If I put "TP-Link" and "mesh" in a sentence, you'd likely think of the popular Deco family. And you're not wrong. That's the Chinese networking vendor's most recognizable brand name in the realm of home Wi-Fi systems.
But for a few years, the company has had another lesser-known do-it-yourself alternative called "TP-Link OneMesh," which, without having enough time and attention to make a mark, is now being replaced by "TP-Link EasyMesh".
The whole thing is a bit of a mess, and this post will explain the latter. (I already covered OneMesh in great detail.) At the gist of it, from the users' perspective, EasyMesh is largely the same as OneMesh. But as a later-comer, it has more.
In a few years, TP-Link EasyMesh will take over OneMesh completely. Most importantly, it has the potential to be as robust as Asus AiMesh or Synology Mesh. For now, it's still too early to be considered a viable alternative to one of these serious DIY solutions. Still, it never hurts to have a mesh option in your standalone Wi-Fi hardware for free.
TP-Link EasyMesh vs OneMesh: What’s the deal?
As the name suggests, TP-Link EasyMesh is part of the Wi-Fi EasyMesh movement started by the Wi-Fi Alliance to streamline how Wi-Fi works across vendors.
So, to understand what TP-Link EasyMesh is, we need to know Wi-Fi EasyMesh. But, as it stands, TP-Link's EasyMesh is the only hardware vendor so far that has real-world representations of Wi-Fi EasyMesh. So, TP-Link EasyMesh vs Wi-Fi EasyMesh is a bit of a chicken-and-egg-mixing-with-catch-22 kind of thing.
Wi-Fi EasyMesh in a nutshell
Wi-Fi EasyMesh is Wi-Fi Alliance's certification program, first announced in early 2020, that aims to simplify the building of mesh systems by creating universal mesh protocols. The idea is any Wi-Fi EasyMesh-certified hardware from any vendor will work with one another to form a seamless Wi-Fi mesh system. Per the organization, here are the highlights of EasyMesh:
- Increased network capacity: Supports more simultaneous services and higher realized throughput when operating in Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E
- Flexible design: Allows for best placement of multiple APs providing extended coverage
- Easy setup: Delivers seamless, secure device onboarding and configuration using QR codes through Wi-Fi Easy Connect technology
- Network intelligence: Advanced diagnostics for Wi-Fi 6 capabilities through Wi-Fi Data Elements facilitate service provider support and respond to network conditions to maximize performance
- Effective service prioritization and Quality of Service (QoS) support: Capability to prioritize low latency applications when needed and guide devices to roam to the best connection and avoid interference
- Scalability: Enables the addition of Wi-Fi EasyMesh APs from multiple vendors
The new program's adoption has proven slow. By late mid-2023, only Netgear and TP-Link had joined the movement. The former uses it in its Nighthawk purpose-built mesh family, represented by the MK63 and MK83, and more -- none is a standalone router. TP-Link, on the other hand, started to transition its OneMesh -- available in standalone routers -- into TP-Link EasyMesh in August 2022. (In real-world trials, the EasyMesh hardware of TP-Link and Netgear so far doesn't work with each other yet.)
Understandably, both TP-Link and Netgear recommend their own hardware in an EasyMesh setup.
Generally, we need the hardware of at least two vendors working together to know Wi-Fi EasyMesh is universal. But then, things can get complicated in terms of liability or tech support. If a mixed Wi-Fi EasyMesh system is not working as expected, it's hard to know which hardware vendor is at fault, and consumers might be stuck between two networking companies that point fingers at each other.
But simplification is the key here. Generally, here's how Wi-Fi EasyMesh works:
- You pick an EasyMesh-compatible router and set it up as a single router. This router will decide the features and flavor of your network -- it's the primary unit of the system, a.k.a primary router or primary node.
- When you want to extend its coverage, pick another EasyMesh-compatible broadcaster (router or extender) and link them up via WPS or otherwise. And that's it. The two now work together as a system, with the second unit being the satellite and the first router working as the primary unit of the mesh.
- Repeat #2 if you want to extend the next work even more.
At the minimum level of a mesh system, when you change the Wi-Fi settings on the primary router, that will automatically be reflected on the satellite. Additionally, a client can move from one broadcaster to another seamlessly.
The rest is still unclear. For example, does the primary router have any control over a satellite's features, settings, or ports? Can users dedicate one of the Wi-Fi bands as the backhaul? How are connected clients managed?
Generally, the details of a system change depending on the hardware mix, and we'll have to wait to find out. However, judging from my experience with existing hardware, there's a price -- in performance, features, or settings -- to pay for this simplicity. So, in the end, for a certain level of predictability, EasyMesh or not, it's best to use hardware from the same vendor.
With that, let's continue with TP-Link's rendition of EasyMesh, which is based on its OneMesh.
EasyMesh vs OneMesh: Similarities and differences
TP-Link EasyMesh and OneMesh are add-on mesh features of its Archer family, a brand of primarily standalone routers. To build either, you must start with a supported Archer router -- not all Archer routers are mesh-capable, but most do. (The Archer AX50 is an example; it doesn't support OneMesh or EasyMesh). After that, you can add more supported broadcasters to form a system.
The table below summarizes the differences and similarities of the two mesh approaches.
|TP-Link EasyMesh||TP-Link OneMesh|
|Wi-Fi Standard Support||Wi-Fi 6 and newer||Wi-Fi 6 and older|
|Compatible Devices||Select TP-Link Archer routers,|
Select TP-Link Range Extenders,
Third-party EasyMesh-enabled hardware (planned)
|Select TP-Link Archer routers and Range Extenders|
|Mesh Protocol||Wi-Fi Alliance's EasyMesh Certification||TP-Link proprietary|
(Primary unit + satellite)
|Router + Router or Extender||Router + Extender|
|Maximum Mesh Points|
(the primary router included)
|Backhaul||Wireless or wired (planned)||Wireless|
|Dedicated Wireless Backhaul||No|
(each band of the satellite will work both as back- and front-haul by default)
|Current Hardware||EasyMesh Hardware list||OneMesh list|
(most hardware is still in "planned" status)
(will be phased out)
According to TP-Link, OneMesh will remain on existing hardware as a distinctive feature, existing alongside EasyMesh for a period. Eventually, EasyMesh will take over.
- If you have built a router and a satellite in a OneMesh setup, the two will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
- Some existing OneMesh routers (mostly Wi-Fi 5 and older) will remain that way, while newer routers (all Wi-Fi 6 and later) will transition to EasyMesh via firmware updates.
- All existing OneMesh extenders can work as satellite units of an EasyMesh system. When updated, their OneMesh labels (in the web interface) will be changed to EasyMesh, but even then, they can still work with OneMesh routers.
- New Archer hardware (and extender) will support EasyMesh and no longer carry the OneMesh notion. (Or they don't have mesh capability at all.)
In terms of mesh functionality, TP-Link's EasyMesh encompasses what its OneMesh can do. If you're unfamiliar with OneMesh, the cabinet below will give you a quick rundown.
What you can expect from TP-Link OneMesh
OneMesh has the benefits of a canned (purpose-built) mesh system, such as TP-Link's Deco family, plus some extras from a DIY one, minus the fact it doesn't support wired backhauling. Here's what you can currently expect from this new mesh:
- Centralized management: You only need to manage the Wi-Fi settings on the router, and the changes will be synced across all OneMesh broadcasters. You can do this via the web interface or TP-Link's Tether mobile app.
- Easy client monitoring: You can easily find out via the mobile app or the web interface to which hardware unit -- the router or the extender -- a client connects in real-time.
- Easy setup: Adding a OneMesh extender to an existing OneMesh router takes just a few minutes - more below.
- All features of the router: A OneMesh has all features and settings of the router in the setup -- the router you pick will determine what features your network will get.
- Seamless hand-off: Wi-Fi devices will automatically roam from one broadcast to another as you move around within the system.
- Access point mode: A OneMesh system can work in Access Point mode, meaning you can use it with an existing router or gateway as part of a single network. In this mode, besides the seamless hand-off, you'll get no other features of the OneMesh system.
- Flexible hardware combos: You can start with one OneMesh router -- most TP-Link Archers routers support OneMesh -- and add up to nine OneMesh range extenders of the same or different hardware units. Ideally, in a wireless configuration, you should use no more than three extenders and place them around the router -- the star topology. OneMesh works in a daisy-chain setup, but the performance will be slow due to severe signal loss.
- Affordability: Most OneMesh add-on extenders/access points are relatively inexpensive.
- Here to stay: TP-Link says OneMesh will be available in all product categories, including routers, extenders, access, and Powerline adapters.
- True MAC address: Typically, extenders use virtual MAC addresses for connected clients. But in a OneMesh setup, clients connected to the extender unit use their true physical addresses in my testing. Consequently, MAC-based features, such as access control, IP reservation, or web filtering, will work as intended. (This might vary from one extender to another.)
The main takeaway you can expect from a OneMesh system is that you keep all that you have from the current router, plus extra Wi-Fi coverage when adding a wireless extender on top, and have both working as a seamless Wi-Fi mesh.
And then, TP-Link Easymesh has the following three new noteworthy things:
- The hardware supposedly works regardless of vendors. Specifically, TP-Link's EasyMesh hardware will work with non-TP-Link Wi-Fi EasyMesh-certified hardware. (TP-Link recommends its own hardware.)
- It can turn a router into a satellite unit -- similar to the case of Asus's AiMesh or Synology Mesh.
- It supposedly supports wired backhauling.
It's important to note that, at the time of publishing, TP-Link's EasyMesh is not fully available. The wired backhauling notion, for example, wasn't yet ready in my trial with the Archer BE550 and Archer BE800. But it's safe to say that eventually, that will happen. It's only a matter of when.
If you use a combo of an Archer router and an extender to build a TP-Link mesh system, it doesn't matter which you use, OneMesh or EasyMesh. Things remain the same. But if you intend to have wired backhauling, or want to turn an old router into a satellite, TP-Link's EasyMesh, when it's ready, is the way to go. The third-party hardware support notion will likely be hit or miss.
TP-Link EasyMesh: Simple setup; no wired backhaul yet; signal loss is the norm in a wireless setup
I tried TP-Link EasyMesh for more than a week using a couple of Archer BE9300 (BE550) routers and a RE715X extender, and it generally works the same as OneMesh. Note that, as mentioned, since wired backhauling still didn't work, I used the system mostly in the router + extender combo.
To set up a TP-Link EasyMesh system, you first set up the primary router to your liking -- it's a standard process for any router with a web user interface. After that, within its interface, go to the EasyMesh menu item, and the rest is self-explanatory. In most cases, you only need to use WPS to sync up the satellite unit, and within a few minutes, the mesh system is ready. In other cases, the interface will give detailed instructions on extra steps, if any.
After that, by default, the satellite automatically uses each of its bands individually to extend the same band of the primary router.
Specifically, the 5GHz band will connect to the same band of the router and extend the signal further, while its 2.4GHz band does the same to the 2.4GHz of the primary router. If you have a Wi-Fi 6E satellite, the same thing is applied to the 6GHz band.
Generally, EasyMesh follows the same rules in hardware arrangement as any mesh system.
As a result, by default, each band of the satellite unit does both backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously -- the general case of most wireless mesh systems -- and suffers from signal loss. You can log into the web interface of a satellite to turn off the backhaul on a band, but whichever band works as the backhaul will still have the signal loss since there's no way to turn off a band's front haul. In other words, there's no way to dedicate a particular band to the sole job of backhauling.
Like the case of OneMesh, in a TP-Link EasyMesh setup, the primary router has little control over a satellite unit. In fact, the only thing it can control is the Wi-Fi network, where the settings, such as SSID(s) names and passwords, will automatically apply to the rest of the mesh's members. For any other settings of a satellite, you'll need to use its own web interface, which is accessible via its local IP address. While that's a bit of an inconvenience, it can be a good thing since it gives you more access to the hardware's settings and features.
TP-Link EasyMesh vs OneMesh: Similar performance
I tested EasyMesh in a router + extender combo, and the performance was the same as in the case of OneMesh.
TP-Link EasyMesh is still new. There will be more testing down the road as new hardware becomes available.
Specifically, I used an Archer BE9300 as the router and a RE715X as the satellite, and the performance was virtually the same as when the latter worked as a standard extender.
Generally, take the satellite's fastest band, divide its bandwidth in half, and you'll get the best possible ceiling speed of the system for those connected to the satellite. After that, the sustained speed would be, at best, about two-thirds of the ceiling speed. The RE715X is an AX3000 broadcaster, and the best real-world rate I got from it was around 450Mbps.
While the performance wasn't impressive, the seamless handoff worked well. I could move devices around the system's Wi-Fi coverage without getting disconnected.
By the way, when I changed the router to the Archer AXE300 and hooked the extender to it via a OneMesh setup, the performance at the satellite remained the same.
I tried turning the Archer AXE300 into the satellite of the Archer BE9300, but that didn't work, likely because the former doesn't have EasyMesh-enabled firmware yet. But if you have two EasyMesh-ready routers, keep in mind that, for now, wired backhauling is not yet an option. It's unclear when that will happen, but until then, it makes a little sense to invest in EasyMesh with high-end routers.
For now, like the case of OneMesh, TP-Link's EasyMesh is an easy and reliable option to extend your router's Wi-Fi range via an extender just a bit more to reach that far corner where a low-bandwidth device is. And for that purpose, it'll work well.
TP-Link EasyMesh's Preliminary Rating
Support Wi-Fi EasyMesh universal standard; lots of Wi-Fi 6, 6E, and 7 hardware options
Easy to set up and use
Responsive web interface
Wired backhauling is currently not available
No dedicated wireless backhaul option
Tether mobile app is not yet supported
At its core, TP-Link's EasyMesh is OneMesh plus the support for turning a router into a satellite unit. And that makes a big difference since it opens up lots of options. When wired backhauling is available, EasyMesh has the potential to make top-performance systems much more affordable.
For now, the new mesh solution is still in the early stages, which is also the case with the Wi-Fi EasyMesh certification program itself. As the world is focusing on getting Wi-Fi 7 certified, it's safe to say that it'll take a year or so before TP-Link and Wi-Fi Alliance can hash out all the details of this new universal mesh approach.
For now, EasyMesh is an exciting option for those getting new standalone hardware that happens to support it -- namely, TP-Link Archer routers and extenders. It'll be a while before you can truly count on it.