TP-Link Deco M4 review: Expansion pack
- Cheaper than Deco M5
- Easy to set up
- Slightly slower than M5
- Bigger than M5
The TP-Link Deco M4 is rarely good enough to justify itself as a replacement for the M5, and it makes one-too-many software compromises for it to hold up as the budget-friendly alternative either.
Price$ 229.95 (AUD)
The TP-Link Deco M5 was the first mesh Wi-Fi kit that clicked for me. It had a simple and clean look, providing plenty of fast-enough Wi-Fi coverage and speed.
It wasn’t super-expensive, and it had a nice app that ticked all the boxes. However, it relied on three nodes. The TP-Link Deco M4 only relies on two - there’s about a $70 difference in cost.
Going into reviewing the new Deco M4, I was keen to see whether you could effectively replace three medium-strength nodes with two more-powerful ones. The other thing I wanted to examine was just how easy it was to use the M4 to expand my existing mesh Wi-Fi network.
One of those ambitions proved more fruitful than the other. Sometimes that's just the way it is.
Router type: AC1200
Dimensions: 90.7 x 190 mm
Processor: Qualcomm Atheros QCA9563
Ports: 1Gbs ethernet port (2x)
Number of nodes in box: 2
While the Deco M5 is a sleek minimalist discus, the Deco M4 looks much closer to a traditional router - for better and for worse. For the most part, each Deco M4 node still broadly looks like you’d expect a router node to look.
Each of the two nodes you get in the box is a AC1200 router, which means that they’re a little slower than the M5. The TP-Link Deco M4 offers dual-band Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1167 Mbps. The TP-Link Deco M5 boasts dual-band Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1267Mbps.
You do the maths. The difference is small, but it is a difference.
The M4 kit is also a little weaker when it comes to coverage. The TP-Link Deco M4 two-pack offers Wi-Fi connectivity of up to 260 square meters. That being said, this baseline coverage is also expandable via additional nodes - so that is an option.
Like most mesh Wi-Fi Systems, the Deco M4 is modular. You can use it on its own, or to expand an existing Mesh Wi-Fi system. I actually had a surprising amount of trouble with the latter though. Adding the first M4 node to the existing Deco network worked like a charm. However, I had plenty of issues with the second - and no amount of restarts could get it working.
Of course, if you look beyond the hardware for a minute and take a dive into the software powering this thing, you’ll find that the Deco M4 offers most of the perks and features found in the Deco M5.
The mesh Wi-Fi system’s management app offers parental controls that allow you to limit online time and block inappropriate content on a per-user (or per-device) basis. Unfortunately, you don’t get the built-in smart home hub found in the more expensive Deco M9 - but you do get Alexa and IFTTT compatibility.
You also lose out on the M5’s built-in TrendMicro antivirus and quality-of-service features, which allow you to prioritise devices and applications for faster performance when needed.
Given that the M5 is about $70 more expensive, but significantly better, it’s kind of the biggest competition facing the Deco M4 - so that was one of the big focuses. I swapped the two systems in and out to see which faced better when it came to coverage and reliability, seen below:
The Bottom Line
Really, the M4's best case seems to be for houses that are large enough that one node isn’t enough, but small enough that the M5 triple pack doesn’t make sense.The physical footprint and form factor for the Deco M4 is substantially larger than the M5 and, price aside, it’s not super clear where this package's value lies.
I get that it’s going to be a better fit for some people. The Deco M5 holds up as my personal pick for the best mesh Wi-Fi kit to start with, and the Deco M4 can only really be another option on the menu.
The TP-Link Deco M4 is rarely good enough to justify itself as a replacement for the M5, and it makes one-too-many software compromises for it to hold up as the budget-friendly alternative either. On its own merits, it’s a decent enough option but, in most contexts, it’s hard to make too strong a case for it.
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo Reno 5G review: Big Deal
- 2 Google Pixel 3a review: Less is more
- 3 Moto G7 review: The new gold standard for budget buyers
- 4 Sony Bravia 2017 TVs: Full, in-depth review
- 5 Garmin Fenix 5 fitness tracker smartwatch review
Latest News Articles
- Netgear's first wave of Wi-Fi 6 routers are pricey as hell
- Telstra launch Australia's first 5G hotspot
- D-Link's D-Fend router arrives on Australian shores
- MWC 2019: Netgear launch M2 mobile router through Telstra
- MWC 2019: HTC's 5G Hub to be "Australia's first 5G mobile device"
PCW Evaluation Team
This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.
It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.
As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.
The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.
This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
- Happy iPhone Day: Here's everything Apple just announced
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Australian review (2019)
- Hands-On: The Samsung Galaxy Fold is my new problematic fave
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies