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Do external antennas really make a difference in WiFi?

Posted on 2012-12-28
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Last Modified: 2013-12-27
I usually purchase DLink access points because they have external antennas.  But I notice that Netgear and Linksys are all moving towards internal ones.


Does external really make a difference?  If so, to what extent?
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Question by:epichero22
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16 Comments
 
LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 38728902
Many manufacturers switched to internal or non-removable antennae to prevent fines from the FCC for creating products that could be easily modified to cause interference with nearby networks.

So, yes - an external antenna can make a big difference, and not always to the positive.
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LVL 21

Accepted Solution

by:
Rick_O_Shay earned 500 total points
ID: 38729292
Since the external antennas can be tweaked for directionality they can depending on the environment improve the signal received by the clients.

You will also have some signal loss, how ever small, going through the plastic case with an internal antenna.
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LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 38729305
The typical 0.5 dBi loss from the external removable antenna's connection is probably more than the loss going through the plastic.
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Rick_O_Shay
ID: 38729342
I am not sure what the attenuation of the plastic is. The table I saw had glass at 3db but nothing for plastic. Solid is solid though so it is more than air.
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LVL 47

Assisted Solution

by:Craig Beck
Craig Beck earned 500 total points
ID: 38729752
It depends on lots of things.  An internal 3dBi antenna could be better than an external 2dBi antenna and it usually comes down to the type of application and environment when selecting appropriately.

External antennas have advantages in certain scenarios, but then again so do internal ones.  Externals are usually better suited when signal needs to be focused in a particular direction for example, but they're not usually installed in offices with drop-ceilings.
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:remixedcat
ID: 38746387
Darr 247, that is not true.

The reasoning behind that is mostly looks and to "baby proof" things.

Companies like Amped Wireless still produce routers that have external antennas. I have an R10000 router of theirs and it is very powerful. I highly recommend it!

Amped Wireless even makes replacement antennas that are even better as well.

If you need ext. antennas look into Amped Wireless's stuff.
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LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 38746985
"More power" is the solution to wireless problems about as often as panic is the correct response to an emergency situation.  

All more power does is interfere with other networks more than 100 yards away that are trying to use the same channel[s] out of [2 or] 3 available.
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:remixedcat
ID: 38747311
Darr 247, You are again incorrect.

Having more power allows the WLAN devices to penetrate walls and other surfaces with more ease as well as maintaining higher throughput over that distance.

You can use apps to troubleshoot channel congestion issues to eliminate the channel problem. Just use one of the apps to see what channels other APs are using and choose one that they are not. Very easy. InSSIDer is one of those. Amped Wireless even makes an Android app for this as well.

Please look at the following review from Engadget:
http://www.engadget.com/2012/04/06/amped-wireless-high-power-r10000g-router-and-smart-repeater-hand/#title3

And the house that they tested it on they had much more impressive results then the other router that the residents were currently using. The R10000G was able to penetrate the walls with ease in areas that never had any wifi coverage with the previous router.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 38747409
@redmixedcat - What I think you're forgetting is that the client device also needs to be able to penetrate the same obstacles in the opposite direction.  If you have a router putting out 200mW EIRP and a client which can only manage 50mW EIRP you will have a problem at some point as the AP simply won't hear the client if it is too far away.

One of the first principles within a good design is to ensure all devices are using similar overall power settings, or you'll just create issues.
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LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 38747529
More telling might be the reviews from actual retail users below that article.

e.g.
"Will never trust an Engadget "so called" review again"

"Crapiest Router (R1000G) Ever, and I've installed many..."

"FYI these Amped devices are quite horrible. I purchased the R10000 and needed to send it back twice now. The thing flat out drops connections like crazy and requires multiple reboots."  ... " Every time I spoke with the "concierge" IT support it was literally like I was speaking with a 10 year old. Things like reboot it, reset it, send it back. The support tech tried to tell me that because I didn't have gigabit on my Cisco 2100 cable modem,  I couldn't get maximum wireless speeds. What? Who knows - don't buy the hype."

"Bought the R1000G two months ago, and the firmware is buggy as hell. Changing a setting causes a 99 second reboot that the modem dosen't recover from till pulling the plug. Not impressed Cisco & Netgear make more reliable routers..."

===========
That was just from the first of 3 pages of user reviews.  Makes me wonder if the guy that wrote the article actually bought them or if he got them free for writing his 'review'.
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:remixedcat
ID: 38747865
Dar 247,

The majority of those bad reviews are coming from "fanboys" of Ubiquiti networks.

They have gone to a lot of wireless networking threads and bashed any competitors. There seems to be a campaign or something going on that a lot of people aren't aware of.

They even go to users of Xirrus and Extreme Networks products forums and do the same as well.... Smart admins have banned those users/deleted posts.

Even though I like Amped Wireless I've never ever bashed other router manufacturers like some of those fanboys have.
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LVL 11

Author Comment

by:epichero22
ID: 38770959

OK, break it up people.



It seems like a lot of "probablies" here so let me re-ask the question: does anyone have any examples of how external outperforms internal?  If so, do you have any specific measurement?
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LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 38771086
I have gain charts for external antennae, but have never seen any gain charts for internal antennae, so there is nothing to compare.
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LVL 11

Expert Comment

by:remixedcat
ID: 38771745
Darr 247,

Internal antennas are often no to low gain
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 38771818
All antennas have a gain value.  Generally external antennas have larger gain values because of their size when compared to similar internal variants.
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LVL 11

Author Closing Comment

by:epichero22
ID: 38797778
Thank you.
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