When you signed up for your broadband account, your provider probably sent you a Wi-Fi router so you can have wireless internet throughout your home. Chances are you may have been sent some Wi-Fi boosters or extenders as well. If that was a while ago, your home Wi-Fi could be due for an upgrade to the latest standards.
Newer Wi-Fi is faster, stronger and can handle many more devices than previous generations. Now could be a great time to upgrade to eliminate dropout zones and increase download speeds so your TV doesn’t lag when streaming video services like Netflix or Disney+.
Many people put off upgrading or extending their Wi-Fi because they think it will be complicated. That’s not the case, and as we approach Christmas, when many family members return home for the holidays, you’re likely to experience complaints about slow Wi-Fi from your guests.
An upgraded Wi-Fi network would be a good idea to quell the seasonal grumbles, especially if everyone is getting new smartphones or game consoles as Christmas presents. Setting up a mesh network is easy and gives a Wi-Fi network name to cover the whole house, offering a fast connection with no dead zones, even in the basement or attic. Even better, some of the latest mesh systems also protect all devices on the network from cyber threats and even have parental controls to help with how and when children can access the web.
I recently tested the latest Plume HomePass, a mesh networking system offered by several ISPs. Plume Homepass uses SuperPod Wi-Fi nodes, available in Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E flavors. Wi-Fi 6 is faster than Wi-Fi 5 and can reduce the strain on smartphone batteries by making charging last longer. The latest Wi-Fi 6E standard supports the newly released 6 GHz band, delivering even faster wireless speeds with ultra-low latency.
Plume SuperPods are tri-band devices meaning they use a dedicated 5GHz wireless signal as a backhaul to talk to each other and pass data back to the internet router, freeing up the other 5GHz and 2.4 bands to communicate with Wi-Fi client devices -Fi as fronthaul.
Installing a Plume HomePass system is very simple. you can be up and running in about 10 minutes. Each SuperPod is a sleek silver hex plug that plugs directly into a spare outlet at home. A small building or apartment might require two SuperPods, while a house with thick walls (like mine) might need anywhere between two and five SuperPods.
To get started with the Plume HomePass system, you need to connect a SuperPod near the router that connects your home to the Internet. Using the Ethernet cable provided in the package with the SuperPods, connect the router to one of the SuperPod’s two Ethernet ports and download the Plume app from the App Store or Google Play to get started.
The Plume app is a great piece of software that walks you through the setup process, discovering the SuperPod and then letting you name your new mesh network and give it a password to keep everything secure. It’s one of the simplest setup processes I’ve ever used and takes about five minutes.
Once the main SuperPod is set up, you can connect to the new network name and start adding more SuperPods to extend Wi-Fi throughout the house. There are hints in the app to help you decide where to locate extra units. Once you plug the SuperPods into a power outlet, you can use the app to search for them and add them to the network. It is so easy to create your mesh network. The SuperPods talk to each other and optimize the network so you have strong Wi-Fi in every room and the best possible speeds.
The beauty of a wireless mesh system is that you can roam around your home with your smartphone, tablet or laptop and you’ll always be connected to the nearest and most powerful SuperPod. Switching between SuperPods is instant and seamless, just like roaming with a mobile phone.
The speed each SuperPod offers is fast. I was usually getting Wi-Fi speeds of 600 Mb/s. This number should not be confused with your internet speed, which will depend on your internet provider. My internet service is 70Mb/s coming into my house, so the 600Mb/s the Plume SuperPods gave me was way faster than my internet service can handle. However, if I upgrade to full fiber service later, the Plume SuperPods have the headroom to handle the extra speed.
Once the network is up and running, you can switch all Wi-Fi devices in the home to the Plume HomePass network. You will immediately notice a speed boost if you are used to an older wireless system. Because the Plume SuperPods are tri-band units, it is good practice to disable the wireless signal from your original Internet router to reduce congestion on the available wireless spectrum.
As I mentioned earlier, my house has very thick stone walls almost a meter wide in places, so I needed more SuperPods to get maximum coverage. However, most newer homes with studded walls may only require two or three units.
Unlike some mesh systems, Plume HomePass can block a subscription that provides cyber security on all devices, advanced motion detection, parental controls, high-performance mesh Wi-Fi network capability and 24/7 technical support. In case you were wondering what the motion detection feature is all about, the SuperPods can’t sense a disturbance in the signal between each node if someone is in your home while you’re out. The system works like motion sensors in an alarm system, but uses Wi-Fi signals instead of motion detectors.
The cost for a year’s subscription to HomePass is $99 / £99 per year for the service and two Wi-Fi 5 SuperPods if you’re a Virgin Media customer in the UK. You can also buy kits and subscriptions even if you’re not a Virgin Media customer. Additional SuperPods can be purchased separately and added to the system as needed.
A HomePass subscription protects internet devices such as security cameras and other IoT equipment. Subscriptions to network security services like Plume’s HomePass or Netgear’s Armor are becoming popular as they replace antivirus software with network-level protection. If you don’t want to subscribe to HomePass, you can use the Plume SuperPods system, but you won’t have the security features.
Verdict: The Plume HomePass Wireless Mesh System is one of the easiest networking products I’ve ever used. It takes minutes to set up and provides fast and stable Wi-Fi throughout the home. The level of protection provided with the security subscription is excellent and is one reason why ISPs also sell or rent Plume units to their customers. If you want to erase wireless dead spots, boost Wi-Fi speeds and have comprehensive protection against cyber threats, then the Plume HomePass system is a great choice. Just plug it in and forget it. Upgrades are applied automatically and the Plume app provides parental controls and the ability to set up a guest network. Thanks to the two Ethernet ports on each SuperPod, you can connect peripherals such as printers or storage devices.
Prices & Availability: Plume’s tri-band SuperPods are available in the UK if you’re a Virgin Media customer. You can also buy Plume SuperPods individually or in kits of two or three SuperPods for use with any ISP. Individual devices start at $99 / £99 for the base Wi-Fi 5 model, $159 / £159 for the Wi-Fi 6 and $249 / £249 if you want the ultimate SuperPods Wi-Fi 6E with the new 6 GHz band. Plume HomePass membership costs $9 / £9 per month and there are discounts for multi-year subscriptions.
More information: www.plume.com