The TP-Link Deco BE95 BE33000 Quad-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 7 System was announced last November and released in May 2023, together with the Deco BE85. I decided not to test it until now because, well, it was complicated.
And it's still complicated today. I'll be the first to admit that I still can't put my finger on how it really works considering the current state of Wi-Fi 7 -- the standard is not yet fully certified, and part of it remains a mystery.
I wouldn't blame you if you thought this review was rushed, even though I took my sweet time with the hardware. Among other things, I needed to justify a purchase of over $1300 (taxes included).
Keep that fact in mind as you continue.
At $1200 for a 2-pack, the new mesh is the most expensive Deco to date for the simple reason that it's the first Quad-band among the family. But as a TP-Link, it likely will not be the most expensive mesh system for long.
Here's the bottom line: If you live in a large home, the Deco BE95 is an easy solution that provides a reliable way to blanket it with strong Wi-Fi signals. But compared to the Deco BE85, this Quad-band hardware makes less sense considering it costs $100 more per hardware unit.
Either of the two will give you a similar experience -- the BE95's hardware differences provide little, if any, improvement. Still, they are the focus of this review. It's recommended that you read my take on the BE85 first.
Done? Let's dig in!
TP-Link Deco BE95: The double 6GHz bandwidth that turns out to be half
The Deco BE95 is the Deco BE85 plus an additional 6 GHz band. It's the first Quad-band broadcaster with two 6 GHz bands. Supposedly, that doubles the 6GHz real-world bandwidth.
There are other Quad-band Wi-Fi solutions that include 2.4GHz, two 5GHz, and 6GHz bands, such as the Netgear Orbi RBKE960 series, Asus GT-AXE1600, or TP-Link's own Archer AXE300 and not-so-novelty Archer BE900.
Specifically, instead of having a single 6GHz band that encompasses the entire frequency -- as is the case with any Tri-band Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster, such as TP-Link's Deco BE85 and Archer BE800, or the Netgear RS700 -- the BE95 splits its 6GHz spectrum in two.
The result? It is capable of utilizing two channels on the frequency simultaneously. That's the general concept of band-splitting.
However, the Deco BE95, for now, is an intriguing case. To understand it, we need to start with how it is different from its cousin, the Deco Wi-Fi 7, as shown in the table below.
Deco BE95 vs Deco BE85: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||TP-Link Deco BE95 BE33000 Quand-band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 7 System||TP-Link Deco BE85 BE22000 Tri-band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 7 System|
|Model||Deco BE95||Deco BE85|
|3-pack or 2-pack|
|5.04 × 5.04 × 9.29 in|
(128 × 128 × 236 mm)
|5.04 × 5.04 × 9.29 in|
(128 × 128 × 236 mm)
|Wi-Fi Bandwidth||Quad-band BE3300||Tri-Band BE22000|
|1st Band (2.4GHz) |
|4x4 BE: Up to 1376 Mbps|
|4x4 BE: Up to 1376 Mbps|
|2nd Band (5GHz)|
|4x4 BE: Up to 8640 Mbps|
|4x4 BE: Up to 8640 Mbps|
|3rd Band (6GHz)|
|4x4 BE: Up to 11520 Mbps|
|4x4 BE: Up to 11520 Mbps|
|4rth Band (6GHz)||6GHz-2|
4x4 BE: Up to 11520 Mbps
(with all existing clients)
|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)
|1x USB 3.0||1x USB 3.0|
1x 10Gbps / SFP+ Combo
(all ports are WAN/LAN auto-sensing)
1x 10Gbps / SFP+ Combo
(all ports are WAN/LAN auto-sensing)
|1.0.7 Build 20230510 Rel. 6409||1.0.7 Build 20230428 Rel. 62173|
(per 24 hours)
| ≈ 535 Wh|
(measured at router unit)
| ≈ 485 Wh |
(measured at router unit)
|Suggested Price||$1199.99 (2-pack)|
$599.99 (single router)
Note how the former uses more power than its birthday twin cousin.
As you might have noted, the 6GHz-2 band is the only difference the BE95 has compared to the BE85. Appearance-wise, the two look identical from almost all angles, except:
- On the back, their ports' labels are mirror images of each other.
- They have their respective model names and unique default information on the underside.
And there's not much else. You can even use their power adapters interchangeably.
The splitting of the 6GHz band and Wi-Fi 7
The practice of splitting a frequency into two narrow bands started with the 5GHz of Wi-Fi 5 and continued to Wi-Fi 6. Instead of having one band encompassing the entire spectrum, we have two, each having half of it.
The post linked above talks in great detail about band-splitting in Wi-Fi 6 (and 5) broadcasters, or you can open the cabinet below for quick highlights.
The specificities of band splitting in Wi-Fi broadcasters
Channels allocation, the 5GHz’s DFS, and band-splitting
A Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (or Wi-Fi 5) broadcaster (2.4GHz + 5GHz) has two distinctive sets of channels. One belongs to the 2.4GHz band, and the other to the 5GHz band.
By default, each channel is set at the lowest width, which is 20MHz. When applicable, the hardware can combine adjacent channels into larger ones that are 40MHz, 80MHz, or even wider.
Depending on your locale and hardware, the number of available channels on each band will vary, depending on how wide the band is.
In the US, the 2.4 GHz band includes 11 usable 20MHz channels (from 1 to 11) and has been that way since the birth of Wi-Fi. Things are simple in this band.
The 2.4GHz band uses channels of 20MHz or 40MHz width. The wider the width, the fewer channels you can get out of the frequency -- the entire band is only so wide.
On the 5GHz frequency, things are complex -- we have DFS and regular (non-DFS) channels. (On top of that, the last 5.9GHz portion of the band was reserved for other applications until late 2022 -- more in this post on UNII-4.)
The 5GHz band uses channels of 20MHz, 40MHz, 80MHz, or 160MHz width. Wider channels are desirable since they deliver more bandwidth -- faster speeds. And the problematic nature of DFS channels is the main reason behind Wi-Fi 6E.
Here is the breakdown of the channels on the 5GHz frequency band at their narrowest form (20MHz):
- The lower part of the spectrum includes channels: 36, 40, 44, and 48.
- The upper part includes channels: 149, 153, 161, and 165.
- In between the two, we have the following DFS channels: 52, 56, 60, 64, 100, 104, 108, 112, 116, 120, 124, 128, 132, 136, 140, and 144. (Channels from 68 to 96 are generally reserved exclusively for Doppler RADAR.)
In a dual-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz) broadcaster, the 5GHz band gets all the channels above (#1, #2). It'll also get #3 if the broadcaster supports DFS.
In a traditional Tri-band broadcaster (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 5GHz), the first 5GHz band (5GHz-1) will get the lower channels (#1), and the 2nd 5GHz band (5GHz-2) gets the upper channels (#2).
If the broadcaster support DFS then the 5GHz-1 gets up to channel 64, and the rest (100 and up) goes to 5GHz-2. If the hardware also supports the new 5.9GHz portion of the 5GHz spectrum, it generally has three additional channels to its upper part, including 169, 173, and 177.
The splitting of the 5GHz spectrum ensures that the two narrower bands (5GHz-1 and 5GHz-2) do not overlap each other. So, here's the deal with traditional Tri-band (2.4GHz+ 5GHz+ 5GHz):
- The good: While the total width of the 5GHz spectrum remains the same, we can use two portions of this band simultaneously, theoretically doubling its real-world bandwidth.
- The bad: Each portion (5GHz-1 or 5GHz-2) has fewer channel-forming options, making it harder for them to use the 80MHz or 160MHz channel widths required for high bandwidth. Physically, the channel-width options are now more limited than when the entire 5GHz spectrum is used as a single band.
- The bottom line: Limited bandwidth for each sub-5GHz band. In an area crowded with 5GHz Wi-Fi broadcasters, practically everywhere these days, this band-splitting practice likely adds little, if at all, in terms of extra real-world total bandwidth.
Since Wi-Fi 7 is new, the specifics of band-splitting in the 6GHz frequency are still unknown. But it should be similar in principle. The entire frequency is divided into two non-overlapping separate portions to host the upper and lower channels, allowing the use of two channels simultaneously.
That's the case with the BE95. It has to be.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- The 6GHz Wi-Fi frequency's total width is 1200MHz. If split in the middle, we'll get two 600MHz-wide sub-bands. Generally, the narrower the band, the less flexible it becomes in channel width.
- Wi-Fi 7's highest channel width is 320MHz -- narrower channels will reduce the performance by a factor of two. In a 6GHz + 6GHz split, each band will be wide enough for only one 320MHz channel. As a result, when there are multiple individual 6GHz broadcasters in close proximity, narrower channels (160MHz or lower) will be more readily available.
- By nature, with the current allowed broadcasting power, the 6GHz frequency has just about two-thirds of the 5GHz's effective range and object penetration -- it's not ideal in homes with lots of walls. To improve this, Wi-Fi 7 has the AFC feature that allows for additional broadcasting power to compensate. Wi-Fi 7 also has the MLO feature, allowing combining multiple bands into a single link, which will work well for wireless mesh backhauling.
- Currently, both AFC and MLO are not yet finalized. AFC won't be available until the end of 2023 or even early 2024. Nobody knows how it would work exactly.
Most vendors, including TP-Link, have told me that their current Wi-Fi 7 hardware will fully support the standard's features when they are available -- it's just a matter of firmware updates.
As you can imagine, due to the unfinished stage of Wi-Fi 7, the real-world usage of Deco BE95 (or any 6GHz+6GHz Wi-Fi 7 broadcaster) is more complicated than its Tri-band counterpart. For right now, we don't know how the 6GHz really works in the BE95.
For example, which channels specifically does each (of the two 6GHz bands) occupy? Will one of the bands work as the dedicated backhaul in a wireless mesh setup? (If so, its short range will be a problem.) Which portion -- upper, lower, or both -- will work in an MLO link? Those are some of the questions I asked TP-Link.
While waiting for the answers, with no clear idea as to when or if they would arrive, I decided to take matters into my own hands and took the BE95 out for a spin...
TP-Link Deco BE95: Presently a QRINO
As it turned out, TP-Link itself seemed to have been holding its breath: the Deco BE95's second 6GHz-2 band -- which includes the frequency's upper channels -- is not used for now. That's right! The Deco BE95 is currently a QRINO -- a Quad-band router in name only.
But before we get there, keep in mind that the Deco BE95, despite all the things I mentioned above, is a familiar mesh system.
TP-Link BE95: A familiar Deco set
Indeed, other than the complicated 6GHz, the Deco BE95 is identical to the BE85 in everything else. In fact, it's largely the same as any Deco set you've used. The whole product line shares the same firmware, settings, and features.
Available in a two-pack (for now), you can use any of the two units as the primary router to host an Internet connection. After that, plug the second unit in at a reasonable distance, and you'll get a mesh -- the two units are pre-synced
Optionally, and ideally, you can use a network cable to link them together via multi-Gigabit wired backhauling. In this case, you can place them farther apart -- like two ends of a large home -- and still get the best performance out of the mesh.
However, with wired backhauling, the idea of a second 6GHz band is somewhat irrelevant, as nothing beats wiring in networking.
The well-designed Deco app
Like the rest of the Deco family, you must use the Deco mobile app for setup and ongoing management.
You won't be able to get the mesh system up and running without a live Internet connection since you must connect to TP-Link's server first. In return, you can manage your home network on the phone at home or when out and about.
TP-Link and your privacy
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 Hong Kong-based company offers this assurance:
"TP-Link takes privacy seriously and complies with U.S. policies to protect consumers."
While managing your network via a third party is never a good idea, privacy is a matter of degree. Data collection varies vendor by vendor.
The Deco app is well-designed. In fact, it's one of the best-thought-out apps in all canned mesh systems I've tested. The app has gotten better over the years.
As a mobile app, it's more restrictive and not as in-depth as a full web user interface, available in TP-Link's Archer standalone router family. Still, it has all the standard network settings and a comparatively generous set of free features. These include Dynamic DNS (via a TP-Link's free host), port forwarding, VPN, QoS, Parental Controls, and so on.
The app is also flexible. You can share the same account between multiple users or use it to handle multiple Deco networks. Within each network, you can quickly switch the primary router role to any of the Deco units or make the system work in the AP mode.
Additionally, those needing more can opt for the HomeShield Pro package, which costs $60/year after a 30-day trial and adds comprehensive router-level network protection.
Limited, basic Wi-Fi settings
Specifically, here's the breakdown of what you can do with the BE95's Wi-Fi options:
- A main SSID for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands via Smart Connect. A couple of things to note about this network:
- You can't separate these bands into 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.
- 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 they are 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.
- You have the option to hide any of these SSIDs so that they won't appear on a device's Wi-Fi scan. But you'll need to enter them manually on a new device.
And this is where it gets interesting. In my experience, there was no mention of the Quad-band Deco BE95's second 6GHz band. Within the app, other than the model names, everything was virtually the same as in the case of the Tri-band BE85.
Curious, I decided to go beyond the app to find out more.
The limited web user interface and the dormant 6GHz-2 band
Like the case of all Deco hardware, the BE95 has a web user interface, available only after the initial setup process and accessible via its default IP, which is 192.168.68.1.
Besides firmware updates, this interface only shows the status of the mesh system. You cannot use it to change any settings, which is a shame.
It was through this interface that I discovered the disabled status of the BE95's 6GHz-2 band, as shown in the photo below. The band was turned off for all SSIDs, and there was no way to enable it.
In other words, as far as I can see, the Deco BE95's upper portion of the 6GHz band is not available to the user. It's there but only as a placeholder.
It seems TP-Link hasn't yet figured out how to use this band, considering the current status of Wi-Fi 7, which explains why it has been tight-lipped on the matter -- I first raised questions about the Deco BE95 months ago.
But it's safe to say that this portion of the 6GHz frequency will be turned on via firmware eventually.
TP-Link Deco BE95: Detail photos
TP-Link Deco BE95: Same same yet different performance
I tested the Deco BE95 over a long period, and for the most part, the experience was the same as what I had with the BE85 (when used as a 2-pack). After all, the quad-band mesh, for now, is very much a Tri-band one.
That is to say, a 2-pack Deco BE95 will likely make you happy if you live in a relatively large home with lots of Wi-Fi 6E or older clients. But you'll be disappointed if you want the justification for its extra cost compared to the BE85.
The two's performances -- in Wi-Fi, wired, and USB storage -- were similar, within the general margins of error. Considering the current stage of Wi-Fi 7, the lack of real clients, and the dormant 6GHz-2 band of the BE95, I decided not to publish separate performance charts. For now, you can use those of the BE85 to get an idea.
I plan to retest both when computer-based Wi-Fi 7 clients are available.
I did use the One Plus 11 5G, one of a few Wi-Fi 7 phone clients currently available, for anecdotal testing, and the experience was the same.
Specifically, the phone could connect to the BE95 at negotiated speeds of over 4Gbps but sustained at slightly over 2Gbps out of a 10Gbps fiber-optic line. While that was not part of my standard test, the numbers showed the potential of Wi-Fi 7.
The phone connected at a slower speed when I originally tested it with the BE85, but that's likely because it was running an older Android version at the time. To be sure, for good measure, I retested it with the BE85 and got the same result this time around.
It's safe to say that the Deco BE95 and Deco BE85 will give you the same experience. The former has nothing on the latter, despite being more expensive.
A bit buggy, a little hot, a tad noisy
Like the case of the BE85, each unit of the Deco BE95 has an internal fan. While the fan at the satellite was mostly off, at the router, it was running almost constantly, producing a subtle humming sound loud enough to be a nuisance in a quiet bedroom.
And the fan is necessary since the router didn't run cool. I could feel hot air coming up when resting my hands on its top, and the router's chassis felt heated at all times. But the whole thing didn't seem alarmingly hot, and there was no thermal shutdown during my trial -- not even close.
Additionally, I found the Deco BE95 to be a bit buggy. It's hard to pinpoint what was wrong, but now and then, things didn't work right. Here are some examples of what I experienced:
- When using the router as the mini NAS server, occasionally, I couldn't delete a file or folder in a network share, receiving an error as if another program was opening the file or folder, or the shared folder got briefly disconnected.
- A few connected clients lost Internet access for no apparent reason until I manually disconnected and reconnected them. This didn't happen regularly or consistently.
- The Deco app, at times, briefly showed that the satellite unit was off or disconnected, though it wasn't.
In all, nothing was major, and the BE95, for the most part, proved to be fast and reliable enough with existing Wi-Fi clients in my trial. Judging from my experience with previous Decos, you can expect things to be better via firmware updates.
TP-Link Deco BE95's Rating
Dual 6GHz bands, four Multi-Gig ports with multi-Gigabit wired backhauling, including two 10Gbps with one being an RJ45/SWi-Fiombo
Wi-Fi 7 support; backward compatible with existing clients; excellent overall real-world performances;
Easy to use
No AFC (for now), Wi-Fi 7 is not yet fully certified; 6GHz-2 is currently not used
Can't be fully managed via the limited local web user interface; vendor-connected mobile app required; HomeShield Pro costs extra
Internal fan; runs a bit hot
The TP-Link Deco BE95 BE33000 Quad-Band mesh system seems rushed, even months after the initial availability. It's not ready for prime time simply because the Wi-Fi 7 standard itself is not.
While similar things can be said about the Deco BE85, the BE95's case is more affected by the new Wi-Fi standard's incomplete status. So much so that it temporarily functions as a Tri-band hardware, rendering itself a QRINO -- Quad-band router in name only. For now, the additional 6GHz band, the reason why it costs extra, is a nothing burger.
But even when Wi-Fi 7 becomes ready, and the mesh works fully as intended, splitting the 6GHz frequency into two separate bands makes little sense in real-world usage.
Specifically, if you truly want the best performance out of a Wi-Fi 7 mesh system, using wired backhauling is the only sure way. And on the front end, using two bands instead of one will likely reduce the bandwidth of each due to the fewer options on channel width.
So, the second 6GHz band probably has little positive impact.
In any case, we'll need to wait and see. And I do intend to go back and retest this system when appropriate. In the meantime, if you need a Wi-Fi 7 mesh system today -- if so, why? -- I'd recommend the Deco BE85 instead.