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TP-Link Deco X20 review: An affordable way of boosting your home Wi-Fi

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Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
230
Inc VAT

An easy to use and affordable Wi-Fi 6 solution

Pros 
Strong performer with good speeds
Solid coverage in every room
Comes with antivirus and parental controls
Cons 
Coverage is lower than some competitors
No band-splitting option
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The idea of a Wi-Fi 6 mesh system for just £230 sounds too good to be true – but it isn’t. TP-Link’s Deco X20 package comprises three little cylindrical nodes that provide 802.11ax coverage throughout your home for a price that’s lower than some individual routers. How has this been achieved?

For a start, each node contains only a single 5GHz radio, as distinct from the tri-band approach favoured by Asus and Netgear. That’s not necessarily a disaster, though, as Wi-Fi 6’s OFDMA technology is specifically designed to share out the available bandwidth across multiple connections. The radios themselves are quite modest models too, with claimed data rates of 1,201Mbits/sec, no 160MHz support and 2x2 MIMO.

READ NEXT: TP-Link Deco M5 review

TP-Link Deco X20 review: Performance

That doesn’t alarm us either; as the Netgear Orbi RBK752 has shown, this sort of hardware won’t get you to the top of our performance table, but it can still achieve acceptable speeds. That was borne out in our file-copy tests. The Deco X20 is very much a mid-table performer: its download speeds over Wi-Fi 6 never managed to place higher than ninth among this month’s 17 contenders, and even its best showing over Wi-Fi 5 – a strong 17.1MB/sec in the bathroom – still ranked only fifth. Yet while the Deco X20 never neared the head of the pack, it didn’t fall behind anywhere, either.

With a minimum download speed of 26MB/sec over Wi-Fi 6, and 13.5MB/sec for Wi-Fi 5, it delivered easily enough bandwidth to watch UHD videos in any part of the house, and to throw big files around your network while you’re doing so. It’s hard to see what more a typical domestic user could ask for. Indeed, you might even be able to improve performance by experimenting with node placement. In this case, we suspect that we’d have seen better download speeds in the bedroom and kitchen if our test laptops had connected directly to the router, rather than latching onto the nearer satellite node, which then had to forward all traffic wirelessly back to the router.

TP-Link Deco X20 review: Connectivity 

Sadly, there’s no way to make your devices be smart about this: they’ll always try to connect to the strongest signal source, so all you can do is try putting your nodes in different locations and see what works best. There are a few ups and downs to the feature list. The X20 units are cute and compact, but this means there’s only space for two network ports on each, and one of these will be taken up on the router unit by your modem connection.

It isn’t expensive to attach an external Ethernet switch to gain additional ports, but that’s not exactly an elegant solution. TP-Link also hasn’t managed to squeeze in any USB sockets, nor even a WPS button – although password-free connections can be established via a soft button in the management interface. On that note, this is curiously the only system on test this month that can’t be managed via a web portal: there’s a basic console showing the overall state of your network, but if you want to check or change settings you’ll need to use TP-Link’s Tether mobile app.

Still, this works perfectly well and offers everything you need: the only thing that’s missing is a band-splitting option. The app also serves as your gateway to TP-Link’s HomeCare suite, which provides all-round security, QoS and parental-control services. We like the way the security module blocks suspicious connections internally as well as externally, making it hard for a virus to spread across your home network, while the QoS controls provide intuitive sliders to set the relative priority of different types of traffic.

The parental controls are also good, with a full set of filtering, monitoring and time- limiting features – all yours for free, for the lifetime of the product. If you focus solely on performance figures you might consider the TP-Link Deco X20 an also-ran, but it has plenty of other merits that set it apart from the crowd.

READ NEXT: TP-Link Deco X60 review

TP-Link Deco X20 Review: Verdict

With three nodes in the box you can project coverage all over a decent-sized property, while the included HomeCare functions are a great bonus for busy households with lots of devices competing for bandwidth. Granted, physical connectivity could be better, but for the price the Deco X20 makes a compelling upgrade for any family network.

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