(Head Honcho)
01/26/12 11:02 PM
Prime Time: How I Fixed My Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Wi-Fi and GPS

This is one of the weirder posts I've made concerning a piece of mobile tech. If you've followed the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, the world's first quad core Android tablet, you know that it has GPS problems (poor reception indoors and when moving) and some units have weak Wi-Fi with poor signal strength 20 feet or more from an 802.11n router and resulting throughput drop. We've had several retail purchased Prime tablets pass through our office, and the first was one of the earliest batch. It had good WiFi but wasn't much of a reliable driving buddy for GPS since it often lost satellite fix in a moving car. But at least it could see GPS satellites and get a fix when stationary outdoors. However, it has a bad camera and wonky HDMI, so it went back to the store.

Our latest Prime is a 64 gig gray model from the newest back with a "C" serial number. It has a great camera and more well-behaved HDMI but it couldn't see a single satellite outdoors under open sky. It was MIA. WiFi reception was weak and the signal dropped considerably as we moved 15 feet from the router and throughput dropped from 25Mbps down (our rated fiber connection speed), to just 4Mbps when 20 feet away (only one partial wall made of wood and sheetrock in between). Rats. I'd checked out Anandtech's Transformer Prime Teardown and noticed that the tablet uses pogo pin connectors. They're like tiny pogo sticks that spring up to make contact with copper tape on the main board. They're used in places with little available space (like skinny Prime tablets) and make opening the casing easier (no wires to rip out).

What if these didn't full extend and make contact when the back plate was affixed via compression tabs and a little glue? There'd be signal loss. A-hah! I contributed tthe following "fix" in an XDA-Developers thread and others found it worked for them, so we've made a video to help you visualize it.

The two images directly above are taken from Anandtech's Teardown and I've marked the pogo pins. Thanks, Anand!

So I pressed along the top edge black bezel (when held in landscape mode) to see if I could get better contact on the two pogo pins for the diversity WiFi antenna and the closer to center one for the GPS. Don't press like you're trying to see if the Gorilla Glass can be cracked! But do press with enough force to see a little temporary light bleed from the display. Use care: I warned you so don't blame me if you hurt your Prime (not trying to scare you, but we have to cover our butts). The result? The tablet gained 15 db of WiFi signal and had normal throughput that matched some of our other tablets and phones. It's still not the strongest signal among mobile devices, but it's now within normal range. I took the tablet outdoors and the tablet saw 12 satellites with 8 in use in 30 seconds according to an app called GPS Test. That doesn't mean the tablet is great in a moving car, but if you've got a seemingly DOA GPS, this fix just might bring it to life.

Note, that you should judge WiFi not by bars but with an app that's more precise like WiFi Analyzer (free). It will show you your signal in db and also let you know if your access point is on the same channel as others nearby. And you can use the app to check your upload and download speeds.

Here's a video that tells you much the same stuff for those who hate to read, and I also show you where to press and how to press. If your Prime has seriously bad WiFi and no GPS whatsoever, it's worth a try.


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