TP-Link is the number one global provider of WLAN devices for 26 consecutive quarters, according to IDC. Given its huge market share and experience in networking products, TP-Link launched the Deco M5 Whole Home Wi-Fi System in January, and reached Singapore retail stores in August.
The Deco M5 is the fourth Mesh Wi-Fi product I reviewed, after Aztech AIR-706P, Google Wifi, ASUS Lyra. How does it compare among those I tested? Spoiler alert: Deco M5 is currently the cheapest in Singapore market at S$339 launch special (retail S$459), and after 3 weeks of use, is surprisingly stable and feature-packed. And I recommend it for its value.
Key Features at a Glance:
- 4 internal antennas, 2 Gigabit ports per unit
- Seamless wireless connectivity throughout every room in the home
- Comprehensive security features and robust parental controls
- Antivirus and malware protection powered by Trend Micro, free subscription for 3 years
- Simple installation with guided visuals via the TP-Link Deco mobile app (iOS and Android)
- Adaptive Routing Technology (ART) selects the best path for device connections and keeps the network running as fast as possible
- QoS prioritizes your home’s Wi-Fi experience by optimizing bandwidth to devices as needed
- Remote management and control of the network from anywhere
- Compatible with Amazon Echo, Google Assistant and IFTTT
- 3-year limited warranty and 24/7 unlimited technical support by phone or email
The dual-band AC1300 Deco system is capable of throughput speeds of 400 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 867Mbps on the 5GHz band. It supports MU-MIMO data streaming, which means it can stream data over multiple devices at the same time.
If the above statement appears Greek to you, then read on to find out the real experience.
About Mesh Wi-Fi System
Traditional routers run as single units, and expect to cover the entire space with it. Hence manufacturers try to improve by boosting the signal strength. But it still cannot break the barrier of obstruction like walls. Then comes wireless extender that repeats the primary router signal. The drawback is that the extender works as a standalone access point and does not cleverly talk to the primary router. So, there will be multiple network names for the consumer to toggle around to get the best coverage.
Enter Mesh Wi-Fi. They are small networking units that are designed to communicate with one another to disseminate network traffic seamlessly. To the consumer, they exist as a single network system with a single network name. The Mesh system will handover the connected device to the most powerful “node” automatically.
Here are some features that I enjoy using the TP-Link Deco.
Easy to set up
Imagine that: I was 10 minutes away from leaving the house to drive my daughter to school in the morning. But I took the challenge to install the Deco. In the end, I took less than 3 minutes to connect and get the primary Mesh unit running.
I even had time to set up the second unit in my bedroom. Here’s how it happened:
Seamless Wireless Connectivity Throughout
After testing so many Mesh routers, I have had a new benchmark in network coverage around my house. Before Mesh, my bedroom toilet Wi-Fi was on the borderline of disconnect, with occasional luck of sustaining below 10Mbps. With Mesh system, I get comfortable throughput of around 50Mbps. Also, I do not experience any usage issues with Deco, and I did not hear any of my family members complaining about the Wi-Fi experience.
My home actually needs just 2 mesh units to cover the entire apartment. But I added a third unit in my study room for the purpose of wiring the mesh to my desktop PC. The Deco delivers really decent bandwidth, hitting over 400Mbps on the desktop.
Smartphones average 150Mbps, while hard-to-reach areas like the elusive bedroom toilet gets me 50Mbps. The more important aspect of my review experience is that I never encounter any device connection issues, so either I am just one of the lucky users or the Deco is really working hard and well.
From the primary Deco unit, the internal speed test shows that it is achieving close to the 1Gbps broadband plan that I signed up for. In case you are wondering, it is not possible for wireless devices to attain the maximum bandwidth, unless it is cabled end-to-end.
Works With Existing Routers
In order not to disrupt some of the devices connected to my existing 4-port wireless router, I connected the Deco to one of the LAN ports of the existing router. It works well for me, all the devices from both NATs can see one another.
Parental Control and Usage Insights
The Deco offers quite an insight to the usage pattern of the individual user profiles I created. Once I associate devices to profiles, the Deco tracks which apps or sites are being accessed and for how long. This is different from Google Wifi which tracks the traffic volume. However, the device list will show the traffic throughput in real time.
I can add filters to each profile to block content, specific apps or websites. I like the ability to define daily usage time limits based on weekdays and weekend. The usage time limit tracking is based on actual duration of device use and not elapsed time. I do find sometimes even though the user is not touching the device, when there is background activities, it would count as usage time. Nevertheless, it is a very useful feature unique to TP-Link Deco.
The other thing to caution is that there is no visibility on what the pre-defined filter categories cover. For instance, I found the Pebble watch app for my daughter stopped working properly, then I realised it was because I added “Downloads” category to the filtered content list. When a particular type of traffic is blocked, there is no on-screen warning that Deco has blocked it, causing a bit of panic on the cause of the “malfunction”.
Monthly Usage Report
If you are too busy to keep track of the usage across the family members or devices, Deco generates a report and notifies you when it is ready.
Perpetual High Priority QoS
Google Wifi allows user to set specific devices to get high priority over traffic, but only for a limited duration. TP-Link Deco allows me to set high priority as “all the time”. I like this option, so that my desktop is always getting high priority.
LED Night Mode
I believe most routers have this, but it’s still good to mention. In fact, Deco has the smallest LED indicator among the Mesh routers I tested, making it the least visually intrusive.
Monitors Home Network Anywhere
I can access Deco Mesh network outside the house to monitor the network remotely and to make any setting changes if necessary.
Deco comes bundled with licensed anti-virus software, TP-Link HomeCare, powered by Trend Micro. It updates virus definitions regularly and protects the home network against malicious content, prevents intrusion and device infection. I have not seen it in action yet, and it appears to block some false positive events based on the logs.
Works with IFTTT and Alexa
It is possible to trigger actions automatically using IFTTT and Amazon Alexa. IFTTT is a web service that automates tasks based on events. Example, when you are listening to streaming music, IFTTT can tell Deco to prioritise the streaming traffic. Or, when you return home, IFTTT can turn on smart lighting. Alexa is a smart home voice assistant product where you can trigger actions based on speech.
Advanced Network Features
Like many other routers, Deco can be configured to support IPv4, IPv6, address reservation, port forwarding, DDNS, Guest Network. And like most other mesh routers, Deco routers can only be configured over the smartphone app and not from web browser.
Missing Features Compared To Other Mesh Products
The Deco does not give details on the traffic route among the nodes, unlike ASUS Lyra. Neither does it share which devices are connected to which node, unlike ASUS Lyra and Google Wifi. It also does not give details on the traffic usage statistics, unlike ASUS Lyra and Google Wifi.
For a basic homeowner, reliability and ease of setup is going to rank high, and for that, I give the TP-Link Deco full marks. The app lacks a few advanced traffic information as describe above, but I feel those information are bonus features, but if you do not agree with me, the ASUS Lyra or Google Wifi are equally adequate.
So far, I am getting similarly positive coverage experience. ASUS Lyra‘s bandwidth spec is the highest, but real life test does not reveal any significant advantage. Google Wifi has the advantage of seamless login with Google account and supports multiple manager logins to manage the network.
The TP-Link Deco M5 has the price advantage: S$339 launch price exclusive to Hachi.Tech is hard to beat. Even the S$459 retail price puts it as the lowest-priced 3-pack mesh Wi-Fi product in Singapore.
- Reliable coverage and performance
- Unique usage time tracking features and monthly reports
- Low price
- Lacks traffic volume insights compared to other competitors