May 26, 2022

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Future Technology

TP-Link Deco XE75: A Bargain Wi-Fi 6E Mesh


The Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System, also confusingly available as the Deco XE5300, is TP-Link’s very first real Wi-Fi 6E solution. Finally.

Indeed, the networking vendor made all kinds of buzz about the new standard in early 2021 with nothing to show during the entire year. And then, it recommitted the Wi-Fi 6E promise in early 2022.

And now, when the world is getting excited about Wi-Fi 7, the XE75 is here.

So, the new Wi-Fi solution is late to the game — it’s the 6th Wi-Fi 6E mesh on the market so far — but you already knew that if you had read my reviews on the rest of them (save the no-good eero Pro 6e).

Consequently, you might find this review a bit predictable. My mantra has been how Tri-band Wi-Fi 6E is generally not a great idea for a fully wired environment but is excellent for a wired home. And that applies in this case, too.

So let’s cut to the chase: If you want a reliable wireless mesh system with relatively modest sub-Gigabit performance, at the suggested retail price of just $299.99 for a 2-pack, the XE75 is a great, if not the best to date, Wi-Fi 6E deal. It’s the most affordable by far.

On the other hand, if you buy into the marketing that tends to pick (the speed of the 6GHz band) and choose (the range of the 2.4GHz band), you’ll be utterly disappointed.

The TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System
The TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System includes two identical routers.

TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400: A typical Deco set, now with Wi-Fi 6E

Despite the support for Wi-Fi 6E, the Deco XE75 is very similar to previous deco sets, including the X60 and X5700. If you have used a Deco set before, you’ll feel right at home with this one.

The review XE75 is a 2-pack system that includes two identical mesh routers. Out of the box, the two are pre-synced, you only need to set up one as the main router, and the other will automatically become a satellite unit once plugged into power.

Afterward, you can manually add more mesh units to the system to extend the coverage. That’s generally how a mesh system works anyway.

Simple design, no Multi-Gig port

Each Deco XE75 router is a relatively compact tube measuring 4.1-inch (105 mm) wide and 6.7-inch (169 mm) tall. It looks like a smart speaker.

On the front, toward the bottom, it has a little indicator status light. And on the back, there are three auto-sensing Gigabit network ports — each can work as a WAN (available only in the unit working as the router) or a LAN port depending on what you plug into it.

There’s no Multi-Gig port which is a big disappointment. And there’s no USB port either.

TP-Link Deco XE75: Hardware specifications

TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System
Model Deco XE75
Mesh Availability 2-pack (as tested),
3-pack
Pre-Synced Hardware Yes
Possible Dedicated Backhaul Band
(default)
None
(6GHz as default)
Wired Backhaul Yes
Dimensions 
(WxDxH)
4.1 × 4.1 × 6.7 in
(105 × 105 × 169 mm)
Weight 1.43 lbs (650 gram)
Wi-Fi Designation Tri-band AXE5400
1st Band
(2.4GHz)
2 x 2 AX 
Up to 574Mbps
(20/40MHz)
2nd Band
(5GHz)
2 x2 AX 
Up to 2402 Mbps 
(20/40/80/160MHz)
3rd Band
(6GHz)
2×2 AXE 
Up to 2402 Mbps 
(20/40/80/160MHz)
Backward Compatibility 802.11ac/n/g/a/b
Guest Network Yes
(One for each band)
Mobile App Deco
Web User Interface Simple
(No local management)
AP Mode Yes
(as a router or a mesh)
USB Port None
Gigabit Port 3x Auto-Sensing
Multi-Gig Port None
Link Aggregation No
Dual-WAN No
Processing Power 1.7 GHz Quad-Core CPU
Firmware Version
(at review)
1.1.2 Build 20220224
Rel. 41924
Release Date April 2022
Power Specs Input: 100-240V (50/60Hz 0.8A)
Output: 12V, 2.0A
Real-Word Power Consumption
(router unit, per 24 hours)
≈ 15.6 Wh
(as tested)
US Retail Price
(at launch)
299.99 (2-pack)
Hardware specifications: TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 mesh router

TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400: Detail photos

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 6
The TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System’s retail box.

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 9
And here’s the content of the box

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 14
The system includes two identical mesh Deco XE75 AXE5400 routers.

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 15
The Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh routers look like smart speakers from the top.

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 13
Each TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 router has three auto-sensing Gigabit ports.

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 16
The underside of a TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 router

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 8
Each Deco XE75 has a standard 100-240V power adapter.

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 4
A Deco XE75 router in action

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 2
The TP-Link Deco XE75 is very compact compared to the ZenWiFi Pro ET12.

App-operated, simple local web interface

Like all TP-Link Deco sets, the XE75 requires a login account and is app-operated.

You must use the Deco mobile app for the setup process. And during this time, the phone (or tablet) must connect to the Internet via a cellular connection or an existing Wi-Fi.

But other than that, the setup process proved smooth in my trial. The app’s setup wizard covered all necessary steps in great detail, and I got the system up and running within less than 10 minutes without a hitch.

If you’ve used a mobile app before and can pay some attention, you’ll likely also find this a walk in the park.

Tp Link Deco XE75 Settings
The TP-Link Deco XE75 has relatively poor network settings than a standalone router, including TP-Link’s Archer family. But it does have support for TP-Link and Philips Hue smart home devices.

After the setup, the app allows for managing the system from anywhere globally, as long as you have Internet access on your phone.

Locally, there’s also a simple web interface, accessible via the router’s default IP address (192.168.68.1) or tplinkdeco.net.

This interface has a simple network map that shows connected clients. And then, there’s an Advanced page with the system’s status, log, and low-level functions, including manual firmware updates, time-zone configurations, and a few WAN settings.

Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E Network Map Web Interface System Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System Web Interface System

The TP-Link Deco XE75’s Web interface is relatively poor and can’t work as a local management method.

It’s worth noting that this web interface is only available after the initial app-based hardware setup. And there’s no way you can use just the web interface to manage the Deco XE75. You can’t use it to change any important essential settings of a home Wi-Fi network.

So the Deco app is the only way to use the mesh system, and all that implies.

Your privacy matters

It’s important to note that having to sign in with an account with TP-Link means your mesh system connects to the vendor at all times — you manage your home network through TP-Link.

And that translates into inherent privacy risks. Here’s TP-Link’s Privacy Policy — make sure you trust the company and are comfortable with what it collects from your network.

Privacy is a matter of degree. While it’s never a good idea to have your network managed via a third party, the data collection varies from one company to another.

Relatively thin on features and Wi-Fi settings

The XE75 shares the same features set with the previous Deco set. It comes with the support for Dynamic DNS — in this case, it only supports TP-Link’s free domain –, IP reservation, and port-forwarding. There’s also a simple QoS engine where you can add individual devices to the priority list.

On top of that, there’s a light version of HomeShield that include a simple basic Network Protection and Parent Controls. If you subscribe for HomeShield Pro — as the app will often nag you –, which costs $6/month or $55/year, you’ll get the more in-depth version of the two.

Tp Link Deco XE75 Mesh Backhaul
The TP-Link Link Deco XE75 can work via wired backhaul, but in wireless backhaul, there’s no way to know which band it uses for this role in real-time.

There’s not much you can do about Wi-Fi settings other than creating a network name (SSID) and password.

After that, you can turn the radio of the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band on or off, effectively making the network 5GHz- or 2.4GHz-only.

Extra on backhaul

This extra content is part of the explainer on mesh systems.

Backhaul vs fronthaul

A Wi-Fi connection between two direct devices takes place in a single band, using a fixed channel, at any given time. (That’s always been the case before Wi-Fi 7, which might work differently.)

Generally, when you use multiple Wi-Fi hardware units in a mesh network, there are two types of connections: the fronthaul and the backhaul.

Fronthaul is the Wi-Fi signal a mesh hub broadcasts outward for clients or its network ports for wired devices. That’s what we generally expect from a Wi-Fi broadcaster.

On the other hand, backhaul, a.k.a backbone, is the link between one broadcasting hub and another, be it the main router or another satellite hub. This link works behind the scene to keep the hardware units together as a system. It also determines the ceiling speed of all devices connected to the satellite hub.

When a Wi-Fi band handles backhaul and fronthaul simultaneously, only half of its bandwidth is available to either end. From the perspective of a connected client, that phenomenon is called signal loss. When a band functions solely for backhauling, it’s called a dedicated backhaul band.

In a mesh system, only traditional Tri-band hardware with an additional 5GHz band can have a dedicated backhaul band.

Generally, it’s best to use a network cable for backhauling or wired backhaul. In this case, a hub can use all of its Wi-Fi bandwidth for front-hauling.

In networking, using network cables is always much better than wireless in speed and reliability.

The pseudo dedicated backhaul band

As for the 6GHz, it gets interesting: By default, this band is set as the dedicated backhaul for the mesh system. But you can also make it available for clients, too.

Tp Link Deco XE75 6GHz band
Using the 6GHz band as the “dedicated backhaul” only means that the TP-Link Deco XE75 will not make this band available to clients. The system still uses the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band as backhaul when the 6GHz is out of range. The 6GHz will be available as a separate Wi-Fi network (SSID) when opened up to clients.

When you choose to use the 6GHz as a dedicated backhaul, you only make this band unavailable to clients — and the system will still use its other two bands (2.4GHz or 5GHz) as backhaul when necessary.

And that is necessary in most cases since the 6GHz band’s range is very short.

When I placed the satellite unit behind a wall in my testing, the mesh immediately stopped using the 6GHz band as backhaul. I figured that out via testing — there was no way to know which band was working as backhaul via the app.

That said, there’s no point in using the 6GHz as the dedicated backhaul unless:

  • You have no 6GHz clients, and
  • You can place the hardware units at a relatively short distance — some 65 feet (20 meters) — from each other within a line of sight.

When you open the 6GHz band to the client, it’ll be able as a separate network name (SSID), though you can name it the same as the other two bands.

Like all applicable Deco sets, the XE75 support wired backhaul, which is also what I’d recommend for best performance.

TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400: Reliable sub-Gigabit performance

In my testing, the Deco XE75 did well for its hardware specs. I tested it both as a single router and a wireless mesh system.

Since it doesn’t have a Multi-Gig port, its sustained speed is generally capped below Gigabit. And compared to other Wi-Fi 6E broadcasters, it did quite well, as you can see on the chart below.

Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E Mesh Router Performance
The Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E Mesh Router’s single router performance
(AC Client): a 4×4 client was used for the close-range tests and a 3×3 AC client for the long-range tests.

As a mesh system, I placed the satellite unit 40 feet away from the router unit within a line of sight. The numbers below are generally the best-case scenario, presumably when the 6GHz band was working as the backhaul — chances are you’ll get a lesser experience.

(Again, there was no way to know which band the system was using for its backhaul at any given time.)

Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E Mesh Satellite Performance
The Deco XE75’s performance as a mesh satellite
5GHz is the backhaul band by default.
<6BH>: 6GHz band as backhaul (when applicable.)
<WBH>: Multi-Gig wired backhaul (when available.)

I did try the system via wired backhaul, and in that case, the satellite unit delivered similar sustained rates as the router units.

In real-world usage and additional anecdotal testing, the Deco XE75’s performance generally topped at around 300Mbps at the satellite unit and close to 900Mbps at the router unit. Of course, the actual number carried a great deal.

Typically, you’ll have placed the two quite far from each other with a wall or two in between.

The screenshot below shows the best possible real-world Internet speeds out of the two in my case, where I placed the satellite 45 feet (14 meters) from the router, and there were a few thin walls between them.

Tp Link Deco XE75 Real World Internet Speed Router vs Satellite
The TP-Link Deco XE75’s real-world best-case-scenario Internet speeds, via a 10Gbps Fiber-optic line, out of the router unit (left) and the satellite

I tested that using a Pixel 6 — which, in my experience, was capable of over 1200Mbps of sustained Wi-Fi speeds — via a 10Gbps Fiber-optic connection. In case you’re curious, here’s the speed test page I used for this testing.

I did this test many times over a week, using all different bands, and picked the best result for each case to show here. Hint: Your experience will be different, likely slower, especially at the router’s end.

Still, if you don’t care about getting the most out of a Gigabit-class broadband connection, as you probably shouldn’t since anything over 100Mbps is enough for any applications, the Deco XE75’s real-world speeds sure will suffice. If you want more, getting your home wired is a must and maybe consider the Asus ZenWiFi Pro ET12.

As for coverage, TP-Link claims that 2-pack Deco XE75 can blanket 5,500 ft2 (511 m2) — or 7200 ft2 if you use a 3-pack — and that’s a bit of a stretch.

Clearly, in a wireless setup, we must balance range and performance. I’d say this 2-pack can handle around 4000 ft2 with decent speed. Larger than that, you will need to use a network cable to connect the two units or be content with using the 2.4GHz as backhaul, which is very slow. In any case, your mileage will vary depending on the layout of your home.

Before publishing this review, I used the Deco Xe75 for over two weeks, and it proved reliable. We had no issue with disconnections.

TP Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri Band Mesh Wi Fi 6E System 5

Pros

Wi-Fi 6E-ready with reliable and extensive coverage

Cons

No Multi-Gig port, Link Aggregation, or Dual-WAN

TP-Link login account and mobile app required

No real, local web-based management

Only three network ports on each unit

Conclusion

To put in a sentence, the Deco XE75 is an affordable Wi-Fi 6E system that gets the job done with minimum effort as long as you’re OK with managing your network TP-Link’s way.

Considering the friendly retail price of $300, the 2-pack TP-Link Deco XE75 AXE5400 Tri-Band Mesh Wi-Fi 6E System is excellent. It’s proof that the eero Pro 6E, which has much worse hardware yet costs double the price, is a total ripoff.

This new system will deliver for those wanting a reliable wireless mesh for their modest network. And if you have wired your home, you can expect consistent Gigabit-class sustained speeds.

On the downside, the lack of a real, local web interface can translate into privacy risks. Also, the lackluster feature set, even when you want to spend another $6/month for the subscription add-ons, can be a deal-breaker for advanced users.

All things considered, I’d recommend the Deco XE75 with a tad of reservation. In a way, it’s a testament to the fact we can’t have everything, and sometimes, not even close to that. But even then, we might still end up with a good deal.



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