Among popular networking vendors, TP-Link is known to offer affordability. And that goes across the board among the company’s lineups, including its Archer standalone routers, Deco home mesh, and Omada business access points.
In April 2919, the networking vendor unveiled OneMesh as an additional and practical do-it-yourself home (DIY) mesh option for the budget-minded who already had an Archer router.
You’ll learn all about OneMesh in this post, but to cut to the chase: If you’re looking to quickly blanket those far corners of your home with reliable Wi-Fi — at best fast enough to deliver sub-Gigabit broadband, for now — a OneMesh combo is an excellent option.
Dong’s note: I first published this review on April 29, 2019, with Wi-Fi 5 hardware, and I updated it on October 6, 2022, using the latest hardware to reflect the latest state of OneMesh, which has evolved quite a bit since its inception and address the lack of wired backhauling option.
What is TP-Link OneMesh?
TP-Link first announced the OneMesh initiative during CES 2019. The new feature soon became available via firmware updates to many existing routers and new hardware releases.
Now, more than two years later, OneMesh has proven to be a lasting feature with virtually all Archer Wi-Fi 6 (and 6E) routers and about a dozen range extenders supporting it.
In fact, it’s about to get even better. TP-Link recently told me that it would release more OneMesh options, including Wi-Fi 6E hardware, in late 2022, of which some will also support Wi-Fi EasyMesh. Most importantly, it seems all new extenders will have at least one network port.
Wi-Fi EasyMesh in a nutshell
Wi-Fi EasyMesh is Wi-Fi Alliance’s certification program, first announced in early 2020, that aims to simplify the building of mesh systems.
The idea is any Wi-Fi EasyMesh-certified hardware from any vendor will work with one another to form a Wi-Fi mesh system.
The new program hasn’t caught on. By late 2022, only Netgear has released its supposedly Wi-Fi EasyMesh-compliant mesh systems– the MK63 and MK83. And in August 2022, TP-Link said that it would join the cause.
Generally, we need the hardware of at least two vendors to know the support for Wi-Fi EasyMesh is real. But even then, things can get complicated in terms of liability or tech support.
If a mixed Wi-Fi EasyMesh system is not working as expected, it’s hard to know which hardware vendor is at fault and consumers might be stuck between two networking companies that point fingers at each other.
For more reasons than one, users tend to use mesh hardware from the same vendor, and Wi-Fi EasyMesh has so far been a nice idea with little impact, if at all.
The way OneMesh works, you pair the router with one or more supported extenders or access points to form a seamless mesh Wi-Fi system.
Specifically, you can start with a single router and add more broadcasters as satellite units to increase the Wi-Fi coverage later. Among other things, you get flexibility in Wi-Fi coverage while still enjoying the features of the primary router.
But there are nuances. Let’s find out in detail what TP-Link OneMesh has and has not.
What TP-Link OneMesh offers
- Centralized management: You only need to manage the Wi-Fi settings on the router, and the changes will be synced across all OneMesh broadcasters. You can do this via the web interface or TP-Link’s Tether mobile app.
- Easy client monitoring: You can easily find out via the mobile app or the web interface to which hardware unit — the router or the extender — a client connects in real time.
- Easy setup: Adding a OneMesh extender to an existing OneMesh router takes just a few minutes – more below.
- All features of the router: A OneMesh has all features and settings of the router in the setup — the router you pick will determine what features your network will get.
- Seamless hand-off: Wi-Fi devices will automatically roam from one broadcast to another as you move around within the system.
- Access point mode: An OneMesh system can work in Access Point mode, meaning you can use it with an existing router or gateway as part of a single network. In this mode, besides the seamless hand-off, you’ll get no other features of the OneMesh system.
- Flexible hardware combos: You can start with one OneMesh router — most TP-Link Archers router supports OneMesh — and adds up to nine OneMesh range extenders of the same or different hardware units. Ideally, in a wireless configuration, you should use no more than three extenders and place them around the router — the star topology. OneMesh works in a daisy-chain setup, but the performance will be slow due to severe signal loss.
- Affordability: Most OneMesh add-on extenders/access points are relatively inexpensive.
- Here to stay: TP-Link says OneMesh will be available in all product categories, including routers, extenders, access, and Powerline adapters.
- True MAC address: Typically, extenders use virtual MAC addresses for connected clients. But in a OneMesh setup, clients connected to the extender unit use their true physical addresses in my testing. Consequently, MAC-based features, such as access control, IP reservation, or web filtering, will work as intended. (This might vary from one extender to another.)
The main takeaway you can expect from a OneMesh system is that you keep all that you have from the current router, plus extra Wi-Fi coverage when adding an extender or access point on top.
What OneMesh doesn’t offer
- No router-to-router setup: You can’t turn a OneMesh router into a satellite unit — you need a specific extender or access point for this role. As a result, when upgrading to a new TP-Link router, you can’t use the old one as part of the system. (You can use most TP-Link routers as standard access points, but that’s a different story.)
- No wired backhauling: For now, with the latest hardware and firmware, you can’t use a network cable to link the router and a OneMesh extender.
- No dedicated wireless backhaul: This requires the satellite unit to be Tri-band, which has an additional 5GHz band. So far, there has been only dual-band OneMesh satellites.
- Few(er) features: TP-Link Archer routers share a similar standard feature set. And most, if not all, don’t include Parental Controls, QoS, and online protection for free. You must pay subscription fees and log in via a TP-Link account.
OneMesh and wired backhauling
The issue with wired backhauling — where a network cable is used to link the hardware units — has been ambiguous with OneMesh. Over the years since its first inception, at one point wired backhauling worked on extenders that have a network port.
However, with the least hardware and firmware, wired backhauling is now explicitly not supported. On this front, in late September 2022, TP-Link confirmed that wired backhauling was not an option “for now,” and the company might consider adding it “in the future.”
So generally, OneMesh has fewer hardware options in performance and features than other DIY mesh approaches. And the potential use of a login account can incur privacy risks.
TP-Link and your privacy
It’s important to note that having to sign in with an account means your hardware always connects to the vendor. In TP-Link’s case, you’ll manage your home network entirely or partially through the company.
TP-Link is headquartered in China, where the practice of online privacy, surveillance, and security might differ from the rest of the world.
Privacy is a matter of degree. While managing your network via a third party is never a good idea, data collection varies vendor by vendor.
How to pick OneMesh hardware
There are two parts of a OneMesh setup, the router and the satellite(s).
Virtually all TP-Link Wi-F 6 and Wi-Fi 6E routers in the Archer family support OneMesh — future ones will, too. So pick a router with the performance grade that suits your needs.
On the satellite end, most RExxx extenders support OneMesh, and TP-Link will release more in the near future.
For now, all of these extenders are entry-level with mediocre to mid-tier Wi-Fi specs. Consequently, it’s best to pick the one with the highest specs if you have fast broadband (300Mbps or faster). If you have slow internet, any extender will do.
Still, make sure you pick one of the same Wi-Fi standards as the router — Wi-Fi 5 vs Wi-Fi 6. If you have a wired home, get one with a network port.
Of existing OneMesh satellite hardware, the RE700X AX3000 extender is the best in hardware specs. Yet, it’s pretty modest, with up to 574Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and up to 2402Mbps on the 5GHz, theoretically.
The extender also has a Gigabit network port to work as a standard access point (AP mode.)
TP-Link OneMesh setup: It’s easy
I initially tested TP-Link OneMesh in April 2019 using an Archer A7 v5 router and the RE300 extender. Both are Wi-Fi 5 hardware. At the time, the Archer A7 was relatively high-end, and the RE300 was the only OneMesh extender.
In any case, setting up a OneMesh Wi-Fi system is simple and can be summed up in one sentence for those only needing the general direction:
Set up the router, turn on its OneMesh feature, and connect a OneMesh-ready satellite extender unit to it.
If that’s enough, you can close the box below to skip extra details and screenshots.
Setting up OneMesh router and satellite(s)
OneMesh router setup
Setting up a TP-Link router is like any router with a web interface. From a connected computer, launch a web browser to open the router’s default IP address which is 192.168.0.1 (or http://tplinklogin.net).
You’ll then find a wizard that walks you through creating an admin account and a Wi-Fi network. After that, you can use the web interface to customize the network’s settings further.
Once the router is up and running, migrate the OneMesh section and turn it on. And that’s it. The router is now ready to host OneMesh satellites.
TP-Link OneMesh satellite setup
Once the router is ready, you can add OneMesh satellite(s) to it however you’d like, using the satellite’s web user interface, via the Tether mobile app, or via the WPS feature, when available.
If you use the mobile app or web interface for the setup process, the router’s SSID will appear with the word “OneMesh” attached to it.
Generally, the setup process will ask you to connect the extender to the router using all of its available bands — 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz (when available.)
And that’s it. Now, find the right spot to place the extender, and your OneMesh system is ready (*).
Once the system is up and running, you can still access the extender (now mesh satellite’s) web user interface for common tasks, such as firmware updates. However, you can’t change its Wi-Fi settings that way — you do that at the router.
TP-Link OneMesh: Slow but reliable performance
In the past couple of years, I’ve tried many OneMesh combos, and the general experience is that they are reliable but slow. And that was the case even with the latest hardware, namely the Archer AXE75 and RE700X extender as mentioned above.
In terms of Wi-Fi range, each extender will add between 1000 ft2 (93 m2) to 1500 ft2 (139 m2) of coverage depending on how you arrange it — more in this post about using multiple Wi-FI broadcasters.
For the charts above, I placed the extenders some 40 feet (12 m) from the routers within a line of sight — I generally only report mesh satellites’ performance in a wireless setup.
Generally, all OneMesh extenders have relatively short ranges, and the performance degrades significantly as the distance increases. And that’s understandable since all of them, including the best-of-the-breed RE700X, are compact low-end broadcasters.
The signal hand-off generally worked well in my extended real-world usage, but clients might take a bit longer — up to a few seconds — to get connected to the network via a satellite unit.
Overall, all OneMesh extenders perform well in my book, considering their costs.
Affordable and easy to set up
Responsive web interface, useful mobile app
Available in most, if not all, TP-Link’s Wi-Fi 6 (and later) routers
Modest Wi-Fi speeds due to signal loss; no wired backhauling
Routers can’t work as satellite units
Even the best satellite has entry-level Wi-Fi specs
TP-Link Archer routers’ QoS, Parental Controls, and online protection features require subscriptions and a vendor login account
TP-Link’s OneMesh is not intended to be the replacement for the company’s Deco product line. Instead, it’s an easy way to turn a full-featured standalone Archer router into a mesh network when need be.
While the mesh’s performance so far doesn’t have anything to brag about, its convenience and reliability will make those needing extra coverage appreciate the possibility.
And the low cost never hurts.
So, if you’re to blanket a larger-than-expected home — one that a single Archer router is just a bit shy of covering it all — OneMesh is more than worth the investment.
Hopefully, TP-Link will release more powerful extenders — better Wi-FI specs with Multi-Gig ports — down the road that have the performance to match Gigabit or even faster broadband.