Networking expert TP-Link jumped into the budding mesh-based networking market on Wednesday with the introduction of its Deco M5 kit. “Mesh-based” is the key description here, as the kit tosses out the traditional bubbled coverage transmitted by a single router for a multi-unit setup designed to provide a web of internet connectivity throughout the home or office.
According to TP-Link, what makes its new system stand out in the mesh-based crowd is the built-in antivirus and malware protection provided by TrendMicro. The system also relies on “robust” parental controls via TP-Link’s HomeCare service and Adaptive Routing Technology for optimal device load balancing.
However, in a conference call prior to the official launch, TP-Link execs indicated that the Deco M5 isn’t just another hockey puck-sized mesh-based system. Sure, it only broadcasts connectivity on the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands, but it also supports a dedicated Deco-to-Deco service road routed through an Ethernet connection for better data throughput.
To understand why this is important, look at similar mesh networking kits like Luma and Eero. Their individual hub and satellite units communicate with each other over the 5GHz band. However, all wireless devices connected to the Luma/Eero network use that same 5GHz band. Thus, the more Luma/Eero units and wireless devices are dumped into that 5GHz broadcast, the slower the data speed (throughput) becomes.
Meanwhile, Netgear’s Orbi tri-band system, which technically is not a mesh-based solution, includes a separate four-lane 5GHz band (4×4) dedicated to Orbi-to-Orbi communication. Thus, wireless devices connect to a nearby Orbi unit on a single two-lane 5GHz connection (2×2) while all the networking requests (data) are pushed to and from the ISP’s modem on the separate four-lane 5GHz band (4×4). Now imagine replacing that second 4×4 road with a wired 1Gbps connection.
Of course, the Netgear Orbi kits are tall and wide like little nuclear power plants, so there is plenty of room to cram in eight additional antennas for a secondary 5GHz band. Deco M5 units are small and round like thick drink coasters, so falling back on an Ethernet port as a speedier backend to transport data makes sense. Of course, draping Ethernet cords along the baseboards is not exactly attractive, but that is where TP-Link’s Gigabit PowerLine kits come in.
Finally, the Deco M5 kit targets the plug-and-play customer. Thus, setup and maintenance require a mobile device based on Android or iOS. There is no web-based backend for tweaking every networking detail under the sun, making network customization rather limited.
Here are some of the hardware details regarding the Deco M5 kit:
|Max 5GHz speed (2×2):||867Mbps|
|Max 2.4GHz speed (2×2):||400Mbps|
|Max wireless coverage:||4,500 square feet|
|Max number of Deco units per network:||10|
|Ports:||2x gigabit Ethernet
1x USB Type-C port (power only)
TP-Link is currently selling the new Deco M5 kit through HSN along with other online/offline retailers for $300. The cost of additional Deco M5 “satellite” units is currently unknown.