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Is everything going to be broken again?

Over the last several years, I’ve replaced my home network equipment with several different systems, some provided as part of reviews, and others that I’ve purchased new or used. Every change I make usually results in some significant lesson learned or piece of information that would have been better known going into said change. However, this taps into my true nature—I love to tinker.

The nature of this site should point to that idea clearly…one of my passions is playing around with stuff, and through this medium I can share my experiences and provide insight that I hope to be somewhat unique and enlightening. And, every product I test and review gets to be ammunition for that passion, although not every product taps into the true nature of what it is to be a tinkerer.

I would describe my history and relationship with network equipment as “love/hate.” I’ve worked in IT for nearly a decade now, and the companies I’ve interacted with—and more specifically, my coworkers—have taught me so many things that I have come to rely on in my own ‘technological’ personal life. I have made great friends along the way, and I find myself blessed to have such smart and caring people around me.

One of those areas where I stood to learn the most was in networking, as it is a sort of foreign world to those who don’t really dig into it. My comfort level with networking is perhaps better than many, but far from secure; it is arguably the area in IT where I feel the least knowledgable. So, when it comes time for another change, the very first question out of my wife’s mouth is either “how long is this going to take,” or “is it going to break everything?”

Enter the Eero Pro 6 mesh home wireless system.

How long is this going to take?

So, my networking knowledge is passable—solid C-minus student here, and my desire to solve problems and figure stuff out helps achieve success frequently, although not in a particularly timely manner. My last project involved a complete overhaul to Ubiquiti (again, courtesy of a coworker’s recommendation) and it was a day or two of constant struggle, learning, trial and error, that eventually ended in a stable solution. Part of that project involved changing the default network on my AT&T gateway, which provided (unintentionally for this project) a network on which I could let the Eero Pro 6 run rampant without any concern of impacting the performance of my main network.

While I admit that was a nice bonus, I’ll try to approach this as if I was swapping the equipment entirely, and my kids’ YouTube access was on the line during said swap.

Beginning to end, though, things went very fast. A good indicator of simplicity for me is the unboxing experience, and for the Eero Pro 6 this gave me hope right from the start. Opening the box (which, by the way, was a super-premium experience) laid out the equipment in a clean, simple, straight-forward manner. Very little extra plastic bags, cardboard inserts or styrofoam got in the way.

The network devices themselves are entirely self-contained, equally and delightfully as simple and clean, and most notably don’t look like weird alien spaceships. They have a bright, glossy white finish which seems to do a great job resisting dust and fingerprints, and considering these are going to be very visible throughout your home, I think it a good design choice. I am a little curious if these will get dingy over time because they are so white. The units are powered via USB-C power adapters which are included in the box.

Insert tab “A” into slot “B”

The Eero Pro 6 comes with 3 separate—but identical—combo units, wherein one acts as the hub/router (connected by your internet modem), and the other two as mesh access points. There aren’t a lot of pieces, which is nice—and because the units are identical, I didn’t have to worry about putting something in the wrong location.

The default network configuration (as it turns out) assumes that your main Eero unit will act as a router, which turned out to be kind of annoying for me (as it will be for anyone who is forced into using AT&T’s internet gateway, of which there are many). That gateway created some headache for me during my Ubiquiti project, and while it didn’t feel like a headache at the time, I later stumbled across another complication of not having a gateway that can be put into a true bridged mode (and, another nod to a coworker who helped explain to me what “double-NAT” is). That said, the setup specifically—plugging things in and having them work right out of the gate—happened quickly with the Eero Pro 6, which is in large part thanks to the app—but I’ll get to that more later.

What is a backhaul?

For a network tinkerer like me, who doesn’t fully understand the ins and outs of all the specifics, the Eero Pro 6 touts many great features that I struggle to find other places. Mesh is not one of those features—whole home Wi-Fi has been using mesh for years now—but mesh with a dedicated backhaul is worth highlighting here. The short version is, ‘fast.’ Everything is fast. A longer version deals with wireless frequencies and bands; I find it interesting that if you spend any time at all shopping for home routers or wireless systems, you tend to see things like “dual-band” all the time but I imagine not everyone knows what that really means.

The Eero Pro 6 is a tri-band system, and it’s the third band that is that dedicated backhaul, allowing for a separate pathway between devices to transmit data, giving you extra speed in the house (wirelessly) to get to your internet connection. The theory here—along with Wi-Fi 6—is that you may be able to achieve gigabit wireless speeds, which is really freaking cool. Of course, this requires almost perfect conditions and devices that can “speak that language,” but the ideal is there, and the Eero Pro 6 will future-proof your home network for some time.

So…fast. We get it.

It’s worth mentioning that this system easily outperformed my ‘carefully’ curated Ubiquiti network, which made me kind of sad, but also very, very excited—because it’s fast, and it was easy. Each unit also has two gigabit ethernet ports, so the few devices you have in your house that are still wired-only can take advantage of the network speed gained here.

My one and only complaint here is the electronics noise that the units seem to make, which is slight but still noticeable in a relatively quiet environment, which happens to be how I’d describe my home office where one of the units sits. If put on a shelf on the other side of the room, I’m sure that noise would become inaudible, but I thought it worth mentioning that it’s not ENTIRELY perfect (but it’s close).

How fast are we talking?

Unboxing—simple and fast. The connection itself—freaking fast. But what about the setup?

I’ll say this: the Eero Pro 6 wireless system was the no-contest, hands-down quickest wireless system setup I’ve EVER done. It was fast and easy, much of which is thanks to the great app by Eero. Creating an account was easy and I had no hiccups in the process, which I annoyingly always seem to encounter when doing these changes. After you log in to the app, you are connecting the first unit to your network in a matter of seconds. After a few questions about your existing wireless setup (presumably, the one you’re replacing), the first unit is up and running. The startup time of these devices is even fast, in the event you have to power cycle them.

If you already have an idea of where the dead spots are in your house, finding spots for the other devices should be easy, and setup is even quicker for those as they are just acting as access points on the existing network, which was already set up during the placement of the first unit.

So, after connecting those three units it happened to be nearly time for dinner, and when I sat down at the table my wife looked at me and asked… “how’s it going?” “I’m done,” I told her. “WHAT?” she asked. Yes, even my wife, who is surprised by nothing that I do when it comes to technology, recognized how different this system is.

Nerd shit

If you want to plug a thing in and have it work, and configuration to be easy and quick, the Eero Pro 6 is definitely the model against which other experiences should be experienced. If, however, you want to get into the nitty-gritty of configuration, the app has a place for that too.

Keep in mind, the default configuration for the Eero Pro 6 is that of a router—something you’d connect to an ISP modem. That said, it can be configured in bridge mode, effectively converting the devices into wireless mesh access points, although these access points have a dedicated backhaul for crazy fast wireless speeds (by some arbitrary standards, I suppose). You should consider this if, perhaps, you’re an AT&T fiber customer who has to utilize garbage hardware that AT&T locks down tighter than Fort Knox…but keep in mind, not all features are available to those who use the Eero Pro 6 in bridge mode.

This is pretty standard stuff, but the app also allows for creation of wireless profiles which contain sets of devices that can then be restricted. These restrictions can be content-based, time-based, or both, and might be particularly attractive to parents of kids with dinnertime or late-night device usage.

The Eero Pro 6 can also be connected to Amazon Alexa, which is great if you don’t already have 23 Echo Dots lying around your house from past Christmas gifts and buy-one-get-one sales. I opted to leave this feature disabled. And of course, things like NAT, port forwarding, UPnP, DNS and even Thread protocol are supported and available within the Eero app.

One thing that I’d really like to see in Eero’s app—and maybe I’m spoiled by Ubiquiti—is a bit more data about the devices and usage on the network. I don’t know that it’s critical, but I really like access to a lot of data, and I can’t imagine it’s all that challenging to parse this out in a nice-looking dashboard with drill-down capabilities.

What’s more secure than “Secure”?

The final bit of the Eero Pro 6 comes via a subscription service, which offers a few different feature sets depending on how much you want to pay.

The cheapest option is the free one, wherein your Eero Pro 6 acts like every other wireless router you might buy. No subscriptions, nothing special, just a router that offers really fast in-home wireless. For $2.99 per month, Eero Secure provides content filtering and ad blocking, along with VIP support; for many people, this is the route to go. And for $9.99 per month, Eero Secure+ provides you access to Eero’s partnerships with 1Password, encrypt.me and Malwarebytes.

If you happen to be someone in need of antivirus, a password manager, and are also seeking out a VPN service, the top-tier subscription may just be for you; these services separately would cost an additional $270 per year, so it is worth considering. Otherwise, Eero provides a trial of its basic service with your purchase so you can determine if you want to continue to pay for it.

Where do I sign?

All of this greatness comes at a price, and $599 is far from inexpensive. And maybe this will change in the next year or two, but there don’t seem to be many mesh Wi-Fi systems with a dedicated backhaul and Wi-Fi 6 that are also ridiculously easy to configure and deploy. People who have a high-bandwidth home life like I do, with multiple kids, dozens of devices and a gigabit internet connection that you want to take full advantage of stand to benefit most from a robust system like the Eero Pro 6.

The promise of software updates is an increasingly important factor when purchasing any gadgets, and one of the biggest shortcomings of the Eero app (the lack of data) can be easily addressed thanks to software updates. Otherwise, the system as a whole is incredible. Setup is simple, management is easy, and my home wireless network speeds are as fast as they have ever been. What’s not to like?

This product was provided by Best Buy and Eero in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author and have not been reviewed or approved by any sponsors prior to posting.

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