Replaced my Linksys router with an eero 3 pack after also testing Luma mesh surround Wi-Fi, faster wireless in every room has arrived!
It's been 3 years since my family moved up to 802.11ac with the careful decision to go with the Linksys EA6900 AC1900 Dual-Band Wi-Fi router. Routine admin tasks like port forwarding changes didn't cause it to reboot, keeping the household's family internet going, uninterrupted. Netgear and Asus competitors would require nearly a minute of downtime for such changes. I also managed bend the Linksys DNS to my will, getting a FQDN of lab.local going for my home's vSphere 6.0 lab. Not exactly typical, I know.
But earlier this year, I had started to have issues with the Linksys EA6900's web UI, once I had a lot of DHCP reservations in there. There were also some lower speed spots in the house, and two different WiFi repeaters that I briefly tried out didn't fix this. Even the one that claimed to use a wired back-haul. And my speeds rarely passed 100Mbps anywhere in the house.
Time has marched onward and speeds upward, with DOCIS 3.0 modems with 16 bonded channels like the SB6183 arriving at my home in 2014. This allowed Cox Communications to seamlessly upgrade Wethersfield, CT to 300 Mbps down / 30 Mbps earlier in 2016. Cox G1GABLAST 1000 Mbps / 1000 Mbps service will be arriving as soon as late 2016 with a similar monthly cost, which will require a new modem again. At least the rest of my network is now so ready.
If your home is more like 30 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up, then you're unlikely to really see the benefits of 802.11ac and/or 5GHz frequencies.
If you go with separate SSIDs for 2.4GHz and for 5GHz, your family is likely to be less than thrilled. Yes, they're likely to have faster speeds on 5GHz in some rooms, but then they get no 5GHz signal in others. That's because those higher frequency signals generally don't pass through walls quite as well as 2.4GHz. So they join the 2.4GHz SSID and leave it there, for coverage throughout the home, and less fuss. Silently suffering from lowers speeds and higher latency. Technology fail.
If you use the same SSID for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz in your WiFi design, you have the benefit of ease-of-use. But for my home, this also mean that when you head out, then arrive back and get close to home, the 2.4GHz signal gets picked up first, so your phone likely then stays locked on that frequency.
The idea of a huge WiFi router with big antennas and considerable watt burn seems rather antiquated to me. This time around, I figured I'd seek out something a little more corporate in heritage, with multiple access points nearer to my family's devices. The thinking was better speeds in all rooms of course, but also potentially battery life for each of those gadgets, since less power is needed to juice up the WiFi circuitry when the AP (Access Point) are closer by. I also wanted something reasonably friendly to deploy and administer, since I'm also likely to be the guy replacing the WiFi in my family and friends houses soon enough.
I had read a lot about the eero and the Luma in the numerous Home Server Show Forums, and heard podcaster Dave McCabe go over the pros and cons of each. With the very new Luma arriving at my home just in time for me to do a head-to-head comparison in my home, I was comfortable knowing that I would be able to get a sense of whether these admittedly costly solutions were worth it.
For my single family home, blessed with full access to the basement and attic, wired networking is easy. I wasn't particularly concerned with mesh-style networking, where only one device uses the wired connection to the cable modem, and the rest use mesh WiFi to propage the signal from there. Instead, I really wanted wired connections to each of the 3 WiFi APs.
There's reason to wonder whether each solution is really using that wired backhaul for access to the internet for each connected device, rather than the dedicated inter-device WiFi mesh network each device intelligently sets up with one another. Admittedly, such a mesh would be extremely handy in an apartment or home where hard-wiring is difficult or forbidden. Yep, there's huge value for many to just hook up an eero or Luma straight to the cable modem, then let the other two access points join up over WiFi automagically. That's how these products were designed to be deployed.
Co-founder Dr. Paul Judge tells TechCrunch:
We squeezed mesh networking, content filtering, mobile device management and cybersecurity into a little good looking device. Each device communicates with app via Bluetooth and helps you find the best place in your house to put it. The Lumas then all communicate wirelessly to build the ideal mesh network for your house. They communicate about traffic patterns and network interference then they automatically tune and reconfigure on the fly to optimize performance at all times.
From the homepage:
Hyper-fast. Super-simple. Brilliant WiFi.
No more buffering. No more dead zones.
eero is the world’s first home WiFi system. A set of three eeros covers the typical home. They work in perfect unison to deliver hyper-fast, super-stable WiFi to every square foot of your house. It’s simple to set up. Easy to manage. And gets better over time with new features and improved performance. Stream video, get work done, or swipe right in any room — not just next to your router. Finally. WiFi that actually works.
See also SmallNetBuild's Reduce Wi-Fi Congestion With Band Steering. Wouldn't it be better if your WiFi system was smart enough to better handle the 2.4GHz versus 5GHz trade-off and hand-off?
Prior to our family's recent WiFi upgrade, we were on a 802.11ac Linksys EA6900 router located on the 2nd floor, sporting 3 upgraded antennae. It was having some issues with large numbers of DHCP reservations, with the web UI freezing up.
Moving up from one AP to the 3 AP eero, the end result has been significantly faster performance on all our devices throughout the house, including some dead-spots that briefly tested (and somewhat flakey) WiFi repeaters didn't really help.
I'm fortunate to enjoy 300 Mbps down and 30 Mbps of internet service by Cox Communications. With the eero, as I would move about our home to test, speeds would fall to about 50 Mbps, likely as eero firmware decided it should move me to the better-wall-penetration 2.4GHz frequency. This way, it would maintain the connection to the internet, while keeping performance quite reasonable. Once I'd stay put in a spot for a minute or two, suddenly I'd get speeds kicked back upward of 130Mbps, as 5GHz was apparently then in use, and/or I was switched to a closer eero. This kind of behavior takes much better advantage of what this iPhone 6 Plus is capable of. Yay!
I'm much happier with this smart switching behavior than I ever was with a traditional 2.4/5GHz router with the same SSID for both, since my devices would tend to stay stuck on the lower 2.4GHz frequency pretty much fulltime.
Being seriously skeptical whether any of these consumer devices could keep up with my gigabit internet plans, my somewhat lengthly DHCP reservations list, and my immediate need for a vSphere-friendly solution, I deviated from a normal Luma or eero install where you hook up the first device in these 3 packs directly to your cable modem, then the others get added later. Instead, I went with wiring all 3 of each brand to an efficient Netgear switch that's connected to the ETH1 LAN port of my ~$90 Ubiquiti Networks EdgeRouter Lite, which has proven to be a great choice for virtualization enthusiasts with an intermediate level network admin skills.
My direct-wire choice is known as a downstream arrangement. This also meant that I preferred to put these WiFi access points in bridged mode for my tests, essentially disabling all their DNS and DHCP built-in functions. Just one flat network for my wired and wireless devices, with the wireless devices seamlessly joining the wired devices on the same network. This bridging mode happened automatically on the Luma, but was also quite simple to configure on the eero after the initial configuration was complete, as pictured below.
At the time of my testing, and of this article, the Luma's support for wired backhauls was unclear. So with increasing distance from the first Luma which is typically in a basement, speeds will likely fall.
More important than backhaul capabilities for my family's seamless testing was this little-known issue, when trying to make the testing seamless...
Big deal, right? Just choose another password. Well, if you're trying to test an alternative WiFi as seamlessly as possible, you want to stick with the same SSID (WiFi name) and complex password I had already set up years ago, then turn off the old router. This keeps everybody from having the annoyance of having to chance their configuration, automatically attaching to the new WiFi.
This one shortcoming meant the Luma didn't get nearly as many devices or time tested in my home. Despite that password annoyance, we did at least test one representative device in each category, such as an iPhone, iPad, and Windows 10 laptop. I wanted to make the most of the brief couple of weeks where I had both eero and Luma on hand for testing. One-at-a-time, of course.
Internet of Things can mean a lot of older 2.4GHz-only WiFi devices join your shiny new network. In those devices, security can become an afterthought, as the years go by and they're financially incented to sell you a new one, rather than patch what you got.
Since such devices are often cloud-connected and have no business being on your home's network, wouldn't it be nice to cordon them off by placing them on your guest WiFi instead? Good thing the guest WiFi on the eero is so simple:
The appeal of the Eero system is undeniable. There’s no need to hand out a complicated WPA2 passcode when your friends come over. Eero makes it easy to send tokens to your friends (via text message!) so they don’t have to type any password at all.
Since there's no captive portal sign up for access to the guest network, devices like my ecobee 3 and Ring Video Doorbell Pro can be moved on over easily. Nice! This is exactly what I had said I had hoped for, back when I appeared on the Home Gadget Geeks podcast in May. Security concern alleviated.
That said, these are all cloud managed WiFi devices, and I'm really not a fan of cloud-connected anything when it comes to managing my network packets.
From late July into early August of 2016, I found the eero 3 pack gave more reliable service and faster speeds than the Luma throughout my home, so I returned the internet-ordered Luma 3 pack to my local Best Buy. It's possible later later Luma firmware updates would resolve this, and it could turn out to be the better buy. This is just my personal experience, your results in your home will likely vary, and you may value Luma's family filters more than eero speeds.
I really wanted the Luma to work out, given it's roughly $100 less than eero for a 3 pack, and is more full-featured, with advanced family-friendly filtering options for those that don't use bridged mode (most people), as explained in the screenshots below.
I volunteered my wife to do a blind test of Linksys versus eero versus Luma, with my kids watching. But 3 WiFi losses-of-signal for about 15 seconds each during the Luma portion of the testing was more than enough for her to proclaim that her testing was done. The eero had won handily, especially for stability during hand-held gaming sessions where low latency was required, even when on the move. Nice to see full strength WiFi signal throughout the home now as well, and even into the back yard.
I actually held a party with some friends recently, and gave out the guest WiFi details. We managed to have a Facetime with a distant friend while outdoors, for half an hour! No outdoor AP needed. The eero held up just fine.
Longer term, I suspect many more such multi-pack devices will arrive on the market that also feature super-easy deployment using Bluetooth and mobile apps, while also adding MU-MIMO capabilities. Yes, I'm admitting that a lot can and should change these next few years. Consumer WiFi just wasn't all that simple to set up and use, and finally that's changing. Luma and eero will likely have lots of competition, and prices may fall. It's about time!
If you value the content you've read here, please consider using these affilate links for buying the eero you've chosen.
Home WiFi System | 3-pack
Starter WiFi System | 2-pack
Individual eero | 1-pack
If none of these options appeal to your needs, alternatives with a great reputation and a more enterprise focus (with inevitably higher pricing) include Ubiquiti UniFi AC Access Points and Rufus/Brocade Zoneflex. There's also the old-school ~$480 Linksys EA9500/RE700 combo, or the price-champion Amplifi HD for ~$349 to consider, as explained by WSJ. I have not personally tested these products.
This quick lunchtime eero and Luma unboxing video below ends rather abruptly, but know that the Luma started up just fine a few seconds after the camera had stopped rolling. You'll also see that getting Luma to stand up straight on a surface is a bit challenging, but the included thin ribbons cable can help. If you choose Luma and have the need for additional cables, you may want to go with these ultra thin and flexible Monoprice SlimRun Cat6a cables.
One incident of WiFi signal disappearing for a few seconds was noticed today by a family member. I'm not sure why. I had intially thought it was just a firmware-related reboot, but those would normally happen during the night. I then confirmed I'm still at the same eero OS version v1.1.2 I've been at on all three APs for weeks now.
This is actually the first such incident I can remember with the eero, despite heavy use for about a month now. If anything happens that's noteworthy later on, I'll add more updates to this article.
Didn't take long for Netgear to get into this consumer mesh WiFi market, see:
- WiFi Face-Off: Orbi vs. eero vs. Luma
Aug 24 2016 by Tercius Bufete at consumerreports.org
Personally, high priority features I need include:
- a guest network with no captive portal, for my IoT devices like my ecobee3 and Ring Video Doorbell Pro
- wired backhaul capability
- bridge mode
eero seems to have them all, not sure about Orbi. See also great Orbi discussion thread here.
I have also noticed that with the last 1.1.4 firmware upgrade, I'm not seeing the same automatic seamless hand-off when moving from one access point to another. It used to take about a minute, now it doesn't seem to happen at all, unless I disable WiFi, then reenable WiFi. This concerns me a bit, will investigate, keep reading... (fixed, see update below)
And now, we have Google entering this market, with the announcement of the Google Wifi back on Oct 04, 2016.
- eero: A Mesh WiFi Router Built for Security
Mar 19 2016 by Brian Krebs at Krebs on Security
This excellent article by Veeam's Michael White came out:
- Putting new Wifi into my home
Nov 02 2016 by Michael White at Notes from MWhite
which led this to the twitter dialogue below:
when then led to my discovering this podcast segment from John Gruber, giving an overview of his experience in his home, while acknowledging the competition from Google.
I'm now at v1.1.5, and the automatic seamless hand-off when moving from one access point to another seems to be working just fine again.
There is one iPhone 7 Plus with iOS 10.1.1 having some issues with WiFi data stalls, simple wait for about 30 seconds and it spontaneously recovers, or if rushed, a quick WiFi off/on toggle fixes it too. All the (dozen+) other wireless devices continue to work well without this quirk. Will keep an eye on this.
I'm still seeing occasional WiFi stalls, now occuring sporadically on two iPhone 7 Plus phones running iOS 10.1.1 (14B100). Luckily, just learned that a very new big update called v2.0.0 was released today, perhaps this will fix it. Updating now, then will add updates to this article below.
Earlier today, I received this email directly from eero, you can read a copy of that yourself, pasted below, or in even more detail at their site's new blog post:
- The world’s smartest WiFi system just got smarter
Introducing TrueMesh™, Alexa Skills, and new app features
This was presumably sent to all their customers. My copy arrived at 10:16 AM ET, seems some significant changes coming with TrueMesh, and to those network views. This sounds promising!
I have no idea if this firmware will alter how wired-backhaul/bridged-mode customers like myself are handled. I should do some research on that, and/or reach out to eero directly, hope I find the time.
Here's the email:
The world’s smartest WiFi
As the world’s first home WiFi system, eero was designed to stay new and get better the longer it lives in your home. Just about every other week we release software updates: improving speed, reliability, and interoperability, and adding new features. Today, we’re ready to announce our biggest update yet.
Over the next few days, we’re rolling out TrueMesh™ — the next generation of eero mesh technology, built from the ground up to work perfectly with eero hardware. At the core of this software update are significant improvements to our mesh routing algorithms, enabled by the learnings we’ve gathered through having networks up and running in homes around the world. Overnight, you’ll see up to 2x the (LAN) speed within your network, far greater intelligence in how your network adapts to your home, and flexibility to add even more eeros to your system. This is an entirely free update — every eero system will be upgraded automatically.
Alexa, manage my WiFi
Partnering with the Alexa team at Amazon, we’ve reimagined how you can control and use WiFi throughout your home, using just your voice. If you own an Echo, eero’s custom Alexa skill lets you find your phone (or any other device) based on the eero it’s connected to, pause the internet for dinner, or turn off eero’s LED light at bedtime — with a simple voice command.
New app features: a better view of your network
We believe WiFi shouldn’t be a black box. In the coming weeks, we’re rolling out new app features that provide a better view of what’s happening on your network. From being able to see how much data your connected devices are currently using to understanding the connection strength of a particular eero, the app will not just give you information, it will also suggest ways to optimize your network through better placement. It’ll even be able to detect if there’s an issue with your modem or Internet Service Provider.
CEO | Co-founder, eero
The update process is now complete, took about 12 minutes, all 3 eeros now at v2.0.0, and all my WiFi devices automatically reconnected after the brief outage. This update process is usually handled automatically in the middle of the night. I initiated it manually.
Now my family will need to see how it performs over time. Will let you know!
I still get much better speed test results from DSLReports than I do with the built-in speed tester, shown below. I wish eero would just partner up with DSLReports, who I've communicated with in the past, and have had great luck with ever since:
Remember, I'm using each eero wired to my home's network connected to my Motorola/Arris SB6183, and the eero mesh is set to bridged mode, so DHCP/DNS/routing is done by my fast Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite.
I may have experienced one network stall on my iPhone 7 Plus with iOS 10.1.1, hard to say the cause, but waiting or trying again to load web pages on numerous browsers didn't help. Looked at WiFi, phone had an IP address with active DHCP lease. Toggling WiFi off and on again fixed it immediately.
Will continue to log these events here.
That Nov 18th event appears to be an outlier. Not a single blip in the household, with more family home this time of year too. In other words, this v2.0.0 release is appearing to be very good and solid and fast.
I continue to be pleased with my purchase of my eero 3-pack, now available at $399.99, that's $100 off, see:
Excellent review over at We Got Served:
- Review: Netgear Orbi AC3000 WiFi System
Nov 26 2016 by Jim Kerr at WGS
Another excellent review:
- Review: Comparing Google Wifi to other mesh networking heavyweights
Which should you use to drench your house in sweet, sweet Wi-Fi signals?
Dec 07 2016 by Jim Salter at arstechnica
And finally, a great twitter conversation is happing right now, kicked off by @ericsiebert of vsphere-land.com. He ultimately decided to go with Orbi, will be interesting to see how this turns out!
Nice new 2016 Year In Review infographic released today:
There's also a great new podcast episode out where David McCabe, Jose Ortiz, and Kevin Schoonover take you through the ins and outs of the various mesh offerings out there, including details like which work with wired-backhauls. A great overview!
CES 2017 brought us a new mesh WiFi offering from Linksys:
- Linksys Announces Velop Mesh Wi-Fi System
Jan 03 2017
If you value the content you've read here, please consider using these affilate links for buying the eero you've chosen.
Home WiFi System | 3-pack
Starter WiFi System | 2-pack
Individual eero | 1-pack
- Firsthand experience with ASUS RT-AC68U, Netgear R7000, and Linksys EA6900 802.11ac WiFi routers
Oct 05 2016
Note: If your network configuration necessitates bridge mode to function, you’ll have to first set up your eero network by double NATing. Read our full instructions on how to do so here.
Does eero need a wired connection for every device? Or do they throw packets from device-to-device until they get to an internet connection?
reddit EERO comment by grantchart
Response by corywiley:
For top speeds you can direct wire them. Thats what I did. But yes, they were designed to be wireless and are much more efficient at covering your location with faster WiFi then traditional routers with extenders.
The Best Wi-Fi Router (for Most People)
Aug 22 2016 by David Murphy at The Wirecutter
Best Wi-Fi Routers 2016
Jul 12 2016 by Brian Nadel & Philip Michaels at Tom's Guide
A Stupid Simple Router for Super Lazy People
Mar 15 2016 by Adam Clark Estes
Luma Home WiFi System
Jun 23 2016 by John Delaney at PC Mag
- The modern HTML5 way to test internet speeds, dslreports.com/speedtest