Hands On With The TP-Link Deco Mesh Network System

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TP-link has build a reputation for making great networking kit that doesn't cost an arm and leg. The Deco is their push into the world of mesh networks. Their three node kit is much like the Linksys Velop I looked at earlier this week in that it is set up using an app but it does differ when you get into the details.

I've already described where I'm testing and some general background on how today's mesh systems work so I'll jump straight into the review.

Setup

When you open the Deco packaging, you're confronted with the three nodes that resemble smoke detectors. Once they're extracted, there's an Ethernet cable and three power supplies.

The setup process starts with installing an app - I used the iOS version but there's also an Android version. Setting up the first node is reasonably easy. Once the node is connected to power - TP-link has elected to use a USB-C connector for the power connector - and the modem the app guided me through configuring the network settings.

There was one tricky step though. The setup process asks for whether you have a static IP, dynamic IP of PPoE connection. This seems a little technical and might stump many people.

I set up with my usual network name and password and then followed up by setting up the other two nodes. I planned to install the three nodes in the same places as the Velop but i needed to move the one in the master bedroom about a metre closer to the primary node as it was not detected when in the same position as the Velop node.

Given the shape and small size of the Deco nodes, I was hoping for an easy wall-mount system but the Deco lacks a simple way to do this. Also, the power cables were a little short in my view, making it hard to place the nodes higher up, away from power outlets which are generally at floor level.

Each node has a single LED at the top tells you what's going on. Green indicates normal operation, with orange, blue and red indicating different statuses and stages in the set up process.

Like the Velop, each node has two Ethernet ports for connecting wired devices.

Testing

I started my testing with a walk through my property, in and out of each room, and the outside extremities of the property and across the street while carrying out a ping to the router.

The slowest ping was just over 500ms with the fastest just 1ms. The average time was 30ms - slower than the Velop's average ping of 21ms. And the Deco's ping test reported packet loss of about 5.6% - in excess of the Velop's 2%.

In practice, I found the Deco performed comparably on real-world tasks. I repeated the same tests by launching multiple streams on different devices. Like the Velop, everything played back perfectly from Netflix, my Plex server running on a NAS and YouTube.

Other tasks on PCs, tablets and smartphones connected to the Deco network worked perfectly. Although the ping times were a little slower than the Velop, there was little difference in practice.

The Deco app lets you blacklist connected devices and there's integration with anti-virus for blocking malicious content on the network and quarantining infected devices so they're isolated from other devices.

QoS options let you prioritise traffic for gaming, streaming and other activities and you can also prioritise traffic from specific devices. You can also create IP address reservations and the LEDs can be automatically switched off as you can set a schedule so they don't disturb you at night.

The Deco system can also be easily made into a network of wireless access points with no routing functions if you prefer to use a different router.

Dislikes

Other than the short power cables I mentioned earlier and the lack of a wall mounting option, there weren't any other things I disliked.

Price and availability

The TP-Link Deco system has a street price of about $400 as tested. That's quite a bit less expensive than the Linksys Velop. Although performance wasn't quite a fast as the Velop, I don't think the price premium is justified by the performance difference.


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