Today, Wi-Fi mesh supplier Plume released its latest gear: a Wi-Fi 6 version of its flagship Superpod design. We were the first to get our hands on the new Superpods, which retail for $159 each. Plume recommended a total of four Superpods for our 3,500-square-foot test house, so that’s exactly how we tested.
To give the Superpod design every chance to shine, we used a new Wi-Fi 6 test fleet, one equipped with Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 adapters instead of the 802.11ac Intel 7265 adapters in our old test fleet. . But replacing the test fleet means generating new baselines. So instead of repurposing 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 more expensive kits in our testing. And Plume’s Superpods have been at the forefront of our various iterations of The Great Ars Mesh Wi-Fi Throwdown™ for at least five years.
Are these new editions keeping the trend alive?
Plume’s WiFi equipment is physically as simple and unobtrusive as possible. The new Superpod design is visually indistinguishable from the old – it consists of relatively small one-piece hexagonal nodes that plug directly into electrical outlets. Every Superpod is identical; they have two wired gigabit Ethernet connections and a tiny hole LED that only lights up when there’s a problem.
This compact, cable-free design allows the gear to fit snugly, but it does give the Superpods a small potential drawback: it’s more difficult to mount them high. And ideally, you want your Wi-Fi access points overhead, or at least waist-height, to minimize obstacles. Plume overcomes this limitation by encouraging users to deploy more pods, reducing the distance each pod has to travel in the first place.
While Plume Superpods offers extremely high throughput, that’s not a metric the company particularly cares about. Instead, it focuses on the perceived real-world experience, which is dominated by reliability, consistency, and latency. This philosophy ties in nicely with our own testing methods: we test routers and mesh kits with a very small network instead of running a speed test from one laptop and calling it a day.
Again, in our past testing, Plume Superpods wiped the floor with all the mesh competition. They offered significantly lower application latency on a crowded network than any other Wi-Fi mesh kit. The new Wi-Fi 6 Superpods continue that tradition despite the teething troubles of Wi-Fi 6, which we’ll talk about later.
The new Wi-Fi 6 Superpods also include Ultra-wideband (UWB) interfaces operating from 6.5-8 GHz. These currently unused UWB interfaces correspond to the UWB interfaces already included 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 highly accurate indoor location services. In theory, three Superpods allow you to triangulate the location of UWB phones, tablets, and so on, just as you would with GPS, but with much greater accuracy.