TP-Link is finally getting into the mesh router game today with a new model called the Deco M5.
The Deco M5 works just like other multi-unit router systems: rather than having a single router beam Wi-Fi throughout a home, the Deco system asks buyers to place several smaller routers in different rooms, where they can then work together to reach more space with a stronger signal.
TP-Link went with a dual-band setup, which means lower prices and smaller routers — the same play Google Wifi, Eero, Luma, and most others have gone with. But it also means slower overall speeds than a tri-band system like Netgear's Orbi or Linksys' Velop, which both use a third grouping of antennas so their routers can communicate without impacting traffic to devices.
So far, I've only described the Deco M5 in terms of other mesh routers. And unfortunately, that’s not going to change: what we're looking at here is very much another mesh router.
That might seem like a bad position to be in given that many other mesh systems have been on the market for upward of a year.
But it’s not exactly terrible news for TP-Link. The mesh router market is still in its early stages and unfamiliar to most consumers, so what matters is that TP-Link is there at all and working toward something better. Plus, TP-Link is already one of the United States’ top-selling router brands, and that name recognition means it could have an easier time reaching consumers than even an early entrant into this market, like Eero.
TP-Link is also including a bunch of helpful, if also fairly standard, software features, too. The Deco has built in parental controls and site filtering, so the router's administrator can black certain categories of sites or limit how much time a kid is allowed to be online for.
The router also has built-in antivirus and malware protection, which will kick in if a device appears to be sending traffic somewhere it shouldn't. TP-Link is hoping it'll stand out on this front — though most routers offer some degree of built-in security features — and it should certainly be helpful as more and more internet of things devices get brought into people's homes.
The router will sell in a three-pack for $299, which is supposed to cover between 2,400 and 4,500 square feet, and individual units will be available for $129 — pricing that puts it right on par with our current favorite mesh system, Google Wifi. It's supposed to become available sometime this week.