If you live in an area where all broadcasters -- or all broadcasters you're interested in -- have made the transition to UHF, a UHF-only antenna can fit the bill nicely. We see the best feedback for the Mohu Leaf (Est. $40) , which places the antenna's receiving elements within a thin plastic laminate. One side is black and the other white, and you can simply tack it to a wall so whichever side looks best with your décor shows; Mohu even packs black and white pushpins in the box. The super-thin design is also easy to hide. While the company suggests placing the antenna behind a picture, several reviewers say they placed the Leaf behind their sets.
When it comes to new consumer antenna designs, the reality is typically more about broken promises than about notable improvements. That's not the case with the Leaf; most experts and owners say it more or less performs as promised. This is a UHF antenna first and foremost, but testers find it gets the job done with moderately strong VHF signals, as well.
In terms of UHF performance, the Leaf holds its own and even beats some more expensive options in a comparative test at HDTVExpert.com, although it in turn is beaten by a basic bow-tie antenna that costs only a few dollars (see below). TechHive.com notes that a few other antennas beat the Leaf in terms of performance, notably the Terk HDTVa, but says the Leaf is the "best choice if you care about how your living room looks." User reviews are very positive, but also indicate that the Leaf isn't a miracle worker; if other indoor-antenna designs won't work at your location, the odds are slim that the Leaf will do significantly better.
What might do better in some situations is the Mohu Leaf Ultimate (Est. $70) . As noted by Peter Putman at HDTVExpert.com, the Leaf Ultimate is essentially the Leaf antenna packaged with an outboard in-line signal amplifier. It gets its power via USB, so you'll either need a TV with a USB output or a wall AC/USB power adapter.
In Putman's comparative testing, the Leaf Ultimate sat at the top of the pack among both passive and amplified indoor antennas, outperforming the unamplified Leaf at his location outside of New York City. Testing by Tom's Guide in New Orleans also has the Mohu Leaf Ultimate pulling in a few additional stations compared to the unamplified version of the antenna.
However, this is a case where your mileage can certainly vary. Testing by DigitalTrends.com in and around Portland, Oregon, found that the amplifier did little to improve performance and actually led to poorer reception in most situations. User reviews are also all over the map, literally. Some say that the amplifier helps, others say that it either leads to no improvement or that it harms reception. That's not a complete surprise: Experts note that amplifiers like the one included with the Leaf Ultimate can harm reception if unamplified signals are already strong enough and won't appreciably help reception if signals are simply too weak. That's why Caleb Denison at DigitalTrends.com suggests that even if you opt for the Leaf Ultimate package, you should first test reception without the amplifier.
With the success of the Leaf, it's not surprising that other manufacturers have released similar antennas. The one that gets the most feedback is the Winegard FlatWave FL-5000 (Est. $40) . CNET's Matthew Moskovciak says it and the essentially identical Mohu Leaf would be the first antennas he'd recommend to "beginning cable-cutters," although neither is good enough to supplant his Silver Sensor antenna (similar to the current Terk HDTVa).
User reports for the Leaf and the FlatWave are comparable; both get similar ratings from owners at Amazon.com, although the Leaf is reviewed far more often. Putman gives the Leaf and the similar WallTenna (Est. $35) the tiniest edge over the FlatWave, but that's based on better performance on a single channel.
Moskovciak points out that the FlatWave has a 15-foot black cable as opposed to the Leaf's 6-foot white cable, but that's about the only difference he sees. For him, the choice comes down to installation setup and which cable fits better in a homeowner's room décor.
For those who live in strong signal areas and need an antenna only for UHF, the good old bow-tie antenna remains a viable option. Once available everywhere, they're now hard to find at retail. However, we've seen them on auction sites and elsewhere on the Internet for less than $5. As noted in the passive "division" in Putman's comparative review, it outperformed all comers at his test location.