Subscriptions to cable and satellite TV are becoming more and more expensive, so more and more families are abandoning pay television to switch to free, over-the-air broadcasting. Digital TV typically offers between 20 and 60 channels depending on where you live and can save you at least $ 1,000 a year, based on a typical pay TV subscription.
People who do are often surprised by the higher picture quality they get from broadcast TV. That’s because cable and satellite services compress the video signal to reduce the bandwidth required to stream to your home, all so they can cram more channels you might never watch.
So cut that cable, remove that disc and join more and more American households free monthly bill for TV service.
Updated on June 16, 2020 To add our Channel Master Smartenna + review, this one works well enough to win the runner-up title in the category of amplified indoor TV antennas. As noted earlier, we have also updated How did we test of this article to reflect that the author has moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Washington DC metro area and is currently conducting all TV antenna reviews from her new home.
Installing an antenna is easy, but before you buy an antenna, you need to find out what channels are available where you live, how strong the signal is and which direction they come from. Check out TechHive’s antenna selection guide to find out all that.
As a general rule, indoor antennas are suitable for areas with strong or very strong signals, attic / outdoor antennas work in areas with medium signal strength, and antennas outdoors in weak signal areas.
Once you have determined your needs, this article will help you buy antennas. But before you watch the results, watch this video that explains how to determine which free TV channels you can get where you live.
Best indoor TV antenna
If you live close enough to broadcast towers for the stations you want to watch, a cheaper non-amplified antenna like the Channel Master Flatenna might be all you need to cut the wire. At the time of this review we found that Channel Master itself is offering the best price for this antenna: $ 10 (plus $ 7.50 for shipping).
Indoor TV antennas are best amplified
This antenna impressed us with its ability to receive more broadcasts than the competition. What’s more, the things that it get are a bit stronger than our runner-up, which will make watching TV more fun. (Read our full review.)
The word “smart” is mentioned a lot today, but it is not just an exaggeration in the case of Channel Master’s Smartenna + wireless TV antenna. This amplifier antenna has an onboard tuner that can virtually alter its receiver pattern to receive as many stations as possible. We love it.
Best rooftop TV antenna
Antennas Direct DB8e’s reception is just as impressive as it looks. This is a large, heavy antenna cleverly designed to pick up weak signals with two antenna arrays, or in better reception areas to direct the towers in different directions. (See our full review.)
The 91XG direct antenna is a classic antenna design that has worked well for many years. This antenna is quite directional and good at removing interference from the inside when picking out weak signals from noise. It almost missed out on top spot and would also be a great option for those working with long distance reception. (See our full review.)
Best outdoor / attic TV antenna
Winegard Elite 7550 immediately impresses with its ability to receive more channels than the opponent at a higher signal level. It has a built-in amplifier and performs well on both VHF-High and UHF broadcasts. Because of its size, you’ll want this in the attic or outside of your house. (See our full review.)
The Clearstream 4 Max is a bit bigger than our top pick and isn’t quite as good at pulling stations but it’s still a solid antenna. Its unique dual-octagon design certainly looks special and it can receive signals from different directions, which is useful if you live in an area with stations in many places. (See our full review.)
How did we test
TechHive tested the TV antenna at a location in the Washington, DC metro area. (Until 2020, we were testing in the San Francisco Bay Area, so you might see references to that location in older reviews). The DC location receives strong signals from local broadcasters, but poses a number of challenges: There is a large amount of surrounding vegetation that affects reception; some independent DC television stations are weak and difficult to receive; and with a good antenna, it can receive reception far from Baltimore market stations.
Indoor antennas are tested indoors and outdoor antennas outdoors. Every time we test a new antenna, we will re-test our current top pick to ensure fair benchmarks.
We use a decoder box to scan channels and record the number of RF channels each antenna receives and their intensity. Each RF channel carries a number of digital stations, but the number per channel is different and can vary, so the digital stations received are not useful for measurement. We scanned several times and adjusted the direction of the antenna on a number of snapshots.
Our choice is the antenna that receives the largest number of stations with the highest signal level in both UHF (channels 14 to 51) and VHF-High (channels 7 to 13), which are broadcast bands. main television waves.
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