TP-Link Deco X90 review: This mesh Wi-Fi 6 is simple but super fast

TP-Link has released several mesh systems under the Deco brand, but the X90 is the most powerful we’ve seen. It’s designed for networks of up to 200 devices, in homes with up to six bedrooms, and uses a tri-band radio configuration so the primary wireless network doesn’t have to share bandwidth with the backhaul. earthly.

The X90 also works with TP-Link’s HomeShield service. This provides network security and parental controls, and you can optionally upgrade to HomeShield Pro for expanded functionality. Throw in 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet and it’s an attractive proposition for anyone looking to upgrade their home network to the latest standards – although 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E isn’t supported.

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TP-Link Deco X90 mesh router review: What you need to know

The standard Deco X90 pack contains two identical Deco units. One of them (it doesn’t matter which) replaces your current router, while the other is a few pieces away and acts as an extender. You can also use the X90 system to extend an existing wireless network, although TP-Link’s HomeShield features are not available in this setup.

Each Deco unit contains three wireless transceivers – a 2.4 GHz radio with a maximum speed of 574 Mbits/sec, a fast 5 GHz client radio rated at 4.8 Gbits/sec and a dedicated 5 GHz link transmitter which supports connections up to 1.2 Gbps. It seems like a strangely unbalanced arrangement, but the Deco has the unusual ability to dynamically borrow bandwidth from the client radio to increase the link connection as needed, giving it more flexibility than rival meshes.

As mentioned, TP-Link claims the system will support up to 200 clients, and 4×4 MU-MIMO support helps maximize throughput whether there are one or a dozen devices communicating at the same time. . Both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 are fully supported, although there is no 6 GHz radio, you won’t see any added benefit for devices that work with the brand new Wi-Fi standard 6E.

TP-Link Deco X90 mesh router review: Price and competition

The standard Deco X90 package costs £474; it may seem steep for just two units, but together they provide great coverage. For those who need an extra station, additional X90 units can be purchased for £245 each. If you have that kind of money to spend, there are several alternative meshes to consider.

An obvious rival is the Netgear Orbi RBK752, another high performance tri-band mesh. It’s currently selling on Amazon for £370 for two nodes, or you can get a three-pack for £550.

Another option is the Linksys Atlas Pro 6. Although there’s no dedicated link radio, it’s rather cheaper than the TP-Link, at £362 for the three-node system, and we found that it always did a good job serving a strong wireless signal throughout our house.

If top performance isn’t a priority, you can save big bucks by opting for the £160 D-Link Eagle Pro M1 for three units, or the gray market Xiaomi Mesh System AX3000, available via import at £55 per knot.

Conversely, if you’re looking for a premium solution, you might want to consider the Netgear Orbi RBK852, which currently costs £650 for two stations. Check out our performance charts below before investing, as the RBK852 is over two years old and no longer takes the performance crown. The current king of home mesh systems is the lightning-fast Netgear Orbi RBKE953, which adds support for Wi-Fi 6E, but the whopping £1,500 price tag is hard to justify.

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TP-Link Deco X90 Mesh Router Review: Hardware Design

The upright, tapered shape of the Deco X90 units makes them look a bit like vases, though sadly you can’t liven up their plain white design by sticking tulips into them. They are 210mm high, with a maximum diameter of 130mm; you’d hardly call them inconspicuous, but they’re harmless enough.

Each has a recessed power socket in the underside and a bright LED near the base that changes color to indicate system status: yellow means booting up, flashing red means no connection Internet or mesh, green means everything is fine.

Other than that, the only physical features are a pair of Ethernet sockets on the back: a standard Gigabit port plus a 2.5GbE connector. The X90 is smart enough to figure out which is your internet connection, and you can optionally use the other for wired backhaul or to connect a wired client. Flexibility and multi-gig support are excellent, but there’s no USB connectivity and with only two ports per station you may need an external switch to connect all your devices.

READ NEXT: The best mesh Wi-Fi routers to buy

TP-Link Deco X90 Mesh Router Review: Software Features

The Deco smartphone app quickly guides you through setting up the X90 system, then takes care of network management. You can use it to browse connected devices, enable and disable primary and guest networks, configure address reservation and port forwarding, and assign per-device priority and parental control settings.

The app can also display notifications to alert you of new device connections and notify you of security scan results. Since remote access is enabled by default, you don’t need to be connected to the Deco network to stay up to date.

The HomeShield page provides network security and parental controls. Basic features are included for free, including manual security scans, website filtering by category, and enforced bedtimes. Subscription to HomeShield Pro for £54 a year unlocks router-based blocking of dangerous sites and content, with more flexible time limitation in the Parental Controls module and extensive reporting on what customers have been doing online – see the TP-Link website for the full list of HomeShield features.

Interestingly, the Deco app also integrates with a range of smart devices, including Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings and TP-Link’s own Kasa platform, so you can use the app to turn on the lights. , control smart switches, and more, and even set up simple automations, like turning on your lights whenever your smartphone connects to the Deco network.

It’s a good spread of features, even if you don’t get the VPN support that comes with Asus and Netgear devices – and, since there are no USB ports, there’s naturally no shared storage support. If you prefer to use a traditional browser-based interface, also note that Deco’s web-based dashboard only displays network status and offers no controls or settings.

TP-Link Deco X90 mesh router review: Performance

TP-Link Marketing for Deco X90 Misleads Its “AI-Driven Mesh Technology”; this presumably means adaptive linking capability, but since it works behind the scenes, it’s hard to tell what it really does for you. I tested the system’s performance in my usual way, setting up the router in my office and the extender at the opposite end of the adjoining bedroom. The Deco chooses its own wireless settings and the app is oddly secretive about it; using a scanner app on my phone, I determined that the Deco was broadcasting a 160 MHz network centered on channel 42 in the 5 GHz range.

I then connected an Asustor Drivestor Pro 4 NAS device to the main Deco unit over 2.5GbE. Finally, I connected a test laptop, equipped with an Intel AX210 2×2 network card, to the 5 GHz network and measured file upload and download speeds in different areas of my house. Here are the speeds I’ve seen, along with various other mesh systems for comparison:

It is an exceptional performance. With my test laptop in the same room as the router unit, I saw incredible download speeds of 147.6MB/s over Wi-Fi 6. That’s the fastest connection we’ve had. view from any mesh, even beating the Netgear Orbi RBKE963 running on a 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E link. There’s a significant generational gap between this and older mesh solutions, which struggled to break the 60MB/sec mark.

Perhaps more impressive is how effectively the Deco X90 threw coverage at all ends of my house. Clearly the higher speeds couldn’t be sustained once walls and other obstacles came into play: here Wi-Fi 6E showed its advantage, with the Orbi system consistently proving faster.

Even so, the Deco X90 delivered wonderfully consistent download speeds no matter where I moved, outpacing all other Wi-Fi 6 meshes in every location. Without a doubt, this system truly delivers on the promise of whole-home wireless.

READ NEXT: The best wireless routers to buy

TP-Link Deco X90 mesh router review: Verdict

£474 is a fair amount of money, but we can’t complain about what it gets you. The latest Wi-Fi 6 hardware is unlocking speeds that were recently unthinkable at twice the price, and – perhaps thanks to its new radio configuration – the Deco X90 does a great job of distributing that bandwidth at scale. Considering how close to performance a new 6E Wi-Fi system is, this is arguably a pretty good deal.

As always, it’s worth asking whether you really need this kind of top-notch wireless performance. If you regularly move gigabytes of data across your home network, that might be the case, but the typical household won’t notice any benefit: even the cheap Xiaomi system has the bandwidth to stream multiple 4K HDR videos at once. .

Again, the Deco X90 has the headroom to service a growing network for years to come, not only on the wireless front, but also with 2.5GbE built-in. It doesn’t hurt that the free service covers basic security and parental controls, so you don’t feel armed with another subscription.

It would have been nice to see a few more Ethernet ports, and if you want USB or VPN support you’ll have to look elsewhere. For basic mesh services, however, you won’t find a better solution anywhere near this price.

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Harry D. Gonzalez