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I just bought a new laptop ASUS N550JV. I wanted to test the wifi receivers of my two laptops (the old and the new), so I put them together and scanned for the neighboring wireless connections. My old laptop (Atheros AR5B93) has 10+ AP's on the list while the new laptop (Atheros AR9485WB-EG) has only 2, and the signals were substantially weaker. I gotta say any signal weaker than -75 dB won't show up on new laptop while I can list wireless connections with -90 dB on my older one.

This will cause problems in my college building, since with my old laptop I could often barely connect to the network. With the new laptop, I believe I most certainly will not be able to connect.

I first thought I would swap the wireless cards and fix this but then the root of the problem being the antennas made more sense. So, does this issue originate from the wireless network card itself or the antennas?


I want to present some screenshots: In the scenario, I have 10-15 meters and a wall between laptops and router. The red is my connection, blue and green are the common APs that the laptops can enlist, and yellows are the ones that only the old laptop can enlist.

Old Laptop enter image description here

New Laptop enter image description here

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I realize this is an older thread, but I'd like to add that I have the same notebook with the same issue - poor WiFi signals. Even my old $250 Acer Netbook had a MUCH better reception than this unit. Very sad for how much I spent. – user319116 Apr 29 '14 at 6:32
Hello, what is the name of the tool you use to display the networks? Thanks :-) – user4711 Apr 29 '14 at 6:41
@hasgarion Airodumg-ng from Aircrack suite, run under Linux. – Varaquilex Apr 29 '14 at 11:44
@Chris It's sad that these devices are problematic. In this case they gave me a new laptop. If you have significant differences in wifi signals similar to this one, turn it in to tech support. Also I had a few problems installing Linux and drivers in Windows 8.1 (ACPI adapter, display driver). The new device they gave me had an issue with wireless driver. I got occasional blue screens for no reason and when I checked minidump, I saw that wifi device caused the problem so I re-installed wifi driver to fix it. – Varaquilex Apr 29 '14 at 11:50
@Chris Also they did not respond to my ticket about the ACPI issue which I submitted to instead of local tech support after they claimed that the first laptop I turned in had no problems even though I insisted and then made me wait another week to report that the device was faulty. Also, in case you want to install Ubuntu and you get a battery problem (won't charge) in either Windows and in Linux, try disconnecting and reconnecting the battery. – Varaquilex Apr 29 '14 at 11:55
up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is a tricky question. The gold standard for antennas in laptops is usually two (or even three) dedicated panel antennas installed in the display section behind the LCD panel. Most manufacturers do this, although a few cheaper ones will try to get away with antennas in the main section of the laptop (where there's a lot of metal and RFI to complicate reception). Unfortunately this is not the kind of thing anyone puts on a spec sheet, so it's hard to know without cracking a laptop open. Given that the N550 is a fairly expensive model I suspect they've done it properly and put the antennas in the display.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the antenna design in the Asus isn't inferior, but given that wifi antenna design is a pretty solidly understood field I would be surprised if you saw such a big difference for that reason. Given the magnitude of the difference I am more prone to suspect a defective antenna or antenna cable, bad physical connection of the antenna to the card, or, as you suspected, a very cheap WiFi adapter. If you have the time I would recommend swapping the cards out as a test. When you open up the Asus to swap the card, take a good look at the antenna cables and make sure that the micro RF connectors are firmly in place and that the cable is not visibly being excessively pinched anywhere - especially where it passes from display panel to main body. It should be routed so that it twists here rather than bends (sort of an S curve through a display hinge usually), or it should at least not be bent too sharply.

Do let us know what you find out.

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Thank you for the answer, it's a nice one (+1). Me cracking the case open will void the warranty, unfortunately. I think I will have to turn it in to tech support. But before that, I will ask them on the phone about the issue because I have found some forum posts via google about this very issue. I'll dig a bit more, do the phone talk tomorrow. If nothing works, I was gonna void the warranty by replacing the HDD with SSD and optic drive with a caddy. While on it, I might as well take a look at the wireless cables. I hope I won't be have to open the screen up for checking the antenna cables... – Varaquilex Jan 1 '14 at 22:45
This youtube vid identifies the wireless card, I believe. I think it's near the right cooling fan. You can see the cables heading to the edge of the case (probably somehow to the LCD screen, or perhaps not. I need your input here). There is also another question in my mind: Since the laptop has an aluminum case, would it deflect the signals? Would the reason for this issue be the aluminum casing rather than defective antennas/cables ? – Varaquilex Jan 1 '14 at 23:05
The aluminum casing is a possible explanation but I would expect the manufacturer to do a proper job of handling that. It does look like you have a display panel antenna. Unfortunately, in the newer aluminum case laptops I think the LCD panel is sometimes glued to the frame with the antennas in it so they can't readily be seperated (Back in my days as a Lenovo tech it was four screws and the panel popped right out, but in the battle for thin laptops I believe even Lenovo has started gluing this). – jcrawfordor Jan 1 '14 at 23:45
That's unfortunate. I uploaded some screenshots for more proper information. – Varaquilex Jan 1 '14 at 23:54
Take it back, sounds like some engineer cut some corners. – MDT Guy Jan 3 '14 at 18:14

The problem is that one of two antenna wires, consisting of a black and white wire, will brake with the closing and opening of the laptop screen. That is why you only get 3 bar, instead of 5 bar reception. Poor design by Asus!

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I can see how repeatedly opening and closing the lid would break those wires over a period of time. However, this is a brand-new laptop so that doesn't seem likely to be the cause in this case. – David Richerby Aug 2 '15 at 14:47

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