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Adding an External Antenna To Your Wii

The Nintendo Wii is an internet appliance as much as it is a console, which means it needs an internet connection to fully realize it's potential. But what if your Wii is nowhere near your network drop? Or if it's too far away from your wireless access point? In this tutorial, Seth Fogie illustrates how you can upgrade your Wii's wireless presence via the use of a bigger and more powerful external antenna.
See how to disassemble your Wii, including a teardown video, with Seth's article Wii Exposed: Wiinternals, Wii-motes, and a Teardown Wiideo.

The Nintendo Wii is the latest in a series of console systems to hit the market. While the graphics and processing power do not match the PS3 or Xbox 360, the Wii has attracted the interest of gamers due to its revolutionary controller design. By combining Bluetooth, infrared, and motion detection technology into a compact handheld remote, the Wii has complete changed the ways that gamers interact with their systems. Ironically, this paradigm shift in controllers was not for the hardcore gamer, but instead was meant to bring in the new user who traditionally has found the multi-button two-handed controller a bit overwhelming. In fact, my five year old daughter learned how to use the controller in only a few minutes and was soon happily, if not ecstatically, beating the computer in a boxing match. The Wii may finally bring console system gaming into the family oriented mainstream.

While the controller design is one of the key selling points for the Wii, there are other aspects and features that make it popular for neophyte gamers. For example, you can create a Mii and then have Mii parades with your friends online. Other online activities include updated news and weather services, as well as messaging, web surfing, image sharing and more. In addition to this, users of the Wii can download legacy games from the Wii store, as well as obtain updates that are promised to include DVD players and more. The point is that the Wii is an internet appliance as much as it is a console, which means it needs an internet connection to fully realize it's potential.

However, what if your Wii is nowhere near your network drop? Or your wireless network is on the other side of the house? Granted, the Wii does try to maximize its wireless connectivity via the integration of two antennas in its design, but even this won't overcome all obstacles. This is why we decided to provide an online tutorial to illustrate how you can upgrade your wireless presence via the use of a bigger and more powerful antenna. With this design, the question shifts from "How close to I have to be?" to "How far can I really go?"

The Wireless Network Card

The Wii comes with an embedded wireless network card from Broadcom. This card is an 802.11b/g card that can connect to most of the 802.11 wireless access points on the market. In addition to supporting the higher speed 802.11g speeds, the wireless card supports the most current encryption options, including WPA2 Personal with AES encryption. For those who are not versed in all the acronyms of the wireless world, WPA2 Personal is the best protection available for the home user. And thanks to an intelligent wireless configuration setup, most users will simply click a few buttons, enter the passphrase, and be online.

One of the most interesting aspects of the card is that it hosts two antenna connectors. As we discuss in the next section, the inclusion of the extra connector helps to reduce wireless reception problems that could cause users problems if the Wii was too far from the access point. Figure 1 provides a shot of the backside of the wireless card, and Figure 2 provides a close up of the U.FL connectors.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Wii's wireless card

Figure 2

Figure 2

U.FL connectors

One interesting specification about this card is that it only uses 2402-2.473 of the possible 2.402-2.485GHz of 802.11 2.4GHz range. The reason for this is that the card must meet the FCC's guidelines in order for it to be permitted in the US. We are curious what model of card other countries will have in their Wiis. Please email us if you find out!

For those who want to get into the gory details of the wireless hardware, there is lots of information on this card at the FCC.

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