TP-Link’s Latest Mesh Router Is A Zigbee HubBy - 07/09/2018
There are two things you need to start building a smart home: a hub and a router. TP-Link has managed to roll the two into a single device called the Deco M9 Plus mesh router. But is it really a good idea to fuse two vital devices into a single device?
Using Deco M9 Plus as a Mesh Router
Mesh routers aren’t new, but in case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, we’ll do a quick review. Instead of one router placed in a central location, a system of mesh routers can be spread around your house to create a giant blanket of Wi-Fi signals, improving your Wi-Fi coverage.
Deco M9 Plus is TP-Link’s second mesh router and an upgrade to Deco M5. There are two major differences between the two, and we’ll start with the first: Deco M9 Plus is a tri-band router while Deco M5 is dual-band.
Despite common misconceptions, having three wireless signals (tri-band) doesn’t necessarily provide a faster throughput speed. What it actually improves is the device’s ability to handle multiple devices. As tri-band routers have an additional wireless radio, they can handle more devices without network congestion and without slowing down your internet speed.
Regarding building a smart home, this is important as it will allow you to connect more devices to your router while reducing congestion. As an example, I ran into this while testing the Etekcity Voltson Wi-Fi Smart Outlets. With the outlets and other Wi-Fi connected devices connected to my network, I noticed a slight drop in my internet speed. The culprit wasn’t the outlet itself, but rather network congestion starting to build up on my dual-band router.
Deco M9 Plus vs. Other Mesh Routers
It’s clear that tri-band mesh routers are the best routers for smart homes, but Deco M9 Plus isn’t the only option. In fact, most mesh routers in the market are tri-band. Where does Deco M9 Plus stand among them? You decide.
|Deco M9 Plus||eero||Netgear Orbi||Linksys Velop|
|Price (Single Device)||$179.99||$199.99||$129.99||$199.99|
|Price (Bundle of 2)||$299.99||$299.00 (1 eero + 1 Beacon)||$324.99||$299.99|
|Wi-Fi Network||Tri-Band||Tri-Band (eero only)||Tri-Band||Tri-Band|
|Processor||Quad-Core CPU||1.0GHz Dual-Core||Quad-Core 717MHz||Quad-Core ARM 710MHz|
|Memory/Storage||Unknown||512MB RAM/ 4GB Flash Storage||512MB RAM/ 4GB Flash Storage||512MB RAM/ 4GB Flash Storage|
|Wi-Fi Speed||400 Mbps on 2.4GHz Network; 867 Mbps on 5GHz Networks||240 Mbps on 2.4GHz Network; 600 Mbps on 5GHz Networks||240 Mbps on 2.4GHz Network; 1.7 Gbps on 5GHz Networks||400 Mbps on 2.4GHz Network; 867 Mbps on 5GHz Networks|
|Smartphone App||iOS and Android||iOS and Android||iOS and Android||iOS and Android|
|Where To Buy||Amazon (Pre-order; Shipping on July 10)||Amazon||Amazon||Amazon|
Using Deco M9 Plus as a Hub
The fact that Deco M9 Plus is a tri-band router might differentiate from the M5, but that’s not enough to make it unique. What makes it unique is that it is both a router and a hub.
Besides Wi-Fi radios, Deco M9 Plus comes equipped with a Bluetooth and Zigbee radio, which it uses to connect with smart home devices. TP-Link has an online list of compatible devices which includes everything from smart lights to smart thermostats.
Connecting with smart home devices is one thing; controlling them is another. TP-Link offers multiple ways to control connected devices including the TP-Link Deco smartphone app and an integration with Amazon Alexa.
Currently, the TP-Link Deco app only supports router features, such as parental controls, network monitoring, etc. Soon, it will be updated with smart home features. You’ll be able to control connected devices individually such as turning the lights on and off, adjusting your thermostat, locking and unlocking doors, and more. You’ll also have access to the Automation feature, which lets you create scenes and rules for your smart home devices.
The Alexa Skill, on the other hand, will allow you to control your network using voice commands. For example, you can tell your router to prioritize a Wi-Fi device or ask what your current internet speed is. Again, TP-Link’s Alexa Skill currently supports router features, but they plan to add voice control for smart home devices in the future.
Final Thoughts: Should You Buy TP-Link Deco M9 Plus?
With Deco M9 Plus, you get a router and a smart home hub in a single device. But is that better than purchasing a separate router and hub? If you want to build a solid, smart home system, you need an outstanding router and a powerful hub. Unfortunately, Deco M9 Plus is neither of the two. It’s an average router at best, and as a hub, its features are limited as it lacks extensive integrations and a Z-Wave radio. Though the Prime Day Launch deal is tempting, I’m calling this one a pass. If you are looking for a router for your smart home, I prefer eero, Orbi, or even Google Wifi.
Photo Credit: TP-Link