tp-link has made a name for itself with budget routers that don’t skimp on features. Today it is jumping into the increasingly crowded Whole Home WiFi System market with the Deco at a nice price and a solid feature set including antivirus/antimalware.
I find it interesting that high performance routers are huge with in your face looks and multiple antenna arrays while Whole Home Systems are going for the minimalistic look. The tp-link Deco is no exception. Open the box and you are confronted with what looks like three matte white smoke detectors with a swoosh on the top.
The identical units have two gigabit ethernet ports on the back and a USB-C port currently for power only and a status light on the top. Once set up the unit connected to modem becomes the router and the others become repeaters with the same SSID.
Speaking about setup, it couldn’t be simpler. Download the app for iOS or Android, plug in the first unit and connect it to the modem then follow the instruction in the app. The whole process took about 4 minutes plus another five to upgrade the firmware. The other two units are set up by plugging them in at the selected location and following the app again. It will tell you if the location is good for optimal performance.
The tp-link Deco is a two band system thus does not have a dedicated backhaul channel so performance can suffer with the extra traffic on that channel. That issue does however to be somewhat mitigated by tp-link’s Adaptive Routing Technology which automatically chooses the clearest path for all your devices based on the location of each Deco unit.
When evaluating WiFi systems I have two objectives. First. to get acceptable WiFi service everywhere inside and outside of my 2500 sq.ft. home. Second and ideally, reach my goal of being able to take advantage of the full 120Mbps provided by my ISP. This can be difficult in the two dark areas of my home, the front porch and the family room. The tp-link delivered on both counts.
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I tested the M5 for more than a month and it delivered reliable Wi-Fi with similar performance to other dual-band systems. And even with the signal loss, its Wi-Fi speed was still faster than my broadband connection. tp-link advertises that the Deco will also work with an ethernet backhaul. I could not get it to work and despite more than a week dealing with support in China I was unable to get more than “it should work”.
In addition to impressive performance the tp-link Deco offers HomeCare, a comprehensive security package with several important features.
Robust Parental Controls
Manage content and control when each device can access the internet.
3-Year Built-In Antivirus
Protect all connected devices in your home from viruses and malware.
Review a monthly list of usage, blocked content and security threats.
Quality of Service
Prioritize devices and applications for faster performance when needed.
The Deco’s Trend Micro antivirus/antimalware feature is on by default; it works in the background and automatically blocks your devices from connecting to dangerous websites. TP-Link says it will also prevent compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as home security cameras or smart thermostats, from contacting unauthorized IP addresses. Three years of service is included in the purchase price, but TP-Link says it hasn’t decided how much it will charge to renew the subscription at the end of the free period.
The Deco also includes an impressive suite of parental controls. Using the app, you can establish different profiles, manage and monitor access, and the amount of time a profile is using the internet. It also generates monthly usage reports to make it easy to know what’s happening on your network, which devices are connected and what’s using data. Best of all, it’s all relatively easy to understand and enter the appropriate settings.
Overall the tp-link Deco offers excellent WiFi performance together with a solid package of extra features all at a reasonable price. The Deco three pack is available for pre-order starting today (May 30) at Best Buy for $450. Single units will become available at other retailers and retailers for $179. The three pack is a good buy for a medium size home with kids and lots of devices.