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Samsung SmartThings Wifi review: A fast, all-in-one networking solution

Jake Krol

Mesh Wi-Fi routers aim to improve on traditional routers by creating a network of nodes that covers your whole home. Samsung, with its SmartThings Wifi system (that's the way they spell it), takes the idea a step further by also having the router serve as a smart home hub.

SmartThings Wifi incorporates Plume's adaptive network system, which prioritizes bandwidth for the devices that need it most.

At $280, Samsung SmartThings Wifi isn't the cheapest mesh system out there, but how does it perform?

What's in the box

The three-pack gives you enough routers to cover up to 4,500 square feet.

Image: ZLATA IVLEVA/MASHABLE

Samsung SmartThings Wifi includes three nodes which together provide about 4,500 square feet of coverage. Each node is dual-band (2.4GHz and 5.0GHz) and supports MU-MIMO (multi-user, multi-input, multi-output), which basically means it's equipped to handle several people doing a lot of different support simultaneously. And the dual bands, which are standard these days, mean both modern and legacy gear can connect.

Each node serves as a smart home hub, using Bluetooth 4.1, Zigbee, and Z-Wave wireless tech. This allows you to easily control smart home devices like lights, locks, and appliances through the same app.

SEE ALSO: 7 of the best Wi-Fi routers for increasing your wireless connectivity

Sometimes mesh nodes can look pretty obtrusive, but the design of these is quite simple. There isn't really much to them on the outside except for the ports and an LED indicator light. They should blend well with the décor of most homes.

An Ethernet cord and three power adapters are included in the box. 

Setting up a network

You set up the nodes one at a time.

Image: ZLATA IVLEVA/MASHABLE

Setup, which you'll need to handle through the SmartThings app, is simple.

Unlike other mesh Wi-Fi systems that have one main node with a distinctive design, the three here are identical. Each node has a DC power port and two Ethernet ports: One input and one output This allows each node to act as the central hub. Plus, you can attach an external storage drive for a NAS (network-attached storage) setup.

You get two Ethernet ports and a power port.

Image: ZLATA IVLEVA/MASHABLE

First, you'll want to download the SmartThings app to your iOS or Android device and create an account. From there, you'll power on one of the SmartThings nodes and connect it to your modem with an Ethernet cord. Then, open up the SmartThings app and select Samsung SmartThings Wifi to start the setup. You'll create a network, set the password, and choose some basic parameters. 

Once the first node is set up, you'll plug the next one into a power outlet and use the app to get it online. The app will tell you how strong the connection is; if it's not Good or Excellent, you'll want to move it closer to the other node.

While the starter kit includes three nodes, you can add additional ones for $119.99 each.

The SmartThings app is pretty basic. You can't do much within it or even see all the devices connected. That's where the Plume app comes in. While using this typically requires a subscription fee and Plume hardware, Samsung SmartThings Wifi gets you free access for life. The Plume app is excellent, acting as your personal traffic-monitoring system.

Two apps are better than one

The Samsung SmartThings app is simple.

Image: Smartthings

The customized Plume SmartThings experience.

Image: Plume

For the networking geeks out there like myself, the app lets you customize port forwarding, the network mode, and DNS (domain name servers) info. Unfortunately, much of this isn't editable when the device is in bridge mode. Most users will have it in this mode, since you don't want two identical networks being sent out. Neither the Plume nor SmartThings app offers advanced networking capabilities, which is frustrating.

Advanced Settings aren't all that advanced.

Image: Plume

However, I love the interface that Plume offers. You can jump from a broad network level view to an individual node one. The app interface shows you the device you're using the app with (in my case, an iPhone XS Max) and how it's reaching the internet — along with identifying the signal strength.

Hitting the network button gives you a command report of your network. Plume will automatically test the network speed every few hours, which you can see mapped out. For some reason, the test maxes out at 280.0Mbps, even though the nodes can hit 866Mbps on 5GHz and 400Mbps on 2.4GHz.

The max number on the test appears to be a reporting error, as speed tests on connected devices report higher results. In my testing, the SmartThings app also provided a more accurate network speed result.

The design of the SmartThings Wifi is small and simple, meaning it won't be obtrusive in your home.

Image: ZLATA IVLEVA/MASHABLE

This same network screen in the Plume app allows you to see total data download numbers for the previous 24 hours. It's a simple way to see which devices are using the most data and how Plume is adjusting the network to handle it. I have more than 30 devices on my network, including Google Homes, Amazon Echoes, smart TVs, streaming boxes, smart speakers, laptops, tablets, and phones, and the performance has been pretty good on SmartThings Wifi. 

It was great to see how the adaptive system would figure out which channel was best for each device. For instance, while I'm writing this review on my laptop upstairs, I am connected to the central node in the basement. Using the in-app speed test function, my computer got 123Mbps down and 88Mbps up, which is pretty darn good. Via the device screen, you can see which network it's using, either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, the channel it's on, and the node it's connected to. 

It gets the job done

Samsung SmartThings Wifi easily stacks up to the competition.

Image: ZLATA IVLEVA/MASHABLE

Plain and simple, Samsung SmartThings Wifi offers a simple all-in-one solution for home networking. Plus you get the advantages of each node being a smart hub. The $279.99 starter pack should cover most homes or apartments with up to 4,500 feet of connected range.

I think most users should be able to get over the lack of advanced networking customization, and there's always the chance that Samsung or Plume could add these customization options in the future.

After testing for several weeks, I can see that the SmartThings Wifi is easy to manage, provides a blazing fast connection (although ultimately your internet speed is dependent on your ISP), and can also power your smart home.

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