THE GOOD The Eero Wi-Fi System can create a seamless Wi-Fi network that covers a large area with reliable Internet access. The hardware is well designed, easy to use and you can quickly scale up your home network by adding more units.
THE BAD The system is expensive, not fast enough for bandwidth-heavy local tasks and requires you to connect to Eero's servers to manage it. Features are minimal, there are only two network ports and the single USB port is useless at launch.
THE BOTTOM LINE While super convenient and reliable for Internet sharing, you're better off going with a more powerful and less expensive single router.
The Eero Wi-Fi System is an easy way to blanket your home with wireless Internet access. Its three Wi-Fi units work in tandem to create a single, seamless network. And if the coverage still doesn't go far enough, you can quickly increase the range by adding up to seven more Eero units.
But the system is expensive, costing $499 for a set of three, or $199 for a single unit. Australian and UK availability has yet to be announced, but those prices convert to around AU$690 or £350 and AU$140 or£70.
If extending your Internet access is all you're looking to do, the Eero system is a simple way to do it, even if it's not the most affordable. On the other hand, if you're serious about customizing your network, or need to perform tasks that use a lot of bandwidth (like backing up your computers to a local server or sharing a large amount of data), the Eero system isn't up to the job.
For this reason, power users should instead spend their money one of these top 802.11ac routers on the market. They're all fast routers with long range, negating the necessity of a Wi-Fi extender like the Eero in most cases.
Design: It's a (pricey) Wi-Fi system
The Eero Wi-Fi system consists of three identical Eero units, each measuring 4.75 by 4.75 by 1.34 inches (121 by 121 by 34 mm). Any of the units can automatically function as a router, a range extender or an access point, depending on how it's connected.
As a router, the Eero eerily reminds me of the Google OnHub. It too has just two Gigabit network ports, Bluetooth (for the setup process) and a USB port that wasn't functional at launch. Eero says it will add USB-related features later.
The Eero's two network ports are LAN/WAN auto-sensing, meaning either of them can be used as a WAN/Internet port (to connect to the broadband modem) or a LAN port (to connect a wired device). This makes setting it up a bit more convenient than other routers, where you have to figure out what device plugs in to which port.
The Eero is actually a notch less powerful than the OnHub, featuring the dual-stream (2x2) setup of the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, where the OnHub supports the faster 3x3 setup. This means the Eero has, on paper, a top Wi-Fi speed of 887Mbps.
This is where the other two units come into play. You connect one Eero to an Internet source using a network cable. After that, you put the other two within Wi-Fi range of the first unit to extend the Wi-Fi network further out.
This setup is the biggest selling point of the Eero system. Ideally, you want to put the two extra units within about 40 feet (12 meters) of the first, or closer if there are any walls or obstacles in the way. If you have a sprawling property, however, you can put the second unit some 40 feet from the first then the third another 40 feet from the second to extend the signal farther in one direction.
Alternatively, you can also daisy-chain the Eeros together using long network cables. But running a long network cables from one Eero to another can be a hassle, canceling out the ease of use and making the system way too expensive. You can get three Asus RT-AC66U routers for less than $400, for example. Using one as a router and the other two as access points will give you a faster Wi-Fi network with a lot more features than one powered by an Eero Wi-Fi system.
Easy setup process for smartphone users
The setup process is done entirely on the Eero mobile app (available on iOS and Android) so all you need is an Internet-connected mobile device. If you don't have a smartphone or a tablet, you're out of luck because there's no alternative -- you can't set up the system using a browser or a computer.
Before you can do anything, you must register an account with Eero by submitting your email and a valid mobile phone number. While I understood the need for an email, the fact that I had to surrender my cell number made me feel a bit uneasy. Thankfully, that was the only thing that gave me pause during setup.
The app will walk you through a few steps to connect the first Eero to your cable modem (or your existing network). Your phone will then connect to the Eero using Bluetooth, and after just a few seconds the first Eero will be ready to go. It will then ask you to pick a name for the Eero, mostly to indicate its location (a long list of names such as Kitchen, Living room, Bedroom and so on is provided, or you can type in your own), another name for your Wi-Fi network and a password, and you're done.
When you want to add another Eero to the network, just place that Eero near the first and tap the Add Eero button on the mobile app. After a few seconds, the second Eero will be added to the network and automatically extend your area of Wi-Fi coverage. You repeat this to add more Eeros to the network. In my trial, getting all three Eeros up and running took me about 10 minutes, and most of that time was spent figuring out where best to place them.
Scant feature set, Internet-dependent
As a router, the Eero doesn't have much to offer. Other than the basic settings, it supports Guest networking and port forwarding and that's it. There's no parental control, access restriction or other router features you might look for. It's so thin on features that I'd recommend using the Eero system with a full-featured router, using the Eero's Bridge mode to extend your coverage.
The Eero mobile app has one nifty feature, which is the ability to send the Wi-Fi network information via text or email to another person, if you're likely to forget your network name or password.
Unlike other routers with a mobile app I've seen, the Eero app will not work when there's no Internet connection. Even when the mobile device is connected to the Wi-Fi network, if the Internet is down you can't connect to the Eero to manage it. To be clear, your Wi-Fi network will continue to perform normally, you just won't be able to change any network settings until Internet access is restored. In fact, it appeared to me that every command I sent from the app (commands that would change a network setting) to the Eero system needed to go through Eero's server first.
With that in mind, the paranoid side of our Internet experience perked up: Does Eero's "home office" know everything we do with our network settings? In fact, only diagnostic data to better maximize the mesh network is being passed from your local routers to Eero. And that cloud-based data should only need to communicate with your Eero hardware for setup, or if you're using advanced settings.
So: privacy issues seem negligible for anyone outside the tinfoil-hat crowd. But if you happen to run a closed network or one that doesn't, for whatever reason, have a steady connection to the outside Internet, note that the Eero isn't for you.
Good Wi-Fi coverage, excellent signal hand-off
As a single unit, the Eero's range is about as good as that of the Google OnHub, which is impressive considering it's much smaller. The Eero is a dual-band router, meaning it has one 5GHz and one 2.4GHz band. You can only make one main and one guest Wi-Fi network, however. There's no way you can separate these two bands into two separate Wi-Fi networks. I did notice however, that dual-band clients (such as the iPhone 6S) would always connect to the 5GHz band first and as I moved farther out, it would connect to the 2.4GHz band, which has a longer range.
In testing, the effective range of the Eero was 70 to 80 feet (21 to 24 meters), but the distance at which the signal remained strong was about half that. Generally it's tricky to find the right spot for a range extender. You need to put it relatively close to the existing router for it to have a good connection with the main network, but at the same time far enough away to maximize the extended the range. In the case of the Eero, I found that 40 feet was ideal if there were no obstacles between the two.
In my trial, with good positioning, I was able to make the three units of the Eero system to cover about 6,000 square feet of residential setting.
The best thing about the Eero system, however, is the seamless signal hand-off. As I walked around, the test client needed to switch from one Eero unit to another to maintain a strong Wi-Fi connection, and in most cases, this happened so fast that my device didn't have time to disconnect. Despite the fact that there are three units, it felt like one continuous connection. You can start streaming a movie at one end of the Wi-Fi network and walk to the other end without having to worry about rebuffering.
Performance: Despite signal loss, still fast enough to share Internet
As a single router, the Eero's speed is quite impressive for how small it is. In testing, at the close range of 10 feet (3 meters), it registered sustained speeds of 330Mbps (easily beating the Google OnHubs). At some 75 feet (23 meters) away, it averaged an impressive 177Mbps.
Things changed dramatically when I added a second Eero to the network. The client's real-world speed dropped significantly and averaged 166Mbps at close range and 60Mbps at long range.
I placed the third Eero even further out. Now the signal had to jump from the first Eero to the second, then to the third before it got to the test client. In this case, I was averaging 69Mbps at short range and 45Mbps at long range.
Signal loss always happens when wireless extenders are used and what happened with the Eero was within expectations. Generally, you want the signal to be wirelessly extended just once and place the extenders around the router of the original Wi-Fi network, instead of further out in one direction.
Even in the worst case, however, the Eero Wi-Fi system could still deliver around 50Mbps of real-world Wi-Fi speed, which is actually faster than the download speed of most residential broadband connections. And considering the fact you only need around 5Mbps to stream HD content, again, the Eero system will deliver if sharing Internet is all you care about.
If you need a fast local network for non-Internet related tasks, such as backups, data sharing or editing files stored on a NAS server, the Eero system will frustrate you.