More wireless coverage and faster networking speeds? That’s the promise of routers that support Wi-Fi 6, although you’ll need Wi-Fi 6-capable devices to get the benefits. Eero recently launched new mesh router systems to deliver on that promise and I’ve been using an Eero 6 Pro system to test the claims.
Eero, which is owned by Amazon, was an early entrant to the now crowded mesh router industry. It has long been considered one of the most user-friendly, high-performing mesh systems, although it’s not the cheapest out there. Indeed the three-pack of Eero 6 Pro units the company loaned me will set you back $ 599. And that’s not including extra costs if you decide to add one of the two available subscription add-ons: Eero Secure is $ 2.99 a month while Eero Secure+ costs $ 9.99 monthly. More on those in a bit.
Setup is drop-dead simple
Setting up the Eero Pro 6 was simple and took me about 10 minutes in total for all three units. You will need the Eero app which signs you in with your Amazon account. And you’ll need Bluetooth enabled on your phone for the process. But it’s basically foolproof: Plug an Eero in, connect the ethernet cable from your ISP, wait about a minute for the device to configure itself and you’re done. Adding a second or third Eero over Wi-Fi is even easier. Tap in the app to add another device, plug in the Eero, and 30 seconds or so later, you have a mesh network.
Like previous Eero products, the Eero 6 Pro units have a minimal, pleasing design. Each of the three is identical and any of them can be the “main” router that’s hardwired to your home broadband connection. The other two are used as wireless network extenders to create one contiguous mesh network for up to 6,000 square feet of coverage, according to the company.
I appreciate that each Eero unit has not one, but two, gigabit ethernet ports. This allows you to hardware a smart home bridge, for example, or a computer. That’s how my custom built gaming PC connects to the internet from my home office: I hardwire it to a wireless mesh router.
Capabilities, speeds, and coverage
Inside each Eero Pro 6 is support for three Wi-Fi bands: one for 2.4GHz and two for 5 GHz networking. Two of those network bands aggregate the channels into 2×2 MIMO (multiple input – multiple output) while one supports 4×4 MIMO. This helps expand network coverage and offers fast throughput speeds. And boy, are those speeds fast.
To be clear: I can only compare my bandwidth testing to mesh networking gear I’ve used in the past. Those include the original Google Wi-Fi (not the newer Nest Wi-Fi) and Samsung SmartThings WiFi mesh products.
However, even with all of my Wi-Fi 5 devices, I’ve seen speed boosts of at least 30%. I have a 1 Gbps fiber connection to my ISP and with the Google and Samsung products, the best download and upload speeds I’ve seen topped out around 300 to 350 Mbps over Wi-Fi.
With the Eero 6 Pro? Those same tablets, phones, and laptops receive and send data at or over 400 Mbps, with one outlier test nearing 500 Mbps. Even that gaming PC that’s hardwired to a wireless Eero unit is getting a boost: Downloads now top 635 Mbps, for example, which is nearly double what they were using older networking gear.
Using a new iPhone 12, which does support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, my tests showed another 25% speed boost as compared to my Wi-Fi 5 phones. Downloads and uploads were almost always over 500 Mbps.
In terms of coverage, I can only do limited testing since I live in an end-unit townhouse. Coverage and speeds were fairly consistent on all three floors of my home and I was able to walk outside farther while still maintaining a Wi-Fi connection. However, I wouldn’t say the farther distance is drastically different.
And I did notice during my coverage testing that my phone wasn’t always connected to the closest Eero unit. When connected to the farthest one even though standing right next to a different Eero, my phone was “stuck” on the one farther away for quite some time. While signal strength was good in these circumstances, I did see speeds drop by roughly 25%.
Eero says it uses beamforming technology but I’m not convinced it’s working optimally. Getting my phone to see the closest Eero either meant leaving it near that unit for 10 to 15 minutes or turning off my phone’s Wi-Fi radio and immediately turning it back on. This isn’t a deal-breaker to me, but worth mentioning.
Also of note is that the Eero 6 Pro includes a Zigbee radio, just like the Amazon Alexa Echo Plus, making it an Amazon smart home hub. Although I generally use Google’s home platform, I was able to connect a pair of Zigbee light bulbs from Cree to the Eero through the Amazon mobile app. And using an Echo Dot to control them by voice worked perfectly fine. If you’re all in on Alexa running your smart home, this is a nice feature.
In terms of other features though, Eero generally plays it safe. Yes, you can create a Guest network; in fact, you can invite people to it through the Eero app which either shares the guest network password or provides a QR code for access. You can also configure basic network settings such as customized DNS, DCHP, and Port Forwarding. But there’s no way to create virtual networks to help protect your smart home devices, for example. In the Eero app, you have the ability to set up parental controls or scheduled network pauses; these require setting per user or per device profiles.
If you want more features then, you have to pay for Eero Secure or Secure+.
About those subscription plans
The $ 2.99 monthly Secure plan adds what Eero calls Advanced Security, Safe Filtering, Ad Blocking and an Activity Center to view basic network usage by device. It’s not clear how Advanced Security works other than this:
“By checking the sites you visit against a database of millions of known threats, eero Secure prevents you from accidentally visiting malicious sites without slowing anything down.”
That’s good from a browsing standpoint but I see no mention of protecting your smart home devices there. On the Eero site it says that the Secure plans can “keep your network secure and your data private by blocking malware that attempts to access your network via your smart home devices.” The Eero app does alert you when a new device is added to your network, as well.
Regardless, I think the Eero Secure plan is likely worth it for most people. The Eero Secure+ plan though? I’m not sold on that. It offers everything in the Secure plan and adds a 5-person license to 1Password for password management, five Encrypt.me VPN accounts, and three licenses for Malwarebytes anti-virus computer protection.
I’m a fan of 1Password and I do use a VPN; I pay for ProtonVPN because it’s based in Switzerland (which has very strict privacy policies) and because of its “no logs” approach. But I personally prefer to choose my own security tools. If you don’t and would rather just let Eero handle the choice, then maybe Secure+ is worth the cost since you’re getting a discount on the included apps and services.
Should you buy the Eero Pro 6?
I’d say it’s a great product worth considering if you want the fastest speeds and broadest coverage in your home, provided you have (or will have) some Wi-Fi 6 devices. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely benefit from the multiple radios and tri-band network capabilities. You can buy two Eero units if you don’t need three, but you won’t get a discount like the 3-pack enjoys: Expect to pay $ 229 per unit.
One other thought to consider. Even though I didn’t review the “non-Pro” version, the Eero 6 also supports Wi-Fi 6 network traffic in a dual-band configuration. You can get a 3-pack of these for $ 279. Eero says the regular Eero 6 only covers 5,000 square feet and it supports home broadband up to 500 Mbps. So if you have a smaller home and/or speeds from your ISP are 500 Mbps or less, the Eero 6 might be the better way to go.