Tenda MW5 full review

We liked Tenda’s Nova MW6 mesh system that we reviewed last year, which provided good Wi-Fi performance and ease of use at a competitive price. It's designed for larger homes of up to 6,000sq.ft in size. We did remark at the time that it would be good if Tenda were to offer a less expensive option for those of us that don’t live in vast mansions – and it has duly obliged with the new, more affordable MW5.

Like its predecessor, the MW5 still includes three routers, but it’s designed for more modest homes and has a different design that helps to provide quick and easy installation. But, as always with mesh routers, you need to remember that the MW5 devices don’t include a broadband modem for internet access, so you’ll need to connect one of them to your existing router and disable its Wi-Fi so the two networks aren't competing. 

Price & availability

The MW5 kit includes three routers and is designed for homes of up to 3,500sq.ft and costs just £99 from Currys PC World, and a frankly hard-to-believe $80 from Amazon US, which makes it one of the most affordable mesh networking kits we’ve seen so far – in fact, it’s even less expensive than many mesh kits that only include two routers and some wireless routers.

For larger homes, the MW6 is still on sale and now costs around £160, while smaller homes can opt for the even more affordable MW3, which costs a mere £99 for a three-piece kit. 

Features & Design

There are a few design differences between the MW6 and the MW5 that we test here. The primary ‘node’ is a similar size to its predecessor, consisting of a simple white cube that measures 91mm on each side. But, rather than the harsh right-angles and corners of its predecessors, this node now has a smoother, more curved design – although the white plastic case still feels rather lightweight and flimsy, so you should probably keep it away from pets or young kids that might confuse it for a big lump of Lego.

It provides 802.11ac Wi-Fi with a maximum speed of 1200Mb/s – certainly not the fastest option on the market, but perfectly adequate for most homes – and there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports tucked around the back (one will be needed to connect to your existing router or modem).

Tenda MW5 review

The primary node has a separate mains power adapter, but the two secondary nodes that accompany it are smaller and have their power supplies built into them, which means that you can plug them straight into any spare power socket. Each secondary node also has a single 10/100 Ethernet port for wired connections as well.

 Tenda MW5 review

Installation

We were pleased to see that the MW5 shares the same straightforward app as its predecessor, which helps you to get started very quickly and easily. The app simply prompts you to enter the password for the MW5 network that is printed on the base of the primary node, and then asks if you want to change the password and the name of the network for additional security.

The two secondary nodes are paired with the primary node straight out of the box, and the Tenda app was able to automatically detect them and quickly show us a map of our new network, along with information about the three nodes and all of our devices that were connected to the network.

Tenda MW5 review

Other options include the ability to create a guest network that is always on, or lasts only for a specified period of time. There’s a scheduling option that allows you to limit Internet access for individual devices – such as a games console or a child’s smartphone – and even a ‘blacklist’ option that can be used to permanently block a particular device.

One interesting option is the ‘capacity’ mode, which is designed to balance the load when more than 30 devices are connected to the network at once – which could be handy for small businesses such as a bar or restaurant that wants to provide a free Wi_Fi hotspot. All these options are straightforward and easy to use, and while more advanced users might prefer a web browser interface that provides more ‘hands-on’ options for configuring network settings, the MW5 will be a good option for home users who just want to get their new network up and running in a hurry.

Performance

The low price, and the AC1200 rating of the MW5 mean that it’s not going to provide top-of-the-range speeds. However, it provided very solid performance in our Wi-Fi tests and will be more than adequate for most small and medium-size homes.

Devices in the same room as the primary node recorded Wi-Fi speeds of 400Mb/s – not quite as fast as the MW6, but still plenty fast enough for gaming and even streaming 4K video from Netflix. As always, the real challenge for us was getting a good Wi-Fi signal into our back office, where the Wi-Fi is normally so poor that we rely on powerline adapters to provide wired connections for our office computers. With one of the secondary nodes in that office, and the other in a hallway nearby, we still found that the Wi-Fi speed was a little erratic, but nonetheless managed to maintain a very respectable average speed of 200Mb/s during our tests.

Verdict

If you've been biding your time and waiting for a low-cost mesh system to arrive, then your wait is over. The MW5 offers great Wi-Fi coverage in smaller homes for a very small price. And as Tenda said to us, the kit is so easy to unplug and transport that you can even take it on holiday with you to self-catering accommodation and your family's devices will then be able to get online without entering a new Wi-Fi password.

Specs

Tenda MW5: Specs

  • Mesh networking kit
  • Includes three routers (mesh points)
  • Interfaces (per router): 2x Gigabit Ethernet (Mesh5), 1x 10/100 Ethernet (Mesh5s)
  • Wi-Fi: dual-band 802.11ac (2.4GHz/5.0GHz)
  • Dimensions: Mesh5 - 91 x 91 x 93mm, Mesh5s - 114 x 68 x 45mm