Mesh wifi – Deco M5

Not my usual sort of post, but this might be of interest to anyone out there dithering about getting a mesh wifi system. The take home message? Just do it, you won’t regret it — and the TP-link Deco M5 will probably suit you very well.

And for those still with me,  who want more detail ….

We have a two storey Edwardian house, small but extended, with a lot of internal brick walls. Our Virgin broadband gives 100 Mb/s download speeds in theory. But the wifi in parts of the house away from the router could get very slow. Our needs are modest: ideally, a system delivering steady wifi throughout the house, for ordinary laptop use, some iPlayer or movie streaming to the Apple TV, and (what in particular we didn’t have before) enough bandwidth for reliable quality FaceTime video without sitting next to the router. We have no need for fancy control of the system: plug-and-play-and-forget-about-it is what we were after.

Looking at reviews, in the PC/Mac magazines, on review sites, and from purchasers, it seems that there are a number of mesh wifi systems that get a lot of more-or-less five-star reviews. Though in each case, some reviewers/purchasers report pretty bad experiences. So you pays your money and you takes your chances …

Some of the available mesh wifi kits are definite overkill for a smallish house where the incoming broadband is not lightning fast and where we haven’t got dozens of devices. So I went for the TP-link Deco M5 (there’s now a fancier M9, not yet available in the UK; but this is more expensive and again provides more than we could need so I didn’t wait for it). I plumped for the Deco basically on price — and on aesthetic grounds, where TP-link have taken a leaf out of Apple’s book. The small units and their chargers are rather nicely designed, and even smaller (and hence more unobtrusive) than you expect.

Setting up the three Decos on the iPhone app was simplicity itself. Twenty minutes or so and we were good to go.  (A couple of firmware updates have became available since: oh heavens, I thought, am I about to spoil things, now everything is working perfectly? But no, updating via the app went entirely smoothly — another  encouraging sign!)

And so to the 64K dollar question: how well does it all work? We are now normally getting 100Mb/s more or less throughout the house. In other words, we are getting the benefit of all the speed we are notionally paying for. The wifi connection has been extremely stable and reliable, with no noticeable dropouts at all. Those transatlantic FaceTime video chats work a treat, far from the Virgin Hub. The Decos just sit there, performing as advertised.

So, in summary — for our routine needs — the Decos really do fill the bill. I needed a family prod or three to take the plunge; should have done it a year ago.

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