Reviewing TP-Link Deco M5: A beautiful whole-home WiFi system!
TP-Link has joined the whole-home WiFi market of networking equipment for consumers, and it did it with style. TP-Link Deco M5 is a good looking mesh WiFi system with promising features and very competitive pricing. We were very curious to test it and see how well it performs. If you are also curious, then you should read this detailed review and see what TP-Link Deco M5 has to offer:
What is the TP-Link Deco M5 whole-home mesh WiFi system good at?
TP-Link Deco M5 is a great at the following use cases:
- Constant wireless coverage on areas that are larger than those covered by a router
- Flexible home networks where you add or remove devices and/or coverage areas
- Homes where design matters and people need discreet networking equipment that does not get in the way, which can be nicely integrated with the furniture
- Secure smart homes with built-in anti-malware protection and intrusion prevention systems
Pros and cons
Where To Buy
TP-Link Deco M5 has the following strengths:
- Easy to set up through the TP-Link Deco mobile app
- Very good antivirus protection
- Useful parental controls that are much better than on previous TP-Link products
- Excellent coverage and speed on the 2.4 GHz band
- Very fast downloads on the 5GHz band, and excellent signal strength
- Well thought out design that combines simplicity and elegance
- Competitive pricing when compared to other whole home mesh systems
- A premium unboxing experience
There are also some weak spots to consider:
- After three years of use, you have to pay for the antivirus built into TP-Link Deco M5
- It does not offer a web-based interface for administration. You get only a mobile app
- It is not able to take advantage of very fast internet connections like the one we have (1 Gbps for download and 500 Mbps for upload). TP-Link Deco M5 can fully use connections that are up to 600 Mbps.
- Unusually slow uploads on the 5GHz band
TP-Link Deco M5 is the first device of its kind launched by TP-Link and a great device in the mesh networking ecosystem. It offers stable wireless coverage on larger areas, and very fast downloads, on both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands. The upload speed could use some improvement though, but only on the 5 GHz band. The design of the three devices that make up the kit is elegant and minimalistic, and its pricing is very competitive when compared to other similar systems. While it is not perfect, TP-Link Deco M5 definitely is one of the most competitive whole home mesh systems that you can buy.
Unboxing the TP-Link Deco M5 whole-home mesh WiFi system
TP-Link Deco M5 comes packaged in a beautiful cardboard box with white and green as the main colors. On the top side you can see a picture of the three devices that are bundled and some of its most important features.
When you take the cover off, you see another white box, this time with only the "deco" text written on it.
Open it, and you see the three devices that make up the TP-Link Deco M5 kit.
Beneath them, there are several small, nicely packaged boxes with accessories.
When you unbox everything, you get the following items: the three deco's, three power adapters, an Ethernet cable, the warranty and the quick setup guide.
The unboxing experience offered by TP-Link Deco M5 is a worthy of a premium device. Everything looks great and the whole experience is very pleasant.
Hardware specifications and design
Each TP-Link Deco M5 device has a Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core processor, running at 638 MHz, with 32 MB of flash storage space for the firmware, and 256MB of RAM. The device is not very big, having a diameter of 4.7 inches or 120 mm and a height of 1.49 inches or 38 mm. There are four internal antennas per unit, two Ethernet ports at 1 Gbps, and one USB Type-C port that is used for charging each unit.
TP-Link Deco M5 offers support for all the modern networking standards, including the latest 802.11ac Wave 2. TP-Link Deco M5 has a 2x2 MU-MIMO implementation, and it offers a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 400 Mbps for the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps for the 5GHz band. To connect to your smartphone and other mobile devices, TP-Link Deco M5 uses a Bluetooth 4.2 chip. TP-Link Deco M5 is compatible with IPv6 internet connections and it can work as a "router" and as an access point.
If you want to know more about mesh wireless networks, and how they work, read this tutorial: What is a mesh wireless network or whole-home WiFi system?
If you want to know more about the official specifications of this whole-home WiFi system, go to this page: TP-Link Deco Specs.
Setting up and using the TP-Link Deco M5 whole-home mesh WiFi system
The setup and administration of the TP-Link Deco M5 kit is done only using the TP-Link Deco mobile app for Android and iOS. You also need a TP-Link Cloud account, which you can create here or from the app. One thing that we do not like about the TP-Link Cloud account is the fact that it does not have two-factor verification, to increase your security.
After you register or log in with your TP-Link Cloud account, you can start the setup process. Follow the wizard and its instructions. One of the first few steps is to mention where your first Deco device is placed, so that you know later on which is where.
Then, you are asked about the details of your internet connection. Choose the type of connection that you have and enter the appropriate details. TP-Link Deco M5 works with the following types of internet connections: Dynamic IP, Static IP, and PPPoE.
After TP-Link Deco M5 connects to the internet, it asks you to set the name and password for the WiFi signal that is going to broadcast. Then, you are done with setting up the first TP-Link Deco M5 device, which acts as the gateway to the internet. Now you can add the remaining devices from the kit, and all you have to do is choose where they are placed. The app helps them copy the settings you have made for the first device.
Also, in order for the setup to work, you need Bluetooth enabled on your smartphone or tablet, because the connection with TP-Link Deco M5 is done through Bluetooth. Some websites that have tested this kit in the past have reported issues with Bluetooth connectivity. We tried two smartphones with this kit and both times everything worked smoothly, without problems.
When you are done setting up the TP-Link Deco M5 kit, the app automatically checks for firmware updates and, if found, it asks you to download the latest version and install it. You should perform the update, as newer versions of firmware fix stability problems and security vulnerabilities.
The firmware update process takes a while and it involves a restart of all three devices that make up the system. Now you can finally use the TP-Link Deco mobile app to view and configure all settings. On the main screen, you see the list of devices that are connected to the network. You also have a couple of shortcuts and menus.
In the bottom-left corner of the screen, there is also a yellow button with four white squares in the middle. When you tap on it, you access all the main sections with configuration options. There are not many advanced settings available and everything can be setup with ease. You get access to features like: port forwarding, DDNS, LED control, notifications, QoS, and the operating mode.
All the settings are nicely explained so you should have no issues in setting up the TP-Link Deco M5 mesh WiFi system. We connected more than two dozen devices to the network and we enjoyed a stable signal and good speeds in all the rooms of our test apartament. We connected desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart plugs, smart bulbs, consoles and a wireless printer. All of them connected to the network without problems. We were able to create a Homegroup, share files and folders, make network transfers, print wirelessly and more. We also liked the design of each device. The looks are discreet and elegant. You can place them in a modern living room without making it uglier. On the contrary.
Another small positive is the fact that you can turn off the LED on top of each device, if it bothers you, directly from the mobile app. As a downside, you don't get access to a web administration user interface, as is the case with other mesh systems. Advanced users will want that, because they are used to controlling everything they wish about the way their wireless network works.
The mobile app has a useful SpeedTest feature. We used it to see how much of our internet connection this kit can use. Our internet connection offers a maximum of 1 Gbps for the download speed and a maximum of 500 Mbps for the upload speed. As you can see below, TP-Link Deco M5 reached only 599.1 Mbps for the download and 365.2 Mbps for the upload. For 95% of users this is more than enough, as many internet connections are much slower than this. However, if you have a 1 Gbps internet connection at home or in the office space where you want to use TP-Link Deco M5, you should be aware that it cannot take advantage of it.
Overall, we are pleased with TP-Link Deco M5. We enjoyed how easy it was to set up, how well it worked, how it looks and the features it offers through its mobile app. There are a few negatives but most users will not be affected by them. The only important issue that may raise some eyebrows is the fact that you need to pay for the antivirus service after three years of use. Also, it is not clear how much this service will cost after its expiration.
If you want to know more about the speed of this device, how it fared in benchmarks and what extra features it bundles, go to the second page of this review.