Improve WiFi performance on Android mini PCs with a DIY antenna

Over the past year we’ve seen dozens of cheap Android TV sticks hit the market. These little USB flash drive-sized devices basically feature the guts of a cheap Android phone including a low-power ARM-based processor, memory, storage, and Android software.

Just plug in a TV and mouse or other input device and you can run Android (or Linux) on a big-screen TV. But there’s a problem with some of these sticks: Many suffer from lousy WiFi performance.

MK808 with DIY antenna

While we’ve seen plenty of Android sticks with reasonably fast processors, support for HD video playback and 3D gaming, there’s only so much you can do with this sort of device if you can’t get a strong wireless signal.

Fortunately there are a few models that seem to have pretty decent WiFi hardware, including the Minix Neo G4. But if you have your heart set on a different model — or already have one, it turns out it’s possible to improve WiFi reception by building your own antenna.

ArmTvTech forum members MaVe_64 and Dero have independently come up with pretty much the same solutions for their MK808 mini PCs. In a nutshell, it involves opening up the case, removing the antenna, and attaching a 12 cm piece of wire to act as an external antenna.

The process involves use of a soldering iron — and if you don’t know what you’re doing you could damage your device. But part of the appeal of these Android TV sticks is that they’re so cheap you might not mind if you break one in the name of science.

For example, you can pick up an MK808 Android box featuring an RK3066 dual core CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage for under $50.

This sort of modification might also work on some other models, but any time you start taking a soldering iron to the inside of a computer (whether it costs $50 or $5000), you should proceed with caution.

  • strider_mt2k

    I think I’d rather solder a proper piece of coaxial cable with an SMA connector on it in place of the original one, but if it works it’s good, as an old teacher once told me.

    • J.M. Becker

      I 100% Agree with the SMA connector idea, that’s really the optimal solution…. However disagree with the second assertion, as working on systems has provided me a very painful education. Many absolutely terrible things ‘just work’, then you’re expected to support them, and maybe a new feature is requested…. For example, what if you soldered that wire directly, then your new task was to switch the antenna with a higher gain model. The SMA concept, no problem just unscrew and etc…, the ‘just works’ idea, all the work all over again… multiply that over and over, and ‘just works’ can eat a dick.

  • Barry

    I’d like to suggest that the teaser on the first page at least give a clue about what to expect so we’ll know that we want to click the link to read more.

    Thanks,

  • buzz86us

    I’drather spend the $10 and not risk destroying a $60 mini-pc

    • J.M. Becker

      Personally, I’d gladly pay 125.00 $ for EXACTLY what I want, but it just doesn’t exist.

  • Barry Woods

    Wonder how long the radio will last with an untuned antenna attached?