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TP-Link Deco M5 Whole-Home Wi-Fi System review

At $299 for a set of three units, TP-Link’s Deco M5 has more to offer than other similarly priced systems, like the Google Wifi, or the Luma. The most noticeable is the ability to keep the entire home network, including IoT devices, from online threats.

On the down side, like many other Wi-Fi systems, the M5, connects to its vendor at all times, which can be a privacy risk. Those wanting to keep their existing router, or those who have a router/modem combo that can’t be replaced, should also note that the M5 currently doesn’t work in the access point mode. This means it will create a separate network on top of the existing network, making devices connected to it and those connected to the original router not able to communicate with one another locally — your wireless speakers or network streamers might not work as expected.

All things considered, though it’s far from perfect, the M5 is an excellent Wi-Fi solution if you want to quickly bring internet to every corner of a large home (up to some 5,000 square feet) and have a layer of protection against online threats.

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The Deco M5 includes three identical units; each is a router with two network ports. When used together, two units automatically work as range extenders or access points.


Dong Ngo/CNET

Easy setup

As a Wi-Fi system, you connect one of the M5’s three identical hardware units to an internet source, such as a broadband modem, to work as the router unit, then place the rest of the units about 40 feet away to work as satellite units. The three link to one another to create a seamless Wi-Fi network.

As long as you have an internet-connected smartphone or tablet, setting up the M5 is as easy as running a mobile app. All you need to do is download the free Deco app (iOS or Android) and follow its instructions to create an account with TP-Link. After that the rest is self-explanatory. I was able to get the system running in less than 10 minutes.

The app enables users to manage their home network from anywhere. This is because both the app and the M5 system connect to TP-Link servers at all times. This means everything you do in your home network can be reported to the company. Controlling your home network via the vendor is convenient but comes with its own risks. Apart from privacy concerns, accidents like the one that took place with the Google Wifi could happen at any time.

Useful features

Like most Wi-Fi systems the M5 severely lacks features and settings compared to single routers. It doesn’t even have a web interface. However, it indeed has more features than many other mesh systems. For parents, it has a comprehensive web-filtering and internet usage control options (pausing, scheduling and so on). And everybody can appreciate its quality of service (QoS), which prioritizes internet traffic for different applications and antivirus, which the company says guards the entire network, including smart appliances — IoT devices — against online threats. According to TP-Link, the antivirus feature monitors internet traffic for suspicious pattern in real time, prevents port scanning and stops compromised IoT devices from sending out signals to unknown sites, in real time.

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