TP-Link Deco X90 test: a mesh system compatible with wifi 6 at the top
December 3, 2021
The modules go almost unnoticed. © Digital
The TP-Link X90 mesh system is currently the best of the Chinese manufacturer. It is made up of two strictly identical modules; there is no router or satellite at TP-Link.
A first module is therefore connected directly to your operator box or to your router and the second halfway between the first module and the area to be covered.
In terms of specs, the TP-Link X90 kit offers almost the best: Wi-Fi 6E on three bands with a cumulative throughput of 6.6 Gb / s and a port of 2.5 Gb / s per module.
In detail, a 5 GHz band at 1.2 Gb / s is reserved for communication between the modules, the second 5 GHz band offers a throughput of 4.8 Gb / s thanks to a bandwidth of 160 MHz. Finally, a 2.4 GHz band with a speed of 574 Mb / s ensures compatibility with connected objects and old peripherals.
A small led indicates the status of the module. © Digital
Each module has two RJ45 sockets. The first is at the Gigabit standard, the second at the 2.5 Gigabit standard. There is no so-called WAN socket (reserved for connection to the router) or LAN. You can therefore connect either of the two to your operator box. However, if you have a fiber subscription greater than 1 Gb / s, it will be preferable to connect the module to your operator box via the 2.5G socket if your box has one; we are thinking in particular of the Free offers and the FreeBox Delta.
A Gigabit socket and a 2.5G socket, that’s it. © Digital
Aesthetically, the TP-Link module is successful, with a white shell with a matte finish and a glossy top. From a distance, it looks like a flowerpot or a vase with this V-shape. With almost 21 cm, it is on the other hand a bit high. In terms of width, the base of the module measures 11.5cm to widen to 13cm at its top. The weight is 720 g and allows it to be placed on a shelf.
The installation of the kit is very simple. First of all, you need to install the Deco app on your smartphone. The app guides you step by step through the installation. You must first connect a single module, the one connected to the box. You then indicate in the application the identifiers of your new network and at the very end you alone can add your second module.
A clear installation, detailed step by step. © Digital
Once your two modules have been configured, you will therefore obtain a single Wi-Fi name (SSID) that you have indicated during the installation. The 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz bands are therefore grouped under a single SSID. Your devices will automatically choose the band that gives them the best performance. Note that we have not encountered any problem connecting our connected objects, even the most exotic.
The application allows you to manage all the parameters of your graphic kit. The possibilities are almost at the level of a high-end router, with options like port forwarding, MAC address cloning, DHCP server settings, and more.
The interface is complete. © Digital
Even novices can easily deactivate a group, create a guest network, update the firmware modules or access plan.
On the other hand, those used to web administration interfaces may be disappointed by the limits and the simplicity of TP-Link.
The web configuration interface is particularly poor. © Digital
When it comes to security, TP-Link offers a HomeShield tab. The basic version is free and provides network analysis and a touch of QoS (bandwidth prioritization) based on devices and users. It is thus possible to create users, attach devices to them, obtain monthly usage statistics, and even notifications when a new device connects.
On the other hand, a real parental control (with listing of the sites visited) is chargeable with the Pro version of HomeShield; the subscription is € 5.99 per month or € 54.99 per year. The first 30 days are free if you want to test before you decide.
The most useful parental control features are chargeable. © Digital
To evaluate the performance of the Deco X90 kit from TP-Link, we connected a module near our operator box to which we connected a laptop PC via an adapter on the 2.5 Gb / s socket. In order to measure the speeds, we transferred a 4.73 GB file (a disk image) from the first laptop PC to a second equipped with an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 chip, but also to a stationary PC located at the floor and connected to a Gigabyte GC-WBAX200 PCIe card, also with the Intel AX200 chip, but with an external antenna.
The first module is positioned at an angle to the housing, the second module almost in the middle of the latter. We take a measurement at 1 m which gives us the optimal flow rates (point 1 for module n ° 1 and point 2 for module n ° 2), another in a room about 5 m from module n ° 2 with a wall opposite the module n ° 1 (point 4), a third measurement on the fixed PC upstairs through a concrete floor (point 3), and the last measurement on the second floor as well, but beyond above the first room where the router speeds are lowest (point 5).
In Wi-Fi 6 on the 5 GHz band, the TP-Link Deco X90 offers an average speed of nearly 1.3 Gb / s while receiving our 4.73 GB file. This transfer therefore takes 28 seconds, i.e. an average speed of 166 MB / s. Impressive! We were even able to achieve an average speed of 1.6 Gb / s over one minute with iPerf! The sending speed of the same file is of the same order of magnitude (a little more than 1 Gb / s).
The measurement on the second module is much less impressive, and for good reason, the modules communicate on a 5 GHz band with a theoretical speed of 1200 Mb / s. In practice, this therefore gives at best 539 Mb / s, or a speed average of 67 Mb / s in reception and 465 Mb / s in transmission (58 Mb / s).
Note that the Wi-Fi card of our stationary PC prefers – quite logically – to connect to module n ° 1 offering better speeds than module n ° 2, however much closer to our PC.
On the most distant point n ° 5, the Deco X90 provides comfortable speeds of 384 Mb / s in reception and 284 Mb / s in transmission. Enough to easily view 4K content from your favorite platform.
Out of curiosity, we tested the speeds offered by the Deco X90, this time by configuring our wifi cards in Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac).
The flow rates of module n ° 1 then drop by approximately 10%, while the flow rates recorded on module n ° 2 tend to increase in the same proportions.
Either way, if you are mostly equipped with Wi-Fi 5 devices, you will benefit from the excellent speeds offered by the Deco X90, which flirts with Gigabit speeds.
The performances on the 2.4 GHz band are less glorious and demonstrate above all that this band is mainly present for compatibility. Thus the maximum speed is close to 300 Mb / s, to stabilize around 200 Mb / s. Small flat on our point n ° 5 where we reach the limits of the Deco X90 on this band with speeds lower than those of ‘a repeater.