Let's start with the hardware. The second-gen Eero doesn't look like much -- after all, it shares the same exact form factor as the original. But the design is the only similarity it has with the first-generation device. For one thing, it now offers tri-band support, which offers even more coverage than ever before. "It has double the bandwidth capacity," says CEO Nick Weaver. "And double the range." With an entirely new thermal management system, a new mechanical architecture and a new antenna array, everything inside the second-gen Eero has been completely overhauled. It uses a USB-C connector for both data and power and it has two Ethernet ports.
Next is the Eero Beacon, which is half the size of the regular Eero, and it plugs in directly into the wall. The Beacon isn't quite as powerful as the second-gen Eero, but Weaver says it has 30 percent better performance than the first-gen version. "People really wanted something simple," he says. "Over half of Eeros are plugged into places like kitchens and hallways where you don't want to have a bunch of cords." It should be said that there are other WiFi products on the market out there that have this form factor, but they're mostly range extenders, not mesh networking devices.
Plus, the Beacon has one other feature that most other plug-in WiFi products don't have: A programmable night light. Indeed, the Beacon actually has an ambient light sensor that comes on automatically every time the room gets dark. But if you want, you can actually go in the Eero app and program it so that the light goes on or off at a certain time each day. Or, you can just toggle it manually by tapping a button on the side. It's a silly little feature perhaps, but it's a touch of whimsy that's pretty endearing, at least for a WiFi hub.
Both the second-gen Eero and the Eero Beacon also come bundled with Thread radio compatibility, an emerging low-power connectivity standard for the internet of things. The Thread protocol is especially useful for devices like smart lights, door knobs and locks, which often run on batteries and would therefore need a low-powered solution. And since Thread itself uses a mesh network to connect its products, the integration of Thread with Eero makes sense.
Still, it was difficult. "Doing the coexistence between 2.4 GHz WiFi and Thread was really challenging," says Weaver. "It's taken a better part of a year to get right and integrated." Typically with a lot of these smart home products, you need a bridge or a hub; with Eero, that isn't necessary. "Our view is that Thread is the future," says Weaver. "Everything should be integrated into the infrastructure."