The one item I was looking hard for on Black Friday was a new mesh Wi-Fi system to replace my aging and slowly dying Luxul hardware.

TP-Link Deco M5 Mesh Wi-Fi System

I was having major issues with range and dropouts as well as speed hiccups. I wanted to replace it with a system that can work with nodes that can be both hardwired and wireless. I looked at several different options on Black Friday and went with the TP-Link Deco M5 Mesh Wi-Fi System that includes three nodes. Here is my review.

Introduction

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I am currently using a Luxul XWR-1750 router, two XAP-1500 wireless access points (WAPs) connected via power-over-Ethernet, a 24-port switch and an 8-port switch. I had the XWR-1750 in the center of my house with the XAP1500s placed high up on the far sides of my house to cover everything thoroughly. I installed fresh Cat6 cable to each XAP-1500 with the runs to each being 50 feet long and the WAPs mounted 12 feet high. The farthest devices are my wireless cameras, with one being about 30 feet from the nearest WAP. My network load and requirements are high, I have about 40 devices including five tablets and phones, five smart TVs, two Amazon Fire Sticks, nine wireless cameras, three Wi-Fi light switches, seven zones of Sonos, and a handful of other devices. All of them are in a 2500 square-foot space with metal studs on the inside and concrete block exterior walls. It’s important to note that I had three wireless access points in my current system and I am only using three in the new system to keep the comparison as apples to apples as possible.

TP-LINK DECO MESH NETWORK 3 PACK SPECIFICATIONS
MSRP:

$199

Price as tested:

$144 (Black Friday deal)

Price on Amazon at time of writing:

$181.21

Wireless Type:

2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Weight:

1.18lb

Size:

4.7 x 4.7 x 1.3 inches

Company:

TP-Link

Install

I have used the Eero system in past and while I considered buying it, I couldn’t find a good deal on it during Black Friday and $500 was quite steep compared to other products I wanted to try. It is my reference system for this review.

TP-Link Deco M5 Mesh Wi-Fi System

Setting up the TP-Link was just as easy as the Eero – download the app, follow the step by step directions to set up the first node as the router, then you can place the next two nodes farther out in your house. The first node must of course be wired to your modem (ensure your modem is in bridge mode!). I then wired in the second node were one of the Luxul WAPs was located. For the third node, I wanted to install it farther out than the second, but I had no way to get Cat6 to that location. Just like Eero, it’s trial-and-error when setting up nodes wirelessly. Plug it in and if the system sees and says it has enough strength, you’re good. If not, you must move it closer to another node in the system. Overall setup time was about 10 minutes, with two nodes wired and one wireless.

Setup

After the nodes were in place, that’s about it. You can set the SSID and password up and see what devices are online, blacklist any devices you don’t want on your network and run speed tests. All this can be done from the app. There’s no need to enter an IP address and log in to each access point on your network to make changes. It’s very easy to use and maintain and setup is a breeze.

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In Use

I noticed immediate speed increases in my network, all my cameras now load in 1-3 seconds rather than the 3-8 seconds it took before. Dropouts are gone, range is nearly doubled, and my speeds are much higher than before. Reliability so far has been good, but only time will tell. Pictured here are my current speeds.

TP-Link Deco M5 Mesh Wi-Fi System Speeds

What I don’t like

The one thing I don’t like about this system is that it’s less powerful than the Eero system. With Eero, I can mostly ignore walls and place nodes 30 feet or more apart. The TP-Link system was fussy about distances greater than 20 feet between nodes. If you need to cover a lot of space wirelessly, I would suggest the Eero system over this one. TP-Link really does like to be hardwired, the wireless nodes work, but range is far better with a wired connection.

Conclusions

It’s the best $140 I’ve ever spent. I had my doubts about the system at first glance and thought I would be returning it fast. While it doesn’t have the power of something like the Eero, it’s less than one-third the price. If I want more range, I can buy three more nodes and still be at half the cost of the top-end Eero system. While TP-Link isn’t perfect, it does the job well and it is very easy to set up. Highly recommended!