I’ve been testing out the Raspberry Pi 3, and one thing I have found is that the WiFi antenna that was added in this new model is not especially good: the Pi has trouble connecting to my WiFi network in places that other devices have no issues. That’s not surprising, because the antenna on the Pi 3 is tiny: mounted right next to the display connector, it is just a few millimeters wide. [Ward] at DorkbotPDX agrees, so he decided to look into adding a better antenna by adding an external connector.
He tried two approaches: replacing the antenna with a tail connector, and adding a U.FL connector to the unused solder pads on the board. Both require some delicate soldering work, so they aren’t approached lightly. Replacing the antenna with an external connector produced a significant increase in signal output, which should equate with more range for the WiFi connection.
It is also interesting to note that the Pi 3 has solder pads on the board to add an external antenna connector, but that they are not used. Plus, one of the solder pads is covered by solder mask. Using these is the second approach that [Ward] used, soldering on a U.FL connector and connecting that to a small rubber duckie antenna. Again, this proved more efficient, increasing the power output of the antenna significantly.
NOTE: This hack definitely falls into “Don’t try this at home” territory. Messing with antennas voids the warranty and FCC certification for the Pi, and can cause all sorts of signal-related unpleasantness if you aren’t careful.