PCB Antenna Vs External Antenna

Here is detailed comparison article about PCB Antenna Vs External Antenna. When selecting antennas for your embedded systems, it’s critical to understand the differences between chip and PCB antennas.

Your electronic gadget requires an antenna (RF) to connect via radio frequency.

In the electronic manufacturing sector, walkie-talkies, Bluetooth-enabled devices, and satellite communications are common examples of RF devices.

Antennas are the most important component of RF devices and substantially impact their performance.

The essential requirements for current RF applications are high performance, small size, and cheap cost.

When comparing chip antennas to PCB antennas, it is beneficial to consider a PCB trace antenna when lowering the overall device cost.

On the other hand, Ceramic Chip antennas offer excellent general performance in terms of compactness and performance. This article delves into the issue between chip and PCB antennas.

It goes over the advantages and disadvantages of each and the design considerations you should keep in mind while selecting the proper antennae for your project.

Comparison Between PCB Antenna Vs External Antenna

Antenna For PCB Trace

Certainly! Here’s a table comparing “PCB Antenna” and “External Antenna” based on the extracted information:

Feature/AspectPCB AntennaExternal Antenna
DefinitionA circuit board trace drawn directly on the PCB.Antennas located outside a device’s casing, connected via an RF connector.
Advantages– Low production costs
– Wide bandwidth when optimally tuned
– Compact structure profile
– Improved network reliability
– Plug-and-play design
– Better range and sensitivity due to larger size
– Higher rated gain (dBi) than internal counterparts
– Better directional behavior for focused signal emissions
Challenges/Disadvantages– Difficult to design at low frequencies
– Sensitive to PCB layout changes
– Requires more board space
– Might require more manufacturing techniques and materials than a basic ceramic chip antenna, increasing cost
ExamplesInverted F-shaped traces, straight, curved, meandering, circular PCB traces.Rubber or plastic sheath antennas, Omnidirectional Antennas, Puck shape antennas, Directional antennas.
IntegrationIntegrated into the board manufacturing process.Connects to a transmitter via a specific connector; some are “ground plane independent.”
Performance Impact Factors– PCB layout changes
– Frequency
– Size of the antenna
– Placement (inside or outside the device enclosure)

A PCB trace antenna is a circuit board trace drawn directly on it. It is critical to understand that the trace type is determined by the antennae type and the available space.

All options are inverted F-shaped traces, straight, curved, meandering, and circular PCB traces.

A PCB trace antenna is a wireless communication technology in general. Furthermore, it would help if you laminated your trace onto the board surface during PCB manufacture.

However, PCB traces can span multiple layers, especially in multi-layered PCBs.

Pros Of Antenna For PCB Trace

Chip antenna vs PCB antenna proponents believes that a trace antenna is difficult to install, build, and tune. This is especially true in a reliable and modest business.

A trace antenna’s size is also determined by the ultimate bandwidth frequencies, just like a wire antenna. The advantages of a PCB trace antenna are listed below.

Because the trace is integrated into the board manufacturing process, production costs are minimal:

  • When maximally adjusted, a trace antenna may accommodate a wide bandwidth.
  • The PCB trace structure is basic, and the structure profile is relatively small because the antenna is mounted on the surface.
  • It improves network reliability and strength capacities.
  • It is simple to incorporate into your PCB during production.

Cons Of Antenna For PCB Trace

The following are the drawbacks of a Trace antenna:

  • It’s difficult to make, especially at low frequencies.
  • A trace antenna is particularly susceptible to PCB layout changes, necessitating adjustment after each change or reproduction.
  • It necessitates a lot of areas, especially at low frequencies.
  • The necessity for more board space increases design costs.
  • They are vulnerable to both human and environmental influences.

Antennas are essential components in wireless technology, ranging from small antennas incorporated in mobile devices to enormous antenna arrays used in cellular or satellite base stations.

Although antennas come in various shapes and sizes, they almost all fall into one of two categories: internal or external.

Internal antennas are located inside a device’s casing and are out of reach of the end-user.

A small chip or PCB-etched antennas incorporated onto the board to flexible printed circuit (FPC) antennas affixed to the interior of a product’s enclosure are examples.

External antennas can also be connected to an RF connector on the exterior of a device’s casing.

A rubber-duck antenna mounted on the outside of an internet router is a good example. This article aims to describe the many types of external antennas, as well as their essential performance factors and design advantages.

Antennas: External Vs Internal

Aside from the apparent differences in size & form factor, external antennas have several design advantages over internal antennas: simplicity of integration.

External antennas are essential plug-and-play devices that connect to a transmitter via a specific connector.

Internal antennas, on the other hand (like surface-mounted chips), necessitate more design effort because antenna tuning and optimization are necessary.

The performance of an internal antenna is impacted by the PCB ground plane, which acts as an antenna extension.

The boarding area and components on the PCB would have to be considered in this situation. An impedance matching network may need to be created before the antenna feed point to account for these elements on the PCB that will detune the antenna.

Signal loss produced by the product enclosure can also affect an internal antenna.

The majority of external antennas, on the other hand, are “ground plane independent,” making them an excellent choice for customers looking for a solution that requires fewer design resources and integration time, allowing for a faster time-to-market.

External antennas have performance advantages over internal antennas and are easier to integrate. Overall, external antennas provide better range and sensitivity because of their bigger size.

As a result, their rated gain (dBi) is generally higher than their internal equivalents.

External antennas provide better directional behavior for applications where signal emissions must be concentrated in a certain direction due to their higher strength.

Another major consideration is that lower frequencies with longer wavelengths necessitate a larger antenna.

As a result, many high-gain external antennas can maintain a bandwidth in the lower sub-GHz region while still providing adequate performance.

An inside antenna might not be as effective at supporting lower frequencies due to its smaller size.

In the 400MHz bandwidth, for example, it would be impossible to find an internal antenna that could compete with an external antenna in terms of performance.

These inherent performance advantages (greater range, sensitivity, and ease of integration) and the fact that external antennas are located outside the enclosure, giving better signal line-of-sight, make them more appropriate for demanding applications.

Customers should consider cost when considering this option, as larger external antennas require more manufacturing techniques and materials than a basic ceramic chip antenna.

External Antennas Types

These antennas are similar to the ones used on wireless access points. The antenna element would be covered in a rubber or plastic sheath with an exposed RF connector in a conventional design.

Because these circumferential antennas are always ground plane independent, the only required for integration is a simple coupling to the transmitter.

These antennas are designed to be vertically oriented to the ground due to their non-directional nature, as they tend to radiate widely in the horizontal (x-y) plane.

This type of radiation pattern would be ideal for any wireless applications that need point-to-multipoint communication, for instance, in any office setting where a router is required to transmit and receive signals from many client devices such as computers, phones, or other end-node modules.

Omnidirectional Antennas

These puck-style antennas are designed to be flat on a flat surface, such as a car’s ceiling or roof. Depending on the antenna model, they can be installed on a metal or non-metal surface.

The form factor is a key distinguishing feature, as they often have a lower profile than terminal-mount antennas, making them perfect for clients searching for an alternative aesthetic.

Many puck-style antennas are built to support integrated Low Noise Amplifiers (LNA), which can drastically increase signal reception–especially for weak incoming GNSS signals.

Unlike whip form antennas, Puck shape antennas are frequently designed to be horizontally orientated to the ground or sky, as they have a greater 360-degree vertical coverage.

An example is a Wi-Fi ceiling-mounted antenna in a single office-level center.

Another benefit of the puck-style antenna is that various variants can handle several wireless protocols.

This is ideal for any base station that needs to combine many antennas required for GNSS, cellular, and Wi-Fi into a single package.

A combinational antenna (Figure 7) effectively has three separate antenna elements housed in a single container, each with its connection and connector for each protocol.

Antennas With Directions

Applications that require long-range Point-to-Point or Point-to-Multipoint communication are the focus of directional antennas.

Because of these antennas’ highly focused emission patterns, their datasheets will always show a high rated gain (dBi) (typically above 9dBi). These antennas are perfect for any demanding long-range application.

An end-node device or a collection of devices is focused in a specific area, thanks to their high peak gain in a single direction.

An outdoor-rated Yagi or panel antenna on each side of a pair of office buildings sharing the same wireless network, for example, would form a Point-to-Point communication link with both antennas pointing toward one another.


I hope you will understand the difference between PCB Antenna Vs External Antenna. The increasing demand for a wide range of antenna solutions has emerged from the ongoing expansion of IoT applications.

Whether an engineer prefers an internal solution for low cost, large volume, small size, or an external option for ease of design and guaranteed performance, the antenna will always be the most important interface for your wireless system.

To achieve the best performance, the antenna should be finalized early in the design phase of a project. Suppose you decide on your product’s specifications (PCB design, size, and enclosure) before considering the antenna.

You will limit your flexibility to change your design if the chosen antenna does not fit or is incompatible.

Being familiar with the many antenna types, their unique advantages, and performance criteria (gain, bandwidth, VSWR, radiation characteristics) will help limit the numerous antenna designs that exist today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the quality of PCB antennas?

The PCB Trace antenna has a wide operation bandwidth (if optimally tuned). It has high network dependability and strength (if optimally tuned). Antennas for PCB Trace have a slim profile (two-dimensional).

What is a printed circuit board antenna?

In a high-frequency PCB, a PCB antenna is a transducer that converts current waves into electromagnetic (EM) waves. PCB antennas convert high-frequency electricity into electromagnetic waves that travel through the air. In a high-frequency PCB, there are two antennas. They are etched copper structures inserted in the PCB.

Which antenna is made out of PCB?

Patch antennas, also known as microstrip antennas, utilize high-frequency laminate materials and ordinary printed-circuit-board (PCB) procedures.

Why do GPS antennas include ceramic elements?

The larger the patch, a gateway for RF signals, the more bands the antenna may efficiently operate on. On the other hand, a surface-mountable antenna can work successfully throughout these broad frequency bands.

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