Built for larger homes, the TP-Link Deco BE85 ($1,499.99) is a three-piece mesh system that extends powerful wireless networking to every corner of the house using the newest Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) technology. It is easy to install and operate using the Deco mobile app, and it comes with standard HomeShield network security and parental control software, just like prior Deco systems. There are many of high-speed networking ports and USB connectors on every node, which is a characteristic that most other mesh systems lack. Even though its cost might seem high, it’s still less expensive than the Netgear Orbi 970 Series WiFi 7 mesh system and the Eero Max 7 mesh system. While the Max 7 might be a better option for people want to connect to and operate their smart home devices, the Orbi delivers superior overall performance.
Concept: An Outlet For Each Link
We examined the Deco BE85 three-pack, which uses three identical nodes to cover up to 9,600 square feet of space in a home. If you find that three nodes is not enough, you can choose a two-pack that covers up to 6,400 square feet for $999.99. The white, cylinder-shaped nodes have eight internal high-gain antennae and measure 9.2 inches in height and 5 inches in width. An integrated status LED within the base illuminates solid yellow at node power-up, pulses blue with setup readiness, becomes solid green upon successful connectivity, and turns solid red upon a connectivity problem.
All of the connectors on the node are located on the rear panel. These ports consist of two 2.5GbE LAN ports, a USB 3.0 port, a 10GbE SFP+/RJ45 WAN-LAN combo port for usage with copper and fiber connections, and a power port. Additionally, a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button is located here. In the meanwhile, the node’s base has a little reset button. If your house design permits you to connect the nodes with an Ethernet cable, this system can handle communications between nodes and free up wireless bandwidth for client traffic. It also offers combined wired and wireless backhaul for higher throughput speeds.
In terms of wireless capacity, the BE85 is a BE22000 system, which implies that it has a maximum theoretical transmission rate of 1,376 Mbps in the 2.4GHz band, 8,640 Mbps in the 5GHz band, and 11,520 Mbps in the 6GHz band, for a combined approximate maximum transmission rate of 22,000 Mbps. In addition to 6GHz transmissions, 4×4 MU-MIMO streaming, direct-to-client beamforming, WPA3 encryption, orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) data transmissions, 4K-QAM, and 320MHz channels, this system also supports the most recent Wi-Fi 7 technologies. In addition, it enables voice commands from Google and Alexa as well as Multi-Link Operation (MLO), which we’ll talk about later.
Free parental controls include website blocking, age-based content filters, and a bedtime setting that shuts off the internet on particular days of the week at a predetermined time. To access sophisticated parental controls like SafeSearch, YouTube Restricted Mode, Flexible Bedtime, Time Limits, Time Rewards, and Insights (a summary of internet usage), you must subscribe for $2.99 per month or $17.99 per year.
In addition, the BE85 has basic network security capabilities that search for wireless security and router vulnerabilities. However, if you sign up for the $4.99/month/$35.99/year Security+ plan, you’ll receive extra features like Web Protection, Intrusion Prevention, and IoT Protection. The Total Security bundle offers antivirus protection, a VPN, a password manager, and a PC cleaning tool for $5.99 per month or $69.99 per year. The annual cost increases to $129.99 after the first year.
The Deco X4300 Pro that we tested earlier this year is also compatible with the BE85 via the Deco mobile app. There is a network map on the Network screen, and each node has an icon. When you tap a node, you can view its IP and MAC address, the list of connected client devices, and the upload and download speeds at that moment. Additionally, there is a button for Wi-Fi settings, where you can change passwords and SSIDs, and one for checking internet performance using the Speedtest tool. You can also enable an MLO network (which uses all three bands and has its own SSID and password) in the Wi-Fi settings tab. Even while MLO is one of Wi-Fi 7’s main upgrades over previous iterations, its requirement for client support—which so few clients now have—might make it unwise to use just yet.
A panel displaying all connected client devices is located beneath the map. You can assign a device bandwidth priority, include it in a member profile, restrict it, and isolate it from other devices when you tap it. A Smart Home panel at the bottom of the screen allows you to add gadgets, like Philips Hue lighting and TP-Link Kasa plugs, that you can control via the app.
The controls for Network, Security, Parental Controls, and More are located beneath the Smart Home panel. While the Security button displays a screen where you may view security threats and run a security scan, the Network button takes you back to the introductory screen. You can establish user accounts, set web filters, prevent access to the network, and see how much time each user spends online by using the Parental Controls option. You can set up a separate IoT network for smart devices, adjust QoS settings, disable node LEDs, optimize the network, and adjust Wi-Fi and LAN settings by clicking the More button. IPTV/VLAN settings, NAT forwarding, USB sharing, and VPN Server and VPN Client settings are examples of advanced settings.
Deco BE85 Testing: Quick, But Not the Quickest
Similar to earlier Deco systems, installation was quite simple. If this is your first Deco system, you will need to download the app and register, even though I already had it installed. I chose the BE85 from the list of Deco models when I created a new network by tapping the Add icon on the welcome screen. I turned off my modem, used the 10GbE port to connect a Deco node to it, and then turned everything back on. After making sure the Deco LED was pulsating blue, I provided the app a location and waited a few seconds for it to detect the router. I had to give the new network a name and password once the software set up the internet connection for DHCP. After plugging in the satellites, which were immediately added to the network, I linked my phone to the new network.
Our throughput performance testing yielded good, but not class-leading, results for the BE85. The router node’s close-proximity test result of 2,085Mbps was comparable to, but not quite as fast as, the Netgear Orbi 970 Series (2,209Mbps) and Eero Max 7 (2,149Mbps, respectively). The BE85 router outperformed the Eero Max 7 router (670Mbps) at a 30-foot distance, with a score of 779Mbps, while the Netgear Orbi router came in first with 916Mbps.
In the meantime, the BE85 satellite node dominated the group with a close-proximity test score of 1,922Mbps. The Eero Max 7 node scored 1,795 Mbps, while the Netgear Orbi node scored 1,470 Mbps. With a score of 999Mbps on the 30-foot test, the BE85 node behind the Eero Max 7 (1,062Mbps) and Netgear Orbi (1,040Mbps) nodes by a narrow margin.
Using the company’s Survey software and an Eckahau Sidekick diagnostic tool, we measure the strength of the wireless signal. (Note: Ziff Davis, publisher of PCMag, owns Ekahau.) This combination creates a heat map that shows the intensity of the Wi-Fi signal in our test house. Whereas the colors on the heat map indicate signal strength—darker green for the strongest signal, lighter yellow for a weaker one, and gray for no discernible signal—the circles on the heat map show the positions of the router and nodes.
The Deco BE85 system demonstrated its ability to provide robust Wi-Fi signals over the whole house.
Conclusion: An Expensive Overview of the Wi-Fi 7 Future
If you’re ready to accept the newest Wi-Fi 7 technology, the TP-Link Deco BE85 is a solid option because of its strong throughput, superb signal strength, and a wide variety of high-speed ports (including an uncommon USB connector). It’s not cheap, at $1,499.99, but then again, new technology, especially new Wi-Fi technology, usually comes at a premium.
The Editors’ Choice-winning Eero Max 7 mesh system is even more expensive, but it offers a marginally faster Wi-Fi 7 network and better compatibility for home automation. The Netgear Orbi 970 Series, on the other hand, has some of the fastest mesh system ratings we’ve seen, but it’s also the most expensive of the three. If speed is your top priority.