Terk HDTVa
Terk HDTVa

Best indoor HDTV antenna

It costs more than a basic antenna, but the Terk HDTVa gets a lot of respect for not only its aesthetics but also its ability to pull in distant signals. With its built-in amplifier, reports say it's usable up to 45 miles from TV transmitters.
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RadioShack Budget TV Antenna
RadioShack Budget TV Antenna

Best basic TV antenna

If you live where signal strength is excellent, a simple indoor antenna is all you need to receive free high-def broadcasts of the highest quality. The RadioShack Budget TV Antenna (15-1874) shares the tried-and-true rabbit ears and loop antenna design that has been around for decades, and it works as well for digital signals as it did for analog ones.
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Est. $15 Estimated Price
Mohu Leaf
Mohu Leaf

Best indoor UHF TV antenna

If you need an antenna primarily for UHF, the Mohu Leaf is an excellent choice. Not only is it attractive for an antenna, but its paper-thin design is also one of the easiest to hide. Best of all, it's a good UHF performer that can pull in the occasional strong VHF channel, as well.
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Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V
Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V

Indoor/outdoor TV antenna

If you live in an area where TV reception is a challenge, and an outdoor antenna is not practical, the Antennas Direct ClearStream 2V is your best bet. For indoor use (the ClearStream 2V is also designed for outdoor mounting), aesthetics will take a back seat as this big antenna will be hard to miss -- and harder to hide. But at distances of 50 miles or less, no antenna short of a roof-mounted one will perform better.
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COMPARE PRODUCTS
See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

TV Antennas Runners Up:

Winegard SS-3000 Discontinued

4 picks including: Amazon.com, AVSForum.com…

Winegard FlatWave FL-5000 Est. $40

3 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Mohu Leaf Ultimate Est. $70

3 picks by top review sites.

RCA ANT 111 Est. $9

2 picks by top review sites.

Getting free TV with a television antenna

If you don't want or need the extra programming provided by cable or satellite TV -- or you just don't want to spend $100 a month or more for these services -- you can still find lots to watch. All you need is a TV with a digital tuner, or an older TV with a digital converter box, and a TV antenna. If you have an HDTV with a digital tuner, you can also access high-definition programming from networks and local broadcasters at the highest possible quality. The digital broadcasting system also makes it possible for local broadcasters to add extra digital channels to their main channel, and many offer new public-interest or niche programming that you can pull in for free.

However, there's a caveat. Because of the nature of HDTV and other digital TV signals, receiving them with a television antenna is more of a challenge than with the old analog system. Tall buildings, hills and other obstructions create lots of complications. In addition, the signals don't cover as wide an area as the old analog ones did. All of that means you might need to pay special attention to your HDTV antenna to get the best over-the-air digital TV.

In stores, you'll see many television antennas being promoted as designed for HDTV, but in reality you don't need a special HDTV antenna design to receive digital signals. In fact, in most cases, the best antennas are those based on the same designs used for decades for analog TV reception. If you already have a good antenna with which you received analog TV, it might be all you need.

One thing to watch for when selecting a television antenna for digital TV is that many so-called HDTV antennas are only designed to cover the UHF band (channels 14 to 69), which is where most digital TV signals are found, though that band has been cut back so that digital stations are now restricted to the lower part, channels 14 to 51. The problem is that some stations asked for and were granted permission to move back to their original VHF frequencies (channels 2 to 6 and 7 to 13) once the digital transition was complete in June 2009 -- leaving viewers with UHF-only HDTV antennas in the dark.

If there's a VHF station you want to receive in your area, you'll need to select a TV antenna that covers those frequencies, as well. Otherwise, a UHF-only antenna will fit the bill nicely. If you don't know what stations you can receive and what frequencies they use to broadcast on, sites such as AntennaWeb.org and TVFool.com can help.

Television antennas -- and the availability of local over-the-air programming -- can play a big role in deciding whether to ditch your cable or satellite TV provider. Many people are abandoning cable and satellite TV providers in favor of streaming content online from Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus and more. However, in most locations, an over-the-air (OTA) antenna and a TV with a digital tuner are the only way to view local programs and network TV shows at the same time as they're originally broadcast. This is also sometimes the only way to see that programming for free.

One problem with finding the right TV antenna is separating marketing spin from actual results, and that's complicated by the fact that an antenna that works great for one person because of their locale could be a miserable failure for someone living even a short distance away. The best reviews of TV antennas come from those who've tested a good number of them, and done so under relatively uniform circumstances. Likewise, user reviews can be helpful, especially for antennas that are evaluated by hundreds if not thousands of owners. That helps normalize the feedback so results aren't skewed by those living in extremely difficult reception areas or where OTA signal strength is so strong that a bent coat hanger could work as an acceptable antenna.

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