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TP-Link Deco Overview: Everything You Need to Know about the Popular Mesh Brand

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This post will give you an overview of TP-Link Deco, a known mesh brand, including its brief history, what you can expect from it, and its general pros and cons.

While a specific mesh set's performance depends on its hardware, each Deco variant generally shares common attributes available to the brand's core firmware. In other words, they share the same networking settings and features, setup process, and management approach.

By the end of this post, you will know if Deco is the right brand for your needs. Most importantly, you can decide if a particular variant is a good fit by reading others' reviews. Here's a specific example: if you're mulling over the entry-level Deco BE65, my take on the higher-end and more expensive Deco BE85 will give you all the pointers you'd need to make the right decision.

TP-Link Deco BE85 Wi-Fi 7 Mesh System on table
TP-Link Deco mesh brand: The TP-Link BE85 is the latest Deco variant and the first on the market to feature Wi-Fi 7.

TP-Link introduced its first Deco set, the M5, in April 2017 as an alternative to the eero. And since then, it has proven to be a formidable contender.

App-operated, flexible backhaul bands, auto-sensing network ports

While the Deco product line is also app-operated via a login account permanently connected to the vendor, TP-Link is a networking company, not a big data-driven one like Amazon, which owns eero, or Google with its Nest Wifi lineup.

Still, when it comes to keeping personal data safe, the choice depends on how you trust the vendor.

TP-Link and your privacy

Having to sign in with an account generally means your hardware connects to the vendor at all times, which 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."

TP-Link's Privacy Policy page.

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.

The Deco M5 was an affordable dual-band 3-pack of identical routers. One router would be the primary router of the mesh system, and the rest would be satellite units.

Since the M5, there have been many more hardware options, but the identical router approach remains. That's a clear distinction from Netgear Orbi, where there are two hardware types in a mesh: a router and a satellite.

Additionally, Deco generally uses all of the Wi-Fi bands available in the hardware—2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz—as backhaul and fronthaul. There's no dedicated backhaul band, so to speak, though with tri-band or quad-band hardware, there's an option to assign a band to the sole job of backhauling. In this case, other bands will still work as backhauling when necessary, such as when the distance between the units is too far for the higher frequency bands.

Each Deco router generally has auto-sensing network ports. If you use any of them to connect to an Internet source—such as a cable modem or a fiber-optic ONT—it will work as the WAN port, and the rest will work as LANs to host local wired devices. This design is convenient and works well in real-world situations. The ports can switch between WAN and LAN functions within a few seconds without requiring the router to restart.

TP-Link Deco: A sensible level of premium add-ons

The initial Deco M5 came with a good set of network settings and some advanced features, all free, including QoS and Parental Controls. However, over the years, TP-Link has gradually changed the Deco lineup's feature set.

Starting with the Deco X60, it introduced an add-on tier called HomeShield (formerly HomeCare), with a Pro version ($60/year) offering more in-depth functionality.

In early 2024, TP-Link made Home Shield Pro more flexible by dividing it into two categories: Parental Controls and Security, as shown in the tabs below.

TP-Link Deco Security
SecuritySecurity+Total Security Package
Originformerly part of HomeShieldformerly part of HomeShield+New
(since January 2024)
AvailabilityIncluded with all Deco routers or mesh systemsPaid subscriptionPaid subscription
CostFree30-day free trial, then:
$4.99/month, or
$35.99/year
30-day free trial, then
$69.99/year, or
$5.99/month (first year only)
FeaturesNew device alerts
Router security scan
Wireless security scan
All features of Security, plus:
Web Protection
Intrusion Prevention
IoT Protection
Comprehensive Report
All features of Security+, plus:
Antivirus Protection
Unlimited VPN
Password Management PC Cleaner
NotesNot available when router (or mesh system) is working in the access point (AP) mode
Different tiers of TP-Link Security add-ons among TP-Link's Deco family. Prices are subject to change.
TP-Link Deco Parental Controls
TP-Link Deco Parental Controls
(since January 2024)
TiersBasic
(formerly part of HomeShield)
Advanced
(formerly part of HomeShield+)
AvailabilityIncluded with all Deco routersPaid subscription
CostFree30-day free trial, then
$2.99/month, or
$17.99/year
ManagementProfiles that include one or multiple devices belonging to one or different individuals within the home network.
FeaturesPause the Internet,
Block Specific Websites,
Filter Website by Categories
All features of the Basic, plus:
SafeSearch that filters out explicit content for search results,
YouTube Restricted Mode,
Flexible Bedtime,
Offtime Control,
Time Limits,
Time Rewords,
Comprehensive Insights,
Details Reports
NotesNot available when router (or mesh system) is working in the access point (AP) mode
Different tiers of TP-Link Deco Parental Controls among TP-Link's Deco family. Prices are subject to change.

If you think HomeShield Pro is like eero Plus, you are not wrong. However, in reality, the Deco family is far more generous than the eero in terms of free network features and settings.

The eero offers little—close to nothing, in fact—unless you opt for the eero Plus, which costs $9.99/month. On the other hand, the Deco has a standard set of networking settings by default and generally includes QoS, Dynamic DNS, and VPN options (server or client).

Also, as shown in the tables above, it has a basic tier of Security and Parental Controls. The optional HomeShield Pro level (Security+) adds more functions or provides in-depth access to the protection.

The point is that the Deco lineup gives users a complete experience out of the box, and the add-on subscriptions give them more.

Still, it's worth noting that none of these add-ons are necessary, nor are they guaranteed to work as intended, especially the Parental Controls--you're better off using a special DNS server. Additionally, other networking vendors, such as Asus, Synology, or Unibquiti, offer similar advanced features for free.

However, compared to other app-operated networking hardware, such as Netgear's Orbi or Amazon's eero, TP-Link's Deco has been the most generous in its free feature sets.

And it has more.

A limited local web user interface

Despite being fully app-operated hardware, each Deco router actually has a web user interface, which is available only after the user has used the Deco app to set up the hardware.

Deco BE85 Web Interface Network MapDeco BE85 Web Interface Advanced
All Deco routers have a web user interface—shown here are the Deco BE85's. This interface displays the network status and allows for some limited tasks, such as changing the time zone or manual firmware updates.

The web interface, accessible via the default IP address (192.168.68.1), can be used to monitor some aspects of the hardware and perform a manual firmware update. Unfortunately, you can't use it to manage the Wi-Fi network or customize any features or settings. Still, it can be helpful if you misplace your phone.

Well-designed Deco app with all standard network settings

As mentioned, the Deco app, tied to a TP-Link login account, is the only way to set up and manage Deco hardware. Over the years, this has evolved and proved to be well-designed.

For example, you can use a single TP-Link account to manage multiple Deco sets, an unlimited number in my so-far experience, which is great for those who need to manage various networks at different locations. You can also add "managers" to the same Deco set (hence, the network) or quickly transfer the ownership of one network (one Deco set) from one account to another.

As for the home network itself, the app also allows for common network settings available in home routers, including:

  • WAN settings: Different types of Internet connection with the support for VLAN tagging (IPTV).
  • LAN settings: These are general settings for the local network, including IP configuration (DHCP Server, LAN IP), IP reservation, Dynamic DNS (NO-IP, DynDNS, and with a free domain from TP-Link), port forwarding, etc.
  • Advanced settings: VPN server (Open VPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSEC), VPN client, and USB-based NAS functionality, including the support for Time Machine backup (available only with routers with a USB port.)

Overall, if you're OK with managing a network using the constrictive small screen of a phone, the Deco app has the most to offer among all app-operated mesh brands.

TP-Link Deco BE85 Mobile AppTP-Link Deco BE85 USB and VPN
The Deco app has lots of accessible settings and features to offer.

Limited yet flexible Wi-Fi settings

As a canned mesh system, the Deco doesn't have the same level of Wi-Fi customizability as other standard routers, including TP-Link's Archer product line. However, the mesh lineup has enough settings for most homes and allows enough flexibility to connect a device to a particular band.

Specifically, here is how you can use the Wi-Fi bands in any Deco router (or mesh system) per my real-world experience:

  1. The first (main) SSID (network name) 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 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, or 240MHz channel widths, depending on the Wi-Fi standards. (In case it's not obvious, the last one is available only in Wi-Fi 7).
  2. For Wi-Fi 6E or 7 hardware, there's a second SSID for the 6GHz band, which automatically takes the primary SSID's name and adds the "-6GHz" suffix. In this case:
    • For Wi-Fi 7 hardware: You can change this name to anything you want, including the same as the first SSID above.
    • For Wi-Fi 6E hardware: The 6GHz SSID must have a different name. It can't share the same name as the first SSID mentioned above.
  3. For Wi-Fi 7 hardware, there's an optional third SSID for the 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 off the 2.4GHz and include only the 5GHz and 6GHz bands.
    • MLO-enabled Wi-Fi 7 clients can connect to this SSID using two bands simultaneously to increase the bandwidth. However, Wi-Fi 6 or 6E 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.
  4. There is an optional Guest Network SSID for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Wi-Fi 6E and 7 hardware gets another one 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.
  5. An optional IoT Network SSID for the 2.4GHz band (default) or the 2.4GHz + 5GHz combo, which is a virtual SSID, part of the primary network, for low-bandwidth smart devices.

Again, while not as in-depth as in standard routers, the Deco app offers a lot of customization for the hardware's Wi-Fi network.

Additionally, with tri-band or quad-band Deco hardware, there's an option to dedicate one of the bands, often the 6GHz or the extra 5GHz, to the sole job of backhauling in a fully wireless setup. In this case, this band is not available for the fronthaul, but the rest of the bands are still also available for the backhaul when the distance between the units is too far for the dedicated backhaul band.

TP-Link Deco BE85 Wi-Fi Settings
The Wi-Fi setting page of a Deco router.

The Deco brand has been the most prolific. Each Wi-Fi standard has many variants with different hardware tiers and price points.

In late 2023, the brand was also the first to offer Wi-Fi 7 hardware, including the two top-tier Deco BE85 and Deco BE95. Since then, more affordable variants have been introduced.

That said, if you're looking for Wi-Fi grades of any standard, chances are you'll find a Deco set that meets your budget.

So, the question is, is the Deco lineup right for you? For that, you need to read their reviews. If the Deco set you want to get is not evaluated, pick a review of a similar set sharing the same Wi-Fi standard, number of Wi-Fi bands, or hardware tiers, and you'll get a very close idea.

TP-Link Deco's Overall Rating

7.1 out of 10
TP-Link Deco BE85 Wi-Fi 7 Mesh System front on table
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
7 out of 10
Ease of Use
8.5 out of 10
Privacy
5 out of 10

Pros

Affordable with lots of hardware options, including powerful multi-Gigabit Wi-Fi 7 options

Well-designed, flexible mobile app with standard network settings and features

Reliable Wi-Fi coverage

Aesthetically looking hardware

Cons

App and login account required; limited web user interface; privacy risks

Security+ and Advanced Parental Controls require subscriptions

The takeaway

Generally, the Deco brand is balanced with a good combo of performance, features, and price. While it's not as comprehensive as the more advanced DYI mesh systems, it has the most among app-operated mesh brands.

Here's the bottom line: if you're not too concerned about the potential privacy risks and want an easy-to-use canned Wi-Fi system that gives you flexible hardware control/customizations and reliable performance—a big if—Deco is generally a sensible choice of an app-operated mesh brand.

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