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Thursday July 27, 2017
Review: TP-Link Deco M5 Whole Home W-Fi System
by Anthony Agius | Jul 4, 2017 | Comment Now
Recommended
Review: TP-Link Deco M5 Whole Home W-Fi System
Rating
Overall:

"... if you just need no nonsense, whole home Wi-Fi that even the most technophobic person can get working, the TP-Link Deco is perfect."

Price
$199 AUD single*
$399 AUD three-pack*

> Pricing info

Specs
$199 (single); $399 (3-pack) • Quad-core CPU • wireless: 400 Mbps on 2.4 GHz + 867 Mbps on 5 GHz • 4 internal antennas per Deco unit • 2 Gigabit ports per Deco unit
* Price at time of review
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The easiest way to blanket your home in Wi-Fi.

The Deco M5 is TP-Link’s take on the increasing popular whole home Wi-Fi (mesh) product category. These little discs contain a total of four radios each, that act as a combination of Wi-Fi backhaul and client access. One set of 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios talk to your laptops, smartphones, tablets or whatever other Wi-Fi devices you have. The other set of 2.4Ghz and 5GHz radios talk to other TP-Link Deco base stations – this is called backhaul. 

Utilising this separate backhaul radio, Wi-Fi range can be expanded with minimal loss of speed. Spread the access points around your home and they’ll automatically talk to each other, all with a single network name so your wireless devices will automatically latch on to the strongest access point. Because the access points can be placed closer to where your devices are, performance should improve as your tablet, for example, isn’t struggling to reach an access point far away, but is using one nearby.

Setup of the TP-Link Deco system couldn’t get any easier. Install TP-Link’s Deco app on your smartphone, take the units out of the box and plug one into the Ethernet socket on your modem or NBN network termination device (NTD). Fire up the Deco app on your phone, create a TP-Link account, the app then detects the access point over Bluetooth and asks you to create a network name and password. That’s it. You’re up and running with the first access point.

To install additional access points around your home, just plug them into a power outlet, launch the app on your smartphone again and tell it you want to add a new access point. It’ll do the Bluetooth syncing stuff again and boom, you’ve expanded your Wi-Fi network. Do that for as many access points you like. 

The hardest part of the process is deciding where to place the access points. Placement makes a huge difference as to the performance of the network. Place the access points too close together and your devices are still too far away from the signal. Place them too far apart, the backhaul link will be weak and speeds won’t be much better than talking to the central access point directly. 

Each Deco access point has a Gigabit Ethernet socket, so if you’re able to run Ethernet to an area, you can augment the mesh network with a rock-solid connection back to your main access point. You don’t even need to configure anything – just plug the Ethernet cable in and off you go. The Deco sorts out what the best link to use is.

Everyone’s Wi-Fi scenario will be different, but to gauge if the Deco is useful, I did a simple test. In one area of my home where a laptop downloads off a fileserver at approximately 80 Mbit/sec via a single TP-Link Deco, placing a second Deco unit in the middle of the home (one access point at the front, one access point in the middle and the laptop at the rear of the home) made a huge improvement – files were being transferred at over 200 Mbit/sec. 

Management of the devices happens all via the Deco app. There’s no web interface like traditional Wi-Fi routers, which has pros and cons. The on-boarding and setup process for the Deco couldn’t get any more straightforward if TP-Link tried and managing the devices is a piece of cake. 

The downside of that ease of use is that those who like to tweak settings will be disappointed as there’s not much to change. Again, this is great for those who just want Wi-Fi and nothing else, but if you need relatively common features like port forwarding, customisable QoS (rather than generic “gaming” or “chatting” defaults), changing DNS servers or VPN access, the Deco won’t do that so you need to use another router – but the Deco won’t act as simple access points, so you everything on your network will be double routed.

That said, the Deco does have built in anti-virus monitoring provided by Trend Micro and nice features such as a built-in Internet speed testing, alerts when new devices join your network and very simple to configure parental controls.

There’s plenty of Wi-Fi mesh systems on the market today and if you’re looking for advanced features and state of the art performance, look elsewhere. But if you just need no nonsense, whole home Wi-Fi that even the most technophobic person can get working, the TP-Link Deco is perfect.



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