Best Wireless Antenna for Strong Signals
So before we start diving into the guides on how to use them (avoiding the techie stuff we can sum the basics up in one line – plug it in) let’s jump straight into our #1 suggestions. That way if you already know what the antenna is for you can save having to listen to me.
Best Directional Antenna (Indoors or Outdoors) the Card King KW-3016N
The Card King might look a little too industrial to sit on your bookshelf but this packs a surprising amount of power, especially for the price. I tend to use directional antennas on my adaptors and this works well for desktops or laptops thanks to the long durable cable. I’ve used this indoors and out (great for hanging outside of a window) and what it lacks in looks it’ll certainly make up for in power.
I wouldn’t suggest using one of these on a router or repeater unless you’re sure you want to use a directional antenna (we’ll look at the difference in a moment) but this is a perfect choice to increase the range of a desktop or laptop. I tend to use one of these on a desktop and then one or two of the higher power omni-directional ones on a repeater if I’m really trying to boost the range.
For routers, wireless repeaters or less specific use for a laptop/desktop you might want to use an omni-directional antenna
Best Omni-Directional Antenna the TP-Link TL-ANT2408CL
Great little antennas. 2.4GHz 8dBi and all for a couple of bucks. Indoor use only and perfect for a router or repeater. I usually bring a couple of these with me on an install when I’m dealing with equipment which is already there. It’s surprisingly easy to increase a wireless signal when you swap some of the cheap 2dBi antennas with a couple of these (still cheap but butter quality) 8 dBi alternatives.
They have the option of a 5 or 8dBi version. The price is pretty much the same but you might want to choose between the desktop or non-desktop model (which really just means cable or no cable) depending on what you want it for. If you’re connecting it to a desktop computer that cable is handy for getting it out from behind there. But keep in mind this is still an indoor model. If you’re connecting it to a router and/or wireless repeater than I’d suggest the non-desktop version.
Positioning and Using Your WiFi Antenna
The first step is to make sure your wireless adaptor, router and/or wireless repeater supports an external antenna. The better ones tend to but if you’re not sure try and unscrew the antenna on your current device they should screw off pretty easily. If you’re having to break out a hammer or hacksaw then you might need a new device before you’re able to use an antenna.
You can use a WiFi antenna on any device. They don’t need to match brands or directions (you could use an omni-directional on your repeater and a directional on your laptop for example – we’ll go over the differences in a moment).
Placement is important. If you’re connecting one to a computer then ideally you want one with at least a short cable so you can place it on top of the computer or table. Hiding it away down behind the computer it will have to deal with a lot of interference from the rest of the machine itself. On the same token with a laptop you might want to consider how you use it because they can be prone to breakage if you forget about them.
If you do choose a directional antenna then (here comes the obvious) point them in the right direction. The manual will be able to tell you but it isn’t hard to figure out by looking at it. This sounds like common sense but you’d be surprised how many call outs I could of been saved if people had looked at the direction of their antennas before lifting the phone.
Other than direction and position you can also look at the strength of the antenna. A lot of cheaper adaptors might ship with a little 2dBi antenna because it’s cheap for the manufacturer to ship them like that. But for the sake of a few bucks you can have ten times that strength. Used on your adaptor you’ll be able to pick up signals from further away and if you connect it to your router (or repeater) your signal will stretch further.
Directional or Omni-Directional
When people talk about types of antenna this is what they mean. This is an area where I really can’t tell you which one you need. The names should be pretty self explanatory the directional antenna is for boosting a signal in one direction. If you’re trying to reach one specific area or room for example. The omni-directional antenna sends and receives at a full 360 degree angle. It’s really down to what you need neither is necessarily better than the other they’re just situational.
Common Wireless Antenna Mistakes
There’s a lot of mistakes you could make with an antenna if you really want to get the most out of them. Letting your chew happy dog near them is probably a start (or chewing on them yourself I guess) but let’s focus on some of the more tech specific ones.
- Placing an omni-directional antenna at a metal air duct or something likely to cause refractions. Not only does this reflect your wireless signal in directions you might not want it but it also causes multiple signals causing additional interference.
- Ignoring the difference in directional and omni-directional antenna. We’ve covered this and you only need to get it right once. It can really make a big difference to the quality of your wireless signal.
- Placing a wireless repeater or router right next to a thick wall. We know you want it out of the way and you’re restricted by the cabling as well but if you’re using an omni-directional antenna next to a wall think of all that wasted signal strength going straight into the wall. Sure some of it will get through but if the position was maybe a little different you might see a big difference in signal.
- Painting. Again, we know some of these devices look ugly. If you must paint them don’t use metallic paint. And be very careful around the vents.
Wireless Antenna For PC or laptop?
Exactly the same as the old TV antennas. Though hopefully it won’t involve you standing on top of a table waving your warms around while someone tells you how strong the signal is.
They work the same way however and you can use them on any device which supports an external antenna. Commonly called a wireless antenna booster or range extender what people really just mean is a stronger power antenna. They can make a big difference to your wireless network and can be used instead of a WiFi repeater if the boost you need isn’t that big or even combined alongside them. Most of the repeaters at the top of our lists already include external antennas but you can opt for a stronger or more directional one if you think you’d need it.
You might find some shops trying to sell you an antenna for Macs or laptops (usually charging a higher price while they’re at it) but this is nonsense. If your device takes an external antenna then you can attach a normal one to it don’t let them tell you that you have to buy something specific. We’ve taken a look at Apple WiFi extenders before and unless you have an Apple Airport network (which there really is no reason for) you end up paying a higher price for sub-par equipment.
When we looked at laptop WiFi boosters laptops have the extra issue of having to carry around another device which can affect the portability. If you’re using a laptop in the same area like a home or office then a WiFi repeater means you don’t have to worry so much about lugging around a second device but for desktops there is absolutely no reason to make sure you’re not using a decent strength wireless card with a strong external antenna. Considering the price it should be your first go-to.
Router WiFi Antenna
You can also put a wireless antenna on your router or access point. This also requires your device to support external antennas but you can basically check by giving the existing antennas a twist and a pull (preferably when you’re not using the wireless network at the time).
Some brands will even promote their own antennas alongside their router models but don’t feel pressured into using the same brand as your router. You can certainly use a Linksys antenna on a Belkin router for example. Generally an antenna on a wireless router tends to be omni directional unless you really want to reach a specific point. I have seen cases where a bit of mix and matching worked quite well. One antenna slot had an omni antenna on it while the other slot had a directional antenna pointed at an office which was struggling to get a signal.
WiFi Antenna – Outdoor Compatible Options
Keep in mind when I say outdoor compatible I’m talking general weather and wear and tear. I can’t guarantee it’ll survive a zombie apocalypse or act of small child.
We’ve looked at outdoor wireless repeaters before. Obviously your equipment will need to be able to handle it if you’re placing the equipment itself outdoors and not just the WiFi antenna. If you’re not looking to boost that far and the inference of a wall or a window is enough then putting an external antenna out of the window itself might be enough though. Just don’t confuse an external wireless adaptor with an antenna and put the adaptor outside of the window. For the top outdoor wireless antenna take a look at our top 3 list we’ve included an outdoors option.
Just keep an eye on the wireless antenna cable they’re usually made to be pretty rugged but I’ve seen enough of them take a beating from opening and closing windows they can eventually wear down. If you’re squeezing your cable through a window which is going to open and close often I’d suggest adding some thick duct tape to reduce wear on the cable. It’ll help you get a longer life out of the device.
Long Distance WiFi Antenna
Normally when you’re talking about a wireless antenna you’re talking about a standard size antenna. Normally this isn’t too much different from your standard looking one except it usually looks bigger and it gets a bit of a better signal compared to your average one.
There have been some long distance antennas but this isn’t the kind of thing you normally see alongside the wireless adapters in your computer store. Plenty of brands will style themselves as a ‘long distance’ antenna but if you’re really looking for something like that you’re looking for something a little more DIY. These can be tricky to put together, temperamental and very directional.