Most people prefer not to be bothered by device configuration, bands and channels, or the deeper complexities of Wi-Fi. They simply want fast and reliable connections at home. Plume’s SuperPods are a plug-and-play mesh system that anyone can set up and use with a straightforward mobile app.
Just because Plume’s SuperPods are simple to use doesn’t mean they lack features or top-notch performance. There’s built-in cyber security and parental controls, with automatic optimization handled in the cloud. You also get neat extras like ad-blocking and motion sensing.
In testing over the past few weeks, I’ve found Plume to be a slick system with plenty to recommend it, but (and it’s a big but) the SuperPods with Wi-Fi 6 cost $159 each. Most homes will want three, which costs $477, and you need a HomePass subscription for $99 a year. That makes Plume significantly more expensive than any of the best mesh systems or Wi-Fi routers we recommend.
Set and Forget
Each Plume SuperPod plugs directly into a power outlet (no cables) and features a stylish silver hexagonal design that blends in quietly. Hate ugly routers bristling with antennas? You will appreciate Plume’s look. Plug your incoming internet connection into the main router and place the identical nodes (each has two gigabit Ethernet ports). The company suggests that three SuperPods are enough for the average home (it was plenty for my two-floor 1,600-square-foot house).
Setup is a breeze in the HomePass app. Within minutes, I had my house covered. The only potential problem is finding convenient power outlets. I used extensions and power strips for a couple of my SuperPods. But because they are bulky, it can be tough to plug anything in right next to the SuperPod.
The HomePass mobile app is easy for anyone to use. It tracks the internet speed you are getting from your provider and shows a connectivity map for SuperPods and connected devices. You can create individual profiles and set content filters for kids. You can also assign primary devices, like a smartphone, to each person in the household to track when they are home. If you want to schedule internet downtime, you can do it on a per-device basis, which offers plenty of flexibility.
Performance is excellent, with fast Wi-Fi speeds and reliable connections. We had no issues with multiple simultaneous video streams and gaming sessions. In a room containing a SuperPod, Plume’s system performed as well as any I’ve tested—including the Asus ZenWiFi AX XT8, my current top recommendation. Where the XT8 pulled ahead was in long-range performance. In the backyard or a couple of rooms away, the SuperPods were slower. A trio of SuperPods served my home and backyard fine, but folks with larger properties may need more.
Comprehensive security blocks malware, keyloggers, phishing attempts, and other unwanted intrusions. There is also optional ad blocking, which worked well in my testing.
Something I have never seen before is Plume’s motion sensing, which uses the analysis it already does on radio frequency waves bouncing around your home to determine when there’s person-sized movement. It can flag your kids getting up in the night, an intruder in the home when you’re away on vacation, or help unobtrusively track an elderly relative (more privately than a camera). My cats didn’t trigger it. You can also turn on motion alerts and review a chart showing movement in the home over the last seven days.
The Cloud Model
Plume started as a software company focused on shifting network optimization and management to the cloud. But the major router manufacturers passed, so it began to make its own hardware. While most routers get infrequent firmware updates, with support dropping off after a few years, algorithm and firmware updates deploy on Plume systems automatically every three weeks. This process is a minor pain with the Asus XT8, where you must trigger the firmware install, which sometimes fails, and then reboot your system.
By monitoring the quality of your experience for all access points and connected devices, Plume also constantly tweaks the topology of your system to optimize your Wi-Fi connections. Say, for example, your neighbor comes home and starts watching loads of YouTube and creates interference for you. Plume will switch channels to ensure all your devices are on the best connection. Many routers have an auto-scanning function that purports to do this, but in practice, they scan and make changes infrequently.
With Plume, you may have to update your hardware every few years, but your settings and history persist. Much of the value is not the hardware but the tailored cloud smarts and expectation of constant improvements and new features.
Source: Wired – Gear