Upgrading the Wi-Fi
For Wi-Fi access at home, I have always used Netgear products. For the last 15 or so years, upgrading whenever it made sense to. This last year we moved into a different house where having a “centralized” access point just didn’t make sense. In this case, the “central” location is the dining room – a big black box is not exactly something people want to have in their living rooms. The Smart Wi-Fi router we had just wasn’t enough to cover the entire house from one side or another. For this reason, I placed it as near to my desktop and Xbox as I could. But we needed something different, the signal would cut out where the kids watched shows on the Amazon FireTV, and if you went to the other end of the house my cell phone would try desperately to maintain the connection at the expense of battery life.
Enter the Mesh
After doing some research, I determined that just upgrading the wifi router wouldn’t work as the coverage problems would still exist. I also looked at adding a range extender but found that to be not ideal either. Our house is long, its a 50’s Ranch style house that is only two rooms deep but long. I wanted to find something that would allow all of our devices to connect no matter where they are in the house. At my last count, I think we have around 11 devices connected at any given time to our wi-fi. With my needs, I decided a wireless mesh network was the best option. Essentially a mesh network uses different access points spread throughout an area that communicates with each other and allows the network to be spread out across a great distance. This is something corporate networks have had for a long time or most public wi-fi spots that you see around town. The cost has just been too much, and it was really complicated to setup – I know I manage one at work. Over time the cost and complexity have come down and it is now something that can be setup fairly easily without knowledge of how it works. There are several vendors out there with their own take on mesh wi-fi networking: Google Wi-Fi, Netgear Orbi, Linksys Velop, Ubiquity, Eero and more.
A beacon of Eero
Once I had decided the type of wireless I wanted at home, it was time to pick a system. I vetted all of them through user reviews, magazine reviews, and my own independent research (without actually purchasing any). I settled on one in particular- Eero Home Wi-Fi System. To me, Eero has the best combination of aesthetics, speed, simplicity, and functionality. As I mentioned, I manage a network as part of my day job– I really don’t want to manage one at home as well. Eero offers a couple different choices depending
on how large your home is, and they offer help on their website (www.eero.com) to help you determine what you need.
I purchased the Eero + Eero Beacon pack with the idea that I can expand if necessary to another Eero. The Eero is the main base and the beacon is a smaller satellite which also doubles as a really cool night light.
The main unit is powered by a USB-C based cable (again forward thinking) and the beacon unit plugs directly into the wall like a night light. If a night light isn’t your thing you can disable it completely. The main unit has two CAT5 jacks – 1 for your Cable Modem and 1 for a switch/desktop/printer or some other network device. I would have liked it to be a 5 port switch as well which is common on Wi-Fi routers, but for my needs, I installed a 5 port switch into that port.
Setup could not have been simpler- they offer an Android or iPhone app that walks you through creating an account, and setting up, including where to make your connections and helping you place the beacon in your house for optimum coverage. It handles the pairing of the devices automatically, IP addressing (though you can use more advanced options if needed). I literally had this thing running within 15 minutes. The hardest part was crawling under the desk to plug in the power of the main unit.
The units themselves are very modern looking and “basic” at the same time. I mean that in a good way. There are no unnecessary pieces, or parts, or interfaces. There is a simple LED that at a quick glance will tell you the state of your connection (you can even turn the LED off if you have it in a bedroom or TV room where you don’t want to see it. Though I find it very unobtrusive.
Oh and that beacon unit? It’s in our dining room, and you can’t even notice it.
After installing it I was able to quickly create a DHCP reservation for my NAS and I entered the same SSID as my existing network so all my devices found the Wi-Fi as soon as it was booted up. I immediately began running speed tests and I found this thing to be very, very fast. I fired up the Xbox One and had no lag when playing online, my FireTV was streaming HD content to my kids, and my lonely desktop was doing its thing. The eero didn’t break a sweat. And you don’t even have to think about if your device is connected to the satellite unit, or the base – eero simply moves your device back and forth seamlessly depending on connection strength.
With the application, you can manage your network while you are away, even restart it if necessary. There is no traditional web interface to login to, all the settings and tweaks are done through the mobile app. You can create a guest network if you want to as well so that you don’t have to share your password with visitors. Or if you wanted some isolation between devices I suppose. From within the application, you can get an overview of your network, an internet speedtest, and which devices are using the most bandwidth. Eero also offers parental controls so you can determine when/if your children can get on the internet (I suppose you could do the same with your spouse but good luck with that). Eero also offers a unique software as a service component called Eero Plus. I have not played with this yet, but it offers a VPN subscription, ad blocking, password management, malware scanning, and more.
As far as updates are concerned, eero handles them all automatically- though you can manually force an update if necessary. One of the things I appreciated most about their software updating is they were one of the first vendors to release a fix for the major KRACK vulnerability discovered last fall.
I’ve owned this now for a couple of months now and I have never had buyer’s remorse with it. It works so well I don’t even think about it most of the time. I can’t recommend this enough. The only problems I have had are a result of my ISP, not my eero. I look forward to seeing what these guys continue to do to improve wi-fi and security.
Disclosure- I was not paid to do this review, however, I get a small affiliate fee from Amazon if you use my links:
Eero 1 Home & 1 Beacon – Amazon
Eero 1 Home & 2 Beacons- Amazon
Eero 3 Home Units – Amazon