Food, shelter, clothes and Wi-Fi. Humans have redefined the essentials for survival in this world. Take a look at the TP-Link Deco. A mesh based Wi-Fi system that cuts through the trouble of calling up your ISP guy and setting up Wi-Fi.
No, really. It’s super simple to set up and offers more features than your regular router.
A few years ago, the process would have been a 30-minute long awkward stare at the computer screen, while the internet guy would put in some numbers, set your password and charge a fee. The struggle is real. Or was, in case of the TP-Link Deco at least.
TP-Link Deco: Hiding in plain sight
Out of the box, you get three disc-shaped routers. All of which are capable of being the main link to its other two satellite counterparts.
These white discs look inconspicuous and will blend in with any interior. You don’t have to worry about antennas popping out too.
Each unit has four antennas housed within, with two Gigabit ports and one USB Type-C port. We commend TP-Link for giving the Deco units a USB Type-C treatment that serves as a power supply port. Future proof, eh?
TP-Link Deco: Setup
Any one of the Deco units can be used as the main router where your ethernet cable goes in from your modem.
Setting it up is easier than getting a perfectly boiled egg. And everything about the router is controlled through its app. Keep in mind, you'll need a modem into which your internet cable will go. Then you connect the router to the modem via the ethernet cable provided with the Deco.
Once you have your first unit plugged in. Download the dedicated Deco app on your iOS or Android device and then follow the instructions. Thereafter it's a matter of placing the other two discs in the desired places and following the simple instructions on the app.
The lights on the top of the routers help you understand the status of the router and the whole process within its ecosystem. It's surprising how I had the whole thing up and running in a matter of minutes. The only reason you'd want to call your ISP is to show off this cool new piece of tech. Funnily, that's exactly what I did.
TP-Link Deco: Godspeed
The Deco M5 works using a mesh system. Too complicated? Allow me to explain.
The Deco discs (that's what I like to call them now) have a two way connection. One's for the connected devices, and the other is to communicate with each other. This way there's no fight for bandwidth within the deco units and no congestion.
Earlier, my existing router’s coverage was amplified with a repeater. But that was constantly the source of my old folks’ internet woes. Two Deco units later, the only complain was, how to share Facebook cat videos on WhatsApp.
It can reach speeds of 400 Mbps on 2.4Ghz and 867 Mbps on 5Ghz. Frankly, that’s an absurd amount for a household. Coming down to realistic numbers, my home has a speed of 10 Mbps and the router showed no slip ups in maintaining that speed. Coverage is not an issue for the Deco as well. We even tested it on a 50 Mbps speed connection.
My 1400 square feet apartment was covered perfectly with just two units. The third one was put back in the box because my house isn't big enough. Tp-Link says it covers 4000 sq.feet but that's probably best said for office spaces with no obstructing walls for a good distance.
The WiFi status band on my laptop dropped to nearly half the bars when keeping a distance of 15 feet including two walls between me and the router. It doesn't get toe-tappingly slow but we wish the coverage could've been a bit stronger to get through those thick walls.
Simply speaking, the Deco can handle your internet speeds remarkably well and the coverage is strong enough if you place them correctly in your house. Smaller houses can settle for a good quality router such as the Netgear R7000.
Tp-Link Deco: Apple of router apps
Like any normal tech junkie, I tried to open the web portal for Tp-Link’s Deco using my computer, turns out there's isn't any. Like I said, everything is done through the app.
TP-Link has gone completely wireless with this one. Once logged in, the app lets you control your router from anywhere. It's a major part of the whole Deco experience, the sheer simplicity of it was made to let anyone install and be in control of their Wi-Fi. I would block certain guests from my internet connection, while sitting at the office simply because I could. Give a man a powerful app and he'll show his true colors.
You're connected to the TP-Link network at all times, which is why you can control the router even without being connected to its network. But this raises security concerns for most. Some might not be happy to share data with TP-Link at all times.
There's a whole a lot of things to do, parental controls and inbuilt anti-virus for 3 years is only scratching the surface. You can change your IP from it, restrict certain websites, categorize network access for kids, teens and adults. Good way to keep the kids from indulging in questionable activities. The in-built anti-virus promises to keep all your IoT devices safe as well.
A report of how much data was consumed by each device on a monthly basis would be at your fingertips too. You can even adjust the level of internet priority for each connected device. Assign names to devices so they don't look like confusing numbers from the end of a barcode. QoS (Quality of Service) lets you prioritize devices for faster performance when needed. You can change the priority of internet requirement on the Deco network as and when you like. Netflix and chill got the streaming priority whereas at other hours I would stick with the standard settings.
There isn't a huge noticeable difference in these settings but you could notice that slight boost in your streaming sessions. However, my desktop had high priority, cos’ it's where I spend the most amount of time. Online multiplayer matches require a steady connection with zero dip rates. So game night with friends was business as usual, my CS:GO ping remained at 5 without getting complaints about the internet speed from the other end of the house.
It gets bonus points for being usable with Alexa and IFTTT applets. Unfortunately Alexa isn’t available in India and Google Home is like a daydream for us Indians.
So rest assured, the Deco can take on the Google Home’s Wi-Fi capabilities pretty well and with IFTTT, it opens a new way of interacting with your tech. I could have my phone Wi-Fi automatically switch on and connect to my router the minute I step into the outlined area on the map around my house. Pretty neat.
TP-Link Deco: Verdict
The TP-Link Deco M5 is a brilliant Wi-Fi router for people who have a big house and a lot of wireless tech lying around.
It can cover almost any nook and cranny and at ₹24,999 it's perfect for at least a good 2500 square feet house. TP-Link says it can go till 4000 sq.ft but honestly it really depends on the number of walls between you and the router. The trick is to place them correctly to avoid multiple walls between the connecting routers and your device.
If you have a bigger house, you can simply add additional Deco units to the existing ones to extend your range. A total of upto 10 Deco units can be added to extend your wireless freedom. The app is one of the strongest points of the router. It's neat and simple to use. It simplifies the setup and maintaining process of the routers. Though tech maniacs would want more options to fiddle with on the app, like web portal offers. But I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of a router that even my old folks could use and understand.
So should you buy it? Well, at ₹24,999 it isn't one of those routers you could pick up with a few spare bucks lying around. Assuming you've got a 2500+ square feet house then picking this one up shouldn't hit too hard on your wallet while investing in it for a smaller house makes it too expensive for the size.
Smaller homes don't need a mesh system as much. A good router can do just fine.