Designed for homes of up to 5,800 square feet, TP-Link Deco X20 ($249.99) is a three-piece dual-band mesh Wi-Fi 6 System that’s easy to install and manage. It’s not a speedster by any measure, but it comes with TP-Link’s HomeCare suite which includes robust parental controls, user-friendly QoS settings, and security software that keeps your network and clients safe from malware. It’s quite reasonably priced, though you can get much better performance over a similar coverage and more features with our Editors’ Choice winner, the Asus ZenWiFi XT8—just be prepared to spend another $200 or so for all of that extra Wi-Fi goodness.
An Attractive Design and Plenty of Features
The X20 comes with three stylish nodes that are identical in every way. The white cylinders measure 4.4 inches high and 4.3 inches wide. There’s an LED indicator on the front of the base that glows yellow during startup, green when connected and working properly, blue during configuration, and red when there’s an issue. Around back are two Gigabit LAN ports and a power jack. This system lacks the multi-gig LAN and USB ports that you get with the Asus ZenWiFi XT8, but it does support wired backhaul.
Each X20 node has four internal antennas, a 1GHz quad-core CPU, 512MB of RAM, and 128MB of flash memory. It’s a dual-band AX1800 system that can reach (theoretical) maximum data rates of up to 575Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 1,200Mbps on the 5GHz band. It uses 802.11k/v/r technology for mesh communications and supports most of the latest 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) technologies, including 1024 QAM, WPA3 encryption, Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) data transmissions, MU-MIMO simultaneous data streaming, and direct to client signal beamforming. However, it doesn’t support 160MHz channel bandwidth, and you can’t separate the two radio bands (the system determines which band will provide the best performance).
You can manage your X20 network using the TP-Link Deco mobile app (for Android and iOS) or with the web console, but the latter is limited to things like firmware upgrades and time zone settings, and lacks many of the settings options found in the mobile app. The app opens to a dashboard that displays a list of all online and offline clients. Tap any device to see its upload and download speeds, and to give it bandwidth priority with the touch of a button. In the top right corner are three dots—tap them to open a status screen for that client where you can see which node it’s connected to and which band it’s using. Here you can tap a Blacklist button to prevent the client from accessing the network.
There’s an internet icon at the top of the dashboard that takes you to a screen with the name and status of all connected Deco nodes. As with client devices, tapping a node lets you see its upload and download speeds and the IP address, and you can see which clients are connected to a particular node.
At the bottom of the dashboard screen are Overview, HomeCare, and More buttons. The Overview button takes you back to the dashboard from wherever you are in the app, and the HomeCare button opens a screen where you can configure Anitvirus, Parental Control, and QoS (Quality of Service) settings. Antivirus settings allow you to enable or disable network security options including a Malicious Content Filter and the Intrusion Prevention System. You can also enable the Infected Device Quarantine option to prevent infected devices from infecting others. Tap the alert icon in the upper right corner to view a list of security alerts.
Parental Controls are robust and easy to use. You can create profiles for each user, check their internet browsing history, set access time limits, and assign age-based filters that automatically block access to sites that offer gambling, social networking, gaming, chat rooms, and other adult content. QoS settings make it easy to assign bandwidth priority based on application, with preset choices for Gaming, Streaming, Surfing, and Chatting. Here you can also create custom bandwidth settings and see which clients have been given priority.
The More button takes you to a Router Settings screen where you can configure Wi-Fi and guest network settings, blacklist clients, test your internet speed, update firmware, view monthly security reports, and see how many devices have connected to your network each day. Advanced settings include IPv4 and IPv6 settings, MAC Cloning, Address Reservations, and Port Forwarding. You can also configure alerts and notifications, enable/disable beamforming, and configure the router to operate in Access Point (AP) mode.
Acceptable Performance for the Price
As is the case with other TP-Link Deco mesh systems, the X20 is easy to install. Start by downloading the Deco mobile app and creating an account. Tap Let’s Begin on the welcome screen and select the X20 from the list of systems. Power off your modem, connect an X20 node to it (this will be your router node), and power everything up. Tap Next and verify that the router LED is pulsing blue, then follow the instructions to use your phone’s Wi-Fi settings to connect to the router and wait a few seconds for the app to recognize it. Give the router a name (location), choose your internet connection type (Dynamic, Static, PPTP, DS-Lite, L2TP), give your new network a name and password, and tap Yes to connect to it.
Now all you have to do is power up the remaining two nodes and they will be automatically added to the network. Use the app to give each node a custom name (if you want) and the installation will be complete.
The X20 turned in mediocre scores on our throughput performance tests, but it should be noted that most of the competing Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems we’ve tested are more expensive, so it makes sense that they offer more powerful components and faster data rates.
The X20’s main router speed of 654Mbps on our close-proximity (same room) test was approximately 100Mbps slower than the TP-Link Deco X60, and more than 200Mbps slower than the Linksys Velop AX4200 and the Asus ZenWiFi XT8. At a distance of 30 feet, the X20’s speed of 225Mbps once again trailed the pack and was 122Mbps slower than the leader, the Asus ZenWiFi XT8.
The Deco X20 satellite node scored 449Mbps on the close-proximity test, compared with the TP-Link Deco X60’s 521Mbp and the Linksys Velop AX4200’s 667Mbps. The Asus ZenWiFi XT8 took top honors with a speed of 675Mbps.
The X20 satellite garnered 301Mbps on our 30-foot test, compared with 386Mbps for the TP-Link X60, 611Mbps for the Linksys Velop AX4200, and 619Mbps for the Asus ZenWiFi XT8.
We measure Wi-Fi signal strength with an Ekahau Sidekick Wi-Fi diagnostic device and Ekahau’s Survey mobile app. (Note: Ekahau is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of Ziff Media Group, the publisher of PCMag.com.) This combination generates a heat map that displays wireless coverage throughout our test home, pictured below.
The darker green areas on the map indicate the strongest signal measurements, and lighter green and yellow areas show a weaker signal. The circles represent the location of the router and the satellite node. As shown on the heat map, the Deco AX20 system does a good job of delivering a relatively strong signal to the entire house and the garage.
An Affordable Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System
The TP-Link Deco X20 may not be the fastest mesh system out there, but it offers relatively good coverage and comes with some nice features including lifetime parental controls and anti-malware software that will help keep your clients and network safe. Moreover, TP-Link’s Deco mobile app allows you to install and manage the system easily using your phone, making it a solid option for covering your home with Wi-Fi 6 on a budget.
If you require a mesh system that uses all of the latest Wi-Fi technologies to deliver class-leading throughput, the Asus ZenWiFi XT8 is your best bet and our Editors’ Choice winner. Granted, it’s around $200 more than the Deco X20, but it offers similar coverage (5,500 square feet) and delivers some of the highest throughput scores we’ve seen from a mesh system. It’s also equipped with multi-gig LAN and USB ports, and it comes with lifetime parental controls and anti-malware tools.
TP-Link Deco X20 AX1800 Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi 6 System Specs
|Number of Bands||2|
|Number of Antennas||4|
|Number of Wired LAN Ports (Excluding WAN Port)||1 on router, 2 on satellites|
|Quality of Service (QoS)||Yes|
|Coverage Area for Hardware as Tested||5800 sq ft|
|Number of Nodes||3|
|Number of USB ports||0|
|DD-WRT / Tomato-Compatible||No|