Review: TP-Link Deco M9 Plus Smart Home Mesh WiFi

WiFi is ubiquitous in homes and offices today, but setting up a new router remains a frustrating experience for all but the most technology-minded, and the signal never seems to quite cover the whole building. Mesh technology has emerged in the last few years to address both of these issues, and TP-Link’s latest Deco M9 Plus is one of the best systems we’ve come across.

Looks and design

TP-Link have gone with a refreshingly minimal design for the M9 Plus, with each device about the size of a smoke-alarm (15cm diameter and 3-4cm thick) and made from a sturdy white plastic with a single curve and LED on the top. They are unassuming and should fit in easily with any modern home or office environment.

Setup

Setting up a router can be a nightmare, but the Deco M9 Plus were a breeze. Everything is handled in the free Android/iOS app, and the process is as straightforward as setting up a Sonos speaker. The steps are as follows:

  1. Connect your modem to the first unit with the supplied ethernet cable and reboot the modem.
  2. Switch on the Deco M9 Plus unit and wait for the LED to start pulsing blue.
  3. Download the Deco app on your smartphone – Android / iOS – and create an account.
  4. In the app, select the Deco M9 Plus and your phone connects directly with the unit via Bluetooth.
  5. Choose the location of the unit (kitchen/hallway/bedroom/etc) and create a network by choose a name (SSID) and password.
  6. Join the network and click “Add Another Unit” button to add a second unit for better WiFi coverage.
  7. Plug in your second unit in a good spot and wait for the LED to pulse blue.
  8. Choose a location for the second unit and you are good to go.


TP-Link Deco
TP-Link Deco
‎TP-Link Deco
‎TP-Link Deco
Developer: TP-LINK
Price: Free

Signal strength

The two Deco M9 Plus units that come in the box managed to cover our entire office and outdoor space, which in very unscientific terms would mean it should be sufficient for most houses or small offices, with TP-Link saying it they will cover 420 square meters. You can also buy additional units to add to the mesh network if your premises is larger, but two should be enough for most people to provide a reliable and quick WiFi connection throughout helped by the impressive dedicated 5GHz backhaul channel – something missing on cheaper alternatives where the connection between the devices can interfere and reduce WiFi speeds overall.

Smart home

Beyond its mesh WiFi router capabilities, the Deco M9 Plus has the added bonus of built-in support for a variety of smart home devices, ranging from lightbulbs (eg. Samsung SmartThings), to thermostats (eg. Nest), to smart deadbolts and security (eg. Kwikset) and many more thanks to the ZigBee HA 1.2 integration. You can even use IFTT (If This Then That) or Amazon Alexa to control everything together. There is no Z-wave support, but otherwise this is about as full-featured as a smart home hub could be.

Conclusion

TP-Link’s Deco M9 Plus is one of the more expensive mesh WiFi setups around at £285 for a two-unit pack. However, as it offers similar coverage to many three-unit mesh setups, has a separate channel for backhaul capacity, and includes the features of a smart home hub, then it compares favourably with the competition from the likes of Google WiFi, Netgear Orb , and BT Whole Home. If you just want a solid whole home mesh WiFi system, then cheaper alternatives will suit you fine, but for those looking for control of a smart home, then the Deco M9 Plus would be a great choice.

Buy

Price at the time of review: £284.99 (on sale at Amazon down from £349.99)

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