Today, Wi-Fi mesh vendor Plume released its newest gear—a Wi-Fi 6 enabled version of its flagship Superpod design. We were the first to get our hands on the new Superpods, which retail at $159 apiece. Plume recommended four Superpods total for our 3,500-square-foot test house, so that’s precisely how we tested.
To give the Superpod design every chance to shine, we used a new Wi-Fi 6 enabled test fleet—one equipped with Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 adapters in place of the 802.11ac Intel 7265 adapters in our old test fleet. But replacing the test fleet means needing to generate new baselines. So rather than re-using old tests, we broke out our original 802.11ac Superpods and a three-piece 802.11ac Amazon Eero mesh kit to serve as a competitive measurement baseline.
All three of these kits are top performers—including the Amazon Eero, which routinely beats much higher-spec and higher-priced kits in our testing. And Plume’s Superpods have been leading the pack in our various iterations of The Great Ars Mesh Wi-Fi Throwdown™ for at least five years now.
Do these new editions keep the trend alive?
Technology Plume overview
Plume’s Wi-Fi gear is physically as simple and unobtrusive as possible. The new Superpod design is visually indistinguishable from the old one—it consists of relatively small, one-piece hexagonal nodes that plug directly into wall power outlets. Each Superpod is identical; they have two wired gigabit Ethernet jacks and a tiny pinhole LED that only lights up when there’s a problem.
This compact, cable-free design makes the gear blend in well, but it does give the Superpods a small potential disadvantage: it’s more difficult to mount them up high. And ideally, you want your Wi-Fi access points above head, or at least waist height, to minimize obstructions. Plume overcomes this limitation by encouraging users to deploy more pods, reducing the distance each pod needs to cover in the first place.
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Although Plume Superpods offer extremely high throughput, that’s not a metric the company particularly cares about. Instead, it focuses on real-world perceived experience, which is dominated by reliability, consistency, and latency. This philosophy meshes up nicely with our own test methods—we test routers and mesh kits with an entire small network rather than pulling a speed test from one laptop and calling it a day.
Again, in our past testing, Plume Superpods wiped the floor with all mesh competition. They offered significantly lower application latency on a busy network than any other Wi-Fi mesh kit. The new Wi-Fi 6 Superpods continue in that tradition despite Wi-Fi 6’s own teething pains, which we’ll talk more about later.
The new Wi-Fi 6 Superpods also include Ultra-wideband (UWB) interfaces that operate from 6.5–8 GHz. These currently unused UWB interfaces match the UWB interfaces already being shipped in all iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21 phones. It’s the core technology behind Apple’s AirTags, and it will eventually enable Plume to offer very high-precision indoor location services. In theory, with three Superpods, you’ll be able to triangulate the location of UWB phones, tablets, and so on, much as you would with GPS—but with far greater accuracy.
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