Reviews

TP-LINK Deco M5 Wireless AC1300 Mesh System Review – The best affordable mesh system in the market for budget users

TP-LINK Deco M5

RM289 - RM799
8.4

Build Quality

9.0/10

Specification

8.5/10

Features

8.0/10

User Experience

8.5/10

Value

8.0/10

Advantages

  • Optional packaging offer
  • Moden design
  • Straightforward setup process
  • Centralized management
  • IPv6 & port-forwarding supported
  • Fast roaming support
  • HomeCare Security Solutions
  • Dual-mode operational
  • Basic web access panel

Disadvantages

  • No OpenVPN feature
  • Limited RJ45 ports

Wireless technology keeps changing to meet the current international standard to deliver a faster and stable internet experience for the users. With WiFi 6 routers entering the Malaysian market, the current market rate of WiFi 5 router and mesh units becomes cheap and highly affordable for budget users. Today, I am about to share my experience on using the highly affordable mesh wireless system from a Chinese consumer and business networking gear provider, TP-LINK Deco M5.

Figure 1: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Introduction
Figure 1: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Introduction

Generally speaking, TP-LINK commonly known for their best hardware specification at lower cost of ownership. However, when it comes to firmware support, they are lacking behind compared to ASUS. However, in the recent time, TP-LINK starts to provide a better after sales support, this includes firmware support for their newer models, which is for me, is good. The TP-LINK Deco M5 that I am about to review is the single-pack version.

Figure 2 - TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Top View
Figure 2 – TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Top View

Before I brief further on my experience using the Deco M5, do note that this unit suitable to be fully utilized by 100Mbps to 500Mbps internet package subscribers, which is applicable for both consumers and business users. The Deco M5 designed to meet the futuristic look of how a mesh wireless solution should be without consuming much space especially for those who have limited amount of space on their desk or table. On top of the unit, only a single multi-color LED indicator present with blue indicating ready to setup, orange for no internet and yellow/white for active internet connection. Surprisingly, you can turn off the LED indicator status in the Deco app.

Figure 3 - TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Rear View
Figure 3 – TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Rear View

The total given RJ45 port for internet accessibility is two. One act as a WAN/LAN port and another port fully serve as LAN. If you purchase a single unit of Deco M5, you can add another RM55 to buy a standard unmanaged gigabit ethernet switch, let it be a five port or eight port gigabit switch. The same application is applicable if you purchase the two-pack or three-pack version. I personally liked the simplicity of the Deco M5’s I/O option although some may not like it.

Figure 3A: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Bottom View
Figure 3A: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Bottom View

At the bottom of the Deco M5 unit, a single reset button is available. The ventilation holes located at the bottom to allow a better heat dissipation from the unit without sacrificing the overall appearance of the unit. I personally say, the unit is well designed and appears not to be too clunky.

Specifications

The specifications of Deco M5 are as follows:

Wireless ClassAC1300
Wireless StandardIEEE 802.11 ac/n/a 5 GHz, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz
ProcessorQualcomm IPQ4019 4 cores @ 717 MHz
Memory256MiB
FeaturesWi-Fi Dead Zone Killer
TP-LINK Mesh Technology
TP-LINK HomeCare
MU-MIMO
Auto Path Selection
AP Steering
Band Steering
Beamforming
Wireless Throughput2.4GHz: 400Mbps
5GHz: 867Mbps
PriceSingle Pack: RM289.00
Dual-Pack: RM539.00
Three-Pack: RM799.00
Table 1: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Specification of Deco M5 – Official Site

According to the detailed specification sheet, the Deco M5 powered by a quad-core Qualcomm IPQ4019 processor clocked at 717MHz. Although the Deco M4 has slightly higher clock rate, the Deco M5 has more cores with less clock rate for better multi-operability. The unit I am having with me is the Version 4. The detailed specification sheet provided hardware specs for Version 1. I am still unsure if they carried the similar hardware specs to the next version.

User Experience

The process of setting up of the Deco M5 requires an active mobile data connection to login to your TP-LINK Cloud account. You will require those credentials to proceed for the setup of the Deco M5 later on. I’ve prepared a guide on this which is available for public access.

Figure 5: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Deco Mobile Application Walkthrough Part I
Figure 5: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Deco Mobile Application Walkthrough Part I

The Deco application has a pretty standard features. The feature can be access easily from the app thanks to Deco’s centralized management accessible features. This means, you don’t really have to login to the standard web administrative panel just to do changes (since most routers offer better feature accessibility via the web administrative panel than the smartphone application), the changes in the settings takes an immediate action. For apple users, I am pretty sure you will be greeted with “weak security” warning message when connected to your wireless network via Deco M5. In order to resolve this, TP-LINK issued a beta firmware for the public access (download and provide feedback). Before I proceed to test the feature, I did flash the beta firmware on Deco M5 for a better analysis to be carried out later on.

Figure 6: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Deco Mobile Application Walkthrough Part II
Figure 6: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Deco Mobile Application Walkthrough Part II

I have tested most of the features, and it turns out to working as expected. I don’t issue much troublesome to set IPv6 or port-forwarding. When it comes to QoS, I am not a big fan of quality of service and I tend to ignore the settings, most of the time. However, for users concern about QoS setting, Figure 6 shows the QoS setting available for the Deco M5.

Figure 7: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Deco Mobile Application Walkthrough Part III
Figure 7: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Deco Mobile Application Walkthrough Part III

Almost all Deco series mesh system comes with monthly report feature. From my point of view, this feature is quite good. It briefs the users of each newly connected device in the Deco network, this includes smart devices and network optimization which you can scan your Deco network to know the current status of your home network.

Security Features

Unlike Deco M4, the Deco M5 features HomeCare security solution powered by Trend Micro. The HomeCare has two license option, powered by two security solutions vendor. HomeCare (Trend Micro) and HomeCare Pro (Avira).

Figure 8: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - HomeCare powered by Trend Micro
Figure 8: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – HomeCare powered by Trend Micro

The HomeCare antivirus somehow offers the similar features like AiProtection, and this includes, malicious content filter, intrusion prevention system and infected device quarantine. Since I am already utilizing pi-hole, I didn’t get any false positives or get access to an infected site to actually test the feature. However, for non-techy users, this feature is a must-use feature.

Figure 9: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Parental Control
Figure 9: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Parental Control

The parental control feature is quite comprehensive and easy to setup. I personally liked the way the workflow of the app is deployed by the system engineer. I don’t really have to waste my time on separately setting web-filters and internet access time when I can do everything in a single workflow. Well done.

Wireless Performance

Now, let’s get serious. The Deco M5 has been tested through LAN. Although it is marked as suitable for 500Mbps users, personally speaking, most mesh systems and routers out there can hit 1Gbps over a wired network. Surprisingly, the Deco M5 able to hit 800Mbps solid.

Figure 10: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Wireless Throughput Test
Figure 10: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Wireless Throughput Test

Figure 10 on above shows Deco M5’s wireless benchmark versus its younger brother, Deco M4. The client-device used is Archer TX3000E, a WiFi 6 PCIe-adapter. The location of the benchmark PC is 10 metres away from the actual location of Deco M5. From my point of view, the Deco M5 perform well in my wireless throughput test. Unfortunately, since the unit I am having currently been a single-pack version, I couldn’t create more mesh network and further expand my wireless throughput test to get a better accurate data.

Conclusion

Now, conclusion time. How well does Deco M5 performed? My answer would be, excellent. The Deco M5 is not a high-end mesh wireless solution for an average Joe consumer. It packed with a few good features and suitable for non-power users. As for power user, the mesh solution can be made as a wireless access point (WAP), thanks to its dual-mode operation.

Figure 11: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review - Conclusion
Figure 11: TP-LINK Deco M5 Review – Conclusion

The only downside of this budget mesh solution is, it only comes with two RJ45 port, but then, you can further expand the operability by adding an unmanaged switch to expand the accessibility by the device available in your home. Compared to its younger brother, the Deco M5 is suitable for 500Mbps users although my LAN test able to hit up to 700Mbps. But not everyone will opt to use a physical connection, hence I can recommend Deco M5 for 500Mbps users and below.

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