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TP-Link Deco BE85 review: For early adopters

TP-Link Deco BE85 review: For early adopters

TP-Link Deco BE85

The TP-Link Deco BE85 is one of the first Wi-Fi 7 routers available in the market. Given the lack of Wi-Fi 7 client devices, this mesh router is probably six months to a year too early. However, early adopters with the right hardware and a 10Gbps fibre plan may get some joy out of it. TP-Link sells the Deco BE85 as a single unit, a pair, and a set of three. I tested two of them, which will set you back by around S$1,500.

Quick specs

  • Tri-band Wi-Fi 7 (BE22000)
  • 10Gbps Ethernet port, 10Gbps SFP+/RJ45 combo port, 2x 2.5Gbps Ethernet ports, USB 3.0
  • Supports wired and wireless backhaul
  • Compatible with other Deco mesh routers

The first thing I noticed about the Deco BE85 is the height. It's about twice as tall as TP-Link's older Deco X60 mesh router (see image below). The BE85 is also much heavier. The upside, though, is that you get more ports and connectors on the BE85. While I'm used to seeing a measly two Ethernet ports on mesh routers, the BE85 has a full complement of four Ethernet ports. And you can say goodbye to 1Gbps ports. Because the slowest Ethernet port on this router is 2.5Gbps, along with two 10Gbps Ethernet ports. There's also a USB 3.0 port, which isn't common on mesh routers. To put things in context, the BE85 is the mid-range model among TP-Link's Wi-Fi 7 mesh routers. The entry-level Deco BE65 has four 2.5Gbps Ethernet ports. I imagine other router manufacturers will offer similar specs in their products.

TP-Link Deco BE85
The Deco BE85 is twice as tall as the older Wi-Fi 6 capable Deco X60. Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

Due to the paucity of Wi-Fi 7 devices, I was unable to properly test some of the new features of the technology, such as Multi-Link Operation. Other Wi-Fi 7 features wil likely be rolled out via firmware updates next year when the standard is properly ratified. Like most mesh routers, the BE85 is intended for mainstream users, not power users. You cannot select a specific Wi-Fi channel, for example, though you can split the three wireless bands (2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz) into separate SSIDs. TP-Link also includes a home security suite dubbed HomeShield (and powered by Norton). Besides protecting against external threats, the mesh router also has parental controls to shield your kids from undesirable online content, and QoS to prioritise the bandwidth for select devices. However, the more useful features are behind a paywall. A month-long trial is included.

TP-Link Deco BE85
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

To test the BE85, I had to flash a Xiaomi 13 Ultra smartphone with a firmware that enables its Wi-Fi 7 functionality. This phone managed around 1.9Gbps to 2.1Gbps download speed at Speedtest.net using a Singtel 10Gbps fibre broadband connection. As for the BE85's 10Gbps port, I measured around 6.8Gbps download speed with a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. But what if you don't have a single Wi-Fi 7 device or a 10Gbps internet connection? Well, you can still get some marginal benefit from these mesh routers — with some caveats. Each BE85 unit communicates with other BE85 units in a mesh network via wireless backhaul, which can use the 6GHz channel. In my testing using two BE85 units — each connected to a PC via 10Gbps wired Ethernet — I found that the peak download speed between the two computers was around 3.1Gbps, while the average download speed was 2.9Gbps.

Obviously, this is a niche scenario. Not many of us have high-end computers with fast Ethernet connections, though gaming laptops often sport 2.5Gbps Ethernet ports. You may not even care about transfer speeds for your local network. In everyday use at home with only Wi-Fi 6 clients, I didn't see an obvious improvement with the BE85. My devices still occasionally lose the internet connection with two BE85 units — like other mesh routers I have tested. The speed also drops to around 200Mbps (using the 2.4GHz band) in my most distant bedroom. To sum up, it will take time for Wi-Fi 7 devices to become widely available. But I believe that the latest Wi-Fi 7 standard will be a meaty upgrade over the existing iteration. The BE85 is available now from Shopee and Lazada.

See Also

Note: Review unit provided by TP-Link, 10Gbps fibre broadband provided by Singtel.

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