TP-LINK Deco M9 Mesh Wi-Fi System Review & Comments

Discussion in 'Networking & NAS' started by Phil Hinton, May 21, 2019.


    1. Greg Hook

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    2. joost80

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      I have personally had the Linksys Velop, Google WiFi and now the TP link deco M9 systems and only the M9 system worked as advertised, without hickups or performance troubles. I don't have a wired backhaul. With these systems it's very much a test it at home advise. The Orbi's work great for some, and bad for others. Same with Google WiFi. I could not get any speed with that system, while others praise it.
       
    3. Eddy555

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      I've got a Velop with 2 nodes with a wired backhaul. Generally it's been pretty solid and the WiFi coverage is just about right for my setup.
      I'm sure I looked at the TP-Link system, but can't remember why I dismissed it. I have other TP-Link gear (switches mainly) that are superb.
       
    4. tman

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      I personally have a two node Google wifi mesh - and it's been singly one of the best investments I've made. Backhaul is over wifi, and performance and reliability of both units is excellent. No more wifi blackspots or ugly EoP wifi extenders. Mesh wifi is definitely the way forward.
       
    5. bogart99

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      Have an Orbi RBK53 and no problems. Good wifi coverage across the whole house, 5 bed rambliung cottage, and seems rock solid, no reboots etc.
       
    6. Pisto_Grih

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      I had a plan to order a mesh wi-fi system today and it was between this and Google Wifi - coincidentally saw this review and thought it was a sign so I've ordered a set :D. House is a brick walled victorian semi - and the router is at the front of the front room - so we've had to rely on powerline adaptors for any kind of coverage in the main family room at the back of the house. Given we have "up to 200Mbps" broadband (which we do get if wired direct) it's pretty galling to speedtest at 5 or 6Mbps at the far end of the house.

      Ethernet is in walls, so that can be used for backhaul once terminated and tested, but for now will try it out WiFi only.
       
    7. guest

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      Sorry but.

      Why are proper wireless tools being used to measure the results?

      Seems a little meaningless to review something without being able test correctly.

      I can understand that you are reviewing based upon users not having the correct understanding or tools to measure and analyse there homes before deploying. But as a review I would want to see accurate measurements using the correct tools and methodology.

      Without them your results and conclusions are meaningless.

      Other reviews on this site use the correct tools to test. Seems a shame not to continue this in anything being reviewed.
       
    8. Eddy555

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      What tools would you have used?
      LANSpeedTest had always been pretty good when I used it, although I use iperf3 these days
       
    9. Greg Hook

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      Yes, what tools would you suggest? Always happy to add additional testing regimes if they are free of course!
       
    10. guest

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      Firstly.. Thank you for not jumping on me... I was trying to be constructive but its easy to piss everyone off :)

      iPerf or other tools like it only test the raw speed for A to B which has its uses but in a wifi review, I would like to also see:

      whats the RF in the environment.

      What does the device (ideally more than one) see.

      What does something like a Sidekick see when you do a survey. (Assuming your using something like Ekahau)

      What is the antenna spread

      What is your device reporting to connect at? is it a 3x3 or 2x2 how well did your device maintain this?

      Whats the Antena db

      How did you place the AP's to get the best coverage (height, distance from walls, ceilings, I want to know about reflections etc)

      How many AP's do you actually need to give a primary and secondary signal at -65 (assuming this is your benchmark) compared with what the manufacture claim (you mentioned coverage - what does this mean in the real world. 2.4 at -75 is a really, really long distance.

      Does the backhaul over wireless negatively affect the speed of a device? by how much compared to wire.

      How many SSID's can be created and the negative effect of those. layer 2 isolation (does it work?) can you open it up? what control over layers do you have i.e. 2,3,7

      Since this review is talking about mesh... I would like to see what is TP-Link using for handover r? some strange built in logic? how well does it work? how does it work? any controls / negative effects / tweaks to improve / dropped packets etc.

      Can you change the minimum connection rates?

      VLANs?

      What were the channels used - because? - what options etc
      what was the channel width used - because? - what options DFS etc

      A comparative heat map is useful between different AP's in the same area.

      iPerf from a location I can see on a map with more info from above has more use because I can use that data to guess how it would work in my house...

      Saying speed from point 1 was x really does not mean much if the RF environment is rubbish, you have co-channel interference, the AP is doing something strange, your neighbor(s) decided to move there wifi/channels/width

      You cannot compare wifi from different vendors that way.

      sorry.

      I have just been through reviewing wifi for my own home and it took serval AP's from different vendors and lots of time (and patience from the rest of the family) and lots of documentation to narrow the choice down to one...it was not the one I expected either.

      Edit: And noticed your comment on Free :).....

      OK forget the above to some extent

      Edit2: OK.. you can still do quite a lot of whats above. For free(ish) but it would be worth contacting Ekahau to see what they can do (7 day license for the review).. they also do a free ish trial which would give you an insight to much of the above + some of there free tools are very good, just limited.
       
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      Last edited: May 21, 2019
    11. Greg Hook

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      Thanks for the post and the suggestions.
      I will look into Ekahau and see if they have an option for reviewers.
       
    12. guest

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      Maybe it's just me :)

      If no one else cares about that sort of info... I am happy to admit I am wrong about this sort of review on this site.
       
    13. Eddy555

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      It's useful to have this sort of comment and information :)
       
    14. Toon Army

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      Always worth having a pre-determined set of measurements for product comparisons in reviews, especially if the same house and locations within it are used.
       
    15. Greg Hook

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      Yes, that's what I have at the moment. Always happy to add additional tests if they are free of course!
       
    16. JJW

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      I've been using four of these M9 Deco units for about 2 months now, and for the most part I'm happy with them - some things I love, other things I find hugely irritating .

      I have a bit of an irregular setup. The unit by the modem (at the front door) and the unit farthest away (in the office at the opposite end of the flat) are connected over 1Gbps ethernet for the backhaul, and the other two units are purely wireless - typically anywhere in the flat I'll get 300-400Mbps with no noticeable dead spots. Just doing a quick test transferring a large file from the PC in the living room to my office Macbook gave me a solid 520Mbps for most of the transfer. So speed-wise, no complaints. (Although my flat is all on one floor without too many thick walls, which no doubt helps.)

      As for gripes, I have quite a few although no huge deal breakers. I'm a home automation nut, and personally find all the automation support in the Deco completely useless. As you'd probably expect, you have no control over any of the router's automation functionality except through what the app gives you access to - and that boils down to limited support for a small selection of devices, with a very narrow set of tools to construct behaviours based on whatever devices you've managed to add. (I'm sitting here with a pile of various zigbee sensors and I haven't been able to get a single one working correctly with the Deco app.) With the right kit, it might be straightforward to do some simple stuff like making a light switch on when you return home - but I can imagine anything more advanced is likely to be a struggle. It's just frustrating when you know all the tech is there but there's nothing useful you can do with it. I use Home Assistant for my automation setup, and that brought another issue to light - IP address reservation. The M9 only supports 16 reserved IP addresses (which seems like an absurdly needless limitation), which is a problem when a lot of my automation devices require a static IP to function correctly. (The Hue hub, Google Mini speakers, etc.)

      That brings me onto another annoyance - IFTTT support. Given that this router is really billed as a home automation platform, to me that kind of suggests that it's going to open up all your devices to endless possibilities with IFTTT to create routines to do anything you can imagine with lights, sensors, and IoT gadgets around the house. Unless I'm doing something wrong or have massively missed the point, that isn't the case at all - you can create triggers based on devices joining the network, leaving the network, or when a new device connects for the first time. And that's it. My mind isn't exactly fizzing with ideas for exciting functionality that I could build off the back of that, but maybe I expected too much.

      A few other miscellaneous notes:
      - The USB ports, while unused, are powered on - handy for powering my Raspberry Pi.
      - I've never had an issue with intermittent disconnection or rebooting issues, but I have noticed that sometimes when I power off a unit at the mains, I have to wait a good five minutes before I plug it back in otherwise it appears dead. No idea what the reason could be for this, but all my units have this problem. (Although not an issue unless I'm constantly unplugging and moving them around.)
      - I only briefly looked at the Alexa support, but it seems pretty worthless to me (and I'd imagine to most people). If I recall correctly it's mostly things like toggling the priority mode for different services/devices, toggling guest WiFi, and things like that.
       
    17. guest

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      But the data has to be meaningful and provable. A speed test means very little without the other relevant data to back it up.

      Most corps with medium to large Wifi deployments will not be running at 80 or 40MHz they will set the APs to 20MHz to provide a larger number of channels (providing its a microcell architecture) to limit co-channel when you compare the speed test of an SSID in 20MHz to 80MHz you could then argue the speed of this £600 AP is rubbish compared to a home AP. however, you are not comparing apples to apples.

      Lots of home AP's cannot be changed (can the TP-Link in the review?)

      You could argue that there is a big case to make all wifi 20MHz if you have neighbours... but this goes against the selling of speed with wifi...and the reviewing
       
    18. Eddy555

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      @JJW how about using the Pi with PiHole and using the DHCP server on that to control static IP addresses
       
    19. JJW

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      Yeah, if I hit the limit I'll use another DHCP server, it's just an extra step of hassle that I'd rather avoid. Currently using 8 out of the 16 available IPs so hopefully I'll be ok.
       
    20. mickevh

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      Not to mention we tune the transmit power down - yes down - to create smaller cells and encourage clients to roam more readily and reduce the co-channel interference (meaning we can cram in more cells with fewer devices in each and thereby lessen contention which can actually increase the throughput ("speed") of any given device. It's complicated.)

      I've opined in the past, and suffered the flames for so doing, that unless you have a proper RF shielded test facility with calibrated test equipment (not to mention break open the devices so you can see the antenna and orient them correctly for testing,) one cannot give any kind of objective opinion on the radio signals from any device. Such facilities are expensive, which is why no-one - including the trade - does it. (I weep internally every time I pick up one of the trades and find "this month we've group tested the latest batch of Wi-Fi AP's - Dave took five leading models home and had a play with them last weekend." At about that point I stop reading.)

      Lay people (and I'm sad to say far too many IT professionals) do tend to obsess over "Wi-Fi signal" (ironic, since there's actually no such thing,) more specifically "Wi-Fi Signal FROM the router/AP" as if it is the only thing that matters. Of course, the marketing hype feeds that narrative (though one suspects the ad. copy writers don't know what they are talking about.)

      I'll drop in my usual boiler plate that, Wi-Fi transmit power is limited by law and most kit is, and always has been, at of very close to the permitted maximum. What differences there are, are not worth worrying about. (Unless maybe you are a radio ham or electrical engineer.) If you can get hold of a datasheet, I'll bet most of them cite Tx power of 20/23 dBm - ie the legal max. I suspect most professionals network managers buying AP's spend all of 10 seconds worrying about Tx power as we know it's all much of a muchness and every vendor claims their's are better everyone else's. By definition, they cannot all be right.

      In any case, (more of my boiler plate) Wi-Fi is a two-way radio "conversation" like walkie-talkies, not a one way "lecture" like television. It's like sound, for two communicating peers to be able to converse, they both need to be able to hear each other. If they cannot, and they are already as "loud" as permitted, then all you can do is move closer together, which generally means putting up more AP's closer to where the clients are. It's not for the fun of it that on big site we put up hundreds.
       
      Last edited: May 22, 2019
    21. Si01327

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      Would you mind sharing which system you opted for yourself? Given how thorough you are with testing and your attention to detail, I for one would interested to know which one ticked the most boxes for you! I'm in the process of looking to install a mesh system at home myself so if it was a particular make/model that I may have not considered so far I'd definitely add it to my list!

      Thanks.
       
    22. Greg Hook

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      I am always happy to add a particular test to a review, if it is something I can achieve without having to pay too much for it. The Lanspeedtest software I have purchased myself as it was only about £10 I think.
       
    23. mickevh

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      I liked the look of one of the MetaGreek (the InSSIDer guys) products called Wi-Spy/Channelyzer which IIRC looks at the actual RF spectrum - but last time I checked it was over 800GBP, so I won't buy buying that one with my own money! :D
       
    24. guest

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      For me, it came down to what compromise at what price.

      I bought several brands but Ubiquity, BT and Zyxel were interesting for several reasons.

      Depending on the environment, devices, and budget you have I found all AP's tested offered something but the negatives sometimes outweighed the positives.

      My favorite was the Zyxel using the free Nebula cloud. But it had its negatives (email notifications the biggest one (paid option) and layer 2 isolation). Highly recommend checking it out for testing. Unexpected as I have never tried anything from this brand before.

      For me, the biggest disappointment was the Ubiquiti AC Pro with v4 firmware with Apple 3x3 laptops (worked fine with Windows 3x3 laptops). I did contemplate the Ubiquiti AC Pro HD as there free controller software is great and as I understand the issues have been fixed with the new model, but it was way over budget for the number of AP's needed and pound for pound I would have been looking at comparing it with Aruba, Fortinet etc. I use a couple of Ubiquiti products and found them very good at what they do and previously used there older AP models running v3 firmware. This is the brand most people seem to recommend whenever anyone asks which one they should get and does have a very loyal following.

      The BT whole home is an odd one. Cheapest out of all the brands I bought (for 3 AP's), but non-configurable, basic and really needs a wired backhaul (it does work wirelessly just not as well as it should). It has many negatives: It has no DFS, no way of dropping the wide channel, No SSID (outside of name and password) control, and No ceiling/wall mount/POE options but it does give solid, stable wifi cheaplyish.

      I found issues with all mesh AP's that I tested that did not/could not use wire but again its all a question of what compromises you can/have to put up with. I was also in the process of wiring my house with CAT6A so the location/POE etc had no effect on my purchase options. After testing so many I knew any system I was putting was going to have to have wire and factored that in.

      Good luck with your search - I recommend a reseller you can easily return :)
       
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    25. jslater

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      For me, I went with the Ubiquiti Amplifi HD mesh WiFi. Stupidly easy to set up and has been rock solid.

      I’ve got the main AP on the ground floor, then another on the first and the last in the loft.

      I doubt I’d its the fastest, but I’ve had zero issues with it since setting up (literally a few minutes job).

      The other thing I like is that there’s no wires on first and loft, the units simply plug into the electric socket and the antenna is magnetically attaches. Perfect as the kids can’t break them :)

      Will probably upgrade it once wifi6 is more mature but they do perfectly fine for now.

      I put in cat6 cabling but haven’t bothered using it. Ironically my TVs only have 100Mb wired connection so the WiFi is actually faster!
       
    26. chattoe

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      I’m starting to research these mesh systems as I’m moving into an older house soon that’s solid brick.

      I’m looking at the Orbi and AmpliFI.

      As I understand it a wired back haul is a wired connection from the source to the second satellite or Ap to emit WiFi right?
      if true this is the method I would like to take.

      I’d also like to have the option of an external unit for the garden too as well as it being WiFi6 compatible which there isn’t any out there at the moment.

      I have seen Netgear coming out with one later in the year so may hold out for that
       
    27. mickevh

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      Bear in mind that all Wi-Fi devcies (including phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) are both radio transmitters and receivers. It's two way radio like walkie-talkies (or a conversation) not one way radio like television (or a lecture.) The AP's are the "point" at which you "access" the rest of the (wired) network, hence the name - engineers are not terribly imaginative about naming things - we leave it to Apple to invent cool names for stuff (Apple call their AP's "airport" which of course is much cooler and therefore worth paying three times as much for.)

      When designing a Wi-Fi infrastructure, we often aim to get data off the airwaves and onto the wires as soon as possible thereby freeing up as much of the radio air time as we can for where it's most useful - ie all the portable devices. (Wi-Fi is rather inefficient compared to wired ethernet.) Hence, on anything but the most trivial small deployment, we put up multiple AP's, locate them as close as we can to where we expect most people to spend most time with their Wi-Fi devices and connect the AP's to "the rest" of the network with cables. We often call the cabling infrastructure the "backhaul" though I'm not sure that is terminology cited in any standards. Apart from the fact that there's an AP on the end, cabled Ethernet backhaul links are nothing special - it's just an Ethernet lobe like any other.

      Multiple AP's creating a "cellular" coverage pattern connected to a wired backhaul is by far the best way to provide Wi-Fi in environments with either many clients, large (or challenging) geographical spread or a combination of both. Enterprise scale deployments have always been done this way. It's now percolating down to SOHO use case where people are finding one AP in the middle of the house cannot cut it.

      In enterprise systems, it's also often possible to create a backhaul link between AP's using Wi-Fi for scenarios where it's just not possible to get a cable in. Some vendors used to call these "mesh" (or "bridge") links and it seems this is now percolating down to the SOHO market and the term "mesh" has become the latest advertising buzzword that vendors are using to sell the idea as if is some shiny new thing.

      "Mesh" also seems to be a phrase to sell the idea of "integrated" systems that do things like automate channel planning, assist the hand off of clients between AP's more smoothly and provide a management platform - these days probably a phone app. Again, this is nothing new, enterprise scale systems have always done this, it's just now filtering down to the SOHO market.

      So, in terms of physical infrastructure, multilple AP's near your clients connected to a common cabled "backhaul" infrastructure is by far the best way to go. If one cannot, or isn't willing to, get the drill out and install the cables, then these newer "mesh" systems that can do backhaul over Wi-Fi instead (or as well) as cabled backhaul seem like a good option, but you may pay a performance penalty depending on your use case (some systems have a few "tricks" to mitigate this such as "tri band" AP's that use different radio channels for client access and backhaul.) And if you buy a system where the AP's integrate (ie talk) with each other to offer other features, then great if it's offering something useful such as automated setup and configuration, easier roaming handoffs, automated channel planning, automated decisions on whether to use Wired/Wi-Fi backhaul, automated decisions about which AP "meshes" with which AP, etc.

      I've not tested any of these SOHO "mesh" (and "whole home" etc) systems as I've never had need to use them, (readers might guess I've mostly built larger enterprise scale systems,) but IIRC there are some of these SOHO "mesh" and "whole home" systems that can only provide the backhaul links over Wi-Fi ("mesh") links, so I would be careful to check that any prospective purchase can use wired Ethernet as well as Wi-Fi backhauls (and better still, if the system is smart enough to figure out which to use automatically) if I were planning for wired backhauls.
       
      Last edited: May 29, 2019

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