2022-05-29 00:01:35 By : Mr. Jack CUI

To revisit this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

To revisit this article, select My Account, then View saved stories

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED

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.

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.

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.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED

For example, motion sensing is quite vague right now, but Plume’s latest SuperPods support Ultra-Wideband (UWB), capable of accurately pinpointing device positions to within 10 centimeters. In the future, this may allow for a more adaptive smart home experience, where doors unlock and lights turn on when you approach. Adam Hotchkiss, Plume’s VP of product, also confirmed that the SuperPods will be updated to support Matter, the new smart home standard set to land this year.

That HomePass subscription also gets you proactive customer support. A couple of hours after I unplugged my system to test the next one,  I received an email from someone on the Plume support team asking if I needed help getting back online. 

The obvious problem with a cloud service is that you lose access if the internet cuts out or if Plume’s servers go down for any reason. You may also have concerns about your data going into the cloud, although Hotchkiss told me Plume only collects metadata to determine if a website is malicious, for example, or to identify devices in your home.

No one at Plume can see what websites you are surfing or track your movement. Only you can access those details. The data they can see is anonymized, and there’s an optional privacy mode in the app to stop sending metadata, but if you toggle it on, the parental controls and security features won’t work. It’s all detailed in Plume’s privacy policy.

You access HomePass through the mobile app or the Plume website, but both offer limited configuration options. For example, it doesn't offer band splitting, which can cause issues with smart home products that require your phone to connect to the 2.4-GHz band. There are also no QoS (Quality of Service) or prioritization settings, a common feature on routers that lets you prioritize devices or activities such as video calls or gaming. If you want features like this, Plume is not for you.

And it's worth noting that you can get better-performing hardware for less. The Asus XT8 2-Pack ($400) is cheaper and has free parental controls and cyber security features. Even Netgear’s relatively expensive Armor security, powered by Bitdefender, costs less than HomePass at $70 per year. Perhaps the closest competitor, with a similarly user-friendly focus, is the Eero Pro 6, which costs $479 for a three-pack with an Eero Secure subscription at $30 per year. I have just started testing this system, but I'm finding it significantly slower than Plume so far, and I prefer the HomePass app.

Ultimately, if you want something easy that you can plug in and forget, the Plume SuperPods are worth considering. Performance is fast and reliable. The value of cloud optimization is harder to quantify, but HomePass is a pleasure to use, with a clear layout, simple configuration, and potentially handy motion-sensing you won’t find elsewhere.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED

© 2022 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement and Your California Privacy Rights. Wired may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices