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In a nutshell: Amazon's newest Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock smart speakers have a cool new feature. Past iterations have not been anything to talk about. After all, they are relatively simple devices that do relatively simple things, like play music or read you a recipe. However, the new models can now extend your WiFi network.
Leveraging Eero's TrueMesh technology (Eero Built-in), the new Echos can not only connect to Eero routers but also act as wireless mesh nodes. Even better, you might have the start of a mesh network in your home already if you have one or more fourth-generation Echo speakers. Since TrueMesh is a software-based innovation, Eero can update compatible older devices that are already out in the wild.
Eero cofounder and CEO Nick Weaver told The Verge the company would push out over-the-air updates to older Echos "in the coming months." Of course, customers need to have an existing Eero mesh network or at least the router to take advantage of the feature. However, picking one up for as low as $75 shouldn't break the bank.
Amazon bought Eero in 2019, which still operates independently. Until now, it has not done much with the company besides selling its products. That said, Amazon is vested in furthering Eero's business but also wants its Echo speakers in as many households as possible.
Turning Echo Dots into WiFi extenders serves both those purposes — customers that already have fourth-gen speakers might now pick up an Eero router, and those who already have an Eero mesh network might opt to grab an Echo rather than an Eero node because of the voice assistant functionality. For Amazon and Eero, it's a win-win proposition.
The signal extension of the new and fourth-gen Echos is about 1,000 square feet with speeds up to 100Mbps. The performance is less than you could expect from dedicated nodes — for comparison, Eero's latest WiFi 6 extenders can cover 1,500 sqft with speeds up to 500Mbps. Weaver explained that the speakers have slightly increased latency because it's a "mesh hop," but it's only "a couple of milliseconds" difference.
"We figured out how to take the Eero TrueMesh and port that to the silicon running in those Echos," he said. "It's a new chipset; it's a very constrained device, so there's lots of optimization here to deliver this incremental range and 100Mbps of performance."
Weaver said his team was looking into possibly extending the functionality to IoT devices like the Echo Show sometime in the future. For now, the feature is only on the fifth-generation Echo Dots, with Fourth-gen getting a free update later.