Given the advantages the systems already offer in terms of speed and reliability, companies making mesh wireless networking hardware have been slow to jump on the wifi 6 bandwagon. Now, a year and a half after acquiring Eero, Amazon’s second update to its mesh networking system is finally introducing support for the faster wifi 6 protocol.
To date, only two mesh networking systems offer wifi 6 support: Netgear’s Orbi and the ZenWiFi AX from Asus. And it’s a pricey upgrade. The Orbi wifi 6 system—the recommended brand in our smart home buyer’s guide—will set you back $700 for a two-node system, positioning it in expensive bleeding-edge territory, particularly since most households only have a few wifi 6-compatible devices at this point. But the new protocol promises to deliver more speed to more devices at the same time and to better handle multiple media streams, as well as juggle all the wireless devices in a home in a more efficient manner so smartphones and tablets will see less battery drain from their own wifi hardware. If you’re in the market for new wireless hardware, wifi 6 is definitely the way to go.
With Eero, Amazon is making wifi 6 mesh networking hardware more affordable. The introductory version of the system, known as Eero 6, starts with a dual-band mesh wifi router that Amazon claims is sufficient for homes with internet access speeds up to 500 Mbps. The router can blanket up to 1,500 square feet with a solid wireless internet connection, but that can be expanded with additional access points, or wires, with two included ethernet ports. The Eero 6 router is priced at $129, but Amazon is also introducing two-packs for $199 and three-packs for $279, which pair the router with a new mesh wifi extender. Typically wifi extenders only deliver half the internet speed of the router they’re connected to, so we’re hoping these new Eero extenders are actually streamlined versions of Eero’s wifi nodes, and don’t result in any compromises in speed.
But if you’re all in on wifi 6 and are lucky enough to be blessed with a blazing fiber connection to the internet, the new Eero Pro 6 is your better bet. It’s a tri-band router (the extra band gives a private dedicated channel for multiple routers to talk to each other) with two ethernet ports that covers up to 2,000 square feet. By itself the Eero Pro 6 router is $229, while a two-pack is $399 and a three-pack is $599. For the Pro version, Amazon is including multiple routers in the multi-packs, not routers paired with additional wifi extenders.
Besides the cost savings, Amazon’s new Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 are also introducing native support for the Zigbee wireless format. It’s not as well known as wifi or Bluetooth, but if you use smart bulbs like Philips’ Hue line or other wireless smart home hardware at home, there’s a very good chance it’s secretly talking to a central control hub over the Zigbee protocol. This upgrade will eliminate the need for that hub and help position Eero as one of the better mesh wifi solutions moving into 2021 as homes continue to become smarter, although there are still reasons to be concerned with going the Eero route given Amazon’s questionable history with data privacy.
The new Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 systems are available for preorder now, with delivery expected sometime before the year is out.
Update, 8:15 p.m. EST/EDT: An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed that the Eero 6 extenders operate at the same speed as the Eero 6 router.