Year:
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Mar.2020
10

The Straits Times Tech Review:: TP-Link Deco X20 mesh router is ideal for mainstream users

The Straits Times Tech Review: TP-Link Deco X20 mesh router is ideal for mainstream users

Vincent Chang

The TP-Link Deco X20 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System is one of the first entry-level Wi-Fi 6 routers in the market.

At $339 for a set of three identical units, the X20 brings the price point of routers supporting the new wireless standard - which promises faster speeds with Wi-Fi 6-compatible devices - to mainstream levels.

It is also a mesh Wi-Fi system, which means multiple units are linked together to extend wireless coverage and eliminate blind spots. A set of three X20 units is said to cover an area of up to 5,800 sq ft (538 sq metres).

Compared to the X20, the Linksys Velop MX5300 mesh router that I recently reviewed is far more expensive at $569 for a single unit.

Of course, the higher-end Velop has more powerful features, such as three wireless bands compared to the dual-band X20, as well as having twice the number of Ethernet ports.

The X20 also lacks a dedicated wireless backhaul used for communication between each node. Having such a feature would improve wireless speeds for clients that are connected to nodes at the edge of a mesh network.

There is an option of using Ethernet as a wired backhaul to link up all the X20 nodes, though that requires your home to have the necessary cabling in place.

The lack of a wireless backhaul is evident from the wireless speeds that I recorded when testing the X20 in a distant bedroom with a Wi-Fi 6-compatible notebook.

Although the X20 managed a very decent average download speed of 247Mbps, this result pales in comparison to the over 700Mbps achieved by the Velop MX5300.

But after I moved the laptop to the living room, where the primary node - connected to my fibre modem via Ethernet - is located, the speeds went up dramatically.

In fact, with an average download speed of 873Mbps, the X20 achieved the top speed among the handful of Wi-Fi 6 routers that I have tested so far. Bear in mind that the maximum theoretical Wi-Fi 6 speed for my laptop is 1.2Gbps.

Aside from its performance, I was also very pleased with the ease of setting up the X20. Like most modern routers, a smartphone app (Deco, available for iOS and Android) is required. Simply plug in the X20 unit, wait for its LED to pulse blue and the app will do the rest.

Adding the other two X20 units from my set of three was even easier as all the nodes are pre-paired in the factory. They will be automatically added to the mesh network when turned on. The nodes will also search online for the latest software updates without prompting.

TP-Link says all its Deco units, including other models that use the previous Wi-Fi 5 standard, can be used together in a single mesh network.

Included with the X20 is TP-Link's HomeCare service, which includes a Trend Micro-powered security suite, parental controls and quality of service (QoS) to prioritise specific devices or use cases (such as streaming or gaming).

However, the security features, such as the quarantine of infected devices and the blocking of malicious content, are free only for three months. Subsequently, a paid subscription ($5.99 a month, $15.99 a quarter or $54.99 a year) is required.

With its affordable price, ease of use and excellent close-range performance, the Deco X20 shows that you don't have to break the bank to get on the Wi-Fi 6 bandwagon.

FOR

Excellent Wi-Fi 6 performance

Ease of use

Affordable

AGAINST

Lacks wireless backhaul

Only two Gigabit ports, lacks USB port

SPECS

Price: $339 (3-pack)

Ethernet Interface: 2 x Gigabit ports

Standards: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax

Security: WPA/WPA-PSK2/WPA3

Advanced Firewall Features: NAT and SPI

RATING

Features: 4/5

Design: 4/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 5/5

Overall: 4/5

ST Tech Editor's Choice

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