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Eero Wi-Fi System review: Eero's improved, but it's still too expensive

Polished mobile app, Alexa enabled

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.

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The Eero now has a polished mobile app and support Alexa voice commands.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Good performance, not great

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.

Eero Wi-Fi system scores

Portal (single router)
543.3
237
Netgear Orbi (single router)
416.2
229.6
Netgear Orbi (via one extender)
415.83
229.3
Almond 3 (single router)
315.8
220.6
Linksys Velop (single router)
383.1
209.2
Google Wifi (single router)
450.6
201.4
Linksys Velop (via one extender)
222.3
198.6
Eero (single router)
447.4
180.2
Google Wifi (via one extender)
206.9
155.8
Eero (via one extender)
179.2
146.7
Almond 3 (via one extender)
159.1
110.1
Portal (via one extender)
244
84

Legend:

Close range
Long range

Note:

Longer bars means better performance. Measured in megabits per second.

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.

Should you get one?

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.

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