If you only have one or two rooms that struggle to get good Wi-Fi then a less expensive PowerLine kit might well be all that you need. But if there are walls or other obstacles that block your existing Wi-Fi network in a large part of your home or offices then the hybrid combination of mesh Wi-Fi and PowerLine connectivity could be just what you’re looking for.
There are plenty of mesh networking systems now available, covering a wide range of price points for homes of different sizes, including TP-Link’s Deco M5, which we reviewed earlier this year. However, all these mesh systems work in the same way, providing you with two or more Wi-Fi routers that can be placed in different rooms or locations around your home, and which link together in order to provide wider and more reliable Wi-Fi coverage than a single, conventional router.
Sometimes, though, it’s not just the size of your home that can affect the strength of your Wi-Fi signal. Some homes have obstacles such as thick walls, or the ceiling between floors, that even the strongest Wi-Fi signal simply can’t penetrate.
For homes like that TP-Link has come up with a new ‘hybrid’ version of the Deco mesh system, called the Deco P7, which combines a mesh Wi-Fi system with powerline connectivity that allows you to transmit data via the electrical wiring in your home. This makes it possible to have one of the P7 routers connected to your existing router in order to connect to the Internet, and then use powerline to connect it to a second P7 router in a location where you can’t normally get a reliable Wi-Fi signal.
TP-Link Deco P7: Price and Availability
At the moment, the Deco P7 is only available as a two-piece kit, costing £249, although TP-Link has indicated that a three-piece kit might be available soon as well. This kit contains two identical routers, along with two dual-purpose adapters that provide both mains power and powerline connectivity for data transmission over the mains wiring.
That’s fairly expensive for a two-piece mesh system although, of course, the powerline connectivity of the P7 could clinch the deal for homes that have a basement or attic that other routers and mesh devices simply can’t reach.
You can buy it from Amazon, Box, CCL and eBay. Also check out the best Wi-Fi network systems.
TP-Link Deco P7: Design and Features
The Deco P7 routers are virtually identical to the original M5, with a compact, circular design that houses four internal antennae for 2×2 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), with 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi that provides a total of 1300Mbps throughput.
There are two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back of each router for wired connections, although the Deco routers don’t include a modem for Internet connection, which means that one of those Ethernet ports will be needed to connect the first P7 router to your existing router or modem in order to use your Internet connection. There’s also a single USB-C port on the back of each router, which is used to provide power.
If there aren’t too many obstacles in the way then each router can cover around 2000 sq.ft, which should be more than enough for most medium size homes or offices. But, if you do have walls or other obstacles that cause problems with Wi-Fi coverage, then you’ll find that the power adapters that are included with the P7 routers also double up as powerline adapters too.
This meant that we were able to connect the first P7 to our existing BT router, and then used the powerline connectivity – rather than Wi-Fi – to connect it to the second P7 that we placed in a back office (where we do already use powerline adapters because of BT’s feeble broadband and Wi-Fi speeds).
The two-piece Deco P7 kit is, of course, more expensive than a low-cost set of powerline adapters, but the existing powerline set-up in our office only provides an Ethernet connection for two computers in just that one room. The advantage of the P7 kit is that the second P7 router will be able to provide both wired Ethernet connections as well as a Wi-Fi network that can extend to additional rooms as well.
That makes it a good option for homes pr offices that might have an entire basement or upper level that needs better Wi-Fi.
TP-Link Deco P7: Set up
Setting up the P7 routers is admirably straightforward. You simply plug in the first router and use an Ethernet cable to connect it to your existing modem or router, and then download the Deco app for iOS or Android devices.
The app uses Bluetooth on your mobile devices to automatically pair with the P7 and then prompts you to create a name and password for your new network. We had the first P7 up and running in a matter of minutes – delayed only by the need to set up an online account with TP-Link first – and then simply repeated that process for the second router in our back office.
The Wi-Fi controls in the app are equally straightforward, with simple options for setting up parental controls, a guest Wi-Fi network for visitors, and ‘quality of service’ (QoS) options that allow you to prioritise performance for specific tasks such as gaming or streaming video. There are additional options for more advanced users too, such as port-forwarding and the ability to reserve an IP address for a specific device.
There’s also an ‘access point’ mode – which some mesh routers refer to as ‘bridge’ mode – that tells the Deco routers to act as an extension of your existing network, rather than creating an entirely new network of their own. This allows you to continue using devices such as a NAS drive that may be connected to your existing router – although, as is the case with other mesh devices that we’ve seen – this option does disable some other features, such as the parental controls.
TP-Link Deco P7: Performance
As mentioned, the Deco P7 routers only provide dual-band Wi-Fi with a speed of 1300Mbps, so gamers or home cinema buffs who want to stream 4K video off Netflix might want to spend a little extra on a faster, tri-band system.
Even so, the P7 provides strong performance that should be more than adequate for most home users.
With the first P7 connected to our BT router, our devices in that room registered a speedy 880Mbps, but it was the powerline connection with the second P7 router in our office that really stood out.
Our Wi-Fi devices in the office were able to consistently maintain an average speed of 670Mbps via that second P7 router, whereas conventional mesh routers – that rely purely on Wi-Fi to connect the routers together – tend to peak at around 450Mbps in that room.
And while the powerline adapter that we normally use in that office simply provides an Ethernet connection for a couple of computers, the P7’s hybrid solution allows it to provide those high speeds for multiple devices via Wi-Fi in the office and surrounding rooms as well.
You can also check out our best powerline adapters article.
TP-Link Deco P7: Specs
- Mesh networking system with two routers/PowerLine adaptors
- Processing: Qualcomm Quad-core CPU
- Interfaces (each router): 2x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB-C (power only)
- Wi-Fi Networking: Dual-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5.0GHz)
- Dimensions (each router): 40 x 120mm