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 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 Identification||Yes||Yes|
|IoT Device Security||No||Yes|
|Network Security Scan||Yes||Yes|
|Public WiFi Scan||Yes||Yes|
|Malicious Content Filtering||No||Yes|
|Port Intrusion Prevention||No||Yes|
|QoS (Device Priority)||Yes||Yes|
|User Profiles||16 family members||16 family members|
|Bedtime||Set one fixed time||Set different time schedules for different weekdays|
|Professional Content Filter||Yes||Yes|
|Pause the Internet||Yes||Yes|
|New Access Devices Statistics||Yes||Yes|
|Device Type Statistics||No||Yes|
|Online Time Analysis||No||Yes|
|Visited URLs Analysis||No||Yes|
|Overview of Online Information||No||Yes|
|Insight||1 days||30 days|
|Security Reminder and Diary||No||Yes|
|Subscription Expiration Notice||No||Yes|
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.
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 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 fingers crossed.