Cubietruck external WiFi antenna

This is another easy project I did on my weekend.

If you ended up here, this can only mean that you are a Cubietruck owner and (as every one of us) you have really weak wifi signal.

This nuisance can be fixed in less than 15 minutes, including the soldering iron warm up.

List of tools:

  • 30W soldering iron
  • Clippers or scissors
  • Drill or rotary tool

    List of materials:

  • IPX to RP-SMA connector($1.80)
  • 2.4GHz WiFi antenna($2.00-$3.00)
  • 85mm x 35mm piece of Plexiglas (If you are using stock acrylic case)

    You can save all expenses if you have a broken wireless router laying around.

    In this project I am using a 7dBi omnidirectional antenna, because this is the only one laying around (leftover item from 3pc set I bought for my other creation). Almost anything(even a bare piece of wire) will do better than stock.

    Step 1: Soldering

    Cubietruck external WiFi antenna

    Warm up your soldering iron and take a close look at the top-right corner of your board. Right above the Wireless chip there will be a tiny inductor size of a freeze-dried coffee grain - this is what your current antenna looks like :P

    Carefully remove this thing and clean up the excess solder.

    Cut the IPX header from RP-SMA connector and strip about 4-5mm of wire. Separate Ground and Active wire so they won't touch, once attached to the motherboard.

    If you are not proficient with soldering small parts(and even if you think you are), protect the surrounding areas with small pieces of thermal tape.

    Solder both wires to corresponding points (shown on image above).

    Check the end result for any flaws, redo if necessary, but try not to damage the board, or solder points.

    Step 2: Mounting

    Cubietruck external WiFi antenna
    Cubietruck external WiFi antenna
    Cubietruck external WiFi antenna

    If you own an aftermarket Cubie case, you can just drill a 6-7mm hole where you want your antenna to be and go straight to assembly.

    Others, keep reading.

    Cut an 85mm x 35mm piece of thin Plexiglas (anything in 3mm to 5mm thickness range will work).

    I chose the panel height for my personal setup, so you have to adjust your measurements for your own needs.

    Drill a hole for RP-SMA connector about 5-6mm above the spot, where the wireless chipset is (easier to assemble/disassemble that way without ripping the antenna wire).

    Insert a connector and tighten the outer nut. Make sure that it's sitting in place firmly, because you don't want it to move, once antenna is in place.

    Use some glue to attach side panel to acrylic cover above motherboard. Wait until it's done, assemble the case and attach the external antenna.

    Step 3: Testing

    Cubietruck external WiFi antenna
    Cubietruck external WiFi antenna

    Before mod:

    Signal Level: -73dBi

    Noise Level: -92dBi

    Quality: 2/5


    After mod:

    Signal Level: -55dBi

    Noise Level: -92dBi

    Quality: 5/5

    Now I can see more than 1 access point in iwlist and with this link quality I can finally start working on my wireless AP/NAS/Printserver project.

    Thank you for your attention and good luck!

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