Affordable Mesh Wi-Fi And The TP-Link Deco M5

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To Mesh Or Not To Mesh?

Maybe you’re aware of the performance advantages of Mesh Wi-Fi but find yourself wondering if the improvement in performance justifies the cost. In this article, look at the advantages of Mesh Wi-Fi over traditional Wi-Fi, and use the TP-Link Deco M5 to demonstrate a low-cost solution that allows you to have all the advantages of Mesh Wi-Fi at an affordable price.

It’s possible to have performance issues in a large home even if you have a powerful long-range WiFi router. A Wi-Fi signal can only travel so far before it starts to degrade. If you have just one wireless router in your home once you get past the 2500 square foot range you’re going to start having issues. Issues like lag and dead spots will increase exponentially with the size of your home.

Many of these problems can be corrected with Wi-Fi extenders, Powerline, or Wi-Fi adapters antennas but once you start getting into a really large home a good Mesh Wi-Fi system has got to become a serious consideration.

The TP-Link Deco M5 is an example of a Mesh Wi-Fi system that finds that magical sweet spot between performance and price. Deco Mesh Wi-Fi systems are consistently among the best-selling mesh systems on Amazon. Mesh is usually very easy to set up but there are still some quirky little things that confuse some people which I’ll be covering in this article.

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TP-Link Deco Mesh WiFi System(Deco M5) –Up to 5,500 sq. ft. Whole...

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Advantages Of Mesh Wi-Fi Over “Regular” Wireless Routers

What are the advantages of a mesh system over a standard wireless router? With a “regular” wireless router, you have just one connection for the whole house. If the range of the wireless router does not extend to the whole house you’ll end up with dead spots and other slowness issues such as lag and dropped connections.

These issues can sometimes be cleared up with wireless extenders, but in many cases, you’ll end up with multiple SSIDs (wireless networks) and you’ll end up having to manually disconnect and reconnect as you move around your home. You may also have to get multiple Wi-Fi extenders to take care of multiple dead spots in your home.

With a Mesh Wi-Fi system, you can put nodes in all the important parts of your home and connect to all of them with one SSID (network name). Each node has a special extra band which allows them all to communicate with each other and decide which connection is the strongest one for wherever you’re located at the time.

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Mesh System

Another great thing about mesh is it so easy to set up. When I first set up my TP-Link Deco M5 it was almost fun. When I was done I was like, “Whoa, is that all there is?”

Another good thing about mesh is its flexibility. There are different ways to set mesh Wi-Fi nodes up. When setting up your mesh Wi-Fi system you may find yourself running into words such as router mode, access point mode, bridge mode, NAT, double NAT, and wired backhaul.

It would be time-consuming to do the research to figure all this out so let me break it down for you really quick. A wired backhaul is when you connect two Wi-Fi mesh nodes with an ethernet cable. This allows for faster throughput between the two and frees up the Wi-Fi band the mesh nodes would otherwise use to communicate with each other. This results in an increase in your Wi-Fi bandwidth and performance. This is a great way to get the most performance out of your Mesh Wi-Fi system IF you don’t mind running cables.

In this article, I’ll be focusing on the methods that don’t involve pulling ethernet cables through your walls such as “router mode” and “access point mode.”

In most people’s homes, you’ll have a modem and a router. The router performs special networking functions such as Network Address Translation, DHCP, Quality of Service, and port forwarding. In some cases, the ISP will send the customer a modem-router combo in which all those router functions are built into the modem. Many times people will be unhappy with the performance of their modem-router combo and they’ll go out and get themselves a nice shiny new wireless router.

mesh configuration

Unfortunately what happens is when you do this you have all those router functions happening on both the modem-router combo and the new wireless router. When that happens those functions start to interfere with each other and you end up with something called double NAT. You can also end up with conflicting DHCP IP addresses. QoS and port forwarding rules can get kind of confused as well.

The common solution for this has always been to call your ISP and ask them to put the modem-router combo into “bridge mode.” This bypasses all those fancy wireless router functions and allows them to be taken care of by your new home wireless router.

modem in bridge mode

The same kind of situation exists with mesh Wi-Fi. With a mesh system, you can set it up in an “access point mode” which means your primary mesh node is just an access point and does not interfere with all those router functions. The other option is to take your wireless router out of the equation and set the primary mesh node up in “router mode” so it can handle all the functions that your wireless router normally would.

mesh wifi in access point mode

Many times people will get “all kinds of” upset because they set their mesh system up in “access point mode” and when they go in to make changes to DHCP and Quality of Service they find those settings are missing and they feel like they’ve been “ripped off.” What is actually happening is those functions do not exist on the primary mesh node when you set it up in “access point “mode.” If you want to use those functions you have to set it up in “router mode” or use your wireless router.

mesh wifi in router mode

Let’s Stop Staring At It And Get It Set Up!

So much for the basic primer on the technical side of wireless mesh routers. Let’s go ahead and set one up. As you know we’ll be using The TP-Link Deco M5 which is an extremely affordable Mesh Wi-Fi system. The Deco Mesh M5 specs are decent but they’re not overwhelming. What it amounts to is an AC 1300 megabits per second system with 867 MB per second on the 5 GHz band and the rest on the 2.4 GHz band.

TP-Link Deco Whole Home Mesh WiFi System Up to 3,800 sq. ft. (Deco M5 2-pack) (Renewed)

Each node has four antennas and supports MU-MIMO and Beamforming. It also has a very nice Qualcomm quad-core processor and each node has two ethernet ports. You can now also get antivirus and parental controls as part of a free subscription service. TP-Link Deco M5 also comes with a cloud service that you can use to log in, monitor, and control your home network remotely.

The M5s specs are fine for our purposes since we are more interested in expanding our range than getting blazing speed. At the end of this article, I’ll show some statistics of an actual speed test between The Deco M5 and a Netgear Nighthawk (link to Netgear Nighthawk).

Okay, let’s start getting our TP-Link Deco M5 setup. When you first plug in the primary mesh node you’ll get a nice little blue blinking light. This means it’s ready to be set up and configured. As I mentioned before you can set these up in either “access point mode” or “router mode.” In this case, will be doing the setup in “router mode” so I can show all those “special router functions.”

That means we’ll be taking the wireless router out of the equation and using the primary mesh node as the wireless router.

The App Is Impressive!

I have used many Wi-Fi smartphone applications at times many of them seemed buggy and would sometimes lock up. For the most part, the TP-Link Deco M5 mesh Wi-Fi app performed flawlessly. It performed every operation I asked of it and “just worked” without any errors.

For this simple test, I took turns connecting to the Netgear Nighthawk and then to the Deco M5 from a wireless laptop.

At first glance, it may appear that the Netgear Nighthawk “outperforms” the Deco M5. In terms of raw speed it does but keep in mind on the 5 GHz side the Nighthawk is a 1300 Mb per second router while The TP-Link Deco M5 is only an 867 Mb per second router. From that standpoint, it’s kind of an unfair comparison.

The important thing to keep in mind is why you bought your Mesh Wi-Fi system in the first place. Was it to achieve blazing speed or was it just to increase your wireless range? If the goal was to increase wireless range we have accomplished that objective. If you need blazing speed another more high-end mesh system like the Orbi RBK752 might be a better choice.

deco mesh wifi speed comparison

Where The Wi-Fi Speed Hits The Road

With a standard wireless router, you’re going to start off with max speeds like those shown above when you’re right on top of the wireless router, but as you move farther and farther away the speeds you get are going to rapidly decrease. On a mesh network designed for coverage area, you’ll maintain good speeds throughout the home.

One valid concern is the “ping speed.” These ping speeds are not acceptable if you’re a gamer. By design Mesh has a lot of crosstalk and communication going on between the nodes. This consumes bandwidth and creates overhead which is a big reason why the Ping speeds are so high. A good approach would be to set up your mesh nodes in “access point mode” and allow your wireless router to control things such as Quality Service, NAT, and port forwarding and run your games off of the wireless router.

More Best Selling Mesh Wi-Fi Systems

While The TP-Link Deco M5 may not be the fastest Mesh system out there it is definitely one of the best values you’ll find if your main concern is to increase wireless coverage and performance throughout your home. I would highly recommend this system to anyone who is looking to improve their Wi-Fi coverage and get the biggest bang for their buck. You can get one here right now:

Last update on 2022-12-10 at 08:11 Affiliate links and Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Jerry Jones (WiFi Guy) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

“As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” – Jerry Jones

Affiliate Disclosure

Jerry Jones (WiFi Guy) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

“As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” – Jerry Jones

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