Types of TV Antennas
Indoor HDTV Antennas
If you live in an area where signals are relatively strong, there's a bevy of effective antennas that earn praise from experts. However, performance in any given location can vary widely depending on how far you are from the broadcast towers, what channels your local broadcasters use, topography, intervening obstacles such as trees and buildings, and phases of the moon (we are kidding about the last one, though judging by the reviews we see, maybe not so much). Still, if you live within 30 miles of the TV towers (and even within 50 miles in some situations) it's possible to find an effective, and even economical, indoor TV antenna that will help you watch local broadcasts in full HD without shelling out a dime to a cable TV provider.
Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antennas
For distant signals, beyond 30 miles in some cases, and certainly beyond 60 miles in almost all cases, your best bet will likely be a large roof or attic-mounted antenna. However, in between sits a host of more compact antennas that can provide good performance in all but the most marginal of reception areas. These are designed primarily for outdoor use but can be adapted for use indoors, even in your viewing room -- though they won't be easy to hide - or ignore.
free TV with a television antenna
Television antennas -- and the availability of local over-the-air
programming -- can play a big role in deciding whether to ditch your current 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. Networks
are getting into the act as well. However, in many cases, 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 typically the only way to see that programming for free.
However, there's a caveat. Because of the nature of digital TV signals
and the frequencies many digital stations now use, 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 might not 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
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 13) once the digital transition was complete in June 2009.
If you live in an area where all the broadcasters you want to receive
use UHF, that's not a concern. In addition, testing reveals that many popular
HDTV antennas are at least decent performers on the upper VHF channels
(channels 7-13). It's on low band VHF (channels 2-6) where things get a bit
problematic. If there's a low-band VHF station you want to receive in your
area, you'll need to select a TV antenna that performs well for those frequencies,
as well. If you don't know what stations you can receive and what channels they
use to broadcast on, sites such as AntennaWeb.org and TVFool.com can help.
Finding The Best TV Antennas
"Check Your Address for Free TV"
"Maximize Your Television Reception"
"Product Review: ClearStream Eclipse TV Antenna "
One problem with finding the best 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 geographical location 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
have done so under relatively uniform circumstances. For that, we turn to
sources such as HDTVExpert.com, TheWirecutter.com, CNET, TopTenReviews.com and
Tom's Guide. Likewise, user reviews can be helpful, especially for antennas
that are evaluated by hundreds, sometimes even 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. Amazon.com is tops for that,
but we also consider feedback from other sources, such as BestBuy.com. The
results are our picks as the best indoor antennas for most budgets and