Why Your Wifi Sucks and How to Fix It - Geek.com

You probably think Wifi is awful. It’s spotty, slow and annoying to manage. Well in the words of that one dude from Independence Day, that’s not entirely accurate.

See, most Wifi is shit not because it’s intrinsically bad, just that you’ve probably had a lot of bad experiences. These things happen. The core of it is that most of us just use the router we get from our internet company. And those are okay, but most weren’t designed to handle much. They’re basic. The pack-in. As such, they’re only designed to handle a couple of devices at a time. And, again, if you’re like most, you’ve got a computer, a smartphone, and a Netflix machine. Plus, you probably have a roommate with at least two of those themselves.

It gets worse when one or more of the devices you’re using is out-of-date. Basic routers only have one antenna, which means they can only use one frequency at a time. If you have a new device and an old one, your router will have to drop down to the slower speed and handle those requests before shifting back to the higher speed device to handle its data. Granted this shift takes tiny fractions of a second, but those do add up. Computers communicate thousands of times per second, and each time you shift you get that bit of lag.

“Well,” you’re probably asking, “What’s good, then?”

The prevailing solution in the market is a mesh-style network. This works by having two or three (or more) mini-routers throughout the home. Each one is a bit less powerful, but together, they can distribute the load and handle multiple devices much easier. And, before you ask, there’s no catch to this. It really does work, because that’s basically the physics of telecommunications. If a slower device connects one router, it only slows down that one router. Plus, most higher-end routers have multiple antennae, too. It dramatically boosts their ability to handle more devices and older ones if need be.

Why Your Wifi Sucks and How to Fix It - Geek.com

I too, have been stuck in the pit of shitty wifi for most of my adult life. Recently, though, my job has allowed me to try a few different mesh networking systems, but the one I’ve settled on is Plume.

Plume works using an array of “pods” scattered throughout the home. Each is tiny — barely larger than an electrical socket — and with but a single Ethernet port. Once I got the set, I installed the system throughout my large, four-story townhome (I have five roommates, and I do all the dishes, so it’s not as luxurious as it sounds). Our home is a bit of a social hub, and each of us has guests over often. So that’s five people each with three devices apiece (and then I have about a dozen connected, too) plus our guests… that’s a lot to handle. And, as you’d expect, our wifi was an ass-disaster until about 4 am.

Plume was a natural fit, then. Because the set I got had eight pods, I was able to spread them out a bit better than I would have with Netgear’s Orbi, for example. In essence, I’m the perfect case study for this, so keep that in mind.

Installation was quick and easy, taking five minutes or so, total. Once the pods are connected, you’ll need the smartphone app (Android and iOS). It’ll let you adjust basic setting like network name and password, plus see all the pods and devices connected.

From there, it’s a bit of waiting. Plume’s defining feature, besides the smaller pod-like system, is its use of machine learning to streamline your use. It “learns” which rooms need what in terms of bandwidth at any given time. As you go, the network will shift its resources when and where they’re needed most.

If you think that sounds a little farfetched, though, I agree. Or would have… kinda. After the initial set-up, I did notice a slight performance boost. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Plume implies, and it could have even been luck. I waited out the recommended month and didn’t notice anything beyond a subjective improvement. In any case, don’t get the system expecting you’ll see a huge jump in quality beyond the difference made with the switch to mesh networking in general.

And that sums up the experience in general. Plume will be an excellent home networking solution for some people. But what kinds of benefits you can expect is going to depend upon the characteristics of your house and needs of your network. Plume’s biggest advantage, though, is in pricing. Each add-on pod is much, much cheaper than its competitors, so expansion is a lot more granular. If you needed six pods, that’d be cheaper than even two Orbi or Linksys Veelop stations.

Why Your Wifi Sucks and How to Fix It - Geek.com

That said, Plume doesn’t have too many extra features. The app has been updated pretty regularly and has decent support, but Plume says that it requires cloud computing to handle some of the router management and organization. It’s significant enough that if your pods lose their collective connection to the internet, the app and many basic functions cease to work at all.

Regardless, when I set-up plume my wifi speeds jumped dramatically. I even saw better performance through Plume than I previously had through a connection wired directly to the router. That doesn’t make a whole of sense, and I’ve looked and looked and can’t find an explanation, but there it is.

Even so, this was going from the basic router provided by my ISP to Plume, so naturally, I’d see a difference no matter which system I used. I’ve tried Orbi and Google Wifi in my home as well, though, and I think given the layout of the house (lots of split levels), Plume just fit a bit better. Your experience and needs might be different.

If you’re not scared off by Plume’s use of cloud computing to handle many of its core functions and features, it’s a fantastic array of gadgets. If you are, there’s still quite a few options out there.

Google Wifi is a looker, as is the Orbi. Linksys’ Veelop is a little clumsy-looking by my measure, but other than that it’s stellar, too. Just make sure you do your research and figure out what your living space needs.

Hopefully one day in the near future, we’ll all have wonderful wireless internet… A man can dream.

Why Your Wifi Sucks and How to Fix It – Geek.com


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