One major trend in consumer electronics is “convergence”. Increasingly, we’re seeing more technology being packaged into gadgets so they can carry out more than one function. A case in point is the TP-Link Voice X20. This clever wireless mesh networking system is part of the TP-Link Deco family, a range of wireless access points and routers that can build into a unified mesh network for total home coverage with Wi-Fi. The beauty of the Deco family is that any of the units can work with any other from the range. It’s incredibly versatile and extendable.
One of the latest models to join the Deco family is the Voice X20. These wireless mesh units are kitted out with the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard and extra units can be added to an existing Deco mesh system whenever and wherever they are needed. There’s one important caveat I should mention at this point. Although the Deco Voice X20 units are Wi-Fi 6 compatible, if they are being used as part of a Deco mesh network based on units using the earlier Wi-Fi 5 standard, then the data speeds will only be as fast as the slowest link in the chain. So, if you are tempted by the speed of the Deco Voice X20, it would probably be a good idea to restrict yourself to only using those or other Wi-Fi 6 units.
Unlike the other Deco units which are mostly white, the Voice X20 stands out by having a conical red stand on its base. It looks a bit like an Apollo Lunar Module and may not be to everyone’s tastes. The reason for that little red stand is that it enables sound to escape from the unit. As well as being a mesh device, the Voice X20 is also a fully-fledged Alexa-compatible speaker. It’s a perfect example of converging technology and blends a Wi-Fi network mode with a wireless speaker.
On top of the Deco Voice X20, there’s a top plate with the usual controls you’d expect to see on any Alexa speaker. As well as the Alexa Action button, there’s a button to mute the array of four built-in microphones for when you don’t want Alexa to snoop on your conversations around the dinner table. There are also two volume buttons for turning the sound up or down. Around the rim of the top plate, there is a circular LED light that illuminates in blue whenever you say “Alexa” and issue a command. When the microphone mute button is pressed, the LED changes to red so you know you’re no longer being listened to.
At the side of the Voice X20 are two Gigabit Ethernet ports with auto-sensing WAN/LAN functions. These ports can be used for attaching peripherals like a network-attached storage device, a printer or anything else that requires Ethernet. One of the ports can also be used as an Ethernet backhaul to the main Deco router unit if you’re lucky enough to have a home with a wired network.
When it comes to wireless specifications, the Deco Voice X20 is Wi-Fi 6 AX1800. This means a theoretical throughput of 1,800Mbps on a mesh system that supports the 802.11k/v/r protocol. The data signal rate is split with 574 Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1,201 Mbps on the 5GHz band. In addition to the main network, the Deco Voice X20 can have a Guest network function so visitors can access the internet without poking around the corners of your home network. There’s also support for WPA/WPA2-PSK/WPA3 encryption across the system.
Other features included with the Deco Voice X20 include TP-Link’s basic HomeShield protection, which can filter out viruses and other cyber nasties at the hardware level. For strong reception, there’s OFDMA, 1024-QAM and MU-MIMO. Using the built-in web interface, it’s possible to access advanced settings like address reservation, QoS, port forwarding, TP-Link DDNS, IPTV, IPv6 and firewall rules. It’s also possible to turn off the LEDs as well as Smart Connect. This enables the router to automatically assign connected devices to the Wi-Fi band that provides the fastest speed. By balancing the load and assigning devices to the most appropriate band, Smart Connect can reduce delays and interruptions.
The beauty of a mesh network like the Deco Voice X20 is that you have one network across two bands that cover the whole home enabling the device you’re using to automatically switch and link to the various Deco mesh devices without you having to do a thing. It’s a bit like roaming on a cellular network. And whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, computer or Internet-enabled device, you will always be automatically assigned to the strongest and fastest Wi-Fi signal.
Setting up a mesh network with the Deco units is child’s play, thanks to the excellent Deco smartphone app. You can have the network up and running in minutes. You can add extra Deco units whenever you need them and the whole process is easy to understand thanks to a clear dashboard. The Deco app also keeps an eye on how the mesh is functioning and keeps the firmware up to date.
And now we come to the Alexa function. This is the first wireless mesh system I’ve come across that includes an Alexa speaker built in. It works just like any other Alexa speaker and all you need to say is: “Alexa…” followed by your command. Voices are picked up using an array of four microphones which are very sensitive so there’s no need to shout.
Music or audio can be streamed across multiple Voice X20s units or else each one can be used as a standalone speaker. Like other Alexa-enabled speakers, you can ask questions or anything else that one of Amazon’s Echo speaker units can perform. It can control smart devices around the home so you could, for example, ask Alexa to turn on the lights, lower the heating and control almost any smart device. Setting up the Deco system to work with Alexa is very easy and the Deco app takes care of everything. All you need to do is sign in to your Amazon account.
The speaker built into the Deco Voice X20 outputs just 5 Watts but there’s a a couple of passive radiators to beef the bass up a bit. It’s not boombox quality and, it’s fair to say, is a little on the thin side, but it does an adequate job. There’s no separate analog audio output for feeding the sound to, say, an amplifier or a larger speaker to create room-filling sound. However, at this price, you probably weren’t expecting that.
As well as offering the basic TP-Link HomeShield service, users can upgrade to TP-Link’s premium tier to get the ultimate protection for the entire network and all the devices on it. There’s support for up to 150 devices and TP-Link has included parental controls for ensuring younger members of the family can’t access inappropriate content. Access times to the internet can also be closely controlled for each family member.
Verdict: If you’re looking to upgrade your home wireless network to a Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, then the TP-Link Deco Voice X20 isn’t a bad option, especially if you want the equivalent of a built-in Amazon Alexa-enabled speaker. It means one less power brick and one less gadget to clutter up the home. The style of the device might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s not hideous either. I tested the Wi-Fi signal around my small home with its thick stone walls and the data speeds were fine, perfectly fast enough to keep up with my 70Mbps broadband. Obviously, the further you move away from the main unit, the slower the signal will be, but it’s so easy to add another Deco and kill off any Wi-Fi dead zones. If the idea of an Alexa speaker and the very latest Wi-Fi 6 mesh technology appeals to you, there’s very little to challenge the Deco Voice X20.
Pricing & Availability: The Deco Voice X20 AX1800 Mesh Wi-Fi 6 system with Alexa Built-In is currently available in the UK and is priced at £249.99 for a twin-pack system. Extra units can be bought separately.
More info: www.tp-link.com
- Ethernet: Two Gigabit ports per Deco Voice unit with auto-sensing WAN/LAN.
- Buttons: Reset, Mute, Alexa and Volume per unit.
- Microphone: Quadruple microphone array.
- Speaker: 5-Watt full frequency speaker with two passive radiators.
- Power consumption (without power adapter): 14 Watts max.
- Dimensions (W × D × H): 4.13 × 4.13 × 6.69 in (105 × 105 × 170 mm).
- Power Adapter Input: 100-240V~50/60Hz 0.6A.
- Power adapter output: 12V 1.5A.
- Wireless Standards: IEEE 802.11a/n/ac/ax 5 GHz, IEEE 802.11b/g/n/ax 2.4 GHz.
- Mesh protocol: 802.11k/v/r.
- Frequency: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
- Signal rate: 574 Mbps on 2.4 GHz + 1201 Mbps on 5 GHz.
- Wireless security: WPA/WPA2-PSK/WPA3 encryptions.
- Working mode: Router, Access Point
- WAN Type: Dynamic IP/Static IP/PPPoE/L2TP/PPTP.
- DHCP: Server.
- Protocols: Supports IPv4 and IPv6.
- Guest network: 2.4 GHz Guest Network × 1, 5 GHz Guest Network × 1.
- Features: TP-Link HomeShield, BSS Color, OFDMA, 1024-QAM, MU-MIMO, Optional Ethernet backhaul, assisted setup, address reservation, port forwarding, TP-Link DDNS, IPTV, IPv6, firewall rules, LED control, Smart Connect.
- Management: Local Management; Remote Management; Multi-Managers.