I recently upgraded my home wireless network to the new WiFi 6 specification by deploying the TP-Link Deco X60. Like so many others, I have been impacted personally by COVID-19 which made it’s debut during 2020. I was working from home prior to the emergence of the virus, yet my daily life has still been impacted. I did have the virus at the end of the 2020 year and had relatively mild symptoms, considering what I have heard from others. My children’s lives were also greatly impacted by the virus having both succumb to it and having felt the impact on their education due to disruptions in the educational system brought on by the surge in cases in our state of Tennessee. I have six children, only two of which are in a state school. Those two children are both blind and attend a school for children with vision impairment.
The real driver for the upgrade of my wireless network came about as a result of the personal impacts to our network usage. I am constantly on Microsoft Teams or Zoom as a part of my job and the school has initiated distance learning at multiple points throughout the 2020 year and even now in the first part of 2021. Those distance learning sessions are provided over the usual commercial video-conferencing options as well. We have experienced what most folks in our position have which is the usual audio drop out as well as disconnects to the video conferencing server throughout meetings. Choppy video and audio have been consistent as we attend meetings as well.
I have made a number of improvements to my home network over the last few months with a focus of ensuring the best performance possible. The Deco X60 was the latest addition to the network, but prior to that, I also added a few managed switches and configured VLANs for IOT devices on the network. My setup is complex compared to the average home network, but the added complexity allows me greater control of the configuration of the network and the devices that sit on it. I would not advise everyone to take the actions I have on my network, but I do believe that many times home networks are not well thought out and built in a way that offers the best performance. We spend so much time at home, especially now, so we should put the effort in to make our home network experience better.
The Product – Deco X60
I want to share some of the highlights of the Deco X60. First, it is important to mention that this is a mesh wireless system. This means that the users on the wireless network can seamlessly transition from access point to access point, completely unaware of which one they are currently connected to and without disruption of their connection. It also means that the wireless access points are managed through a central point and that all configuration is passed to the satellites or additional units seamlessly. TP-Link takes this to the extreme by not allowing certain manual changes to take place. This is touted as a simple mesh wireless setup, but it does also remove some of the ability to make some advanced changes to the network which many administrators would deem usual and customary. One such option would be the manual selection of a wireless channel. The device chooses a channel after it comes online and checks for congestion. The administrator has no ability to change this selected channel.
The Deco X60 comes with two units. Either one can be considered the primary up to the point of configuration. One of the first steps during the configuration is to set one of them up as the primary. Once the primary is configured, you simply plug in the second in the desired location and it is setup automatically. The whole setup process is relatively simple and is managed through the Android or IOS app provided by TP-Link.
It is important to note that many of the features of this router are not relevant to the clients on my network at this time. The reason for that is because WiFi 6 is new and manufacturers have only recently begun developing network adapters that conform to the specification. Until such time as I have clients that are WiFi 6 capable, I will not experience the full benefit of the router’s capabilities.
The main idea of this upgrade was not so much to gain immediate performance gains, but to future proof the wireless network due to my current use of IOT which I expect to grow exponentially over the coming years. That being said, this router does offer faster speeds than my previous Netgear Orbi mesh system and provides coverage for around 5000 square feet using less mesh devices than I was previously. I am covering the same area with half of the devices I had previously.
You might now be asking yourself what impact this change has had to my video conferencing issues mentioned above. I am monitoring that daily as we continue to have virtual classes and work meetings. Speed tests are improved and I am also seeing much lower latency in speed tests for devices that were previously much higher. This is especially true for wireless devices in the upper floor of my home even though the satellite is placed in the exact same location as the prior Orbi satellite. I am not sure at this time if that is due to a more powerful radio in the Deco or some other factor.
I am in the process of researching some options for upgrading some of my existing devices to WiFi 6 capable wireless NICs to get the full benefit of the new network to those devices. Most of the current WiFi 6 NICs are PCI-X based from what I have seen. While I look at options for client upgrades, I also made some changes to the switch and ensured that wireless clients get priority. Since I have not been saturating the interface or the switch overall where the wireless connects, I am not sure what impact this will have at this time.
There will be no ultimate conclusion to this project until I have upgraded the majority of devices on my network to be able to support the new wireless specification; however, I know that there is value in ensuring I am prepared for future upgrades and I know for a fact that upgrading my clients will enable them to benefit from the upgrade. I will continue to research options and provide some updates once I have some clients to test with that support the newest features. As always, I appreciate your comments and ideas in the comment section below. Please take some time to check out our forums and engage in conversation there as well.
Check out this topic in our forums related to the TP-Link Deco X60: