For me, there’s nothing worse than finding out the hard way that you need a new mesh router. After checking that the squirrels are not eating our construction cables again, unfortunately one day this spring I found myself with a faulty WiFi system in an apartment that could run FIOS. And yet my internet couldn’t run as well as a Zoom meeting.
Even as a tech expert who has written extensively about Wi-Fi systems for years, the prospect of finding a reliable option felt daunting. After some thorough research, I decided to release one that I felt gave me the most bang for my buck: the TP-Link Deco WiFi 6 Mesh System (Deco X20).
Price and availability: The TP-Link Deco WiFi 6 Mesh System is available for $199.99 for a set of three from Amazon. You can also get it at Best Buy for $249 and Walmart for $129 (though heads up, you only get a two-pack at Walmart).
Why we chose it: I like internet. In fact, most days you’ll find me flitting over cute cat pics on r/catslivingandwell, checking out my Insta feed, or digging fortress under a blanket to catch Bridgerton or the latest episode of fear street† What don’t I like? I have to think about the specs and features of my internet, such as current speeds, or whether the idle latency is in a range that will make not only my shows streamable, but also my online video games. It’s a problem I’ve had in the past, and I’m still scarred by rubber banding and the dreaded buffering.
I have experience with TP-Link in the past. Before moving to NYC, I even upgraded my parents’ internet connection with the TP-Link Deco S4. They wanted something easy, and I wanted something I could shoot from over a thousand miles away if needed (read on for those spoilers). Honestly, this particular device made me so invested in the TP-Link brand in general, but with two people working from home in my apartment, I was concerned that the S4 might not be enough to handle heavy gaming for two. can. I needed more power!
Measuring just over 4 inches overall, the TP-Link Deco X20 uses three routers/extenders to connect more than 150 devices across a span of 5,800 square feet on a Wi-Fi 6 network. The number of devices that can connect may seem high, but keep in mind that your phones, laptops, tablets, smart TVs and more all need to be connected. Any device adds up over time and can clog the network – and the TP-Link is designed for heavy use in a large home space.
In addition, each router/extender comes with four antennas and uses a dual-band signal, so you get both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands. If you don’t know the difference between the two, a simplified answer is that a 2.4GHz band provides a more stable, albeit slower, signal over a wider space. In the case of this TP-Link Mesh system, you can expect speeds of up to 575 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz network. Its counterpart, the 5.0 GHz, is a much shorter signal that provides a stronger and faster connection. If you’re a gamer, you’ll want the 5.0GHz band that can go up to 1200Mbps, while your streaming and web browsing can operate on the other band with ease. The great feature of the TP-Link is that it automatically detects what you need and switches to which one is best for your needs – no extra work needed on your part.
And if you happen to be someone who prefers to manually switch over and inspect your internet connection, let’s talk about the app I mentioned earlier. The Deco app is arguably one of my favorite features of this mesh system because it’s so easy to program speeds, latency, and parental controls for the kids.
From the app, you can add more extenders if you have a large house, but three should realistically meet your needs. You can even see how many devices are online and which of your extenders they’re connected to. The app is also how you build your mesh home network, and in my experience it can be set up in less than half an hour if you live in a large space. The app makes it really easy to troubleshoot if you find yourself having interruptions or latency issues, which is one of the reasons I haven’t gone back since I started working with TP-Link routers. I love checking out the monthly reports and seeing where my security can be improved on the TP-Link via the Deco app.
For those with the Alexa smart home built into their apartment or house, the TP-Link also connects to Amazon devices for a seamless network. If you need to create a guest network for the mother-in-law or your kids’ friends, you can easily set it up or clear it with a voice command.
What others say: Tom’s Guide really appreciated the security settings built into the mesh system. “Like other Deco models, TP-Link has added a plethora of services that make the Deco X20 even more attractive for home networking. It starts with the company’s HomeCare security suite that includes Trend Micro anti-malware code embedded in the router’s firmware to provide an extra layer of online defense. It can help protect against attacks on the family’s digital identity, while blocking network attacks and filtering out offensive websites.”
PC Mag felt that parental controls were expanded to securely monitor children’s activities online. “Parental controls are robust and easy to use. You can create profiles for each user, check their Internet browsing history, set access limits, and assign age-based filters that automatically block access to sites that offer gambling, social networking, gaming, chat rooms, and other adult content.
Our conclusion: The TP-Link router is one of the best home mesh systems if you don’t want to opt for a Google mesh system. It can be expanded to accommodate large houses and small spaces. The security settings, combined with the high dual-band antennas, make this a solid foundation for any home that likes to game and stream.