Editor's Note: Don't miss Seth's other PSP articles: First Look: Sony PSP and PSP Exposed: Taking Apart the PlayStation Portable, and Web Browsing on the PSP.
The Sony PlayStation Portable is a wonderfully designed handheld entertainment center. With it you can play games, listen to music, watch movies, view images, and even surf the internet. To help the PSP perform all these functions, it boasts a beautiful LCD screen and supports the Memory Stick Duo (Sony proprietary), the Universal Media Disk (another Sony proprietary) drive, and an embedded wireless network card.
Each of these features is important to the PSP's success, but in this article we are going to focus our attention on one particular aspect of the PSP: the wireless network card. In particular, we are going to examine the possibilities of increasing the PSP's wireless signal strength to make it more adaptable to situations where you might need a few extra dBs to get that quality connection.
Before moving on, please note that this modification will void your warranty. In addition, there is no guarantee that you will have a working PSP when you get the device back together. And if that isn't enough, your new antenna must be properly installed or your 'upgrade' will fail to perform as you might hope. One final warning; this mod is not meant to be pretty. It works, but you will have to deal with the presence of an external pigtail/antenna hanging off your PSP. Thankfully, you can unscrew the antenna and just hide the smaller and more flexible pigtail.
Why Add an External Antenna?
I purchased my first PSP soon after its release in the US. While it was fun to play NFS and watch Spiderman-2, I was aching to see what was on the inside of the device and subsequently took it apart. As I worked my way down through the device, I noticed a small piece of plastic stuck under the right side controller with a connecting wire that trailed over the main circuit board and disappeared under the left side of the device. As it turned out, this was the antenna for the embedded wireless network card (Figure 1).
Figure 1: PSP Antenna as originally designed.
For such a compact device, I was not really surprised to see this design. After a few more minutes of disassembling the PSP, I was able to learn that this antenna connected to the network card via a U.FL connector, which is typical for embedded wireless network cards. Figure 2 illustrates what this connector looks like, and Figure 3 provides you with an image of the original antenna in its full glory.
Figure 2: U.FL Connector on PSP network card.
Figure 3: Original Wi-Fi antenna removed from PSP.
Once I had noted the existence of the U.FL connector, and had removed the original antenna, I wondered what would happen if I attached a larger antenna with a little bit more oomph to it. Since the tight space limitations left me with no room to grow on the inside, I decided to add on an external antenna capable of increasing the signal, but still keep the PSP mostly portable and user friendly. The rest of this article shows what I did and the results of my upgrade.