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Plume Adaptive WiFi System review - CNET

The Plume Adaptive Wi-Fi system is a rather original idea to blanket your home with Wi-Fi. Instead of using two or three medium-size pieces of hardware (found in most Wi-Fi systems, like the Eero, the Netgear Orbi or the Google Wifi) you use a bunch of them, basically one for each room.

Each hardware unit, called a Plume Pod, is quite small, about the size of, well, a plum. It has a Gigabit Ethernet network port and can be plugged directly into a wall socket, resembling a typical powerline adapter. Each pod alone has short Wi-Fi range, but there's no limit to how many pods you can wirelessly chain together to cover an entire home with a Wi-Fi signal. You can get up to six pods in a set for $329, or three for $179 or $69 for a single pod.

With multiple pods, they leverage one another's signal to deliver a reliable Wi-Fi network, fast enough to stream 4K content at every corner of your home. Just make sure you have enough free wall electrical sockets.

All things considered, unless you have a house with an unusual number of thick walls, any other Wi-Fi system will give you more and at a lower cost than the Plume.

The Plume comes in a pack of up to 6 identical units.

Dong Ngo

Easy setup

You connect one of the Plume Pods to an internet source, like a broadband modem, and it works as your main router. Plug the rest of the pods around the house and you have just created an extended or "mesh" Wi-Fi network. The Wi-Fi signal will propagate among the pods; the more pods you have, the larger the coverage area.

As long as you have an internet-connected Android or iOS phone or tablet, the setup process is quick, easy and even fun with the Plume app. (There's no web interface option.) You do need to tap on the screen a few times but really, everything was self-explanatory and every step happened exactly as expected in my case. It took me less than 10 minutes to get all six pods up and running. And after that everything just worked.

You do need an account with Plume before you can use the app, and the system will stay connected to the cloud at all times. This means two things. First, if there's no internet, you can't manage your home network at all. This is because you first need to login to Plume Design's server before you can send commands to your pods.

Secondly, the company can know everything you do with the system. Plume Design's privacy statement doesn't say clearly what it doesn't collect from customers, it only gives examples of the things it does collect. And even the privacy risk isn't your concern, having somebody else control your home network could lead to accidents, like the recent outage that happened with the Google Wi-Fi.

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The Plume mobile app is easy and fun to use.

Dong Ngo

Auto channel hop

When a Wi-Fi signal is extended, it hops from one transmitter to another. When this happens, severe signal loss -- at least 50 percent -- occurs, because the extender unit has to both receive and rebroadcast the signal at the same time. The more extenders you have in a system, the more times the signal will hop, exponentially reducing the speed. This is the reason most Wi-Fi systems have only three units, effectively making the signal hop twice at most. Since Plume allows for unlimited amount of pods, signal loss is a big concern.

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