Excellent 3-device WiFi mesh system

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2021-04-29 11:21:18

TP-Link regularly tops the list of favorite wireless routers for many years, but with mesh networks growing compared to traditional methods to increase WiFi coverage at home, TP-Link is also gradually changing to adapt.

The result is a mesh WiFi system with great performance and powerful functionality – the TP-Link Deco M5 – at an extremely low price. Deco M5 has quickly become one of the favorite low-cost mesh WiFi devices, on par with the powerful Google WiFi.

TP-Link Deco M5 design and features

The Deco M5 is more attractive than a regular wireless router. Each node is in the form of a disk and is attractively designed with a status LED located at the top. Just like Google WiFi, each device is equipped with a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports and gets power from the main USB-C adapter.

The Deco M5 is more attractive than a regular wireless router

General setup and maintenance is done through the TP-link Deco smartphone app and runs smoothly. As is often the case with mesh systems, it only takes a few minutes per device (everything is ready in less than 20 minutes). That’s in part thanks to the fact that each node has Bluetooth, so you don’t have to fiddle with connecting to WiFi or entering a password every time you want to add a node to the network.

On the negative side, the system requires you to connect through TP-Link’s cloud system before you can set it up, which has an impact on security and privacy.

As for WiFi features, the Deco M5 is average. Like Google WiFi, it’s a dual-band 802.11ac system and doesn’t have a dedicated backhaul link, which means throughput drops as you go deep down a chain of nodes.

Each device has 4 internal antennas and provides 2×2 MIMO connectivity for up to 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 867Mbps on the 5GHz band. BT Whole Home WiFi system is much faster, providing 3-band connection and dedicated backhaul link at speeds up to 1300Mbps.

In terms of usability and software features, the Deco M5 is quite basic compared to traditional wireless routers, but excellent compared to most mesh systems. As mentioned above, you get 3 years of anti-virus software from Trend Micro for all devices when they are connected to your home network.

Deco M5 also features effective profile and category-based parental controls, allowing you to block the websites your child can access by category, cumulative time and time of day, and allows you to view content you like at the desired time. In this respect, the Deco M5 does just as well as Google WiFi and is a great choice for parents who want to monitor and control their child’s Internet access.

The app also gives you customizable content-based QoS controls, allowing you to prioritize certain types of traffic, such as “streaming” or “gaming.”

Performance of Deco M5

TP-Link Deco M5 works best in mesh configurations
TP-Link Deco M5 works best in mesh configurations

I installed the TP-Link Deco M5 at home, then performed my usual long-range and short-range tests using the iperf3 command line app. As you can see from the performance metrics in the chart below, Deco M5 provides a strong WiFi signal throughout the area.

As expected, the Deco M5’s close-range performance metrics aren’t overly impressive. BT Whole Home WiFi system has outstanding specifications and offers the best speed in the same room. The author also tested the Deco M5’s single-node performance at long range – to see how far you can get from the node on the edge of your network – and found that the Deco M5 performed well, similar to that with BT Whole Home WiFi. However, Google WiFi does a better job here.

The TP-Link Deco M5 performs best in mesh configuration, providing speeds on par with the BT Whole Home WiFi in the kitchen (a notorious “dead spot”), but falls short of Google WiFi. At first I experimented with two nodes, a configuration that usually delivers the best throughput in this location, and it is slightly inferior to a BT system. Then I add a third node, retest to see how much throughput drops when adding additional nodes to spread the network, and TP-Link has outperformed the competition. However, the difference is very small (but still enough to be verified by the tests).

Conclude

In short, the TP-Link Deco M5 is a standout product in the low-end mesh network market. The product is currently priced at nearly 4 million VND for a set of 3 devices and includes anti-virus capabilities based on the network level and great parental controls.

The Google WiFi app, as well as how it can actively change channels to improve wireless performance and avoid interference seems to be better. Besides, the BT Whole Home WiFi system is also faster at close range and cheaper overall. However, TP-Link’s products are always competitive and especially good for parents, so it is recommended to use.

Advantages

  • Great control for parents
  • Integrated antivirus software for 3 years
  • Strong wireless coverage

Defect

  • Slightly slow at close range
  • The price is higher than BT Whole Home WiFi

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