TV Antenna Reviews

By: Carl Laron on December 01, 2017

Editor's Note:
Judging by the number of TV antennas flooding the market, cord cutting is becoming more and more popular. Judging by the feedback these antennas receive, most don't really perform that much better than models based on age-old designs. These are the best ones.

Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Estimated range (miles) -- 50 Directionality -- Multidirectional Coverage -- UHF, high-band VHF

Best indoor HDTV antenna

If you live where an indoor antenna will work, the ClearStream Eclipse is an excellent choice. It's flexible, double-sided (black or white) and can be painted. The Sure Grip mounting strips allow for easy repositioning if required. Best of all, it's a good UHF performer that performs well on higher band VHF channels (7-13) as well, but not on low band VHF (channels 2-6). An amplifier is included, though it might not always be needed, and a version without the amplifier for areas with strong signal strength is also available. See our full review »

Buy for $59.99
Channel Master Flatenna 35 Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Estimated range (miles) -- 35 Directionality -- Omnidirectional Coverage -- UHF, high-band VHF

Best cheap HDTV antenna

If you live in an area where TV signals are fairly strong, the $10 Channel Master Flatenna 35 deserves serious consideration. Construction quality isn't the best, and the short, permanently attached cable limits installation flexibility, but in prime signal locations -- 35 miles or less from the TV towers -- it can hold its own with antennas costing three times (or more) as much. Available in either black or white, this omnidirectional antenna works well with UHF and high VHF channels, but not with low VHF ones (channels 2-6).

Buy for $20.00
Terk HDTVAZ Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Directionality -- Directional Estimated range (miles) -- 45 Coverage -- Low band VHF, high-band VHD, UHF

Best directional HDTV antenna

The Terk HDTVAZ is a highly directional, amplified antenna. It's harder to hide in a room than many indoor antennas, but its design is effective in eliminating interference from reflected signals -- which can be a major headache for city dwellers. It includes receiving elements for all current HDTV channels, including low VHF channels, which can elude some less obtrusive designs. However, it's a bit top-heavy, and the directional design does mean that a bit of repositioning might be necessary to capture different stations, which annoys some users. See our full review »

Buy for $46.99
Channel Master STEALTHenna 50 Review
Also Consider
Specs that Matter Directionality -- Directional Estimated range (miles) -- 50 Coverage -- Low band VHF, high band VHF, UHF

Indoor/outdoor TV antenna

If you live in an area where TV reception is a challenge, and a large outdoor antenna is not practical, the Channel Master STEALTHenna 50 could be your best bet. For indoor use, aesthetics will certainly take a back seat as this big antenna is hard to miss -- most put it in an attic or mount it on a porch or patio. It won't outperform smaller antennas in areas where signals are strong, but for hard-to-get stations, no antenna short of a roof-mounted one will do better.

Buy for $22.21

Types of TV Antennas

Indoor HDTV Antennas

If you live in an area where signals are relatively strong, there are 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. Many 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 É or ignore.

Getting 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, offering on-demand content (sometimes free, othertimes for a fee). Several streaming services, including Sling, DirecTV Now, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV offer live feeds of local channels in some major markets, though the availability of specific channels varies widely depending on the market and the service you subscribe to.

In essence, that means that in many cases, an over-the-air (OTA) antenna and a TV with a digital tuner are still the best, and sometimes the only way to view local programs and network TV shows at the same time as they're originally broadcast. That 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 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 were found, though that band was initially cut back so that digital stations were restricted to the lower part, channels 14 to 51. In April 2017, the FCC completed an auction of additional spectrum that reduced the available UHF channels even further, eliminating channels 37 to 51. To accommodate that, some local stations voluntary surrendered their licenses, some entered into frequency sharing agreements with other stations, and a whole lot of them, nearly 1,000 nationwide, will be seeing a forced change in their channel assignments. For the vast majority of viewers, the result of this spectrum "repack" will be minimal, but in some markets, a channel or two may be forced from UHF to VHF, making an antenna that also covers VHF mandatory if you want to continue to receive that station. The process will start in November 2018 and take 39 months to complete. Fortune has more details, while the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has a searchable database of the new channel assignments.

If you live in an area where all the broadcasters you want to receive use (and will continue to 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, either now or when the spectrum repacking process is completed, 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 and TV Fool can help. AntennaWeb also has information on which stations will be changing channels in the future.

Finding The Best TV Antennas
Our Sources
"Check Your Address for Free TV"
"Maximize Your Television Reception"
"Product Reviews"

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, Wirecutter, CNET, Top Ten Reviews, Tom's Guide and others.

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 is tops for that, but we also consider feedback from other sources, such as Best Buy. The results are our picks as the best indoor antennas for most budgets and situations.

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