- A high-quality mesh Wi-Fi system should be easy to install, capable of providing high-speed Internet to every corner of your home, and supported by a useful app with plenty of features.
- I like the TP-Link Deco M4 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System because it covers homes of up to 5,500 square feet, provides connectivity for 100 devices, and has effective parental controls.
- The Deco M4 is reasonably affordable at $168 on Amazon and comes with a two-year warranty and feature-packed app.
About a year ago, my family moved to Michigan after we got a good deal on a giant historic home. But with the nice price came an endless stream of headaches.
In addition to having to put tens of thousands of dollars into repairing the place, it was hard to find a good router capable of providing Wi-Fi to every room. This is a must since both my wife and I work from home.
So far, we've found that mesh Wi-Fi systems are the only things that can reach every nook and cranny of our lair. These are multi-device systems consisting of a main router and one or more satellites, or extenders. Of the half dozen or so mesh systems I've tested, the TP-Link Deco M4 Mesh Wi-Fi System is the most affordable and has the best parental controls.
Read more: The best mesh Wi-Fi systems you can buy
At $168, the Deco M4 is reasonably priced and comes with three routers; set up took around 30 minutes
The Deco M4 comes with three identical routers, all cylindrical and white so they'll blend into any home. One serves as the main router and connects directly to your modem. The other two are satellites designed to extend the reach of your Wi-Fi coverage.
Here are the specs of the system:
- Dual-Band (5 GHz and 2.4 GHz)
- Each unit has two ethernet ports
- Covers 5,500 square feet as a system
- Provides connectivity for up to 100 devices
- 2-year warranty
- 24/7 technical support
- Controllable with Alexa
- WPA/WPA2 wireless encryption
- Wireless type: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
For more specs, check out the Deco M4's product page.
Setup was seamless, and I didn't experience any hiccups along the way.
It only took about half an hour from opening the box until I was able to stream a video on my computer. This was relatively fast since I was essentially installing three routers instead of one.
The app provided step-by-step directions that were easy to follow too in case you don't know how to. As I installed each router, it gave me helpful tips on where to position them in my house. Once everything was in place, I updated the firmware and was ready to go.
Speeds didn't slow down even when I used more than eight devices at once
Though the speeds aren't amazing, the Deco M4 provides good enough Internet to every corner of my 4,000-square-foot home and beyond. Right next to the modem, the Wi-Fi speeds were 185.2 Mbps download and 222.1 Mbps upload in my tests.
In my office, next to one of the satellites, the Wi-Fi speeds were 17.8 Mbps download and 17.3 upload. With a wired connection to the satellite, there was a slight bump in speeds — 20.6 Mbps download and 38.3 Mbps upload.
In the far corner of my unfinished basement, which is a floor below and 50 feet away from the main router, I still had 17.9 Mbps downloads and 14.4 Mbps uploads. And in front of my neighbor's house, about 100 feet from the modem, the speeds were 7.2 Mbps download and 4.9 Mbps upload.
Best of all, when we run several devices at once including three computers, three phones, a tablet, an Xbox, and countless smart home units, we don't notice any degradation of streaming quality or any slow page-load speeds.
The parent controls work as advertised too. With so many router brands moving toward paid parental control subscriptions, it's refreshing to find a system supported by free and effective parental controls.
There are several ways to control your children's access. With the app, you can block specific sites, which can help with productivity. You can also block content based on what is age-appropriate, and set usage time limits or specify what times you want the Internet to be turned off on certain devices. In my tests, all of these services worked well.
Your Internet speed will be limited by the router's max speed of 867 Mbps
Depending on how fast your Internet service is supposed to be and whether you gave a wired or Wi-Fi connection, you might feel slowed down by the router.
The Deco M4 is a dual-band AC1200 router, so it can reach speeds up to 1200 Mbps total between its two bands — 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. This works out to an 867 maximum on the 5 GHz band and 300 on the 2.4 GHz. I have fiber optic Internet that's supposed to be able to reach 1 Gbps speeds. With this router's max of 867 Mbps on a single band, I can't experience the most out of my Internet.
However, this should be taken with a giant grain of salt. The 1 Gbps speed for my Internet is based on a wired connection, not Wi-Fi. The fastest Wi-Fi speed I've achieved using any router is 400 Mbps, well below the Deco M4's limit. So unless you're moving around massive files, you won't notice a difference between 867 Mbps and 1 Gbps speeds.
I wish there were more ethernet ports on the routers. I have several devices that require a wired connection, and even one or two more ports would have been helpful. Fortunately, for less than $20, you can get a switch that will add four more ports.
I'd recommend the Deco M4 system for anyone who wants consistent Wi-Fi around their home for less than $200
Though the speeds didn't break any records, I was impressed with how well the Deco M4 performed despite its sub-$200 price tag.
Should you buy it?
If your house is between 3,000 and 5,500 square feet, the TP-Link Deco M4 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System is one of the most cost-effective mesh systems that'll reach every corner of your home and then some.
It'll serve the needs of homeowners, but if you're hoping to play graphics-intensive computer games on a Wi-Fi network in the basement or far corner where noise doesn't travel, you may have trouble getting the speeds you want. If this happens, I'd recommend connecting to the main router via a long ethernet cord or spending extra on one of the alternatives below.
What are your alternatives?
Below are three mesh systems that I've personally tested that cost significantly more than the Deco M4 but provide faster speeds throughout my 4,000-square-foot home:
- Gryphon Smart Mesh Wi-Fi System ($399) — At this price, you get two units, which was what I used in my home. It's the best mesh system I've tested and it provided fast speeds to more than a dozen devices throughout my home. The biggest negative was the parental controls. There are several ways to control content, but they didn't always work as they were supposed to. Read my full review here.
- Netgear Orbi Voice Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System ($370.68) — This two-unit system is unique because the satellite doubles as a high-quality speaker that's compatible with Alexa. The Orbi Voice offered excellent speeds throughout my house even when several devices were in use. The parental controls were a negative with this as well. For full functionality, you have to buy a subscription to the Circle app. Read my full review here.
- TP-Link Deco M9 Smart Hub & Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System ($227.28) — Another TP-Link router, the two-unit Deco M9 system had impressive coverage. I placed one unit by the modem and the other on the third floor, and received seamless Wi-Fi everywhere. It may be worth spending $60 extra (compared to the M4) for the bump in Wi-Fi speeds. Read my full review here.
Overall, I'm a fan of the TP-Link Deco M4. I strongly recommend picking it up if you're looking for a device that can reach every corner of a home of up to 5,500 square feet, especially if you want to control your children's internet usage.
Pros: Covers 5,500 square feet, can be used with up to 100 devices at once, excellent parent controls, intuitive app, affordable given comparable alternatives
Cons: Network speeds have a low upper limit (AC1200), only two ethernet ports on each unit