TP-Link's Deco M5 mesh-router system, unveiled at CES in January, is finally available to customers for $299 for a three-pack. That puts it head-to-head with the identically priced Google Wifi, and makes it $100 cheaper than the Eero three-pack.
As an added bonus, the Deco M5 comes with three years of Trend Micro antivirus protection, something that no other mesh-router system currently offers. The set of three Deco M5 units, which look a lot like smoke alarms, should be able to cover a 4,500-square-foot home, and you can connect up to 10 units.
MORE: Best Wi-Fi Routers
The Deco M5 is an AC1300 dual-band system capable of speeds of up to 867 Mbps on the 5-GHz band, and beats the Eero and Google Wifi by having MU-MIMO technology, which lets it communicate with multiple client devices over both the 2.4-Ghz and 5-Ghz bands at once.
TP-Link's mesh router it doesn't have a third band dedicated to the "backhaul" communications among the mesh-router nodes, an innovation that gave the Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop huge speed advantages over other mesh routers in our lab tests.
(However, the company showed off a second mesh-router system at CES called Deco M5 Plus. It plugged power-line Ethernet adapters into the Deco M5 units' USB-C power ports to supply them with wired backhaul. We're waiting to hear when that system will be available.)
Like most mesh-router systems, the Deco M5 lets parents control their kids' internet access, and even "pause" access for dinnertime or other occasions. It also provides the owner with a monthly usage report. You'll need an Android or iOS mobile device to set up and administer the Deco M5 system.
Each Deco M5 unit has two Ethernet ports and a USB-C port. For now, the latter seems to be dedicated to the power cable, but the Deco M5 Plus system mentioned above promises more in the future.
It's not yet clear whether the Trend Micro protection will include antivirus software to be installed on all computers and smartphones in the consumer's home, as the Bitdefender Box provides. We're checking with TP-Link about that.
Mesh-router systems use multiple base stations to eliminate Wi-Fi dead zones in large or oddly shaped homes. Unlike wireless extenders, the units create a single Wi-Fi network, and most mesh-router systems can relay signals from one to the next for extended range.
However, mesh systems tend to be expensive, with prices of $300 and up for an adequate starter pack. People who encounter dead zones in small or medium-sized homes might want to try putting their standard Wi-Fi routers in different locations before committing to a mesh-router system.
Stay tuned for our review of the TP-Link Deco M5.