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TP-Link Deco M9 Plus review: A mesh networking system for smart homes

By Kenny Yeo - 28 Nov 2018

Performance Analysis & Conclusion

So, how does it perform?

The TLDR version: Performance was mostly a mixed bag. The TP-Link Deco M9 Plus exhibited good range and provided good download speeds. Uploads speeds, however, was mostly quite disappointing. Overall, its performance was a match for the Linksys Velop and much improved over TP-Link's first mesh networking system, the Deco M5.

For the rest of you who like to pore over graphs, here they are. But first, a quick run through of our test setup.

 

Test Setup

To test this new breed of mesh networking systems, we've changed our test environment, but our test setup remains relatively unchanged. We have two notebooks, one acting as a host machine and the other as a client device. The router, or in this case, node, acts as a gateway. Since mesh networking systems typically manage channel settings on their own, we will leave it that way. For systems where manual settings are possible, a channel bandwidth of 40MHz is selected where applicable, while 80MHz or more is used for the 5GHz AC band.

The client device is a 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is one of the few client devices in the market to come with a 3x3 Wi-Fi receiver, allowing it to achieve wireless speeds of up to 1,300Mbps.

Here is a graphical representation of our network test setup.

To evaluate, we will be measuring the time and calculating the speed achieved when transferring a 1GB zip file. We will do multiple tests with different setups and different distances to simulate use around a typical single story flat and in a multi-story home.

Here are the test distances we used and what they represent:

  • 2m - Right beside the router
  • 5m - In an adjacent room
  • 10m - In a room that is farther away
  • 15m - To simulate extreme distances (e.g. master bedroom toilet)
  • Second story - One floor above
  • Third story - Two floors above

Here are the different TP-Link Deco M9 Plus setups we used:

  • A single TP-Link Deco M9 Plus router
  • Two TP-Link Deco M9 Plus nodes over a single floor
  • Two TP-Link Deco M9 Plus nodes over two floors

To further clarify, in tests where nodes were placed on the second or third floor, the measurement would be taken with the client device about two meters away from the node. Finally, included in the graphs are results of other mesh networking systems including the TP-Link Deco M5, Samsung Connect Home Pro, Google Wifi, Linksys Velop, and Netgear Orbi.

 

Single node performance

In this test, we will be looking at the performance of a single TP-Link Deco M9 Plus router in a single-story (using the different distance markers) and multi-story home. All other competitive mesh networking system results are also that of a single node setup.

The performance of a single TP-Link Deco M9 Plus router was a bit of a mixed bag. While download speeds were generally quite good, especially at the 10-meter range, its upload speeds were lacking. At 2 and 5-meter, its upload speeds were the lowest. Like the rest of its competitors, we didn’t manage to establish a meaningful connection at the extreme ranges of 15m and from the second and third floor.

 

Mesh performance at 15 meters

In this test, we placed a second TP-Link Deco M9 Plus node in between the first node and the 15-meter mark to create a mesh network to get signal to the problematic 15-meter mark. We did the same for other mesh networks to see how their performance would compare.

With a node in place, we got pretty respectable numbers. The Deco M9 Plus was clearly faster than the other dual-band mesh networking systems. However, it trailed slightly when compared to other tri-band systems like the Linksys Velop and Netgear Orbi.

 

Mesh performance on 2nd floor

In this test, we placed a second TP-Link Deco M9 Plus node on the second floor and created a mesh network to expand Wi-Fi coverage on the second floor. We did the same for the other mesh networks to see how their performance would compare.

With a node on the second floor to bridge the distance between our client device and the main router, we got mixed performance. Its upload speed was one of the highest, behind only the Linksys Velop and Netgear Orbi. Its download speed, however, was a little disappointing as it trailed the Netgear Orbi, Google Wifi, and Samsung Connect Home Pro.

 

Mesh performance on 3rd floor

Typically, we would place a third node on the third floor for this test, but since the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus only comes in a two-pack, results that you see here are from me on the third floor connecting to the node on the second floor in the test we did earlier.

While the other systems had a third node, I was still connecting to the Deco M9 Plus node on the second floor for this test since the Deco M9 Plus only comes in a pack of two. Despite this, the Deco M9 Plus’ numbers were very respectable, which is a testament to its range. Its upload speeds were still faster than a 3-pack Deco M5 and its download speeds were surpassed only by the Netgear Orbi.

 

How does it compare to its rivals?

The Deco M9 Plus' price is attractively priced for a tri-band mesh networking system with smart home capabilities.

Performance was mostly a mixed bag. Range is above average but its upload speeds were generally quite a lot poorer than its download speeds. Overall, the Deco M9 Plus was significantly quicker than other dual-band mesh networking systems and it was a good match for the Linksys Velop. If performance is a priority, the Netgear Orbi is still the outright performance king.

Performance may not be its strong suit but the Deco M9 Plus’ smart home capabilities give it a leg up against competing tri-band mesh networking systems in the market. The Velop and Orbi cannot act as smart home hubs. So if you are thinking of adding smart devices to your home, the Deco M9 Plus can streamline that process. The only other mesh networking system with smart home capabilities is the Samsung Connect Home Pro, but that’s a dual-band system and it is really pricey.

Price Comparison
Mesh networking system Price for a set of three
TP-Link Deco M9 Plus S$568
TP-Link Deco M5 S$399
Samsung Connect Home Pro S$894
Google Wifi S$597
Linksys Velop S$689
Netgear Orbi S$949

Speaking of price, that is perhaps the Deco M9 Plus’ strongest suit. At S$568 for three nodes ($369 for a pack of two, S$199 for a single node), it is significantly more affordable than its rivals. The Samsung Connect Home Pro, which is also a mesh networking system with smart home capabilities costs a whopping S$326 or 57% more! In light of its price, performance, and features, the Deco M9 Plus arguably offers the best value.

To sum up, the TP-Link Deco M9 Plus is a competent mesh networking system that offers a lot of value. Performance was a little erratic and upload speeds were generally poor, but it makes up for that with above-average range and competitive download speeds. On the design front, it has a clean aesthetic that should look good in most homes. Finally, it is one of the most attractively priced mesh networking systems in the market.

8.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Easy to setup
Unobtrusive, compact design
Good range
True mesh networking topology
Acts as a smart home hub
Good value, more affordable than rivals
The Bad
Uplink performance generally poor
Limited networking features
Limited physical ports
USB port disabled for now
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