May 26, 2022

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Future Technology

eero Pro 6E (vs Pro 6): It Should Be Free!


Today, eero, a networking vendor owned by Amazon, released its first Wi-Fi 6E solution, the eero Pro 6E, available as a single router for some $300 or a 3-pack for $700.

(There’s also a new inconsequential eero 6+ that’s basically the same as the eero 6 but now with built-in Zigbee.)

Those are crazy prices, but not for reasons you might think! And many of you have asked me when I’d publish my review on it. Well, the quick answer is probably never.

Despite having reviewed the eero Pro 6 and eero 6, I’ll likely take a pass on this one. This post will explain briefly why and offer my quick, no-nonsense take on the new device.

Eero Pro 6E
eero Pro 6E: The vendor’s “most advanced ever,” maybe, but it’s unclear who will get the most out of your Wi-Fi. Hint: It’s probably not you.
By the way, there are many others networking vendors, and compared to their home Wi-Fi 6E routers, the eero Pro 6E’s hardware is pathetically mediocre, considering how much it costs and what it has to offer.

eero Pro 6E: Another data mining Wi-Fi machine of low-end hardware

To tell the truth, I had a lot of hesitation testing the previous eero variants.

Generally, all variants of a brand of purpose-built mesh Wi-Fi systems — eero, Linksys Velop, Netgear Orbi, TP-Link Deco, etc. — share the same firmware.

Consequently, despite the possible differences in physical sizes and hardware capabilities, they have a common mobile app, user requirements, and feature set.

In other words, they are the same in principle with minor variations in capacities. This article on popular canned Wi-Fi systems explains the main differences between major brands.

Generally, it’s never fun to work with devices designed to collect user data. And among those, the eero is by far the worst, in my opinion.

(Here’s eero’s privacy policy. Make sure you take some time and really read it!)

My testing always includes real-world experience where I use the product extensively in my own home with my family. Consequently, I don’t feel comfortable plugging something in that doesn’t give me control — at least to some extent — over what it does.

And the eero gives users no control at all — you can’t even set it up or make any changes without first going through the vendor. The device won’t even initiate without having a live connection to eero.

Privacy is a matter of degree. While many networking vendors use a similar approach to router management — and that sure is bad — they do so to a certain level. Most importantly, these are relatively small networking companies.

On the other hand, Amazon is a giant data-hungry company that touches many aspects of modern life. And that makes the eero scary. If you don’t feel that way, that’s because ignorance is bliss.

That expected hype

You’ll soon run into many “reviews” on the eero Pro 6E (and 6+), if not already. Many will sing its praises by practically repeating eero’s marketing. Amazon has lots of influence, and there are generally more incentives for folks to hype it up than otherwise.

(In any case, I’m nobody to judge. I’m myself an Amazon associate, meaning if you buy the eero Pro 6E over the link above, I might get a small commission. I’d hope so anyway.)

To be fair, there are impressive things about the eero Pro 6E. The combination of the cute, compact design, the integration of home automation wireless standards, and especially the ease of use alone has its allure.

So, if you’ve been waiting for an upgrade, you understandably get excited. And the new router is definitely not completely useless.

But if you think the new eero Pro 6E is decidedly better than the previous Pro 6, you’re fooling yourself, or you just (want to) believe in the marketing nonsense.

(Wi-Fi is invisible and, therefore, an area where vendors can easily sprinkle in nonsensical snazzy tech terms that are about as true as voodoo and magic. Nobody can prove them one way or another, and real-world performance is always different from things on paper.)

After testing virtually all other Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters available on the US market, I can say that just by looking at the new router’s specs.

So let’s check them out.

eero Pro 6E vs eero Pro 6: Hardware specifications

eero didn’t reveal the details of the eero Pro 6E’s specs on its website.

But from what I could glean (and extrapolate from the information provided), it’s clear that the Pro 6E is a “weaker” Wi-Fi machine than the previous model, which is already entry-level hardware. In fact, it’s the lowest compared to all other Wi-Fi 6E hardware I’ve tested.

In any case, the eero Pro 6 and Pro 6E share almost identical designs.

Full Name eero Pro 6 
Tri-band 
Wi-Fi 6 Mesh Router
eero Pro 6E 
Tri-band
Wi-Fi 6E Mesh Router
Model eero Pro 6 eero 6 Pro 6E
Wi-Fi Designation Dual-band AX4200 Tri-band AXE5400 (?)
Dimensions 5.3 x 5.3 x 2.1 in 
(13.5 x 13.5 x 5.3 cm)
5.5 x 5.5 x 2.2 in
(13.9 x 13.9 x 5.5 cm)
Weight 1.49 lbs (676 g) 1.55 lbs (703 g)
1st Band 2.4GHz AX: Up to 600Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2.4GHz AX: Up to 600Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2st Band 5GHz 4×4 AX: Up to 2400Mbps 
(20/40/80MHz)
5GHz 2×2 AX: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
3rd Band 5GHz 2×2 AX: Up to 1201 Mbps
(20/40/80MHz)
6GHz 2×2 AXE: Up to 2400Mbps
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Wireless Backhaul Dynamic Dynamic
Possible Dedicated Backhaul Band 5GHz None
Wired Backhaul Support Yes Yes
Backward Compatibility  802.11ac/n/g/a/b 802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Wi-Fi Security WPA2, WPA2/WPA3  WPA2, WPA2/WPA3 
Mobile App eero eero
Web User Interface None None
AP (Bridge) Mode Yes  Yes
USB Port USB-C (power) USB-C (power)
Gigabit Port 2x Auto-Sensing (LAN/WAN) 1x Auto-Sensing
Multi-Gig Port None 1x 2.5Gbps Auto-Sensing
Link Aggregation No No
Dual-WAN No No
Processing Power 1.4 GHz quad-core CPU, 
1GB RAM, 4GB flash
1 GHz dual-core CPU,
1 GB RAM, 4 GB flash storage
Amazon Mesh Systems’ hardware specs: eero Pro 6 vs eero Pro 6E

eero Pro 6E vs eero Pro 6: Another misleading case of the old tri-band vs new tri-band

The new eero Pro 6E has consistent mid-tier 2×2 Wi-Fi specs. Its ceiling Wi-Fi speed will likely cap at 1.2Gbps on the 5GHz band, making the real-world speed significantly below Gigabit.

(While the router’s 5GHz is capable of 2400Mbps, you can’t expect it to use the 160MHz bandwidth at all times.)

eero Pro 6E: (Maybe) better as a single router

So, the eero Pro 6E is only better than the eero Pro 6 when working as a single router, and in only one small area: its support for Wi-Fi 6E devices via the new 6GHz band — the Pro 6 doesn’t have this band.

The Pro 6E does have a 2.5Gbps port, but in most, if not all, cases, that’d make no difference since there’s no way for any device to connect at that speed on the front end.

(eero uses this port to prop up the Pro 6E with the “fastest eero to date” marketing nonsense. The 2.5Gpbs port is nothing new. There are some two dozen Multi-Gig Wi-Fi 6/E home routers that have this port or faster, all with better specs than the eero Pro 6E. I speak from experience.)

In a mesh setup, things will get complicated.

Backhaul vs fronthaul

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices takes place in a single band, using a fixed channel, at any given time.

Generally, when you use multiple Wi-Fi hardware units in a mesh network, there are two types of connections: the fronthaul and the backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signal a mesh hub broadcasts outward for clients or its network ports for wired devices. That’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

On the other hand, backhaul, a.k.a backbone, is the link between one broadcasting hub and another, be it the main router or another satellite hub. This link works behind the scene to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling speed of all devices connected to the satellite hub.

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half of its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss. When a band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called a dedicated backhaul band.

Generally, it’s best to use a network cable for backhauling or wired backhaul. In this case, a hub can use all of its Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, using network cables is always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

eero Pro 6E: Decidedly worse as a wireless mesh

The old eero Pro 6 is a traditional Tri-band device — it can dedicate one of its two 5GHz bands as the backhaul in a fully wireless setup. Specifically, in most cases, it’ll dynamically use one of its two 5GHz bands solely for the backhaul link and the other 5GHz for the fronthaul.

On the other hand, the eero Pro 6E is a new Tri-band router — it needs all three bands to serve clients. Now we have two scenarios: using a mesh in a place with mixed clients of all standards or in a place with only 5GHz (or 6GHz) clients.

eero Pro 6E mesh in a mixed environment (common)

In a mixed environment where you have clients of all three bands (6GHz, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz), whichever band the eero Pro 6E uses for backhauling will suffer signal loss.

This reduced speed will then be that of the entire mesh system — all devices connected to the satellite unit will share the backhaul’s bandwidth.

eero Pro 6E mesh in a 5GHz-only or 6GHz-only environment (rare)

The second is where you have only 6GHz or 5GHz clients — the 2.4GHz is too slow to matter — and therefore, the system can use either the 5GHz or the 6GHz band solely as the backhaul, with the other functioning solely as the fronthaul.

In this case, the system’s clients’ speed will cap at that of the backhaul band or the fronthaul band, whichever is slower. If you look at the specs, that’d be 1.2Gbps of theoretical speeds (2×2 Wi-Fi 6 at 80MHz).

It’s important to note that the 6GHz band has a shorter range than the 5GHz (or the 2.4GHz). Consequently, we can’t count on it to work as a reliable backhaul. That’s just the nature of this band.

In reality, depending on the environment, the eero Pro 6E will automatically pick the band with the strongest signal as the backhaul in real-time — that’s how dynamic backhaul works. And when it uses the 2.4GHz band for this job, the mesh will be super slow.

Wired backhaul is a must

In short, in a fully wireless setup, the eero Pro 6E will likely be slower than the eero Pro 6. And generally, there’s no scenario where it will be fast compared to all other existing Wi-Fi 6E solutions, considering its hardware specs.

While both the Pro 6 and Pro 6E can work via a wired backhaul, the latter needs this type of backhaul to work well. That’s the common case with any Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E mesh systems, including the higher-end ZenWiFi ET8 or Linksys AXE8400.

By the way, since there’s just one 2.5Gbps port per router, you can’t have Multi-Gig wired backhaul out of the eero Pro 6E mesh, like the case of the ZenWiFi Pro ET12. But that’s not a huge deal considering the router’s expected slow Wi-Fi speeds.

That said, in the very best case scenario, an eero Pro 6E mesh will cap at Gigabit, which is its wired backhaul speed.

The takeaway

Like the eero Pro 6, the new eero Pro 6E is not what it’s cracked up to be by the vendor’s exceedingly misleading marketing ploys.

That said, to those who just opened that fancy box, I don’t mean to rain on your parade. If you love the eero Pro 6E, go ahead and love it. I’m happy for you.

However, if you expect me to agree with the superlatives you’ve been fed about it, I can’t. How a router works is physics, not hype.

At the core, the new eero Pro 6E is a low-end, entry-level Wi-Fi 6E device. It will likely be the slowest among its peers in real-world usage. So it’s outrageously over-priced, and the “Pro” notion is laughable.

Like all eero variants, it’s designed primarily to further enrich Amazon via data collection or subscription add-ons. As such, eero should give it to you for free. In any case, you don’t own it — literally, you can’t use it on your own.

The bottom line is I wouldn’t bother with the eero Pro 6E even you paid me to use it. And the growing number of better Wi-Fi 6E options makes that decision a no-brainer.

For reference: The rating of the eero in general

This extra content is part of the general article on popular home purpose-built mesh brands.

Amazon eero PRO 6 7

Pros

Reliable and scalable Wi-Fi coverage

Cons

Middling hardware designed to collect user data, slow Wi-Fi speeds

Login account, live Internet connection to vendor required for setup and ongoing management,

Minimum ports, limited port-related features (no Dual-WAN, Link Aggregation, etc.)

Online Protection and Parental Control require a monthly subscription

Home automation feature requires Amazon integration

No web interface, spartan Wi-Fi, and network settings

Not sure which to pick between two other similar Wi-Fi solutions? Check them all out here!



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