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The relentless persistence of the hideous spider router

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Kill it with fire

The wireless router has earned a bit of a reputation in recent years as a playground. It’s where certain tech companies, those typically with outlandish ideas and poor taste, experiment with just how gaudy and ridiculous they can make the simple act of handling internet traffic over a home network. These monstrosities tend to manifest as multi-arm, arachnid-like beasts that feel more at home in a deep sea fishing slideshow than anywhere remotely close to your computer setup.

Case in point: Asus’ new gaming-focused Rapture, shown off at CES yesterday. Set aside for a moment the audacity to conflate a router with the second coming of Christ, and you still have a device that insults the eyes with its presence. This router doesn’t look much different than the drone-like D-Link or TP-Link models that get shown off every year at CES. The Rapture, however, has the unfortunate quality of being marketed toward gamers, whose tastes tech companies seem to think are synonymous with the various flavors of Mountain Dew.

The Verge’s Vlad Savov, in a piece published this morning, made the acute observation that gaming hardware is an aesthetic nightmare precisely because consumers continue to buy bulky, angular garbage that pulses with the light of far too many fluorescent LEDs. It’s no secret that most consumers, even hardcore gamers, consider these products crimes against the art of industrial design. Just look at the comments on our coverage of Acer’s Predator 21 X gaming laptop — the product’s design is almost as outrageous as its nearly $9,000 price tag, and people are eager to say as much.

So it’s unclear why companies continue to push products that seem to revel in their own hideousness. It’s also peculiar considering routers, especially those of the mesh variety, are getting flashy and sleek design overhauls. Take a look at Google’s OnHub router or its new Wi-Fi mesh system and you’d be hard-pressed to come up with justification for ever buying the Rapture, even if it’s a niche device designed for only the most hardcore.

Perhaps it’s time to retire the spider router. The category, and its harrowed history here at here CES, could use a dose of good design.