CES 2014: Vintage routers are not a thing. Not now, probably not ever.

CES 2014: Vintage routers are not a thing. Not now, probably not ever.

Summary: Just because the design is old does not make it "retro" or "nostalgic." Sometimes it's better just to move on.


There is a disturbing trend in design -- especially in the tech world -- to spruce up and garner attention to a new product simply by slapping a "retro" feel to it.

We see this time and again with digital cameras especially, but also increasingly on home appliances and even gaming consoles.

Here's one that might be reaching too soon for its time: wireless routers.

Immediately out of the gates at CES 2014 on Monday, Linksys introduced its latest dual-band Wi-Fi router, WRT1900AC.

The design is said to be inspired by original WRT54G model that debuted in 2002, which the previously Cisco-owned property characterized as being styled with an "iconic blue/black stackable form factor."

This week's debut has a "modernized spin" -- not to mention (hopefully) better hardware.

It's one thing to have a signature look, but it's completely another to try to push something that isn't there -- if not just lazily rest upon a dated design. The look of this Linksys router isn't so much "iconic" as just plain clunky.

Pardon the cliché, but if there was ever a time to go back to the drawing board, this is certainly it. Reiterating that the so-called iconic first router only came out a little more than 12 years ago, the door is still wide open for experimentation with a new blueprint altogether.

For the full review on just how beautiful or not this router is on the inside, head over to CNET's CES 2014 coverage.

Image via CNET

Topics: Hardware, 4G, Mobility, Networking, CES

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I disagree

    Apparently you missed the rest of it, Rachel. It's not just about sticking to the outside and giving it a nod to what is quite possibly the best selling SOHO router of all time. The interior is also very reminiscent, allowing it to be flashed with many of the usual suspects (DD-WRT/OpenWRT, possibly Tomato), which was also likely a part of its ability to remain popular for as long as it did. This unit also allows eSATA and USB devices to be attached, enabling it to function as a print server or rudimentary NAS.

    Besides, despite its ability to address all the current flavors of wi-fi, the $299 price tag is significantly higher than the original models; its appeal isn't going to make it a mainstream product no matter what kind of plastic shell in which it is encased. Its target demographic is tinkerers, software modders, and people who need a stackable soho router that can run alternative firmware.

    • Function over form

      Seems to be less about retro looks than functionality. There's always the Apple Store next to the Starbucks and Birkenstocks stores for hardware fashionistas.
    • Pro-consumer device...

      Yep, this is not a consumer level router. It would be wrong for an average person to buy it, like someone buying an expensive DSLR and leaving it in auto mode all the time. Wrong in so many levels. It's a device for those who know their network hardware and what to do with it beside just plug it in and let it sit.
  • It's like seeing an old friend in a fancy new suit.

    I like it. Many good memories of the original, so it's good to see it looking spiffy. And yet it is better too - the angles remind me of space fighters from a few sci-fi movies. If the hardware and firmware are as good, it will be easier to part with the $300
  • I like it too

    It looks sharp. I assume it will also work well too.
  • Re: Vintage routers....

    First decent Broadband Router I had was a BT HomeHub 1 which I still have but no longer in use as BT insisted on giving me a HomeHub 4 when I moved house.

    It goes without saying the BT HomeHub 1 did the job just as well as its younger sibling.
  • not so fast!

    I hated the 54G with its wifi signal loss and had to reboot it constantly every day.
    What they did get right with this model is keeping with the stacking foot print.
    At work I have 8 of these stacked on top of each other and clears up any issue with any desk space. Yeah you guessed it I got a rat nest of wires in the back.
  • Wrong opinion

    This is a great router! It's not a great consumer router, it's a great PRO-sumer router. An average person buying this would be like them buying a $1000 DSLR and leaving it Auto mode. This router has a very specific target audience, and should be a great one to those who will use it as it was intended.
  • Pretty subjective, if you ask me.

    "There is a disturbing trend in design -- especially in the tech world -- to spruce up and garner attention to a new product simply by slapping a 'retro' feel to it."


    Well, if you say so. Pretty subjective, if you ask me. I understand that ZDNet loves the new, shiny, but poo-pooing the old just because you subjectively don't like to think about the old again? Meh.
  • Good design doesn't necessarily have an expiry date

    Recognising good design without being restricted by the year it was made takes good taste.

    I'm not suggesting you don't have any, but this router echoing a well known popular router that happened to look pretty good is not a bad thing.

    Youth and beauty are often almost synonymous. But not always.
  • The retro is there for a reason...

    Clearly linksys/belkin marketing picked up on the fact that the old WRT54G is still sold frequently online because a large group of techie folks find it to be an awesome router for opensource flashing.

    The retro design is a marketing technique to clue in all of those people that this device is intended for them. It's not to look cool, it's to get an expected positive reaction from the targeted customer base.