Eero was one of the first router manufacturers to bring mesh Wi-Fi networks into the home. Now the company is preparing to ship its second-generation Eero WiFi System, which features Thread radios for controlling smart home devices, and a new type of access point that plugs directly into an AC outlet.
The second-gen Eero router uses the same form factor as the original, but it can operate on three frequency bands simultaneously (splitting the available channels on the 5GHz frequency band in two while also using the 2.4GHz band). As with the first-gen product, Eero’s TrueMesh software dynamically changes the frequencies its network nodes operate on and automatically switches client devices between access points to deliver the best performance. Eero says it now not only has the smallest tri-band access point on the market, but that it offers twice the performance of its first-gen product.
The new Eero Beacon is roughly half the size of the original Eero and plugs directly into an AC outlet, eliminating the need for a power brick and cord. Eero CEO Nick Weaver told me in a briefing last week that the company’s market research found that many consumers were installing first-generation Eeros in kitchens and hallways, locations where a dangling cord could be a problem. The Eero Beacon eliminates that issue; plus, it has an onboard ambient light sensor and a dimmable LED nightlight to provide pathway lighting (you can also control the nightlight from the Eero app).
The Eero Beacon access point plugs into any AC outlet (and wisely does not block the second outlet).
The Eero router itself draws power from a USB-C port and has two gigabit ethernet ports, so that one can be connected to your ISP’s broadband gateway and the other to a switch. The Beacons are strictly wireless. When I asked Weaver if he was concerned that having the access points relatively close to the floor in some deployments would reduce their range, he replied “We dynamically tune the antennas for wherever the access point is located.”
About those Thread radios
Weaver said Eero is positioning its second-gen networking system as a smart home platform that will compete with Samsung’s recently announced Home Connect router. “Every device in the home is going to be connected to the internet,” Weaver said. “So the home needs wireless infrastructure that’s as reliable as water and electricity.” To that end, the second-gen Eero router and the Beacon access point will come equipped with Thread radios to control smart home devices such as door locks and thermostats.
Originally developed at Nest Labs, the Thread mesh network protocol is certainly gaining momentum in the smart home marketplace. It’s backed by Samsung, Qualcomm, Big Ass Solutions (Haiku ceiling fans), Assa Abloy (parent company of Yale locks), and of course Nest. Weaver touted Thread’s robust security and encryption features, but the protocol is still in its early days, and it’s in relatively few shipping products currently.
“There’s a big ecosystem coming,” Weaver said. That might be true, but no one should buy a product based on what it will be able to do in the future. By the time Thread becomes entrenched in the smart home, you might be ready to upgrade your router.
Pre-orders and optional service plans
Eero Plus is an optional service plan that promises added security and parental controls.
Eero is taking pre-orders on three SKUs: A $299 Home WiFi System that comes with one Eero router and one Eero Beacon, a $399 Home WiFi System that includes one router and two Beacons, and a Pro WiFi System consisting of three Eero routers (two of which will be configured as access points). The Pro system will cost $499. Buyers who wish to purchase single Eero routers or Beacon access points will be able to purchase them directly from Eero.
In addition to the new hardware, Eero is offering a new subscription service: For $9.99 per month or $99 per year, Eero Plus provides enhanced Internet security features that prevent users on the Eero network from accessing sites associated with malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks.
Customizable parental controls that help filter adult and violent content will also be included. Eero Plus will also automatically direct childrens’ search queries to Google SafeSearch. Subscribers will receive priority tech support that puts the customer at the front of the queue with limited or no wait time to speak with tech support.
We’ll have an in-depth, hands-on review of the second-generation Eero as soon as we can get our hands on one.