5 antenna types compared: key benefits and considerations

The right antenna can turn a good product into a great one

Creating a wireless product means one thing: you’ll need to use an antenna. Finding the right antenna and successfully integrating it can be a daunting task. Yet despite their importance, antennas are often considered at the latter stages of a project.

How well an antenna performs is a question involving plenty of factors. It’s not just the choice of hardware that’ll yield good performance. Antennas are effectively transducers: they conduct electromagnetic energy from the air and transport it to a radio or wireless chip. This means the nearby operating environment will likely interfere with its operation.

The shape, size and material of the antenna will also play a role in performance. Finding an antenna that suits the application and design is key.

What is the right type of antenna?

Even with the huge variety of antennas available, you needn’t be overwhelmed. Despite the availability of antennas in different sizes, topologies and configurations, knowing the range of antennas can get you well on your way.

Terminal antennas

While not as widespread as they were in the early days of wireless technology, terminal antennas still hold some advantages over alternative antenna types today.

Key benefits:

  • Perform better than embedded antennas across most RF parameters
  • Higher levels of efficiency
Avoid product-generated noise due to usually being located outside of the product’s housing

Surface-mount device (SMD) antennas

With technology rapidly reducing in size, embedded antennas became the most popular solution with the rise of handheld devices.

Key benefits:

  • Small size - SMD antennas can be as small as just a few millimetres wide

  • Inexpensive - making them an efficient choice for mass produced products

  • Standard pick and place machinery makes assembly simple

  • Combine high performance with a compact form

Wireless modules

Improving on the SMD antenna concept, wireless modules combine a number of RF components into a single part.

Key benefits:

  • Often include filters, meaning wireless modules can offer near-on drop-in solutions for wireless connectivity
  • Quicker integration times
  • Simplifies RF architecture within circuit boards
  • Radio and antenna are co-located, saving PCB space

Flexible printed circuit (FPC) antennas

With circuit board space at a premium, FPC antennas are a simple-to-integrate solution.

Key benefits:

  • Compact while still one of the easier antennas to integrate
  • Flexible integration due to ability to place around the contours of a device
  • Offer high levels of performance within compact devices

Case-mounted antennas

In response to the growth in smart grid and connected outdoor products, Antenova created their own solution for products housed in metal: the case-mounted antenna.

These antennas employ a layer, similar to a ferrite, to isolate them from the material beneath them. Even when surrounded by metal, case-mounted antennas perform like they’re in free space. From smart meters to connected bicycles, case-mounted antennas provide high performance levels for devices in which other types of antenna fail to measure up. They can even be cleverly covered with logos and branding – a range of creative implementations!

Which antenna should I choose?

The best antenna for one product won’t necessarily be the best for another. Factors that influence what constitutes the best antenna for your application include:

  • The size of the PCB
  • Manufacturing requirements
  • Required frequency range
  • Technologies you need to support
Ultimately, the right antenna will be one that offers the best performance once integrated. Why not try our antenna selection tool for guidance on the best antenna for your wireless project?
Wireless Antennas Compared  Here's everything you need to consider when choosing the right antenna for  your design.  GET THE GUIDE

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