I’ll admit it: for me, setting up networks is kind of a sport. I enjoy getting everything to work just right. But I’m weird that way–for most people, it’s kind of a hassle. That’s where new networking startup Eero comes in. It wants to solve the most common Wi-Fi network issues that folks run into these days: dead spots, not enough range, complicated setup, and so on.
Wi-Fi routers are a dime a dozen these days, but Eero’s actually trying to make networks smarter and easier to use. For example, you can set up your initial Eero router via an app on your smartphone that communicates with the router via Bluetooth, and the app makes it easy to send login information to your guests via text message.
But the difficulty of setting up a network is nowhere more apparent than if you’ve found that a room in your house is just too far away–or has too many walls in the way–to get a good signal. You could invest in a range extender, but most of them aren’t very good, and setting them up–or using a second router as an extender, if it even offers such a feature–-is often a pain.
Eero gets around many of the central problems with range extenders–such as the fact that they use the same single radio to receive data from your main router and send traffic on to your devices–by incorporating two radios, one for receiving and one for transmitting. And unlike most repeaters, which use only radios on the older 2.4GHz spectrum, Eero’s are compatible with both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz flavors of Wi-Fi. The company is also bringing to consumers mesh networking technology that’s previously been mainly used by large enterprises.
According to the company, adding an additional Eero to your network will be as simple as plugging it in. The new unit should automatically discover the existing network and join it–no troublesome configuration. The Eero system will even suggest places to put your additional router in order to get the best coverage, and it can support up to 10 separate units, letting you daisy-chain successive devices to give you the best coverage possible. And throughout it will maintain a single network name and password, meaning that you won’t end up having to choose between multiple networks. It also supports Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth LE, allowing connectivity to non Wi-Fi devices.
Eero’s intelligence goes beyond just set up and into maintenance. It can automatically reset itself in case of a problem, can run speed tests on its own, and even download software updates as they become available, which could avoid leaving your network vulnerability to security issues as they’re discovered.
If there’s a major downside to Eero it’s that it essentially will need to replace all your existing Wi-Fi equipment. At $199 for a single box and $500 for a three-pack ($125 and $299 respectively, if you pre-order now), that’s an expensive proposition, especially for folks who may have a setup they feel works well enough right now.
For a company that has never before shipped a product, Eero promises a lot. While there’s a lot of promise behind it—former Apple and Palm exec Jon Rubinstein is an advisor, and Fred Bould, who did the industrial design for the Nest and Roku, oversaw the hardware—Eero is ultimately unproven. Whether it’s good enough to convince consumers to replace their existing networks is a determination that will have to wait until the device ships this summer.