Why I’m (not) geeking out about eero

After reading an article that Bruce Snell wrote called “Why I’m geeking out about eero“, I sat down for a moment and contemplated why I had exactly the opposite reaction.

First of all, what eero is doing is not particularly new from a technical standpoint.  Mesh networking has existed for a while.  What is new is bringing this sort of auto configuring mesh to a supposedly consumer grade product.  This is certainly appreciated, but crosses somewhat into business class territory.  If you need more than a base station and surrounding repeaters to cover your home, you live in a 10,000 square foot mansion.  If you live that large of a mansion, you probably can afford to have wired backhauls instead of using a wireless mesh.

Which brings me to my second point … “My WiFi problems gone in 60 seconds?”  I don’t have Wi-Fi issues at all, actually.

1. Use the 5 GHz band whenever possible.

2. Use a wired backhaul whenever possible.

Do this with relatively stable access points like the ones from Ubiquiti or the Airport Extreme and you will not have any problems.  A wired backhaul is remarkably better in all circumstances than a wireless mesh will ever be.

As a side note, I don’t understand Bruce’s point about the mesh network “showing up as one network”.  Unified roaming SSID’s have existed since the time of the dinosaurs (in hyperbolic terms) and are simple as configuring every access point with the same security credentials.  No home network should be configured with multiple Wi-FI SSID’s unless you have very specific and technical reasons for wanting to do so.

Third, what stops many people I know from fixing this problem is more a lack of willingness to spend more money on the issue or the awareness to do it.  The eero 3 pack is about 500 dollars.  Wow!  I guarantee you most of the people I know would be able to solve their WiFi problems if they spent that much money on it.

Fourth, where Wi-Fi products fall down has never been on the “promises” side of the equation.  It’s always been in the implementation.  And while eero’s marketing so far has been great and certainly novel, in the end they promise much and offer little detail.

Will the product actually be stable?  Will the hardware not flake out intermittently?  Can the access points recover from numerous failure modes and will they be compatible enough with future devices?  At least if I buy an Airport Extreme I have some guarantee that Apple is testing their devices with my access point.  I’m not 100% pleased with those either, as you can see from my previous blog posts, but they have not failed me on the Wi-Fi at home test, or the “pick a router for your parents” test.

In summary, I might just be a salty dog when it comes to Wi-Fi products and the promises made.  I stick with Airport Extreme’s in a home environment because every single one I’ve ever purchased is still running, even if the feature set is a bit lacking.  I like that the eero is bringing more manageability to the table in the form of access logs and one time guest passwords, which is neat.  And usability is always welcome, but difficult to do well and meaningfully, since this is not a product I plan to interact with on a regular basis.

But let’s be serious … it will take a year or two for me to wait and see if the hardware and software meets the sniff test.  Track records are more important in this product category than marketing … and if you want a stable Wi-Fi network right now, there’s really no shortage of ways to accomplish that.  Injecting unproven and unknown hardware into the equation because of fancy marketing won’t be your solution to your Wi-Fi problems.  And that’s all eero is right now … a lot of promises and not a lot of information.  I hope more details are forthcoming.

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One Response to Why I’m (not) geeking out about eero

  1. John Ramos says:

    We’ve set up some eeros, and they are doing amazingly. We had trouble printing from a different access point than our printer was on, there was a long drop-off period when we moved rooms as our devices struggled to figure out what access point to connect to, and our system required a restart every month or so, for one reason or another. And we had a pretty nice set-up: a FiOS Quantum Gateway router connected via ethernet to a Time Capsule and connected wirelessly to an Airport Extreme. But yet, issues abounded. All of our issues were fixed when we installed Eero. Wifi speed increased by 10 Mbps. There is no drop-off time as we walked around our apartment. We can print again. Downloads are noticeably faster, we never have to restart our routers, and we were able to create a guest network with the eero app in 60 seconds flat. Setup was a breeze, and it just worked. It’s been going strong for over a month now!

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