just one more geek in a sea of austin techies

September 25, 2020

eero 6: Will it work with original eero? #NetworkGeek

Will eero 6 work with
first-generation eeros?

The new eero 6 (link) and eero 6 Pro (link) lines of mesh routers and access points are now available bringing improved connectivity, faster wireless speeds and integrated Zigbee smart hubs.  

There are plenty of articles and reviews covering the improved features but I've yet to see anyone answering one burning question:  

What about existing eero owners?  Specifically, can existing (first-generation) eero mesh networks incorporate new eero 6 devices?  Or do existing owners have to replace their old eero units in order to upgrade to eero 6?

Read on for the answer...

The quick answer
eero 6 is backwards compatible with older (first generation) devices!  You can buy an eero 6 and keep using your existing eeros.  eero has pledged continued support for first-generation eeros (for now).

The longer answer
eero 6 is backwards compatible with older (first generation) devices, but...  it is unclear whether you can fully embrace all new eero 6 features when using a mixed system of eero 6 and first-generation eeros.

Regarding backwards compatibility, the eero support team has affirmed eero 6 will work with first-generation eeros (see here).

However, eero 6 features Wi-Fi 6 which is a whole new evolution of Wi-Fi.  First-generation eeros are Wi-Fi 5 and don't have MU-MIMO and OFDMA (Wi-Fi 6 technologies).  This means that, in a "mixed" mesh system of eero and eero 6 units, your Wi-Fi experience could be noticeably different depending on which unit you're currently connected to.  

Wi-Fi 6 by itself isn't notably faster than Wi-Fi 5 in terms of data speeds.  It's other clever things Wi-Fi 6 does that help improve performance.  For one, Wi-Fi 6 is geared to better handle lots of wireless connections at once.  If, for instance, you only have one wireless device, you won't see much different between eero 6 and an older eero.  However, if each eero already has 10 connected devices, you will connect more quickly to and maintain better communication with an eero 6 unit versus an older eero thanks to Wi-Fi 6 improvements.

There is, of course, more to it and one really big, notable caveat:  The Wi-Fi 6 improvements in eero 6 largely depend on your connected devices also having Wi-Fi 6 which they probably don't...yet.  Over time you'll start to get more and more Wi-Fi 6 devices as you replace old devices with new ones, but right now (in the year 2020) you probably don't have anything boasting Wi-Fi 6.  Wi-Fi 6 is designed to support a greater number of connected devices at once, though, and some of this benefit may still be evident even when using non-Wi-Fi 6 devices.

Beyond that, if we consider eero 6 Pro, the Pro units also offer tri-band Wi-Fi while eero 6 and older eero units are only dual-band.  eero 6 Pro's third communications band requires that your wireless device also support that same third band.  If you are connected on that third band, and if you move out of range of your eero 6 Pro, you will lose connection even if you're in range of another, older eero.  Your device should automatically establish a new wireless connection to the older eero on one of those other two communications bands, of course, but negotiating a new connection on a different band (versus a handoff between eeros on the same band) may result in a noticeable interruption if you are engaged in some type of real-time activity such as a Zoom meeting.

A bit of good news:  Since the "host" eero acts as the router for the rest of the mesh system, any router-specific eero 6 features (content filtering, etc.) should be able to be enjoyed by the whole system.

Finally, there is also the question of Zigbee support.  First-generation eeros have no Zigbee radio.  eero 6 does have Zigbee.  If you wish to utilize Zigbee your Zigbee-enabled devices will all need to be within range of your eero 6 unit(s) and your eero 6 unit will almost certainly need to be the designated "host" unit in your eero mesh network in order to configure Bigbee-related options.

Here are the big takeaways regarding mixing eero 6 routers with first-generation eero units:

  • Yes, you can mix new eero 6 devices with older (first-generation) eero devices!
  • You will not be able to enjoy most new eero 6 features when connected to older eero units.
  • You cannot fully benefit from eero 6's "Wi-Fi 6" unless your wireless devices are also Wi-Fi 6.

  • You'll likely need to make eero 6 the "host" unit in your mesh network.

  • Any Zigbee devices will have to be in range of the eero 6 as older eeros have no Zigbee.

Final tip:  If you decide to try eero 6 be sure you get an eero 6 router and not just an extender.

No comments:

Post a Comment