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Wireless Reviews

AC2200 Smart Home Mesh Wi-Fi System
At a glance
ProductTP-LINK AC2200 Smart Home Mesh Wi-Fi System (Deco M9 Plus)   [Website]
SummaryTwo-node, three-radio AC2200 class Wi-Fi system with TrendMicro anti-virus and parental controls
Pros• Many features including parental controls, antivirus, smart home hub and more
• 11k,v and r roam assistance
Cons• Expensive vs. the competition, especially if you don't care about the HomeCare and smart home features

Typical Price: $300  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

TP-Link's Deco M9 Plus is a follow up to its Deco M5 I tested just over a year ago as part of the Wi-Fi System Roundup. Besides being slightly larger than its predecessor, the M9+ adds a second 5 GHz radio that can be used for dedicated backhaul. The third radio enables TP-Link to class the M9+ as AC2200 using maximum link rates of 400 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps on both 5 GHz radios. As in the Deco M5, all radios are two-stream.

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus (L) & Deco M5 (R)

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus (L) & Deco M5 (R)

TP-Link is trying to differentiate Deco in the crowded mesh/Wi-Fi system market by loading it up with features, the most notable being its Trend Micro-based HomeCare's feature set that includes Parental Controls, QoS and Antivirus features. Bluetooth 4.1 and Zigbee/Thread radios plus IFTTT and Amazon Alexa support make the M9+ also capable of being a smart home hub.

As noted above, the Deco M5 and M9+ share the same circular physical design and use a single multi-color LED to indicate status. However, the port complement is slightly different with the M9+ using separate power and USB 2.0 ports instead of the M5's USB-C port that doubles as a power port. USB functions are not supported, nor are there mounting slots on either product.

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus callouts

TP-Link Deco M9 Plus callouts

Inside

The M9+ FCC docs are all posted, so I didn't open up the product for component identification. The internal shot below shows the view you'd see if you popped off the plastic enclosure top. That big heatsink plate is thermally coupled to the large, central RF can below it, which holds no key components. But thermal pads in the RF can top couple to the board to provide thermal relief for the IPQ4019 SoC, QCA8072 gigabit Ethernet switch and Nanya flash that sit below the area on the other side of the board.

The product spec says there are 6 Wi-Fi, 1 ZigBee and 1 Bluetooth antennas. This means each radio gets its own antenna, all of which, except the Bluetooth's, are printed circuit boards vertically arrayed around the perimeter.

TP-Link M9+ inside

TP-Link M9+ inside

Removing the heatsink and RF can tops reveals the high-band 5 GHz radios and most of the RF components for the 2.4 and 5 GHz low-band radios supplied by the Qualcomm IPQ4019 on the other side of the board.

TP-Link M9+  board top

TP-Link M9+ board top

The Deco M5 board is shown below for comparison. We see a similar design approach, i.e. RF amplifiers and Bluetooth radio on this side. Note the antennas standing up from the board.

TP-Link M5  board top

TP-Link M5 board top

The photo below shows the bottom side of the M9+ assembly, with the dual-layer heatsink pried apart.

TP-Link M9+ board bottom w/ heatsink

TP-Link M9+ board bottom w/ heatsink

Once the heatsink and RF can top are removed, the Qualcomm IPQ4019, QCA8072 gigabit switch and Nanya flash memory are revealed.

TP-Link M9+ board bottom

TP-Link M9+ board bottom

The same component trio sits under the M5's bottom-side RF can.

TP-Link M5 board bottom

TP-Link M5 board bottom

The table below summarizes the Deco M9+ and M5's key components. I included the NETGEAR RBK40 Orbi ("mini") because its key components are very similar to the M9+'s.

  TP-Link Deco M9+ NETGEAR RBK40 Orbi ("mini") TP-Link Deco M5
CPU Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core Wave2 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core Wave2 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core Wave2 2x2 a/b/g/n/ac SoC
Switch QCA8072 QCA8075 QCA8072
RAM 512 MB 512 MB 256 MB
Flash 4 GB 4 GB 32 MB
2.4 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz PA/Front End (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- + Skyworks SKY2623L 2.4 GHz Power Amp (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Unidentified 2.4 GHz PA/Front End (x2)
5 GHz Radio - In IPQ4019
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz power amp (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
- In IPQ4019
- RFMD RFPA5542 5 GHz power amp (x2)
5 GHz Radio #2 - QCA9886 2x2 802.11ac radio SoC
- Unidentified 5 GHz PA/Front End (x2)
- QCA9886 2x2 a/n/ac SoC
- Quorvo QPF4518 5 GHz front end (x2)
None
Bluetooth Qualcomm/CSR 8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC Qualcomm/CSR 8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC Qualcomm/CSR 8811 Bluetooth 4.1 SoC
IoT Silicon Labs ERF32 Mighty Gecko Zigbee/Thread SoC None None
Table 1: Component summary and comparison

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