Sunday, 18 January 2015

TRENDnet TEW-812DRU AC1750 Antenna Upgrade


A few weeks ago I managed to score a rather cheap refurbished TRENDnet TEW-812DRU Wi-Fi router, I had been eyeing this model up for a few months, while most reviews give positive marks for the speed (it is fast), gigabit lan ports and fairly decent firmware it's rather let down by the antennas which are not too great over any real distance especially if you have thick solid walls such as I have. On the whole though it's main feature is it's excellent 802.11ac wireless speeds which will beat a lot of the more expensive units around.

While reading around I came across a great review from SmallNetBuilder where they opened it up and revealed that it had pigtail connectors for the wireless antennas, this along with DD-WRT* releasing a firmware for the unit told me it was time to break open the piggy bank.

I shall make a second post with a few more details regarding DD-WRT and speed/reception performance in the next week or so.

*At time of writing (Jan 2015) you must have a v2 unit to run DD-WRT, TRENDnet offer an 'Open Source Firmware' for the v2's which is a branded copy of DD-WRT but I went with the official DD-WRT one as it's a later build.

The Build:

Click any of the pictures for a larger view.


First up you need to get the lid off, lift the two rubber feet off to expose the screws then work the lid open with a spreader. Wedge it in between the grey side and black lid and gently work your way round.


Once the lid is off you'll see the mainboard with the pigtails for the antenna, NOTE: v1 models differ slightly, check the SmallNetBuilder review to see.


These are the stock antennas hidden under the mainboard, if you live in small property they will work well enough.


Next up it's time to  mutilate  modify the lid to take some new antennas, you can buy 'Pigtail to RP-SMA leads' on eBay for next to nothing but make sure you have enough cable to position them. I decided with this three in a row layout but in hindsight I should of spaced them further apart.


Once you have the connectors mounted just pop them onto the boards connectors and close up the lid. Tape over the old leads so they don't short out on anything.


Once done all you have to do is attach the antennas, this is where things were not initially as successful as I was hoping. From my previously modded Asus WL-520G and D-Link DIR-615 routers I had some big rubber duck antennas which were meant to do 2.4GHz and 5Ghz, in short on 2.4GHZ they were excellent, on 5GHz they were truly awful.


Not to be deterred I splashed out on some rather natty Alfa APA-M25 antennas that do an excellent job covering the 3 floors of my house with 3/4 to full strength on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. You can buy them on eBay. Full specs can be found here.


Much neater and much better, I might at some point alter the layout to give the antennas a bit more room to breath but they seem to be working well enough at present.

2 comments:

  1. I bought 7 of these to flush out my network and replace everything else, as they hit the points I wanted... 1) Fast AC1750 and 5ghz support 2) Easily flashable to DD-WRT 3) 5 port gigabit switch. You spend $20 for a 5 port gigabit switch anyway, so, think of it that way, with all the bonuses.

    http://radiolan.shellprompt.com

    The only thing I don't like about them is I question the orientation of the internal dipoles... it seems like they are 90 degrees out of phase and would work better if the unit was laid on its side... (I haven't tested yet) but then this might throw off the 5ghz funky antenna. Also, my other pet peeve is the status lights are on the front, instead of the back of the unit on each ethernet port, like the netgears switches have them built into each ethernet jack. I would of so preferred that. The case is a bit hard to get into, you really have to work your way around with a plastic knife, and there are two screws under the rubber feet.

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    1. Hey CHOPPERGIRL, The 3 points you mention are pretty much the reason I bought this model, I have a second as well now covering a very weird dead spot in my house (one room seems to impersonate a Faraday Cage rather well)

      When I was researching which to buy one of the factors was that I could replace/upgrade the antennas as 1860-70's housebuilding methods are not very WiFi friendly. Their internal layout (and overall size) is a bit weird but on the flipside these things run a treat.

      Your site looks pretty interesting, what's the story behind RadioLan?

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