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TP-Link Unveils New HomeShield, Powered by Norton, with Better Pro Version

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TP-Link today announced a new version of its HomeShield add-on, an "upgrade" that's now powered by Norton, a known online protection company.

The networking vendor said the new version would be available in its Wi-Fi 7 Deco mesh system. Going forward, Norton likely will be the security provider for all TP-Link's consumer-grade Wi-Fi broadcasters (routers and access points). But that remains to be seen.

In the grand scheme, this is just a change of guard. The idea remains the same.

TP-Link Deco XE200 vs Archer AXE300
Here are TP-Link's two latest Wi-Fi hardware, the Deco XE200 mesh router, and the Archer AXE300 Wi-Fi 6E router. Both come with the HomeShield suite of online protection, QoS, and Parental Control -- you need the Pro tier to really enjoy them.

TP-Link HomeShield: A nice way to, well, nickel-and-dime users

HomeShield is not new, both within TP-Link and the industry.

A few years ago, it used to be named "HomeCare," which was completely free. And then it started to require a subscription in some models yet was still free in others -- such as the Deco X60.

It was a back-and-forth kind of thing for a while, and it was pretty confusing.

Around late 2020, TP-Link changed the name to HomeShield as the free (basic) tier and added the HomeShield Pro, which has always been a subscription.

"HomeCare" remains with models that came with it.

The table below shows the current state of HomeShield vs HomeShield Pro

HomeShield free vs HomeShield Pro

IoT Device IdentificationYesYes
IoT Device SecurityNoYes
Network Security ScanYesYes
Public WiFi ScanYesYes
Malicious Content FilteringNoYes
DDoS ProtectionNoYes
Port Intrusion PreventionNoYes
QoS (Device Priority)YesYes
User Profiles16 family members16 family members
Time LimitsNoYes
BedtimeSet one fixed timeSet different time schedules for different weekdays
Time RewardsNoYes
Block WebsitesYesYes
Professional Content FilterYesYes
Traffic StatisticsNoYes
Pause the InternetYesYes
New Access Devices StatisticsYesYes
Device Type StatisticsNoYes
Safety StatisticsNoYes
Online Time AnalysisNoYes
Visited URLs AnalysisNoYes
Overview of Online InformationNoYes
Insight1 days30 days
Weekly/Monthly ReportsYesYes
URLs InterceptionYesYes
Security Reminder and DiaryNoYes
Subscription Expiration NoticeNoYes
Security EventsNoYes
Or $54.99/year
HomeShield is part of most TP-Link routers and the Deco mesh systems released in the past couple of years. Each device generally includes one month of HomeShield Pro free trial.

HomeShield has since been powered by Avira, an antivirus company that's a competitor of Bitdefender, which powers a similar add-on called Netgear Armor in Netgear's hardware.

So the practice is not new. Basically, the networking vendor outsources the router-level online protection to a known online protection company. In return, the security party gets a cut of the premium service or the online data of the users (or both).

It's important to note that you can't have online protection without sharing your Internet traffic with a third party -- there are privacy risks. That's similar to having a security detail in real life, which means you'll have somebody watching your every move.

In the end, it's the consumers who pay. So if they feel happy with the service, everyone is happy.

Asus offers a similar, albeit much less comprehensive, protection feature for its routers called AiProtection -- powered by TrendMicro -- which has always been free for the lifetime of the hardware, including the "Pro" version, which is just a moniker change.

And that brings us to what the new Upgraded HomeShield has in store for you.

TP-Link Archer AXE300 HomeShield Pro
If you use a TP-Link router released in the past three years or so, you must have been nagged about HomeShield Pro at least once.

Upgraded HomeShield: More premium features and apps

The upgraded HomeShield feature, initially available in TP-Link's Deco family, remains largely the same, with some added features for the premium tier.

Specifically, per TP-Link, HomeSheidl Pro now has Ad Blocker, VPN clients, App Blocker, SafeSearch, YouTube Restrictions, and even more in the future.

TP-Link says the most significant updates are two new separate mobile apps: The KidShield for parental controls and another for device security. In other words, the upgrade version will make TP-Link's Tether app, which has been one of the requirements to use HomeShield, less bloated. And that's always a good thing.

Better application-based QoS

On top of that, the new HomeShield comes with a new customizable Quality of Service (QoS) that allows users to assign bandwidth to the devices they use most.

The way it has been, QoS in TP-Link hardware can only prioritize by the device. That's the case even with the company's "top-notch" gaming routers, such as the Archer AX11000 or Archer GX90.

The new version, however, adds the ability to prioritize based on applications, meaning no matter what device you use, the application needing the prioritization will get it.

While the application-based QoS is not new, it's been available in other vendors' hardware for a long time; it's a welcome change in TP-Link hardware.

The takeaway and availability

Charging the consumers extra to use the hardware to its full potential always rubs me the wrong way.

But if you're OK with that, in TP-Link's case, the upgraded HomeShield's changes seem promising. So if you've already subscribed or are about to do so, it sure is a push in the right direction.

Per TP-Link, the new Upgraded HomeShield, powered by Norton, is still under development and will be available with TP-Link's Wi-Fi 7 Deco system, which the company announced back in November.

When it becomes available, the new HomeShield Pro will cost the same. Check back sometime later in the year to see how it, and the latest hardware, will pan out. Like usual, I'll keep my finger crossed.

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