Finally, after a long wait, the TP-Link Deco BE85 BE22000 Tri-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 7 System is officially available, and this hands-on review is the proof. (It’s been in some US retail stores since the beginning of May.)
It’s worth noting that during the unveiling event last November, TP-Link said the BE85 would be available for pre-order on the last day of 2022, together with the Deco BE95 and Archer BE800/BE900, which didn’t turn out to be the case.
In hindsight, that was just wishful thinking. Even today, Wi-Fi 7 is not yet certified as a standard. However, making pre-certified hardware available to consumers has been the trend since Wi-Fi 5 — certification is only a matter of firmware updates.
The new Deco is the very first Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster you can bring home. And it’s only fitting that it’s a mesh system, enabling users to enjoy the new standard benefits via the backhaul link even when they have no Wi-Fi 7 clients, which they likely don’t.
For now, the One Plus 11 5G is the only Wi-Fi 7 client on the market, and I used one for this review. However, as a phone generally has modest bandwidth needs, it can’t show the new standard’s true potential. If you intend to get this phone because of its Wi-Fi 7 support, don’t! You’ll be disappointed.
At a current price of $1,499.99 for a 3-pack (or $500 less for a 2-pack), the TP-Link Deco BE85 is an excellent buy for a large home — definitely much better than Netgear’s Wi-Fi 6E Orbi RBKE960, which costs the same. You can use it wirelessly, but wired backhauling is always preferable — the hardware can handle multiple multi-Gigabit wired connections right out of the box.
Here’s the bottom line: As long as you don’t mind the relatively limited customizability, the lack of a full web user interface, and the potential privacy risks common within the Deco family (and most canned mesh brands), the new Deco BE85 will make you happy. Possibly even very happy.
Get a set today or share it with a friend or two so that each gets a standalone Wi-Fi router with true multi-Gigabit.
TP-Link Deco BE85: First real multi-Gigabit mesh system
Available as a 3-pack, the Deco BE85 includes three identical routers, each being the largest Deco to date — understandably so. Still, the mesh set resembles any previous hardware in the ecosystem, including the Wi-Fi 6E Deco XE200.
Pick one unit as the primary router — and that’s enough if you only need a single broadcaster — and the rest will work as satellites to scale up the Wi-Fi coverage. That’s the common concept of Deco and most canned mesh systems.
And like the rest of the Deco family, you must use the Deco mobile app to use the BE85. The app requires a login account for the setup and ongoing management. In return, you can manage your home network on the phone at home or when out and about.
Having to sign in with an account generally means your hardware always connects to the vendor. That translates into inherent privacy risks. On this matter, the Chinese networking company, among other things, insists that it is based in Hong Kong and offers this assurance:
“TP-Link takes privacy seriously and complies with U.S. policies to protect consumers.”
Managing your home network via a third party is never a good idea. Privacy is a matter of degree. Data collection and handling vary vendor by vendor.
Generally, the Deco app has limited customization and networking features. And if you want online protection or more, you’ll have to opt for the optional HomeShield Pro add-on, which costs $55/year after a 30-day trial.
I didn’t try HomeShield Pro for this review, nor will I intend to ever use it or any similar paid add-on from other canned mesh systems, such as Negear’s Orbi or Amazon’s eero. It’s not like there aren’t enough subscriptions already.
That’s to say, the BE85 will give you a familiar Deco experience, however good or bad. What differentiates it from the rest is its network connection prowess. And on this front, it’s a significant step forward. Or you can call it a leap.
The most serious Multi-Gig Deco hardware to date
Besides the first broadcaster that supports Wi-Fi 7, which is huge in and of itself, the Deco BE85 is the first in the family with more than one Multi-Gig port. And it goes big on this front with not two, not three, but four ports, including two 2.5Gbps and two 10Gbps.
One of the 10Gbps ports is an SFP+/RJ45 combo, first introduced with the Archer AXE300.
This SFP+ option is handy for those using a certain type of Fiber-optic ONT that uses this port instead of RJ45, making the BE85 the most flexible Deco to date regarding broadband support.
But you can also use this port to host a local client, such as a NAS server or a Multi-Gig switch. Or you don’t use it and go with the RJ45 connector instead.
These ports are auto-sensing, meaning you can use any of them as the WAN port by connecting it to an Internet source (like a Fiber-optic ONT or a Cable modem.) After that, the rest of the ports will work as LANs.
The auto-sensing function is applicable only when the hardware works as a router — a satellite’s ports are always LANs — and is smooth within the Deco family. You can move the WAN connection from one port to another at any time, and within seconds, the ports will function in their intended role. That was also the case with the BE85 in my trial.
Secondly, the Deco BE85 is one of a few Decos with a USB port to host a storage device and the first that has the performance to match — more below.
You can use it as a mini NAS server to host shared folders and a Time Capsule alternative. In the latter case, which is typically available in TP-Link’s standalone routers, you can even limit to storage space used by Time Machine backup.
TP-Link Deco BE85 vs Deco XE200: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||TP-Link Deco BE85 BE22000 Tri-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 7 System||TP-Link Deco XE200 AXE11000 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System|
|Model||Deco BE85||Deco XE200|
|5.04 × 5.04 × 9.29 in|
(128 × 128 × 236 mm)
|9.49 x 5.12 × 4.86 in (241 x 130 × 123.5 mm)|
|Processor||Undisclosed||2.2 GHz Quad-Core CPU|
|Wi-Fi Technology||Tri-Band BE22000||Tri-band AXE11000|
|2.4GHz Band specs|
|4×4 BE: Up to 1376 Mbps|
|4×4 AX: Up to 1148 Mbps|
|5GHz Band Specs|
|4×4 BE: Up to 8640 Mbps|
|4×4 AX: Up to 4804 Mbps|
|6GHz Band Specs|
|4×4 BE: Up to 11520 Mbps|
|4×4 AXE: Up to 4804 Mbps|
|Backward Compatibility||802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax Wi-Fi||802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi|
|Wireless Security||WPA2, WPA3||WPA2, WPA3|
|Mobile App||TP-Link Deco||TP-Link Deco|
|Web User Interface||Limited||Limited|
(as a mesh or a single unit)
(as a mesh or a single unit)
|USB Port||1x USB 3.0||None|
1x 10Gbps / SFP+ Combo
|1.0.7 Build 20230428 Rel. 62173||1.0.3 Build 20220907 Rel. 53256|
(per 24 hours)
| ≈ 485 Wh |
|≈ 420 Wh |
|Suggested Price||$1499.99 (3-pack)|
New Wi-Fi 7-related settings
Like the case of all other Deco sets, the BE85 has simple Wi-Fi customization. For example, you can’t pick a channel, nor can you set a band to work in a particular Wi-Fi standard.
But thanks to the support of Wi-Fi 7, the new Tri-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 6GHz) mesh router has the most Wi-Fi settings you can find in a Deco.
Specifically, here are how you can use its three bands per my real-world experience:
- A main SSID (network name) for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band via Smart Connect. A couple of things to note about this network:
- You can’t separate these bands in two SSIDs, but you can turn either off, making the network exclusively 2.4GHz or 5GHz.
- There is an option to make the 5GHz band operate in 80MHz, 160MHz (default), or the new 240MHz channel widths.
- A second SSID for the 6GHz band — automatically takes the main SSID’s name and adds the “-6GHz” suffix. You can change this name to anything you want, including the same as the main SSID. (This is new since the Deco XE200 doesn’t allow the 6GHz to share the same SSID name as the others.)
- An optional third SSID with Wi-Fi 7’s Multi-Link Operation (MLO) feature. This SSID automatically has the “_MLO” suffix, but you can also name it to your liking. A couple of things to note:
- This SSID uses all three bands by default, but you can turn the 2.4GHz off to include only the 5GHz and 6GHz bands.
- Wi-Fi 7 clients can connect to this SSID using two bands simultaneously to increase the bandwidth(*). Wi-Fi 6 devices can only use one band at a time.
- This SSID only supports WPA3 encryption, which generally doesn’t work with Wi-Fi 5 and older clients.
- Two optional Guest Network SSIDs, one for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands and the other for the 6GHz band. You can also name these networks to your liking as long as it’s different from those used in #1, #2, or #3.
- An optional IoT Network SSID for the 2.4GHz band (default) or the 2.4GHz + 5GHz combo. This is practically just another isolated Guest network.
(*) How MLO works remains to be seen when future Wi-Fi 7 clients become available. During my trial, the One Plus 11 5G phone didn’t show details of its Wi-Fi connections — there was no way to know which band(s) it used at a given time, for example. Most importantly, the phone’s anecdotal sustained rates via speedtest using a 10Gbps Fiber-optic line were never faster than Gig+, similar to most phones with Wi-Fi 6/6E.
Other than that, with all of the SSIDs above, you have to option to keep them hidden from the public.
Pre-synced hardware, flexible backhaul
The hardware units of the 3-pack are pre-synced. All you have to do is set one up as the primary router, and the other two will automatically be part of the mesh system when plugged in.
By default, the broadcasters are wirelessly linked together using all three bands — likely via a separate MLO connection. However, you can also use the app to dedicate the 6GHz band for this linking job.
But in this case, the band will not be available to the client. That, plus the fact it has a shorter range, means there’s no point in using it as the dedicated backhaul. (The Deco BE95 might be more suitable in this case, but it’s a different story.)
Wi-Fi 7’s Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) might improve the range on the 6GHz band, but that remains to be seen — this feature is not yet available. It might be added to the Deco BE85 later via firmware when it becomes a reality — not a sure thing.
Like any other Deco, the best way to use the BE85 is via wired backhauling. And in this case, thanks to the hardware’s plenty Multi-Gig ports, you’ll get muti-Gigabit backhauls right out of the box.
New to the idea of backhaul? Open this drawer
Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signals broadcast outward for clients or the network ports for wired devices. It’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.
Backhaul (a.k.a backbone,) on the other hand, is the link between one satellite Wi-Fi broadcaster and another, which can be the network’s primary router, a switch, or another satellite unit.
This link works behind the scenes to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling bandwidth (and speed) of all devices connected to the particular broadcaster.
The connection type, a Wi-Fi band or a network port, used for the backhaul is often called the uplink. A Wi-Fi broadcaster might use one of its bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz) or a network port for the uplink.
When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss.
A Wi-Fi connection between two direct parties occurs in a single band, using one fixed channel, at any given time. This principle applies to all existing Wi-Fi standards, up to Wi-Fi 6E.
When a Wi-Fi band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called the dedicated backhaul. Often that means no other band will do this job, though that depends on the hardware.
In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware — those with an additional 5GHz band — can have a dedicated backhaul band without ostracizing clients of the same band.
Generally, it’s best to use network cables for backhauling — wired backhauling. And that’s an advantage of mesh hardware with network ports. In this case, a satellite broadcaster can use its entire Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.
In networking, network cables are always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.
TP-Link Deco BE85: Detail photos
Limited standard network settings
Besides that, like other Decos, the BE85 has some standard settings.
These include the support for Dynamic DNS (with a free domain from TP-Link), port forwarding, VPN (server or client), IPTV VLAN tagging (required by certain Internet providers), and the ability to work in the AP mode (as a single router or a mesh system.)
Overall, the Deco BE85 is a good router for any home, but savvy users will find it quite limited. The fact that there’s no web interface — like the case of TP-Link Archer — can be a deal breaker for many.
To make up for that, this new router has something that matters the most: the performance.
TP-Link Deco BE85: True multi-Gigabit performance
I tested the Deco BE85 over a week for this review. (I plan to keep using it for a while and will update this review with more information when applicable.) Overall, I was impressed, and I had no disconnection issues.
But as you can imagine, testing a device with a new Wi-Fi standard that’s not yet certified and without a real client is hard.
The One Plus 11 5G helped me understand more about how Wi-Fi 7 works, but the phone doesn’t have enough to show the standard’s top speeds. As a matter of act, the fastest anecdotal sustained speed test results I got from this phone were consistently below 2Gbps out of a 10Gbps Fiber-optic line.
As mentioned above, there was no way to know what Wi-Fi band(s) or standard the One Plus 11 5G was using at any given time — the phone didn’t show that on its Wi-Fi information page, but only the real-time negotiated connection speed, which varied constantly.
Once in a while, I saw that it connected at around 3Gbps, a clear indicator of Wi-Fi 7. However, even then, its sustained real-world rates were still within the Gig+ range — slightly faster but generally similar to the case of any phone with Wi-Fi 6 or 6E.
Generally, I don’t use a phone for official Wi-Fi speed testing.
What is Gig+
Gig+, or Gig Plus, conveys a speed grade faster than 1Gbps but slower than 2Gbps. So, it’s 1.5Gbps, give or take, and it’s not fast enough to be qualified as Multi-Gig or multi-Gigabit.
Gig+ generally applies to the sustained speeds of Wi-Fi 6 or 6E — via a 2×2 at 160MHz connection which has the 2400Mbps theoretical ceiling speed — or Internet speed and is not used to describe wired network connections.
So, I had to be creative with testing the BE85 as a Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster — I used one of the units as the client connected to a computer using a 10Gbps wired connection. And the setup delivered the fastest-to-date Wi-Fi speeds, as you’ll note in the mesh router chart below. By the way, that’s also the performance of the mesh’s satellite when I used it via 10Gbps wired backhauling.
For the rest of the Wi-Fi testing, I used Wi-Fi 6/6E and Wi-Fi 5 clients per my standard testing method. (I tested the 2.4GHz band with the hardware’s USB port in USB 2.0 mode which favors the band’s performance.)
For a wireless setup, I use the system with its default backhaul where all three bands are involved, likely via MLO, though it’s impossible to find out considering the hardware’s limited mobile app. As mentioned above, there’s no point in using the 6GHz band as the dedicated backhaul, considering Wi-Fi 7’s AFC is still unavailable.
Regarding coverage, the BE85 didn’t show a better range than existing Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters. And that’s to be expected since the Wi-Fi range is generally limited to the frequency.
Until AFC is available, the new standard has no improvement in range. So, for now, Wi-Fi 7 will not solve the coverage issue you already have with an existing Wi-Fi 6E counterpart, though it might show a slight improvement thanks to the increased bandwidth.
So generally, you can expect each BE85 unit to cover some 2000 – 2500 ft2 (232 m2) of space, but your mileage will vary. Setting up a mesh system wirelessly is always tricky. However, if you have wired backhauling, the Deco BE85 will be better than any previous canned system.
Multi-Gig wired speeds could be better
Like other routers with multiple Multi-Gig ports, I also tested the BE85 the way I do switches, and its 10Gbps wired performance, while fast, could be better.
Overall these ports sustained at just above 5Gbps, as shown in the chart below. And that’s also the best Internet speed you’d get from it, per my trial, with a 10Gbps Fiber-optic line.
However, that’s the case for other home routers with 10GbE ports I’ve used. They all don’t seem to have enough to deliver true 10Gbps.
To deliver (close to) true 10Gbps, a router needs more than just a couple of 10Gbps Ethernet network ports. It also requires high processing power and applicable firmware to handle this bandwidth.
Generally, Multi-Gig home and SMB routers, including top-tier ones, do not have enough to deliver true 10Gbps (10,000Mbps) throughputs. After “overhead”, they sustain at around 6,500Mbps, give or take. (A similar thing can be said about most 10Gbps switches, though they tend to have better-sustained rates than routers.)
That’s partially why more home Wi-Fi routers support the lowest tier of Multi-Gig, 2.5Gbps, than those with 10Gbps ports. In this case, you can expect them to deliver close to 2,500Mbps in real-world speeds.
In the Deco BE85’s case, initially, I thought the hardware might have had only 10Gbps bandwidth which was divided between the two 10GBASE-T ports, but TP-Link later confirmed that not to be the case. Still, 5Gbps of sustained speed is plenty fast.
Excellent NAS performance
Despite the modest 10GbE ports’ performance, the Deco BE85 did well in my network-attached storage performance when hosting a portable SSD.
I tested the router unit with a WD My Passport using USB 3.0 mode, and it was among the fastest I’ve seen, with close to 200MB/s in writing and over 250MB/s in reading. With Multi-Gig backhauling, you can expect similar performance when attaching a drive to a satellite unit.
Generally, it’s best to use a dedicated NAS server, but if you only care about simple sharing data and Time Machine backup, each Deco BE85 can get the job done with a good USB drive attached.
A bit hot and a tad noisy
It’s worth noting that each Deco BE85 has an internal fan, and in my testing, the router unit got warm and produced a bit of noise.
It wasn’t hot enough to cause concern, nor was it loud — just about the same decibel level as the humming sound of a portable humidifier. Still, it’s recommended that you place it in an airy space.
The satellite units generally remained cool during my week-long trial, and none ever got warm enough to trigger the internal fan. But you might have a different experience living in a hot area without AC.
TP-Link Deco BE85's Rating
Four Multi-Gig ports, including two 10Gbps, one of which supports RJ45/SFP+ combo; multi-Gigabit wired backhauling out of the box
Wi-Fi 7 support, backward compatible with existing clients; excellent overall real-world performances;
Easy to use
The performances of the 2.4GHz band and 10Gbps ports could be better; no AFC (for now)
Vendor-connected mobile app required; HomeShield Pro costs extra
Internal fan; runs a bit hot
Wi-Fi 7 is still somewhat of a mystery which will be made clear with time when broadcasters with better hardware customization and, most importantly, computer-based clients become available.
In the meantime, it’s safe to say the TP-Link Deco BE85 BE22000 Tri-Band is the best Deco to date. It shows that Wi-Fi 7 will be a step forward in getting things connected wirelessly in a local network.
While $1500 is not a small deal, the 3-pack mesh is more affordable than some existing Wi-Fi 6E counterparts that cost the same yet have much less to offer.
If you’re looking for a mesh system for a large home, especially one wired with a network cable, and have Gigabit or faster broadband, consider this Deco BE85 today. You won’t be disappointed.
But you can also wait. The hardware will only improve via firmware updates and will likely become more affordable.