Guide: Install your own Wi-Fi chip inside the RG351P

Last updated: 24JAN2021

Unless you purchased an RG351P during the first few days it was available, you probably do not have an internal WiFi chip inside your device. This is because they were removed due to speaker noise issues (see my whole post here, which includes a guide to reduce the noise).

But the RG351P has some really great online features, like the ability to download media (box art and videos), download and install new themes, download a cheat database, connect to your PC and load games wirelessly, implement RetroAchievements, and even use an online update tool for the ArkOS operating system. You *can* use an OTG adapter and a USB WiFi module to connect, but it’s a little clunky. So in this guide I’ll show you how some members of the community have installed WiFi chips to their device so they have a seamless experience.

Full disclosure: I have an internal WiFi chip on my device, so I haven’t attempted this myself, but I took copious notes when others were sharing their experience! Note that this is not a beginner’s guide: it includes soldering. If you have any questions or issues with this process, I suggest you post something in the Retro Game Handhelds Discord server (in the #RG351P channel).

If you are familiar with KiCad, here is a prototype WiFi adapter created by Reddit user kuzmapunk, and here are more instructions in the comments section of his Reddit post on the subject.

Required tools

TP-Link TL-WN725LN USB WiFi adapter ($15)
Soldering kit ($15)
Kapton tape (heat tape) to prevent short circuting ($5)
Fun-Tak mounting putty ($3)
30 AWG wire (optional) ($8)

Two essential parts of this build are the WiFi adapter and a soldering kit. There are plenty of cheaper WiFi adapters out there (like this one, which I have verified works with the RG351P), but I know for a fact that the TP-Link TL-WN725LN will work with this build, so it’s a safer bet until I hear otherwise.

The TP-Link WN725LN WiFi adapter uses an RTL8188EUS WiFi chip, which is different from the mt7601u chip that was build in the the original internal WiFi RG351P model. While it would make logical sense that any mt7601u chip should work, it appears that using a USB adapter with the mt7601u chip actually DOESN’T work. So at this time I recommend only using the TP-Link TL-WN725LN and its RTL8188EUS WiFi chip, which has guaranteed success.

The soldering kit will include the solder iron, wire (in red and black strings of wire), and the solder itself (in the clear tube with a blue cap); you will need all three of those elements for this project.

The other accessories are optional, but can improve the installation. Kapton tape can be used to prevent short-circuiting the board, and Fun-Tak can elevate the WiFi chip a bit to make it more secure. Finally, you can use some 30 AWG wire to create a WiFi antenna to improve network speeds and reduce signal noise.

Example 1 (without Kapton tape and Fun-Tak) — right-click and select “open in new tab” for larger image
Example 2 (with Kapton tape and Fun-Tak) — right-click and select “open in new tab” for larger image

Install the WiFi chip

In order to open the back of your device, you will need a hex/torx screwdriver. The sizes vary by unit (usually T5 or T6 screws), so your best bet is to buy a set to make sure you get the right one.

Next, break open the TP-Link WiFi adapter, and extract the chipboard from inside. There’s no glamorous way to do this, just grab some needle-nose pliers and gently take it apart. Thanks to Mateo for the images you see above.

At this point you will want to cut some short pieces of wire from the soldering kit linked above, and solder one end of the wire to a connector on the chip, and the other end to the corresponding connector on the RG351P board. You can see how in the example above they used black wire and soldered each end appropriately (luckily, the connectors line up pretty well). Note that you want this wire to be as short as possible, because the RG351P is low powered (3.3V) and the longer the wire, the more likely you will have voltage drops during heavy WiFi network loads.

I’ve actually never soldered before, so I would recommend you watch a YouTube video or two if this is your first time. It’s what I would do 🙂

Example 3 (with Kapton tape and Fun-Tak) — right-click and select “open in new tab” for larger image
Example 4 (with Fun-Tak displayed) — right-click and select “open in new tab” for larger image

Optional improvements

Based on advice from users on Discord, if possible you should use kapton tape on the underside of your boards and on top once you’ve soldered the connections. This should prevent the connections from short-circuiting the board. Also, you can put a small amount of funtak to elevate the wifi board slightly off the motherboard. See the image above for an example.

One user was able to greatly improve signal and speed by soldering a 30 AWG wire and extending it to the front right side of the unit. Do note that it does introduce some noise during heavy transfers but not as bad if speaker wires are properly shielded. With this wire soldered to the antenna of the unit, the user went from 65KBs per second max with an average of 19KBs per second to 30KBs per second transfer speed to 512KBs Max with an average of 230KBs per second to 350KBs per second transfer.

Another user used a proper WiFi antenna, like this Airgain N2420 and then placed it in the upper side of the back cover, just above the battery (pictured above). They reported excellent WiFi range since it wasn’t having to deal with any metal shielding.

Finally, you should also shield your right speaker wire with aluminum foil and electrical tape, as demonstrated in this guide. This will greatly reduce signal noise when using your new internal WiFi module. To further reduce signal noise, you could also solder a 0.1uf capacitor to the negative end of the right speaker connector, as demonstrated in this image.

If you’re interested, here is a close-up photo of the original internal WiFi chip. Like I mentioned earlier, using a USB WiFi device that has this chip has NOT been successful. So stick with the TP-Link TL-WN725LN.

MediaTek MT7601UN

22 thoughts on “Guide: Install your own Wi-Fi chip inside the RG351P

  1. so what wifi adapter is better because i purchase the first one you told me too. just need to know if the wifi adapter i have is as equal or worse or better. ? i currenty have the plugable usb 2.0 wireless N 802.11n 150 Mbps Nano so i would like to know if this TP-link is better ? thank you so much.

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      1. thank you so much Russ, I tried it today and I was a complete success I added the wire for the antenna too its funny but it seems to run faster now that the wifi is internal.

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  2. Congrats to those who successfully did it ! Really ! I have just tried to install my wifi chip inside my RG351P. I have managed to do it, but it was so hard ! But in the end, I regret my choice. Sounds issues are much worst than with the dongle, I have burnt my thumb and a part of my device… What a shame… Thanks for the guide anyway 😉

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  3. What are you soldering the antenna to ? To the metal plate of the Wifi chip ? I struggle to see it in the pictures. Thank you

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  4. Just a report. It did not work with the dongle that came for free with my DroiX purchase, in what they call the “ANBERNIC RG351P Advance Pack”. The dongle is a very generic “802.11n USB Wireless LAN Card”. It’s pretty small and says “[wifi symbol] 802.11n” on the case.

    The dongle works fine plugged in as USB via OTG adapter. So it seems the dongle does not like the 3.3 V that’s supplied inside, vs the 5.0 V that is delivered over USB.

    The TP-Link TL-WN725LN seems to be the way to go. I’ll try again with that.

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      1. The TP Link works like a charm, it was worth the shot with the free dongle.

        Solder tip: the bottom connection is the ground, it will be the hardest (large thermal mass), so hang in there!

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  5. This guide is super helpful! I opted to wrap in the wifi module in kapton tape, then copper foil tape, and then more kapton to help negate the interference. I hear no buzzing whatsoever during downloads. The wifi module I have has a Ralink 5370 chipset and only has 2.4Ghz support. Thanks again for this guide!

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  6. So I got the TP adapter in the article and it’s not working with my 351p. The dongle works in Windows even after trying to install it so I didn’t break it or nothing…just doesn’t work?

    I know it’s using a Realtek chip.

    Are there any other adapters that any of you have successfully installed?

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  7. I just did this mod while running 351elec 2.0. I’m not getting any wifi and was wondering if the TP-Link TL-WN725LN works under 351elec 2.0.

    I’m just trying to figure out if it works, or if I did a bad solder job.

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      1. I cleaned up the soldering job and got it working!

        Though even after doing the speaker wire insulation trick, I’m still getting a TON of static. I think it’s because I secured it with kapton tape instead of electrical tape. I’ll go back in there and add some electrical tape and try it.

        I’m also wondering if i have to have a different strategy with the tp-link module. It’s “antenna” the little metal piece is REAL close to the speaker wire, It’s even touching I think.

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