Thursday August 5, 2021 |
Amazon eero 6 dual-band mesh Wi-Fi 6 system with built-in Zigbee smart home hub (3-pack, one eero 6 router + two eero 6 extenders)
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So many things you NEED to know
By PhotoGraphics on November 15, 2020
WHAT IS IT
Okay I’ve called it a router, a term the maker is trying to avoid. And that’s not a bad thing because eero isn’t exactly like 95% of the other routers out there. It’s important to know a few things about them. Other than Eero being a common Estonian and Finnish first name, they are a company founded by a couple of dudes in their apartment in 2016 and then bought up by Amazon in 2019. If you are reading all those reviews posted prior to the November 23, 2020 ship date of this new model eero 6 you are probably reading about old obsolete products and you should stop reading those right now. This is not the same item. Same concept yes but what’s inside is night and day different. Under its new owners the game plan here is that this device should be two things – Simple and Safe. To that end they have done some remarkable things I’ve never seen before and some things that maybe aren’t so stellar. What am I basing that on? I’ve been in the industry for a quite a while now and part of that included hands on installing and using at least two dozen current model routers that I bought with my own money and are sitting in my storage room. The word simple isn’t one that usually comes to mind when talking about these things, in fact it can be the exact opposite. Unfortunately a lot of these devices are either made by old line networking companies that don’t get what life is like in the first quarter of the twenty-first century or by offshore companies who do well at making stuff but not so well designing it for real life needs. The other word, safe, isn’t normally associated with routers either – usually that’s a function of the computer or smartphone and not needed for non-smart devices. In today’s world there is some logic in nipping unsafe bad stuff before it even gets into the air in your home, which is why eero has gone to great lengths to build protection right into their hardware.
WHAT I LIKE
First off please realize that this page has changed a few times to correspond to different configurations they are making available and the one I evaluated was a prerelease sample of the basic model 6 (not the Pro) which included the main base unit and two satellite units. That’s pretty much all you get other than the power transformers and a tiny card that tells you that you have to download an app to set the thing up. There is no other way to set it up other than downloading their app , which is one of the first differences from what you may be used to. The setup process can go pretty fast, that is it would have been fast if they would have included better instructions, a topic I will touch on later. Unlike the old days the setup is almost completely hands off, the hardware configures almost everything automatically and hardly asks you anything. In other words you do not have to go through that tedious process of updating the software and firmware, it’s all done for you. After a few minutes you are up and running and if you wanted to you could walk away and never touch it again. There is one solitary status light that glows a few different colors then settles down to a soft white all’s well indicator and you can turn it off completely if you don’t like it. You can’t make a mistake plugging it in because other than the power cable there are two identical ports which are both self configuring Ethernet input output ports, you attach your modem to one and optionally a hard wired Ethernet device to the other, although most people will never use it. If you’re like me and have any devices that demand a hard wired configuration you can always add a switched Ethernet hub. After you’re done you can go back into the app and tweak some things but nowhere near as many as even the cheapest entry level wifi router you may have owned in the past. There are also some performance graphs that are simple and easy to understand and a heavy handed pitch for their safety and security upgrades.
THEN THERE ARE THOSE THINGS I DIDN’T CARE FOR
I didn’t have any issues with the lack of customization this product offers, I think for the vast majority of homeowners it has everything we need. But there are some things that were frustrating. The first was the total lack of setup instructions included with the device. You get the three components (lacking any kind of protective wrap), the power cords and the tiny card that tells you to download the app. They even show a website address. But they don’t tell you that you absolutely must use a smartphone with an active cellular data line that meets certain specific criteria to use to install that app and use it for the setup. And the only way you will ever know any of that is AFTER you set the thing up and go into the obscure help section that consists of many thousands of pages. I tried using my iPad and got a message that it was doing something but it didn’t tell me what. After a half hour it finally timed out and said the installation failed but not a word about why. After I tried the only available option which was to try again and wasting another half hour I tried to contact tech support. No surprise, they don’t have phone support but their website promises instant response. I filled in the information and waited, and waited and waited and 24 hours later I still didn’t get an answer almost a week later. By then I had figured out on my own that maybe I should try using my smartphone and the installation took all of about five minutes. The problem here is that not everyone may have a brand new phone that meets their strict criteria and maybe this is being installed somewhere where the user doesn’t have a smartphone at all but wants wifi internet. The short answer is that you can’t do it, period.
Frustration two comes in when the next thing is that they want to send you an email with a secret code to prove that it’s really you but the first time that process failed and I had to do it again.
If you are protective of your privacy this may not be the product for you – unlike the majority of routers you have to give away a ton of private information and agree to just as many contracts and legal stuff just to use the hardware. I will never get how sending someone all my private information is helping them protect my privacy.
Finally there’s the issue of the subscription service, and it’s no small issue at all. Like many other companies eero is looking to build a continuing revenue stream of having you pay to subscribe to all but the most basic of the so-called safety services you paid almost 300 bucks to get in the first place. I am very aware of the firewalls, virus protection and other safety hardware and software I have built into my computer and other devices and I will make my opinion clear right now that I don’t think I need anything their suite of services offers. In fact I know so. I read through it all (something one in a million people will do) and the vast majority of it is typical of the San Francisco penchant for someone in a windowless room deciding what is safe and moral for me to view, for example barring me from viewing anything that shows guns or violence – but yet they won’t answer why it’s okay for them to sell video games that require a router that are all about guns and violence. In fact their entire so-called Secure suite seems to be aimed at blocking everything I should have the good sense and choice to view or not view as I please.
Fortunately I think you can use their hardware without paying a monthly subscription fee, right now I am sampling it so I can update this with more information later. Over and above that $30 annual basic suite they offer an advanced security suite that as far as I can see adds primarily the addition of Encrypt Me, iPassword and Malwarebytes for a whopping $99 a year subscription. My opinion is that most people choosing this product for simplicity’s sake would have little knowledge and thus little interest in a VPN app like Encrypt Me, would question the value of paying for a password manager when there are so many available for free, and the reality is most people’s devices are probably already protected by a very good antivirus program already. Note that I’ve used the word opinion a couple of times and I mean it, I’m not saying my opinion is what you should do any more than I am not saying a word about what internet speeds I’m getting in my home, because you shouldn’t care about my or anyone else’s speeds, they have no impact on you at all.
SHOULD YOU BUY
My home is longer than it is wide and my wifi signal has to go through some mechanical equipment and a kitchen to get to my entertainment center, which has an adverse effect on the signal. In the other direction is my office which has a lot of walls between it and my router. I was getting ready to run a cable and hardwire both ends of the house to help solve this situation but this seemed like an easier solution – now I have one extender at one end of the house right next to the TV and the other in close proximity to my office equipment, much of which is wireless. I tried the previous products that used an extender you plugged into a wall outlet and they don’t work for me. They did in the old days when our devices stayed static but when I walked from one end of the house to the other with my phone I had to log out of one account and log in to another to continue. With eero everything is seamless, the extenders smartly and automatically connect to wireless devices and when a device travels it hands off from one extended to another without a glitch. While I am very technical I don’t like to overcomplicate things and I found the setup and configuration of this product to be amazingly simple. I don’t think the people in SF are on the same page as the rest of the country in terms of what their privacy needs are and what they feel they should be told they should be protected from so I’m leaning right now toward not continuing with their Secure subscription after the 30 day trial, which by the way I think is too short for anyone to make a useful decision on. I can’t tell you if you should buy this or not, but I hope this information has helpful. And if this sounds like it’s right for you I encourage you to try it and not be talked out of it because someone else didn’t like it. Good luck, I will give this an update after a month or two – no review for such a product can be very useful a few days after it’s introduced, mine has already updated itself three times in the 24 hours I’ve had it.