TP-Link Deco X73 DSL AX5400 modem/router – every NBN FTTN user should have this (review)

The TP-Link Deco X73 DSL AX5400 router is what every NBN FTTN (Fibre-to-the-node) customer needs. It is the fastest NBN VDSL2/VOIP-enabled modem you can get. What’s more, it works flawlessly with any TP-Link Deco mesh router/satellite – highly and easily expandable.

To position this, it costs $399; it is Wi-Fi 6 AX5400; it has two VOIP FXS RJ-11 ports (for the phone over NBN); four WAN/LAN Gigabit Ethernet ports; USB 3.0; and the standard telephone socket for NBN VDSL2. You can also use this as a gateway for NBN FTTP, FTTC, FTTB and HFC.

Wi-Fi 6 disclaimer

Wi-Fi 6 full-duplex speeds are only attainable with Wi-Fi 6 clients. If you use Wi-Fi 5 AC or 4 N 5GhHz, band speeds revert to half-duplex and a maximum of 866 and 433 Mbps, respectively.

TP-Link Deco X73 DSL AX5400 modem/router

WebsiteProduct Page and manual
Price$399
FromCE retailers like Harvey Norman, Bing Lee, Officeworks and computer stores
Warranty36-months
CompanyTP-Link (Est 1996) is a privately owned Chinese company. Products include high-speed cable modems, wireless and mobile routers, range extenders, switches, IP cameras, powerline adapters, switches, print servers, media converters, wireless adapters, power banks, USB Hub and SMART home technology devices.
MoreCyberShack TP-Link news and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.

First impression – stylish – Exceed

My first experience with TP-Link was the TP-Link Deco X90 AX6600 Mesh router is fast, very fast (review). I was so impressed it formed the basis of our Seamless whole-of-home Wi-Fi now easy with Wi-Fi 6 (guide).

I was particularly keen to test the TP-Link Deco X73 DSL AX5400 modem/router as it appears to offer everything a home needs at a reasonable price. It is mentioned in our Crappy NBN FTTN Modem – here are a few better ones (guide), and after testing it for a few weeks, it is definitely better than any other VDSL2 option.

It looks more like a stylish vase (210 H x 130 W x 123 D mm) than a router or satellite. There is a discrete coloured LED that shows connection status.

It would be remiss not to mention that D-Link, NETGEAR  and Orbi (a NETGEAR brand) all make excellent Wi-Fi 6 Routers and Mesh, and we will review new models as they are released.

The TP-Link Deco X73 DSL secret sauce – SRA, SOS, ROC and Profile 35b – Exceed

The secret sauce is its Super VDSL2 modem that supports Vplus Profile 35b. This means it supports downstream/upstream up to 350/100Mbps on copper runs of <250m. Then it falls back progressively on longer runs (Profile 17b – the same as carrier-supplied DSL modems).

But there is more. It supports SRA (Seamless Rate Adaptation) to change data transfer rates to suit the line conditions and avoid dropping the connection. It will support SOS (Save Our Showtime) and ROC (Robust Overhead Channel), where the NBN has enabled it.

It will extract maximum performance from that old copper telephone wiring. In tests over the past few weeks, during all that rain, it has held the connection better than any other VDSL modem we have tested. It has even eked out a few more Mbps too.

Ideal use case – NBN FTTN users that need more – Exceed

It is a VDSL2 FTTN modem/router that meshes with other TP-Link Deco products.

If you are having issues with FTTN dropouts, this may be the cure. Ensure your provider has at least SRA and hopefully Profile 35b implemented.

It has two VOIP phone ports. Your ISP can provide you with a SIP number (or you can transfer your POTs number). If you have an Ethernet connection with NBN FTTP, HFC or FTTC, you can still use this for its dual telephone ports.

(Post review note: If you are a Telstra Bigpond user this modem cannot use the standard VOIP ports as Telstra will not release the SIP codes. In this case, use Deco X90 mesh to expand the Telstra Gen 2 or 3 modems).

As a Wi-Fi 6 router, it has one 574Mbps 2.4Ghz band and 4804Mbps 5GHz band – more than enough for 50 or more devices.

5Ghz Wi-Fi coverage is a circle about 20m in diameter – 270m2.

Setup – easy with the Deco App – Pass

The most important thing you need to do is find the best location for the Router and Satellite. Please read Fix Wi-Fi blackspots fast and often at no cost to find the best spot to reduce blackspots that need a Satellite.

I have learned over the years that the easier the setup, the fewer features you can access in the router operating system.

  • Download the TP-Link Deco App and create an account (username and password only required)
  • Plugin the router
  • Log your smartphone onto the Deco Router SSID (no password initially required)
  • Enter the name of your new home network. Hint: If you are replacing an old router, use the same name and password, and all your Wi-Fi clients will connect to the Deco on power-up.
  • It will find any satellites, update firmware, and set up the Wi-Fi network
  • You can set up Google Assistant or Alexa for a relatively limited set of voice commands.

The App has basic parameters but little that you can do to tune the router or set up VPNs etc. And perhaps that is good.

You can also use the webserver at 192.168.68.1 if you wish, but there are few user-changeable parameters.

Mesh – Exceed

In Wi-Fi mesh mode, it will dynamically use part of the 5Ghz band. Wi-Fi 6 AX is full-duplex (same speed both ways) to other Wi-Fi 6 AX Deco mesh satellites like the X90/AX6600, AX68/AX3600, X60/AX3000 etc. Don’t use or mix Deco AC mesh as you only get half-duplex speeds.

But the great thing about TP-Link Deco mesh is that you can mix and match Wi-Fi and Ethernet mesh backhaul. Frankly, Gigabit (1000Mbps, full-duplex) is the best way to connect mesh as it keeps the Wi-Fi bandwidth free for general use.

We set the TP-Link Deco X73 DSL up as the master router and, using the App, added two Deco X90 AX6600 satellites. We tested first with a Wi-Fi connection placing the satellites at approx. 10 meters away from the X73 router. Both satellites gave a full-duplex 1200Mbps connection and 100/20Mbps NBN Internet speeds. We repeated that with Ethernet connections – ditto.

Security

Supports WPA, WPA-2 and WPA-3 – important for older devices.

Device support

TP-Link claims up to 200 devices can connect. In practice, that depends on the devices’ bandwidth needs. For example, 4 x 4K streaming will take most bandwidth. Our best estimate is a mix of around 40-50 devices, including low bandwidth IoT and high bandwidth streaming/gaming spread over the router and satellite.

HomeShield – basic free Pass plus optional cost extras

Like many brands, TP-Link has a 30-day trial of an optional HomeShield subscription protection package. The price is A$8.99 per month or $89.99 per year. The subscription includes (included in free and paid versions *)

Network security scan *Public Wi-Fi scan *Real-time IoT protectionMalicious content filteringDDoS Protection
Port Intrusion preventionBlock Websites *Pro Content Filter *Pause the Internet *Flexible bedtime
(Free has one bedtime)
Time LimitsTime RewardsTraffic StatsUsage reports*New access devices *
Insight *Device TypeSafety statsFamily Online time rankingVisited URLs

You may already have some of these in your antivirus/malware protection. I am concerned that at least a basic level of Parental control is not included.

Mesh smarts

As I used the system more, I saw how TP-Link automatically does many things – hence its simple interface. For example:

  • It can swap and change traffic over the two bands (Adaptive Path Selection)
  • Self-healing if other nearby routers use the same bands
  • Supports other IEEE 802.11.11k/v/r Mesh devices
  • 4 streams – 2×2 2.4Ghz, 2×2 5Gz
  • It has a Guest network (default disabled)
  • Its AI-driven Mesh is among the fastest I have seen for roaming handoff to satellites – about 2 seconds is all it takes.
  • Has a Stateful Packet Inspection firewall (no need to disable the gateway firewall, DHCP or NAT).
  • And can add extra ‘managers’ such as support people

If you are keen, read the manual for more information.

CyberShack’s view – TP-Link Deco X73 DSL AX5400 modem/router

Every NBN FTTN user should have this

Seriously, it is about twice as fast as the Telstra Smart Modem 3 – not all that smart or fast (opinion), but it is proper mesh expandable (not the Telstra Mesh). It has two phone ports and the secret sauce, which means fewer FTTN dropouts.

Rating

It rates well because it performs exceptionally well, and the results meet or exceed marketing claims. It has our unreserved buy recommendation, as do the TP-Link Deco AX mesh satellites.

TP-Link Deco mesh setup video below (models are not the same, but the setup is)

TP-Link Deco X73 DSL AX5400 modem/router

$399 plus optional mesh satellites
9.5

Features

9.5/10

Value

9.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Ease of Use

9.5/10

Design

9.5/10

Pros

  • It beats the hell out of any ISP-supplied modem or extender
  • VDSL2 SRA, SOS and ROC, Profile 35b modem for more speed and reliability
  • Wi-Fi or Ethernet backhaul
  • Highly expandable via TP-Link Deco Mesh satellites
  • Wi-Fi 6 AX5400 dual-band

Cons

  • You may have to ask your ISP to enable SRA, SOS, ROC or Profile 35b
  • Wi-Fi 6 speeds require Wi-Fi 6 clients
  • The Deco App is easy but limited – use the Web interface


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