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Eero vs Luma surprise result
on September 12, 2016
I've been wanting an Eero for a long time, ever since it was first announced. The idea of having a mesh network just sounded so appealing. By the time that I finally got around to buying one, a couple of competitors had popped up. The most promising of them is the Luma. So, I actually bought both mesh routers and will proceed to review and compare them here (a copy of this review will be posted on both the Luma and the EERO product pages).
The Eero hardware is really awesome. As others have mentioned, it looks like something that Apple would design. Very glossy white and sleek looking. The routers are small squares that lie flat and have power and network cables coming out the back. There's also a USB, presumably for NSCs or printers. Eero also gave extra thought to maximizing radio antenna efficiency: the tops of the routers are modestly rounded to prevent users from putting glasses or other items on top of them (and thus obstructing strong signal).
The Luma hardware is pretty nice also. Actually, the honeycomb is pretty handsome on a bookshelf and I like that it comes in different colors. BUT, and this is a big bug, the Luma is meant to stand on edge. And, when the power and network cables are plugged in, it's unsteady. This doesn't matter too much if your first router is in the fiber closet, but it'll fall over somewhat often out in the open and look the eyesore.
Edge to Eero.
I have Verizon FIOS fiber running at my home. Setup was pretty easy as I just plugged one end of a network RJ-45 cable into the ONT and then the other end directly into the "first" router. Luma apparently also allows for ethernet backhaul, but Eero doesn't at present. Regardlees, I don't use that feature so it's not relevent to me. Moreover, I doubt most buyers of this product will use it either. Anyway...
The Luma was set up first. Things went pretty smoothly. I downloaded the app from Android Play store and created an account with username and password. Remember to log into your old router and release the IP address for your ISP. Then I just followed the instructions on the app: powered down the old router, powered down the ONT (aka modem), plugged the network cable into the ONT and the Luma hub, and then plugged them both in. The Luma app on my Google Nexus 6P found the hub immediately, named it and asked me to sit patiently while it registered on the network. Sadly, that never happened. I tried one more time...no go. A quick search online revealed that some Android devices have difficulty. So, I tried setup with my Google Nexus 9 tablet and voila! It registered and I had wireless network. For the next two hubs, I used an old iPhone and things worked very smoothly also. So, perhaps it just didn't like my Nexus 6P. Small bug but no harm done.
The Eero set up was also smooth....after I figured out how to release my IP address on the Luma (see below). Basically, I had to power down the ONT and wait a couple hours. Once I did, setup with my Nexus 6P was quick this time round. Again, I downloaded the Eero app and created an account by entering my telephone number and then entering a 6 digit SMS code. The Eero hub was named, registered and had live internet. Good to go.
I'll call this a tie despite the Nexus 6P hiccup with Luma. But if you have a Nexus 6P and want to use a Luma, be prepared to need to try a different device for setup. If you're a stickler, edge to Eero.
THE APP INTERFACE
Right off the bat, both Eero and Luma apps are sparse. If you're used to configuring a wireless router in the past, you will be unpleasantly surprised by the absence of desired features, including dynamic DNS, QoS, IP release, etc. However, I recognize that these devices are supposed to be family friendly and that they are. Following the instructions in both apps is super easy and very efficiently and quickly gets the first wifi puck up and running. NOTE: I must emphasize that the Verizon FIOS ONT needs to release the IP address in order to switch routers. If you don't release it, then you need to sit around for 2 hours with it powered down until does so automatically. This shouldn't affect most users who just buy either the Luma or the Eero. But, if you are planning on testing a couple devices, it's wise to remember.
Anyway, at this point, both apps look very similar and clean with their router status view, upload and download speeds and devices attached tab. Furthermore, they let you add new routers to the mesh network easily, name them (although Eero allows for custom names), reserve IP addresses (in advanced settings menus), enable port forwarding, assign wireless devices to a user profile, UPnP, etc. Here's where they differ:
The Eero app allows devices to be nicknamed (a super nice feature), allows for a custom DHCP, and allows DNS config if you want to use Google or OpenDNS or whomever.
The Luma can't do any of those at present. However, it does allow for IGMP Snooping to be enabled or disabled. Luma also offers a rating filter for all or specified users. I don't know what the movie-like ratings mean but it would seem handy if I had young kids to whom I wanted to restrict content.
In the end, they are both pretty similar. If I had to give one an edge, it would be the Eero simply because it allows nicknames for device connections. I dig that.
Minor edge to Eero.
Okay, a lot of words to get to the part that matters most. How is the signal? Alas, this is really hard to quantify. Basically, I walked around all of the rooms in my home with the Wifi Analyzer app and took readings. On average, the Eero was about 2-5 db better than the Luma in each room. Having read some reviews online, perhaps it has to do with the extra 5Ghz antenna. Who knows? But, it was a pretty minor discrepancy and may have had more to do with how the hubs hand off the connection to one another (or don't) than actually signal strength. I will say this, BOTH Eero and Luma very capably covered all corners and rooms of my home. That alone is a tremendous victory compared to my sad history with range extenders that just never satisfied us at all.
So, minor edge to Eero but very satisfactory marks to both.
After writing the above, a big surprise here. No bones about it but the Luma just clobbered the Eero. I have no explanation for this, especially after Eero's signal advantage. Basically, my devices would connect to the Eero hubs admirably and all looked well, achieving 120% of my Verizon FIOS bandwidth. But, after an hour or so, throughput would just plummet to about 10-30%. Badly. It made me crazy. Browsing was bad. Streaming was very difficult. My wife (who doesn't care about these tests at all) would complain and ask what I was doing to the network. I ensured that I was running the latest version but it didn't seem to resolve anything. I power-cycled everything. No success.
The Luma, on the other hand, functioned well. It would test at 100-120% of my FIOS bandwidth and almost always stay there, even if I ventured to far corners of the apartment. It made streaming on multiple devices, browsing, downloading, and music MUCH nicer than I have ever had in the past. And, the wife didn't complain. All is not rosy though. With some music sources, Luma needs a little attention. Sonos (Pandora and TuneIn Radio) ran into buffering pauses every so often. I'm hopeful that they can resolve this soon.
So, I don't have a good answer for why this was the case...especially since a lot of other users have raved about Eero. Perhaps the signal just doesn't steer my devices to the faster frequency connection. Candidly, even the 2.4GHz shouldn't have an issue. It was just curious.
Edge to Luma. But remember that you might not have this experience and I wasn’t going to waste more than a weekend trying to nail down the issue.
Because of the intro pricing for pre-ordering the Luma, it was $250 cheaper for me than the Eero. These devices are already pricey compared to traditional routers so it matters.
Edge to Luma.
Here's the rub, since Luma cost much less and functioned better, I just ended up keeping it. Yes, the little hexagons aren't as aesthetically pleasing but I can't have complaints about video quality on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Since we don't have cable, HD streaming is very important. So, while others have had good success with Eero, I just can't affirm their experiences. Unless you have extensive streaming requirements or network throughput needs, I think that Luma should suffice nicely. And for the price, it's a no brainer...even if it is only $100 less than the Eero now.
But, and it's a big but: both manufacturers really need to keep stepping it up in development. The apps and features are way too vanilla at present. Good signal and performance will only get you so far with more advanced users.
EERO (3 stars)
LUMA (4 stars)