The Deco X60 AX3000 Mesh System, TP-Link’s latest Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, is a great deal or a disappointing choice, depending on how you plan to use it.
On the one hand, the new system is super easy to use and comes in a hardware design that allows you to place it anywhere. On the other, its performance can be quite terrible due to the modest hardware specs.
So here’s the deal. If you have a large home that’s wired with network cables, at the current cost of less than $350, the 3-pack TP-Link Deco X60 is an excellent buy. (You can also pick a 2-pack for accordingly less.)
But if you use the Deco X60 as a wireless setup, it won’t give you the type of performance you rightfully expect from a solution of the latest Wi-Fi standard. In this case, you should pick a tri-band or higher-end set instead.
(Note: There’s also the Deco X20, a lower-end AX1800 version of the Deco X60. Other than the lower specs and, therefore, the performance, the X20 is essentially the same as the X60.)
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TP-Link Deco X60: A mid-range mesh for home users
The new TP-Link Deco X60 shares the same idea as previous Decos. It’s a 3-pack mesh system that includes three identical routers. Take one and make it work as the primary router, and the other two will extend the Wi-Fi network.
The hardware is a bit different, though. Each router is no longer flat but a cylindrical round box measuring 4.33 in wide. (110 mm) × × 4.49 in (114 mm) tall.
Easy setup, pre-synced hardware
Setting up the X60 is the same as that of previous Deco systems, too. Download the Deco app on your phone, sign in with an account with TP-Link, and the rest is self-explanatory.
The app will detect the Deco router unit, walk you through a short process to create your Wi-Fi network, connect to the Intenet, and so on. It took me less than 10 minutes in total.
That’s partly because I didn’t need to manually add the satellite units to form a mesh.
Out of the box, the three routers are pre-synced. As a result, once you’ve finished setting up the router unit, plug the other two into power, and within a couple of minutes, they automatically become part of the mesh.
Pre-synced hardware is an excellent idea that helps cut down the hardware setup and management. This practice seems to be a new trend — I first experienced this with the ZenWiFi from Asus.
TP-Link Deco and your privacy
It’s important to note that having to sign in with an account with TP-Link means your mesh system connects to the vendor at all times — you manage your home network through TP-Link.
Privacy is a matter of degree. While it’s never a good idea to manage your network via a third party, data collection varies from company to company.
Simple web interface
Apart from the Deco app, there’s also a web interface that you can access by pointing a browser on a connected computer to tplinkdeco.net and logging in with the password of your TP-Link account.
But you’ll be disappointed if you expect the same web interface as that of other TP-Link routers, like the Archer X3000.
The X60’s interface mostly displays existing settings without allowing you to change them. For example, there’s a network map, but you can’t interact with any of the items, such as changing the name of a Deco unit or a connected client. In other words, the information is read-only.
All you can do with the interface is perform a manual firmware update and manage two settings, including the router’s time zone and WAN Unicast.
Hopefully, TP-Link will expand the interface’s functionality with future firmware updates. In the meantime, the bottom line is you must use the Deco app, and there’s no way to use a Deco without an account with TP-Link.
Dual-band system with wired backhaul support
The Deco X60’s hardware is not available for purchase as a single unit, but you can use one as a standalone router in a small home.
Each Deco X60 router includes two auto-sensing Gigabit network ports. On the unit used as the main router, whichever port connects to the Internet source (such as a modem) will work as the WAN port. After that, the rest of the ports in the system will function as LANs.
The Deco X60 is a dual-band system. Consequently, in a wireless setup, the satellite units will have to deal with signal loss — they only have half of the bandwidth for the clients.
But if you use a network cable to link the units together, you can expect the same top performance from each unit.
The Deco X60 can work in AP mode as a single router or a mesh system — you can use a different router as the main router and use this mesh to solely expand your Wi-Fi coverage without having to deal with a double NAT setup.
TP-Link Deco X60: Hardware specifications
|Full Name||TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 Mesh Router|
(3-Pack TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 Mesh System)
|Dedicated Wireless Backhaul||No|
|Dimensions||4.33 in (110 mm) wide |
4.49 in (114 mm) tall
|Wi-Fi Technology||Dual-band Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) AX3000|
|5GHz Wi-Fi Specs||AX: 2×2 up to 2.4 Gbps. |
AC: 3×3 up to 1.3 Gbps
|2.4GHz Wi-Fi Specs||2×2 up to 600Mbps Mbps|
|Backward Compatibility||802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi|
|Channel Bandwidth||20/40/80/160 MHz|
|Wireless Security||WPA, WPA2, WPA3|
|Mobile App||TP-Link Deco (Android + iOS)|
|Web User Interface||Yes (limited)|
|AP Mode||Yes (as a single router or a mesh system)|
|Regular Network Ports||Two Auto-Sensing Gigabit ports|
|Processing Power||Qualcomm 1 GHz Quad-core CPU|
Just-right networking customization set
Despite the general constraint of the mobile app, the Deco X60 manages to deliver a decent amount of networking settings and features.
Specifically, it has all the common settings one might need to build a home network with advanced features. These include the support for Dynamic DNS (including an option to use TP-Link’s server), port-forwarding, IP reservation, and so on.
In all, though, the Deco X60 has just about enough for most users to feel like they can do all they want. You will not be overwhelmed by this mesh system, and neither will you wish it had more in terms of general settings.
Minimum Wi-Fi setting
But you’ll definitely wish it had more when it comes to the Wi-Fi setting. There’s nothing else you can customize besides picking the name/password and turning on or off the Wi-Fi bands and their Guest networks.
The bottom line is with the Deco X60, you’ll have to live with the default Wi-Fi settings that TP-Link has put on the system.
TP-Link Deco X60’s detail photos
The suite includes an effective Parental Control feature, an easy-to-use QoS engine, and real-time Antivirus online protection. All of these worked quite well in my testing.
The catch is on the X60’s Antivirus part of HomeCare requires a subscription after a 3-month trial, which automatically starts the moment you set the system up.
Update: In early May 2020, TP-Link changed the policy on HomeCare and made it free for all of its routers and mesh systems. The way it works, the subscription automatically renews itself when it expires, without a payment requirement.
For comparison, Asus routers (and mesh systems) have a similar feature that’s free for the life of the hardware. Also, previous TP-Link routers, such as the Archer C5400X, include one year of Antivirus.
TP-Link Deco X60’s performance: Reliable signal, OK throughputs
TP-Link claims the Deco X60 supports the 160 MHz channel width to deliver up to 2.4 Gbps of 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 connections. If that’s the case, the mesh can be as fast as any others despite the fact it’s a dual-band system. That’s because currently there are only 2×2 clients.
No 160 MHz
Alas, in testing, I couldn’t get my clients to connect at that speed at all, but only half (1.2 Gbps) instead.
That might have been because Deco X60, by default, favored compatibility over speed and therefore used the 80MHz channel width. (Or the support for the 160MHz channel width is a lie.) But since it offers no Wi-Fi customization, there’s no way for users to figure out one way or another. That was the case for me.
As a result, the Deco X60 had nothing to impress regarding Wi-Fi performance.
Decent speeds as a router
As a router, on the 5GHz band, my 2×2 Wi-Fi 6 client registered the sustained speed of some 710 Mbps at less than 10 feet (3 m) away. When I moved the test client farther away, to 40 feet (12 m) from the router, it now averaged close to 450 Mbps.
These were below average among Wi-Fi 6 mesh routers but still decently fast.
My 3×3 Wi-Fi 5 clients could connect at 1.3 Gbps and had slightly faster real-world rates from the Deco X60. They averaged 720 Mbps and 630 Mbps at close and long ranges.
On the 2.4Ghz, the Deco X60 did about the same as recent routers at the close range. Farther out, it was the slowest.
It’s important to note that the 2.4GHz band has been considered a backup band for the last couple of years, and I’ve hardly seen any router that performs well on this band. They are all much slower than the ceiling speed.
Slow as a wireless mesh system
As a mesh system, the Deco X60 clearly suffered from signal loss and turned out to be the slowest among Wi-Fi 6 systems I’ve tested, with the sustained speeds ranging from some 200 Mbps to 350 Mbps.
These numbers were quite disappointing — I’ve seen many Wi-Fi 5 systems that performed better — but Deco X60 is still fast enough to deliver a typical residential broadband connection in full.
I also tried the system using wired backhaul, and in this case, all hardware units delivered the same rates as those of the router unit. So, if you want the best performance out of this mesh, running network cable around your home is a must.
Reliable signals, good coverage
The TP-Link Deco X60 passed my three-day stress test with no issues. As for coverage, it delivered about the same as most 3-pack systems. TP-Link claims 7000 ft² (650 m²), but in reality, you should think about 5000 ft² (465 m²) square feet or even less.
Wi-Fi range varies greatly depending on the environment, so it’s impossible to measure it correctly. But if you want to get the speed mentioned above out of this system in a wireless setup, don’t place the hardware units too far from one another. Also, make sure you use the star topology.
TP-Link Deco X60's Rating
Reliable Wi-Fi performance, good coverage
Super user-friendly, comparatively affordable
Wired backhaul support, can work in AP mode as a system
Useful QoS, Antivirus, and Parental Control features
Slow as a wireless mesh, no real-world 160 MHz channel width support
Requires an account with TP-Link to work
No dedicated backhaul band
Zero Wi-Fi customization
Limited web interface, no USB port
Considering the friendly price tag and ease of use, the TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System is a great deal for a large home that’s wired with Gigabit Ethernet.
If you intend to use it as a wireless mesh system, though, don’t expect crazy speeds out of it. In fact, you’ll probably find it slower than most, if not all, tri-band Wi-Fi 5 counterparts. That said, if you have a fast broadband connection and need a wireless setup, pick a more powerful Wi-Fi 6 system instead.