The TP-Link Deco X68 is the latest whole-home Wi-Fi mesh system from the Chinese networking firm. These routers use multiple units to extend the home network and eliminate Wi-Fi blind spots. As its model name suggests, the X68 is an upgraded version of the Deco X60. The difference between them: The X68 has a dedicated 5GHz band that can be used as a wireless backhaul to improve wireless performance. I tested the 2-pack version, which comes with two X68 units that are identical in every way.
- Tri-band Wi-Fi 6 (AX3600)
- 2x Gigabit LAN/WAN ports
- Supports WPA3 encryption
- Coverage of up to 5,500 sq feet (510 sq metre) with two units
Setting up the X68 is easy. Simply download the Deco app (for iOS and Android) and follow the instructions to get the first X68 unit up and running. This took less than 10 minutes. There's no need to manually add the second unit as the two units are pre-paired in the factory. Just place it somewhere between the first X68 unit and the furthest part of your home. I picked the bedroom closest to the living room. Turn it on, and the second unit will automatically show up in the Deco app after several minutes. You can also mix and match different Deco models in the same Wi-Fi network. Hence, if you are already using an older Deco mesh system, just add the X68 units through the app.
The X68 has only two Gigabit LAN ports and lacks a USB port. At the front bottom is a LED indicator that is useful when setting up or troubleshooting the router. As the X68 is physically taller than the X60, you'd think there might be space for an extra connector or two. But no such luck. Having only two Ethernet ports could be a problem if you intend to use the Ethernet backhaul feature (takes up one port). But to be fair, most mesh routers offer only two LAN ports, so TP-Link isn't exactly short-changing its users.
But TP-Link has made a significant change to its bundled HomeShield software suite for network security and parental controls. You now have to subscribe (at S$8.98 a month) to enjoy features such as real-time intrusion prevention and DDoS protection. These features used to be free in older Deco models like the X60, when the suite was called HomeCare. While TP-Link still has a free version of HomeShield, it offers only basic features like network security scan, as well as blocking and pausing the internet. You can compare the free and paid versions here.
In a speed test using two notebooks, the TP-Link Deco X68 managed an average download speed of 636Mbps in my living room, which is in the same ballpark as the X60 (620Mbps). The newer model also performs better in my bedroom with a 230Mbps download compared to 170Mbps for the X60. Overall, these figures are average, and similar to competitors such as the Asus ZenWiFi AX Mini. At S$409 (available on Shopee and Lazada), the X68 is priced similarly to the X60 at launch, though the latter has since dipped to S$369. Although it is nice to have the wireless backhaul for the X68, the X60's free HomeCare software suite offers more features than the free version on the X68. Either one fits the bill for a decent and affordable mesh system.
Note: Review unit provided by TP-Link.
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