you can add multiple devices to this profile and the app will create a button for it. Now you can quickly pause this profile by tapping on the Kids button, effectively halting internet access for all devices on this profile. You then can manually unpause or set a time for that to happen automatically. The Google Wifi has a similar feature it calls Family Wi-Fi.
The Eero also has very limited network settings. For example you can't customize the Wi-Fi network at all, other than changing its name or password. For many home users this "just make it work" approach is not necessarily a bad thing. If you want advanced settings and features, you should go with a traditional router, or the Netgear Orbi. Orbi is a little trickier to set up than the Eero, and it's more expensive -- $230 for one unit (roughly converted to £182 or AU$300), $399 for two (£320 or AU$530). It's faster, though, and it gives you the same level of customization as a traditional router.
With the latest updates, the Eero app is now sleeker and more responsive than it was a year ago. It gives you a visual representation of different Eero units on your network, as well as the devices connected to them. You can use the app to easily check the strength of the connection between Eero devices (aka the backhaul connection), turn on/off the LED light on each hardware unit, and create the aforementioned Family Profiles.
As of last November Eero also has an Alexa integration. You can now use voice command to make the Eero do a number of tasks. I tried this out with an Echo Dot and it worked well. When I said "Alexa, ask Eero to find iPhone", where iPhone is the name of my iPhone 6s, Alexa returned with a message "iPhone was closest to the Office Eero 29 minutes ago." This is really useful for tracking down lost gadgets. You can also ask Alexa to make the Eero pause the internet, and turn off its LED.
Unfortunately Alexa integration currently only works one direction. It can pause the internet, for example, but it can't turn it back on. For that you'll need to use the Eero mobile app. Even if it's limited, Eero is unique in offering voice command input for some of its functions. Google has promised Google Assistant and Alexa integration for its Wi-Fi system, and Linksys says it will bring Alexa commands to its Velop mesh router, but Eero appears to be the only one with voice commands you can use today, at least as of press time.
One issue to note is that the Eero doesn't have dedicated wireless connection for the signal between its units (aka, the backhaul connection). Instead it uses either the 5GHz or the 2.4GHz signal, depending on the distance between units. This means apart from the signal degradation due to distance, the Eero also suffers from signal loss -- to the tune of a 50 percent efficiency reduction when a Wi-Fi band has to both receive and rebroadcast the signal at the same time.
To avoid signal loss, you can daisy-chain the Eeros together using long network cables. Eero says you can use unlimited Eero units connected together both wirelessly and via cables and the system will still work. That could be useful if you have a particularly challenging home layout for an all-wireless approach. Eero says about 20 percent of its users use at least one wired link. That's more than I would have guessed. You can also do the same with Google Wifi.
That said, after the TrueMesh update, the Eero is indeed faster than it used to be a year ago. As a single router, at 10 feet (3 meters), it registered sustained Wi-Fi speeds of 447 megabytes per second (up from 330 Mbps a year ago). At some 75 feet (23 meters) away, it averaged 182 Mbps (up a bit from 177 Mbps.)
With a second Eero unit on the network, as expected, I saw much slower connection speeds to various devices. At close range with two Eero units, it clocked in at 179 Mbps down (up from 166 Mbps a year ago). At a longer distance with two units, the speed was now 146 Mbps, which was the biggest improvement, from just 60 Mbps a year ago. When I used the the third unit in a linear setup to extend the signal farther out in one direction, devices connected to this unit suffered further from signal loss averaging just 70 Mbps and 25 Mbps at close and long range respective. Ideally, you want to place the two satellite units around the first units, instead.
In my range trials, with three units, it can cover about 4,000 square feet (about 372 square meters) with a sustained speed between units of 100 Mbps or higher. I could make them cover a larger area, up to 6,000 square feet (557 square meters) but the real-world Wi-Fi speed was now reduced to less than 50 Mbps.
The Eero also has great signal hand off. Clients automatically move from one unit to another as I walked around without any interruption at all. It also passes my 48-hour stress test, during which it was set to transfer a large amount of data between multiple clients. It didn't disconnect once.
If all you care about is having a reliable system to deliver internet to every corner of your home, the Eero does the job, although at a higher price than its competition, and with only a few minor advantages. Its Alexa voice controls are convenient, but likely to be matched by others soon. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Eero is that the company behind it has delivered on its promise to bring meaningful updates to the system via ongoing software updates. Consumer tech companies make that promise all the time, but they don't always deliver.
If you have a home internet connection with 200 Mbps or faster download speed, the Eero is definitely not for you since it can't maintain that speed at range or with multiple Eeros on one network. You should consider the Netgear Orbi instead, which can deliver some 400 Mbps at long distance.
And even with a more modest internet connection, the Eero is still too expensive. Google Wifi, which is very similar in terms of features and performance, costs just $300 (£240 or AU$397). And for that, I just can't find any reason why you should get the Eero instead.