HomeKit Weekly: HomeKit Secure Router with eero 6 Pro — is it worth the upgrade?

HomeKit Secure Routers have had an interesting lifespan. The technology was first introduced at WWDC in 2019, but it was another year before any manufacturers started rolling out support. Even into 2021, there are still just a handful of Wi-Fi solutions that support HomeKit Secure Routers. One of the most recent additions is eero Pro 6 and eero 6. I recently decided I was ready to implement HomeKit Secure Router, so I purchased the Pro edition and went to work upgrading my network.

HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.

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Before I dive into the eero Pro 6, we need to discuss what is HomeKit Secure Router. To understand why it’s needed, you need to understand the problem of having so many devices on your network. The more items on your network, the more of an opportunity for security problems will exist. It’s one thing to have a handful of Apple products on your network with Apple security, but as you add devices from manufacturers that you aren’t as familiar with, there might be a question on what that device is doing on your network and where it’s reporting back to on the internet. This problem is what HomeKit Secure Router aims to solve.

Like I mentioned earlier, there aren’t that many models available at the moment, though. It’s mainly the Linksys Velop lineup and Amazon’s eero lineup. As smart home products become more prominent in the home, I want to be sure I am at the forefront of security.

eero Pro 6 installation

I’ve set up countless Wi-Fi networks over the years for family or in my home for testing, and without a doubt, the eero Pro 6 was the fastest and easiest I’ve used. I swapped out my current system for it in around 10 minutes one Sunday morning. I started with the first one, which plugged into my ONT on my fiber provider. Once I had the eero app installed, it found the first unit and walked me through setting up my network. Once it was configured, I had Wi-Fi once again. I then installed the two other units, and the app immediately found them as well. Once everything was up and running, I finalized the network setup, and the eeros were updated to the latest firmware.

Thankfully, all of my HomeKit devices reconnected as I used the same SSID and password as before. A few of my wired switches needed to be rebooted to pass traffic again, but that didn’t take long to do.

I can’t say enough good things about the installation process for eero. If you are holding off upgrading to Wi-Fi 6 because of fear of breaking something, then hear me when I say this: if you can operate a smartphone, you can install an eero network.

eero and HomeKit Secure Router

Once the network was up and running, I moved into the “tinker with everything” phase of my installation. One of the first places I went was the Discover tab and found the HomeKit section. There is a button that sets Set up in HomeKit, and tapping on that kicks off the process. Once it’s done, you can go to the Home app > Home Settings to view your router and modify security. In certain devices, you’ll have the option to Restrict to Home (meaning it cannot connect to the internet), Automatic (allows connections to automatically updated list of manufacturer approved internet services and local devices), and No Restriction (devices can access anything). My advice is to leave everything on automatic until you have a reason otherwise.

I’ve heard horror stories about people having the “no response” error if the security is set to Restrict to Home, but so far I am having good luck with automatic. Because my network has the same SSID and password as my old one, my devices reconnected automatically. All of my devices aren’t appearing in the list year as they need to be removed and re-added in order to show up. About 1/3rd of my devices automatically appeared in HomeKit without any interaction, though. When I move in a few months, I plan to rebuild my HomeKit setup from scratch, so I’ll migrate the rest of the devices then.

In a perfect world, all firmware updates would come through a Home hub, and no device would need to talk directly to the internet. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality, and moving devices to this setting will cause problems. Leaving devices on automatic provides a nice balance between security and usability.

eero Secure and eero Secure+

One optional add-on for eero products is the premium service that adds parental controls, activity reporting, and in the case of the Secure+ – free subscriptions to 1Password, Malwarebytes, and Encrypt.me VPN.

I personally went with the $29.99/year subscription for the enhanced parental control and activity reporting. It can also block ads at the network level, but in practice, that caused problems with apps and websites.

eero Pro 6 vs. eero 6

eero Pro 6

Before I purchased the eero Pro 6, I did a lot of research on whether or not the Proline was worth it as it’s quite a bit more on the purchase price. The Pro lineup includes an additional 5 GHz radio, so mesh connections between the base stations are more reliable (mine are hardwired), but the Pro 6 also includes an additional ethernet port on the secondary units so you could hardwire an Apple TV or game system.

The Pro 6 models include faster processes, more memory, and a 4×4 antenna array on the third radio as well. Overall, they are just a better solution if you are relying on your home Wi-Fi connection for remote work or other mission-critical activities.

Wrap up: Is eero Pro 6 and HomeKit Secure Router worth it?

If you’re planning to upgrade your Wi-Fi soon, I absolutely think it makes sense to purchase a model with HomeKit Secure Router functionality built-in. If you already have a Wi-Fi 6 router that you enjoy, you won’t notice a lot of benefits today, but it’s something you should keep in mind for your next purchase.

I am thrilled with the functionality of the eero Pro 6 with HomeKit Secure Router support in the early stages, and I hope that Apple continues to develop the software around HomeKit Secure Routers. I’ve been concerned about the growth of IoT devices on my network for some time, so this seems like the best way to begin securing these devices.

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