eero: Reviewed - The Most Revolutionary Home Wi-Fi Distribution Network

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. Ronald Epstein

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    Eero-Home-WiFi-System-1.jpg
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    Reviewed by Ronald Epstein
    April, 2016

    eero has been the most revolutionary product that I have had the opportunity to review over the years.

    Due to the amount of raves I am going to put forward for this eero product, I feel the need to say the following....

    I have always approached my reviews with a complete unbiased opinion, whether said product was provided to me at no charge or I had to pay for it out of pocket. I feel my reputation for providing honest reviews is more important than writing something positive merely for the sake of receiving free product. In the case of eero, this was something I paid for out of pocket, though at a slight discount. It was a rather expensive purchase as I added additional modules, but done so with the feeling that if I didn't like this system, I could easily return it for a refund.

    I have been eyeing this product for well over a year now when it was first introduced as part of a kickstarter campaign. eero was being promised as a system that would bring enterprise-grade WiFi to the home thanks to its ability to create a mesh network that covers the entire home, eliminating dead spots and maintaining top bandwidth speed.

    Such claims certainly raised my eyebrows. I spend most of my day on the Internet connected to home WiFi. I prefer using my laptop over my desktop as it allows me to have freedom to work wherever I want within my home. This means I am entirely dependent upon a fast WiFi signal for browsing and downloading. I have to tell you, I live in a very large multi-level home where my WiFi signal is pretty lackluster. This is despite the fact that I have bridged two routers to repeat and extend WiFi throughout the house, and added several smart plugs that use the home's electrical system to distribute bandwidth. All this money and effort has improved Internet speed within my home, but nothing close to what eero has accomplished.

    You see, if you live in a large home, a single router is not going to be able to distribute a strong signal to every room and level. Up until now, your only choice to fill your dwelling with more ample WiFi was to depend on multiple routers or repeaters. Trying to set these devices up are notoriously difficult, often forcing the buyer to connect to their computer and dealing with complicated software instructions to bridge everything together. Even then, you face inconsistent Internet connections and dead spots within your living space.

    The idea behind eero is that it starts as a single Wi-Fi system within itself, that plugs into your existing router using an ethernet cable. With each additional eero unit you add, you are able to extend WiFi coverage throughout the home. All of this can effortlessly be set up through a smartphone or tablet app which allows you to secure your system and grant or deny access to users through that application.

    Of course, that's just a very short overview of eero. As I go forward and really go into depth about what this product can do and how I think it will dramatically improve WiFi in your home, I think you are going to be very, very impressed.​

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    eero comes as a 3-pack starter kit or single module units. The 3-pack is a great way to start a pretty powerful WiFi distribution within your home. Single module units can be bought separately to increase the coverage. They are also perfect, alone, for small apartments where dead spots exist.

    For my purposes, I started with a 3-pack and bought two additional single units. Even with a slight discount that I received, this proved to be a very expensive purchase. However, as I go into more detail, I think you'll find that the price was justified for the results I received.​

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    Each eero device looks like something that Apple would have made. It has a very sleek, refined cube design, with a curved top and no exterior antennas. In other words, it's beautiful enough to put out in the open. As you can see, I took a cue from the eero website and bought wooden coasters to put beneath each of the devices.​

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    All the eero units are identical whether you buy one or a hundred. The idea is that they placed approximately 40 feet from each other for proper WiFi distribution. Each unit gets plugged into a wall outlet and has two ethernet plugs in the rear so that you can have direct ethernet connection to devices in your home, if you wish. Up until now, there was no way I could plug my laptop, smart display or Tivo directly into an ethernet connection so far from the main router. Now, that problem is solved.


    SETUP


    If I told you that you can set up multiple eeros in your home in under 15 minutes, you would probably say I am crazy. However, thanks to an app that installs on your smartphone or tablet, the entire process including securing your own network can be done within just a few minutes. It is the most effortless procedure I have ever gone through in setting up a WiFi system in my home.
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    The first thing you do is plug your first eero unit into your router/modem. Each module comes with a power plug and quality ethernet cable to get you started. It may be a good idea to check the eero website to make certain you have a compatible system. I have Verizon Fios in my home and am using the Actiontec router.​

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    Start the eero app on your smartphone or tablet. It will immediately find your eero device and prompt you to set up your own network -- even if one exists already. It is here that you will give your home network a personal name and a secure password. eero claims to be the "Fort Knox" of WiFi equipment so you should be confident the the network is secure. I'll talk more about that security as I move forward with this review.


    From start to finish, installing your first eero unit should take mere minutes. There's no configuring of IP addresses. No technical jargon to deal with. The app simply senses your unit, allows you to give your network a name and password. Done!
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    Want to add additional eero modules to expand coverage? The app asks if you would like to do that. It suggests you place each additional module within 40 feet of each other. So, go downstairs or upstairs and plug in another eero. The app will automatically tell you if your modules are in range so they can talk to each other. In cases where they are not, the app will suggest you move the modules to a different location.

    I have a multi-level home with 5 levels that include a basement. I placed 5 eero modules throughout my home and had it all set up within 15 minutes or less. I ran into a slight problem with my basement module seeing the eero module on the floor above it, but with some careful re-arrangements, the app finally confirmed that the units were talking to each other.

    Once completely set up, the app allowed me to create a GUEST NETWORK in my home so that visitors could have their own access (via password) without my own personal password ever being revealed. This was something I was never able to figure out how to do with my router network that has been in place within my home all these years. The eero app made it so simple to do.​

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    The app also is useful in giving you statistics on your system's current stats, the measured bandwidth coming into your home, and how many devices (and which devices) are currently connected to your home network. There is a lot of useful information, at a glance, that was never previously made available to me. All of that information is kept in my pocket whenever I have my phone on me. I can also access that information from work or while on vacation. I can grant and deny access to anyone who attempts to access my home network. It's simply amazing all the things I can now do that I simply couldn't figure out how to do previously.


    PERFORMANCE

    This is my favorite part of the review. This is where I can put real numbers to my claims that this is the most revolutionary product of its kind.

    Before I installed eero, I took measurements of my WiFi signal on multiple floors within my home. Even with a bridged repeater installed, the numbers weren't that great. I think you will be amazed at how dramatically those numbers went up after I installed eero.

    Before I get into the actual before and after numbers, I want to point out that I have Verizon Fios in my home. I subscribe to a 75/75 Mbps download/upload plan. eero is actually showing a faster speed coming into my home, and some of the measured results using speedtest.net proved those measurements.

    So, here's the fun part of this review. Let's go through a before and after of WiFi measurements throughout my home:​


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    The first measurements, above, are for my upstairs hallway, a mere 12 feet from the original Verizon wireless router. I went from 12.90/12.23Mbps to 70.90/61.41Mbps. I should note that I didn't even connect to the closest hub to measure these tests. I configured speedtest.net to connect to a NYC hub which is 55 miles north of my location. A closer hub would probably have yielded higher results on both tests.

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    Next measurement was on my main, living room floor where I usually sit with my laptop. This is a huge amount of space, and for that reason I opted to place 2 eero units at either end of the floor. Again, dramatic improved measurements as I went from 12.61/13.62Mbps to 62.12/40.65Mbps. I have taken additional measurements at this location (which I will show later in the review) which exceed 80Mbps with a WiFi connection. Holy Cow!

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    On to the den level. Again, dramatic measured results as I went from 14.12/13.17Mbps to 68.85/63.66Mbps
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    To the basement -- the lowest level in my home and the most difficult to get eero to communicate. Yet, it gave me the most impressively dramatic improvement I could ever expect. Mind you, the basement door is always closed. It is where my home theater is located so there are many pieces of powered equipment. I initially had difficulty placing my module in communication distance with the floor above it. However, I went from 14.06/14.45Mbps to a whopping 75.66/89.63Mbps connection --- which exceeds the levels that I am subscribing from Verizon for wired service.

    If you look at the results in the above paragraph, I am essentially getting the same bandwidth strength via WiFi in a basement as I would a wired connection to my home router. That's friggin' incredible.​

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    Here's another test I ran: I went back to my favorite sitting chair in the living room to see what the difference would be between the household WiFi and being plugged directly into the ethernet connection of one of the remote eero units. I went from a WiFi signal of 82.61/74.78Mbps to a connected signal of 82.85/84.46Mbps. That again supports my claims that the WiFi signal that eero distributes throughout the home can be just as strong as your computer connected directly to the router.

    PRICE AND CONCLUSION


    This is in a category all by itself. There's a reason for that.

    Up until this point I am sincerely hoping that you have been "oohing" and "aahing" over the benchmark results that I have provided you. There is no doubt that eero does exactly what it sets out to do -- providing a mesh home WiFi network that delivers professional industry results in your own home.

    This comes at a huge cost to the average consumer. And this is where I know a lot of negative feedback is going to come from.

    The price of a singe eero module is $199. $499 for a three pack starter kit. My 5 module system to cover my entire home (and honestly, I could have probably done it with 4 modules) cost nearly $900.

    Could this have been done cheaper with some newer routers and extenders? Absolutely! However, I believe that the entire setup and maintenance process from start to finish is done better with eero. For someone who doesn't have the technical knowledge to set up a large home network like this, I don't think anything comes close to the painless experience of setting up an eero system. Additionally, since owning eero, updates are being pushed to my system automatically, during the night, to improve speed and performance. I have no doubt that additional features will also be pushed to the eero over the coming year.

    The fact that eero is so very expensive right now, is right in line with any new product of this sort. There is already competition coming from another company called Luma, who is also offering surround WiFi. Their system, as of the writing of this review, has not yet shipped. In time, the price of these home mesh networks will drop. It's just a matter of when you want to jump into the game. Me? I always pay the most to get into this kind of technology as soon as possible.

    I just want to end this review by saying I have never been as amazed and proud of a product as I am of eero. It is one of the very few times I have gambled with a boatload of money on a gadget only to consider it a drop in the bucket for the benefits I received. For my WiFi to be as fast as connected ethernet is just amazing to me.​

     
  2. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Ron,
    Thanks for the review. When you first teased this upcoming review, I didn't quite understand what you were getting at. I was also confused by the fact that there are competitors in this space. Ars reviewed last Fall what I think is an equivalent product:
    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/10/review-ubiquiti-unifi-made-me-realize-how-terrible-consumer-wi-fi-gear-is/

    First some comments, from my own simple learnings the past year in improving my home wifi.
    1) As you say, wifi extenders aren't new; you can bridge routers (or cheaper extenders) via wifi through the home to extend your wifi network and strengthen the signal throughout. But done via wifi, this can reduce the bandwidth by 50%, I've read. For most people, this is probably adequate / easy.

    2) If you have the good fortune to have a home wired with ethernet, like I do, you can do extend wifi with wired routers. This preserves full speed. I did this. It's cheap and easy. I already had an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station at the first floor, front of the house. I bought a refurb Apple Airport (the $99 jobber), connected it to an ethernet port in the second floor back of the house. In the Apple software, I told it to extend the network. Ten minutes later, it was bridged and running full speed. Before this, wifi dropped to quarter speed or worse in parts of the house. Now it's full speed everywhere, for just a $99 add Apple router. You can do this cheaper with non-Apple hardware. But it's predicated on having wired ethernet.

    3) For the savvy geek (slash former professional), you can buy more cheaper, pro gear and do exactly what Eero does. But I think it takes more knowledge on how to manually configure your router and extenders. But once done, I'm told by a coworker who did just this, it's rock solid and provides full speed wifi through the whole house. But, I don't think this has anything like the Apple-esque user friendliness of the Eero software.

    Now some questions for you, or perhaps via Eero technical reps, or other knowledgable folks:
    1) What's the magic sauce? How do this devices spread the wifi, without being each wired to ethernet, with no bandwidth penalty? This is not possible with previous consumer gear.

    2) Tell me about the Guest network. With normal consumer gear, a guest network only works properly if the wifi base station is the first device in the chain. Plug a wifi router into a Fios modem, and guest network causes a Double-NAT problem. The system will probably work, but at reduced bandwidth and may cause other issues with the regular wifi network. I had to completely re-configure my home network to get Guest Network to work correctly (now that it's done, it's nice). Even still, I have to manually turn it on and off for both the base station and the extender. Easy, but an extra step and potential for user error. I'm pretty un-smart on this topic, but it seems Eero is completely getting around all these weaknesses. Is it really as easy I as understand? How's it doing this?

    3) Is this normal technology that's going to filter down to the ASUS and Apple routers soon? Or is this the realm of $1000 semi-pro gear for a while?
     
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  3. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I linked to this review on my neighborhood's Facebook page. Eero is the sort of product that people here could really benefit from and might be willing to pay for.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Dave,

    I have to be honest, there is a lot here that I cannot address due to my limited knowledge on the topic.

    Well, not totally limited. I haven't had the luxury of being able to wire my home completely with ethernet. I have one single feed coming into an upstairs router and from there, in the past, it has been distributed through WiFi extenders and power plugs. I'll explain more in a moment.

    The problem on my end with having the entire house wired is that there was an extension built to the house, where the living room now sits (my portable office), and the Verizon installer was unable to bring wiring to the area due to restrictions in the cellar duct work. I had a guy out here about two years ago to try and extend the ethernet wiring. It could not be done.

    So, I bridged my Verizon Actiontech main router with my Apple router across the house. That is how I was able to get WiFi extended from one end of the home to the other. It worked. However, as you can see from the "before" and "after" readings, I wasn't nearly getting the full bandwidth I am with eero.

    I don't know the magic sauce. I didn't talk to the tech team when I told them I was doing a review. For me, I suppose I could care less what makes this work as much as the fact that it does.

    Don't know why the Guest Access works the way it does. It just does. I have had people in the house who have asked for guest access and it has worked fine.

    Have no idea how much this technology will become integrated in future routers. For now, just like 4k UHD, it seems to be a niche format. I don't think most of the population is aware of these devices. I think, for the most part, home routers work well for people and they don't even know or care about their less than optimal Wi-Fi connection. I think those of us who are more into this kind of thing are much more aware, and as thus, are the first to migrate to this kind of technology.

    Wish I could be more help to you, Dave. Perhaps there is more explained on the eero website about the "magic sauce" of all this.
     
  5. 5 Apr 17, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
    DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    No problem :)

    Regardless, I think this should be very attractive to people in my area. There are 3 and 4 story town homes; no way you're getting good wifi from a single Fios wifi router. Other homes have the cable drop in the basement and the house is long and narrow; wifi falls off the opposite end of the upstairs (that's me). And some houses are just huge, 4000 sq ft or more. Ethernet wiring still isn't standard even in 2016. A product like Eero looks great. Wish I'd known about it last fall when a neighbor was looking for a solution.

    I did find a clue on why this is better than cheap extenders:
    “Many cheap extenders, like the $30 Amazon bestseller, are single band, and most of them are terrible. Dual-band extenders can connect to the router on one band and output a Wi-Fi signal on the other; single-band extenders can't, so you're stuck with the speed penalty you get when you connect to the same band that your extender uses to talk to your router.” (Emphasis added)

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/07/from-the-wirecutter-the-best-consumer-grade-wi-fi-extender/
     
  6. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I'm with Dave in that I built my home to have wired Ethernet in every room. No going back to just wifi for me but I totally get the frustration of having spotty internet at friends and family homes. This looks very expensive to me but it's really the first generation of someone trying to package it all together. Prices will come down. Thanks for taking one for the team Ron!

    Soon enough Comcast and Verizon will package these as an added perk to all customers but it'll take 3-4 years to get there.
     
  7. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I'm pretty excited to read this review from a normal user. I read the Ars review on Unifi last Fall, and I didn't get it. It still sounded very "pro"-ish and for the very techno-savvy user. Seeing this from Ron's perspective - a technophile but lover of Apple-like simplicity -- it looks like a great option for normal people to improve their wifi.

    I hope this filters down Apple products and even the cable-co hardware in the near future. Even with my setup, I'd like a more unified set of hardware that auto-propagated changes to all devices.
     
  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]
    Parental controls for the modern family

    Tools for parents and families have been part of our product roadmap since before we were a company. We wanted to make sure we got it right — so we’ve spent a lot of time talking to and learning from parents. Nearly every parent we spoke with was interested in features that could help balance screen time and family time. And they didn’t want parental controls that are one-size-fits-all. They needed to be tailored to each individual’s age and specific needs.

    Today, we’re excited to announce Family Profiles, a feature that lets users create profiles for each member of their family, set schedules for device access, and even pause the internet for bedtime or important family moments like dinner.

    As soon as your eero system and app are updated to the latest version, you’ll be able to access Family Profiles. Simply open the app and select ‘Family Profiles’ to get started.

    Read more about the feature here, or buy an eero on Amazon or BestBuy.com.
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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  10. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I just want to reiterate that my eero home setup is INCREDIBLE!

    WiFi download speeds that match wired (usually well over 57 mbps)

    I called tech support about one of the WiFi security cameras in my home. He asked me my upload speed. I told him it was over 80 mbps (that was what was reading at the time). He said in all his years in support he has never had a customer report that kind of upload speed.

    Truly, one of the most remarkable pieces of technology to come on the scene in recent time. It's not cheap, but it drastically improves WiFi performance in the home.
     
  11. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer

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    Ron, I saw where eero now has Alexa skills. Any idea what those skills are and if they are useful?
     
  12. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    What are the odds that in the two main forums I frequent a Wi-Fi mesh network is recommended?

    I wonder how the AmpliFi HD mesh wi-fi router and eero compare to each other. I don't live in a large house at all, but my coverage and speed in my attached garage where I have all of my media stuff is terrible. I bought a Wi-Fi extender and it helps, but I have to constantly turn the thing on and off again to connect to internet. I regret buying it.

    I just read about the Amplifi two days ago, and now this review pops up. Nice to have options.
     
  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    George,

    This is all new, but very popular technology.

    I don't know much about Amplifi. There is another product called Luma that launched shortly after eero did.

    One might be a little cheaper than the other, but I implore you to read reviews on all of them and don't make a decision based on price.
     
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  14. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Alf S likes this.
  15. Stan

    Stan Producer

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    Had Comcast for a while, but don't care for the company so booted them. Now with CenturyLink. Had a triple-play thing with Dish Network (phone/internet/TV), but turns out when your read the tiny, fine print they contract out the internet & phone to CenturyLink. I get a whopping 3 Mbps DSL connection, but it's actually not that bad. Takes maybe a minute or so for the buffer to fill but I can watch TV shows, movies, etc. with no problem.

    A couple ethernet ports on the wi-fi so I can use my old putt-putt PC if needed, laptop has never had a problem connecting.

    Ron, do you live in a massive McMansion? My home is about 2,000 square feet, no problem connecting to the wi-fi anywhere in the house, I can even piggy-back off neighbors that are 200-300 feet away.

    eero sounds nice, but can't really justify the expense, especially since I'd still have to go back to Comcast to get that speed.

    Maybe becoming an old fuddy-duddy, but I'm happy with the basics.:cool:
     
  16. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I'm in a long narrow two story. Router is in the basement. I had to add a wifi extender to get good wifi coverage in upstairs back bedrooms.

    I think a lot of people in normal houses have mediocre wifi. But they don't know how to fix it, or even realize it could be better. And make it a family with three or four or more active users, add a bunch of streaming devices...these mesh networking devices will drop in price and become the normal tech, giving normal people better wifi affordably in a few years.

    IMHO :)
     
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  17. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    I'm using an AirPort Extreme in my home (single story ~1400 sq ft) and can pick up a strong, reliable signal about 50 out in my back yard (close to 100 feet away from the AEBS). Speedtest results give me 6Mbps down and 2Mbps up at that range, which is full speed on my broadband package. Although cool, I don't see what a more expensive mesh wifi solution could do for me.
     
  18. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    A McMansion? No. A large multi-level home? Yes.

    At the current price point, I wouldn't readily recommend everyone get an eero either.

    The technology is still new (at least on the consumer side), and as thus, there's a premium to be paid.

    However, many other competitors have entered the feel with the same mesh Internet technology. Netgear has a supposedly faster system. Google has a slightly cheaper system.

    Is the mesh technology better than anything the average person could piece meal within their own home? My assumption would be, "Yes."

    I say that, because to date, I have yet to find any method that gives me nearly wired speed with a wireless setup -- and with no dead spots.
     
  19. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    If you have an Ethernet LAN in your home, you can create your own "mesh" network that performs at full speed with a base station and one or more extenders. It's what I did with my AEBS and Express. But it's not truly "mesh" like the Eero and company, isn't as trivial to setup and manage, and requires Ethernet connections to not sacrifice speed.

    I'm in no hurry to pay to upgrade to a mesh system, but it's definitely on my radar.
     
  20. 20 Dec 24, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2016
    Dave Upton

    Dave Upton Audiophile
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    Dave Upton
    My day job is in network engineering, so I'm going to nerd out a bit here - apologies.

    Technically, a wireless network is only a mesh network when the various access points use antennas to backhaul their traffic wirelessly to another AP, instead of over an ethernet cable.

    Mesh can be very good when done right, because you can actually backhaul over multiple nearby access points from one mesh AP, resulting in better throughput. The problem with mesh, is that each access point has a limited number of radios that can send and transmit at the same time. eero's AP's are 2x2 MIMO, which means that they have a total of 4 antennas inside - 2 of which can be either sending or transmitting at the same time. When you have a mesh network, that means that 2 of the antennas are being used for the mesh, while 2 are being used for clients.

    Airtime is how long an antenna needs to be "busy" sending or receiving to a particular client. Many people may not know that you can only send or receive to/from one device at a time for each antenna. When you have more than one client you are basically queueing up these tasks. Each additional client makes the access point wait a little more between tasks so that everyone gets attention.

    Wish mesh networks, as long as you have only 1 or 2 clients, speeds will be excellent, since the antennas can be fully tasked to their roles. Once you add more clients (5,10,15 etc), those 2 client antennas need to be spending more of their time swapping between clients to make sure everyone has signal. That leads to delays/latency and lower throughput - the real downside of mesh.

    Conventional wifi where you just have multiple normal AP's, all with an ethernet connection can handle essentially twice as many clients (at minimum) as a mesh network, since all the radios are free for client devices. In these networks, each AP has a signal strength that creates what we call a coverage cell. If the cells from multiple AP's overlap, you have the same net effect as a mesh network but with faster performance and less likelihood for congestion. That is because you have 4 or 6 antennas instead of 2 available for your client connections.
     
    DavidJ, Rodney, George_W_K and 2 others like this.

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