Are you still using an Apple AirPort wireless router to create your home’s Wi-Fi network? If so, you are overdue for a replacement. Apple last’s major upgrade to their AirPort products was around 2012 when they introduced products that supported the fourth generation Wi-Fi protocols. Apple discontinued all AirPort products in April 2018. Not surprisingly, lots of improvements have occurred in Wi-Fi technologies since 2012, so you’d be much better served by replacing your aging AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme or AirPort Time Capsule. I suppose it could be a testament to the quality of Apple’s products that so many AirPort devices are still functioning and that they continue to receive the occasional firmware update from Apple.
In many circumstances, I tend to recommend replacing your AirPort Express or Extreme devices with Eero Pro devices, very often an Eero Pro 3-pack. Check out this other Tech Tip if you’re replacing an Airport Time Capsule.
Eero, the company, makes a family of Eero Wi-Fi products. I tend to recommend the Eero Pro devices since they are the only Eero tri-band product. Briefly, one of the three communication channels (bands) is dedicated to inter-router communication. The other two channels (bands) are exclusively used by the Eero Pro to communicate with your Macs, iPhones, iPads, AppleTVs and other Wi-Fi devices. This improves the speed of your Wi-Fi network.
Thus, if you need more than one Wi-Fi router to provide coverage throughout your home and you have a lot of Wi-Fi devices, then you’d be well served by the mesh Wi-Fi network created when one sets up several Eero devices. I tend to eschew the use of Wi-Fi extenders for a number of reasons that are outside the scope of this article, but stated briefly, mesh Wi-Fi devices, especially the Eero Pro are easier to setup and are a much more effective way to provide Wi-Fi coverage throughout a large home.
Eero’s Wi-Fi devices are often considered the natural successor to Apple’s AirPort products since they are stylish-looking devices and are very easy to set up and manage. Setup and management are done using an app on your iPhone (or Android-based phone). Eero devices are often not the fastest Wi-Fi router on the market, but they are well regarded. The New York Times’ gear and gadget reviewers at Wirecutter, picked the Eero Pro as the best mesh Wi-Fi kit in 2019. Later on, in 2020, Wirecutter changed their recommendation to the Asus ZenWiFi AC, indicating that it surpassed the Eero in price and performance, including the Eero Pro 6 which was released in the fall of 2020. I have not used the Asus ZenWifi AC router, but in my experience, the Eero Wi-Fi products are the easiest to set up and manage which has huge appeal for many homeowners. Another appealing feature is the free phone support for the lifetime of the functioning product. I’ve contacted Eero support via email a couple of times and was very pleased with the quality and efficiency of the support I received.
Eero was started in 2015 and was bought by Amazon in early 2019. This purchase concerned some people since Amazon has a fondness for data collection. Eero’s CEO provided reassurances at the time and I’ve not read any articles indicating that Amazon is collecting or monitoring customer’s Wi-Fi data. If you’d like even more protection you could setup a personal VPN service such as the one provided by Eero in their Eero Plus service.
This article only gives you an overview of the options available to you. Setting up any wireless router can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the process. Nobody likes to have interruptions to their Wi-Fi network, so please consider hiring a quality, local Apple consultant, as needed.
DIY Tip – If you chose to buy an Eero 3-pack and configure them yourselves, please set them up one at a time. In other words. take the first Eero out of the box and set it up, using the Eero app on your iPhone. Then label the underside of the Eero with a Sharpie marker. Then take out the second Eero, configure it and then label its underside. Finally, take out the third Eero and follow the same pattern with it.
Eero Pro devices are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Here are a few examples of circumstances that are not ideal for Eero Pro devices and some alternative products to consider.
If your home Wi-Fi network includes a lot of Internet of Things (IoT) or smart home devices then the Synology RT2600ac and MR2200ac or Asus ZenWifi AC might be better options. I’ve read reports about some older Wi-Fi devices, especially older IoT devices that have problems connecting to Eero Wi-Fi routers since these older devices get confused when the network name (SSID) on both the 2.4 Ghz channel (band) and the 5.0 Ghz channel are the same. Both the Synology and the Asus routers let you assign separate network names on each band. Eero does have a feature that let’s you temporarily turn off the 5Ghz network. This would then give your IoT devices time to startup and connect to the network using only the 2.4 Ghz channel.
Another appealing feature of the Synology RT2600ac is its network monitoring and data consumption tracking features. These features are not commonly needed in homes, but can be very desirable in an office network. Synology devices have a fairly user-friendly setup procedure, too, but it’s not as elegant as the Eero iPhone app.
Eero does not currently offer any Eero Wi-Fi devices that are rated for outdoor use. If you want to install a Wi-Fi device outside to provide coverage on your lawn or to extend coverage to an out-building, Eero may not be the best fit. A colleague told me that he has had some of his clients with this need buy an Eero Beacon and place it inside a waterproof enclosure.
It’s not always practical to get Wi-Fi to every location. For example, one might have an out-building that is far enough from your home that you cannot affordably or easily extend your Wi-Fi network to it. Instead, you could use a pair of powerline network adapters, providing that the electrical outlets in your home and out-building are connected to the same circuit breaker box. Wirecutter offers powerline network adapter recommendations.
It’s important to mention that if you have speakers plugged into your AirPort, none of the Eero products can have speakers plugged into them. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, Apple is the only company that ever included an audio connector on their Wi-Fi router. If you’re willing to replace your speakers this is not a problem. All you need to do is buy some speakers that support AirPlay such as Apple’s own HomePod, HomePod mini or a Sonos One SL or one of the other Sonos Wi-Fi speakers. If your speakers can’t be replaced easily since they are connected to an amp or AV receiver then you could look for an add-on that would add AirPlay support to your current receiver. Or, consider buying an AV receiver that supports AirPlay.
There are many factors to consider when buying a wireless router or set of routers to provide Wi-Fi coverage throughout a larger home. Eero Pros are a great option in many circumstances. If they don’t fit your needs perhaps one of the other options I mention will fit the bill.