You probably have a router, and let’s be honest here, it’s probably not very good. Routertechnology has not exactly advanced by leaps and bounds, even as the Wi-Fi standard has gotten considerably speedier over the years. We still cope with poor coverage and performance hiccups caused by interference much of the time, but mesh networks might provide a more flexible way to manage your connectivity. There are a few (expensive) ways to get a mesh network in your home right now, but a device called the Plume might do the same job for a lot less. Plume is basically a series of tiny routers that you scatter around the house.
The concept behind Plume is not entirely unique, but it’s still fairly new in the consumer space. Each Plume pod is a small hexagon that plugs into a wall outlet. One Plume needs to be wired into your Internet connection via the gigabit Ethernet port, but the others only need power. All the Plume pods communicate with each other to create a mesh network which you can then connect to via Wi-Fi.
This is a similar concept to the recently released Eero router or the Luma. However, you have to purchase multiple expensive routers to create a mesh network with either of those — they’re about $200 each. Plumes cost $39 each during the pre-order window or $49 each after. They’re also tiny and rather cute, if that matters to you.
According to Plume, the eponymous device uses different Wi-Fi bands for the connection between each pod to reduce interference. This allows Plume to prioritize the connection with your devices, which can be adjusted as you move around the house. If there are a few people with phones pulling a lot of data in one area of the house, Plume can increase signal strength on the nearest hub to compensate. It can apparently even predict when such an event will occur based on your usage patterns. It’ll also recognize which devices need greater priority on the network, for example a TV streaming 4K video or a game console being used for online play.
While Plume is presenting itself as an inexpensive device, you can’t just buy two or three pods and call it a day. The minimum purchase right now is six Plumes, which the company says is sufficient for a 2-3 bedroom house. That works out to $234 as a pre-order or $300 when the device officially launches. That is expensive, but it’s still an inexpensive way to get a mesh network up and running. You could spend $300 on a single router if you wanted, and it probably wouldn’t offer the same coverage. We’ll have to see how Plume works in real life when it ships this fall.