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Circuit Breaker

Listen to Asus describe why making a router with a hole in it was a bad idea

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Asus Blue Cave Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge

When I saw Asus’ Blue Cave router, which was announced last May and is now going on sale, I assumed the unique carved-out shape must enable some innovative new way of amplifying Wi-Fi signals to better blanket a home.

But it turns out, it’s not for that at all. It’s just a hole in a square designed to look cool. And while I’m glad Asus went out on a limb and made a weird looking router, even Asus seems to acknowledge that it was a lot of work for nothing.

Just read this quote from Alsa Lo, networking product manager at Asus, describing the various hurdles engineers had to overcome just to put a purely aesthetic hole in a router:

Most high-performance routers use external antennas to get the best Wi-Fi performance. To achieve Blue Cave’s unique shape we needed to use internal antennas, but the challenge was to do this without affecting the performance. Internal antennas can make the router more bulky and prevent users from changing the antenna orientation. But if we try to make the router smaller, the Wi-Fi performance can suffer due to interference between the circuit boards and the antennas.

Asus seems to indicate that it overcame all of those hurdles. But what are the benefits we get for all this work? Asus only promises the basics: “stable and reliable Wi-Fi” that’s “simple to set up and use.”

Engineering a better looking product is certainly worth it in a whole lot of instances — just looking at how we shave phones down by millimeters every year and demand better materials just to cover them up with cases anyway. So I don’t mean to fault Asus for spending time to create a router that’s meant to look good: after all, most routers look really ugly, and so we end up hiding them away.

I just don’t know that the Blue Cave really hits the mark. The push for better-looking routers that can sit out in the open started a few years back, but it really died down after the mesh Wi-Fi trend started to take off. Those routers are usually smaller and designed to go unnoticed, which might be the ideal design for a device so dull and functional.

The Blue Cave router goes on sale today for $179.99. It’s an 802.11ac router, and, like any flashy connected device this past year, integrates with Alexa.