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Linux-based Eero mesh router adds Tri-Band, wall-pluggable Eero Beacon

Jun 14, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 619 views
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Eero’s second-gen mesh networking router adds Tri-Band WiFi, a second GbE port, and an Eero Beacon model that doubles as a nightlight.

The Eero made quite a splash when it launched in 2015 as one of the first mesh networking WiFi routers aimed at the home. Since then, it has been joined by mesh routers like the Linksys Velop, the Netgear Orbi, and Google WiFi. Now San Francisco-based Eero has delivered a second generation Eero model that adds Tri-Band capability and a second Gigabit Ethernet port, as well as a stripped-down companion called the Eero Beacon. The company also launched an Eero Plus security service that sells for $99 a year.



Second-gen Eero (left) and Eero Beacon with nightlight on
(click images to enlarge)

The second-gen Eero offers the same easy to install, OTA-updatable design as the original, with a mesh networking scheme that claims to deliver better coverage compared to traditional routers that depend on repeaters or extenders. The Eero 2 shares the original’s sleek, antenna-free, 121 x 121 x 32mm case, a design ethos that has been imitated by its newer mesh-networking competitors.

The new Eero has advanced to running Linux on an unnamed, quad-core 700MHz SoC compared to the previous dual-core 1GHz processor. It still has 512MB RAM, but provides 4GB flash, up from 1GB. The system also has Bluetooth LE 4.2 support, and runs on 100-240V AC, 50-60Hz power.



Eero 2 and Eero Beacon
(click image to enlarge)

All these features are shared by the smaller Eero Beacon, which measures 121 x 74 x 30mm. Like the original Eero, the Beacon offers an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi access point with 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels, mesh networking, 2×2 MU-MIMO, and beamforming. Due perhaps in part to the faster processor, the Eero Beacon’s access point “performance” is said to be 30 percent better than the original.

The larger Eero advances to a Tri-Band system that adds a 5.8GHz radio, much like the Velop, Orbi, and a number of high-end SoHo routers. The Tri-Band tech offers greater bandwidth and reach, helping to make the Eero 2 “twice as powerful as its predecessor,” according to the company. Eero also claims the second-gen Eero is the smallest router to offer Tri-Band.



Rear view of larger second-gen Eero
(click image to enlarge)

The other major addition is a second, auto-sensing GbE port, the lack of which was one of the few drawbacks of the original. While it’s true that the four LAN ports offered by most routers is overkill in the typical home, it’s still important to have a free LAN port for connecting to devices like an Ethernet switch, printer, video game console, or older computer. Although it’s not listed in the specs, the photo indicates the USB port is still available.


Eero Beacon
(click images to enlarge)

The Eero Beacon has no Ethernet or USB ports, which helps it slim down to plug directly into a wall plug, thereby avoiding power cord clutter. Eero’s research found that more than half of its customers place Eeros in “stairwells, kitchens, and hallways, where cords are disruptive.” The Beacon also adds a 10-lumen LED nightlight with automated dimming using an ambient light sensor. You can program the light with the Eero mobile app.

The Eero is not much of a bargain for small apartments because you can’t buy an Eero by itself, but only with an Eero Beacon in a $299 package. The Beacons are also available a la carte for $149 to extend a network, but they can’t act as your sole router since they lack a WAN port to connect to the modem. Most full-sized homes will need the $399 system with an Eero and two Beacons. There’s also a $499 Pro WiFi system with three Tri-Band Eeros.

The Eero and Eero Beacon offer built in Thread 1.1 Border Routers designed for the Thread mesh networking standard. The Linux-based system lacks much in the way of hackability, but Amazon Echo owners can access the Eero’s custom Alexa skill to find a smartphone, pause the Internet on any device, or shut off the Eero Beacon’s lights, says Eero.

As before, the system’s mesh networking architecture enables multiple hops with minimal signal loss, and can adapt to sudden sources of interference. For more details, see our original Eero coverage.

The Eero ships with built-in security and network features including WPA2 encryption, Family Profiles, DHCP, NAT, VPN Passthrough, UPnP, Static IP, and Port Forwarding. It also provides OTA updates to keep your security up to date. For additional security, you can sign up for a $10/month Eero Plus subscription service that is said to protect against sophisticated phishing and botnet attacks. Eero Plus also offers enhanced parental controls and priority customer support.

 
Further information

The second-gen Eero and Eero Beacon are available for pre-sale at Eero, Amazon.com, and BestBuy.com, in packages starting at $299. Shipments begin “in a few weeks.” Eero Plus is available at $10/month or $99/year. More information may be found at the Eero website.
 

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