By Brendan Hesse
If you’ve decided to ditch cable or satellite service, you may want to consider investing in a reliable HDTV antenna for your home. A quality HD antenna can pick up over-the-air programming from popular networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, the CW, and a host of others for free — without the hassles or rental restrictions of an unwieldy outdoor antenna.And if you’re going to shop around, you’ll need some help finding the best indoor HDTV antennas on the block.
Not everyone lives in a neighborhood ripe for antenna viewing, however. Before you kiss cable goodbye, we recommend taking a look at TV Fool’s TV Signal Analysis tool, which offers in-depth analysis and simple color coding to rate the signal quality of stations in your area. If your neighborhood looks good to go with HD viewing opportunities, it may well be time to supplement your chosen streaming services with a top-notch antenna. We’ve combed through the sea of available models and found eight of the best plus one outdoor antenna just in case to help you bring crystal-clear HD programming straight to your TV.
Follow below to find the best HDTV antennas you can buy. Once you’ve made your choice, there’s also our antenna installation guide to make setup a breeze. And if you want to be able to save those broadcasts for later, don’t forget to peruse our favorite over-the-air DVRs as well.
Why you should buy this:You’re looking for a future-proofed product, eco-friendly product
Who’s it for: The eco-minded cord cutter looking toward the future.
How much will it cost: $35
Why we picked the Mohu Releaf:
This eco-friendly antenna is unlike most other antennas on this list. Instead of metal or plastic, it’s made from recycled, “post consumer” cardboard and chlorine free colors, as is the packaging it comes in. It’s also devoid of any extra paper instructions, which are instead printed on the packaging to eliminate excess paper waste. The cables and minimal plastic components are made with Mohu’s “MohuGrind” plastic, composed of crushed and ground up recycled cable boxes (take that, cable companies). Just to go the extra mile, all of these components are crafted using renewable energy.
In addition, the Mohu Releaf is the only 4K-ready antenna on our list. Despite there not being any 4K signals to pick up at this point, the Releaf has been future proofed, so once 4K signals are flying through the air, this antenna will be ready. You can count it among the list of places to watch 4K content, including otherentry-level 4K streaming devices like Chromecast Ultra.
The best flat antenna
Why you should buy this:It’s a discreet yet powerful antenna with a novel design
Who’s it for: Those who don’t mind paying a little extra for performance
How much will it cost:$40-$50
Why we picked the ClearStream Eclipse:
The ClearStream Eclipse is a powerful antenna, with top-rated performance when it comes to flat, multi-directional HD antennas. This is true of all four available Eclipse models, which come in estimated signal ranges, from 35 miles up to 70. The antenna is two sided — a black side and white side — to match your decor. The material is not only adhesive on both sides (meaning no tape), but it also can be painted over, so it can easily become a discreet addition to any room.
Even better, the multidirectional nature of the ClearStream Eclipse means it can be mounted virtually anywhere, and doesn’t require precise aiming to catch a signal. Unlike many indoor antennas, most of which use a square or rectangular design, the circular design of the ClearStream Eclipse is better at picking up UHF signals, which can be a struggle for many indoor antennas. Those specs make it a great choice for those ready to ditch cable, regardless of where you live.
The best amplified antenna
Mohu Curve Amplified
Why you should buy this: The Mohu Curve can hide in plain sight while it tunes into HDTV signals.
Who’s it for: Those as concerned about decor as performance.
How much will it cost: $70
Why we picked the Mohu Curve Amplified:
If inconspicuous and discreet locations are hard to come by in your residence, then you might as well opt for a good-looking antenna. Enter Mohu’s Curve lineup, which look as good as they perform. This free-standing antenna can sit on tables, entertainment centers, or on shelves without drawing much attention. The curved design is simple and attractive, and the fact that the antenna doesn’t require mounting means it can be moved to wherever the signal comes in best. An included 10-foot coaxial cable aids in placement flexibility.Throw in an OTA DVR, and you’re likely to question why you ever paid for cable in the first place.
The best tiny antenna
Why you should buy this: The Leaf Metro is the smallest antenna of the bunch, but it’s no less capable of providing quality HDTV signals.
Who’s it for: City apartment dwellers who need something compact.
How much will it cost: $18
Why we picked the Leaf Metro:
Though admittedly weaker than Mohu’s larger Leaf antenna, the Leaf Metro antenna is the perfect fit for compact living spaces. Mohu designed the Leaf Metro for discreet installation in homes located close to broadcast towers. As such, those living in downtown or urban areas are most likely to get the best results from the Leaf Metro, which has a range of approximately 25 miles.
To compound the versatility enabled by its tiny size, the Leaf Metro antenna also comes in either black or white, so users have the ability to paint it to match their interior. Plus, its adhesive coating means it’ll stick to most any surface and can be moved to other locations with ease. An included 10-foot coaxial cable allows for fairly flexible installation.
The best indoor/outdoor antenna
Clearstream 2Max HDTV Antenna
Why you should buy this: It delivers long-distance reception, even in less than ideal environments
Who’s it for: Those who live a long distance from signal sources
How much will it cost:$40-$150
Why we picked the Clearstream 2Max HDTV Antenna:
Despite the Clearstream 2Max’s somewhat complicated looking design, the antenna is actually quite simple to assemble, using either clamps or a base for installation. Though the antenna is larger than most every other antenna listed here, it’s not so big that it can’t fit behind a TV or mount to the wall of your living room. For outdoor installation, a 20 inch mast is included.
While we’re recommending the $55 2Max model with 60 mile reception, if you livewayout in the boonies, it may also be worthwhile to look into the larger $150 4Max version of the antenna (though it sometimes sells for less on Amazon), which features a 70-mile reception range and (some say) more reliable connection. Similarly, if you live closer to a signal, the $40 1max, which has a 40 mile range, is also a good option.
With such a range of options available in the Clearstram Max line, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a great way to get free HDTV in the countryside.
The best outdoor antenna
Winegard Elite 7550
Why you should buy this:Your home falls outside the reception range of the most powerful indoor antenna on our list.
Who’s it for: Those for whom an inside antenna simply won’t cut it.
How much will it cost:$150
Why we picked the Elite 7550:
For most users, an indoor HDTV antenna will nab the channels you desire. There are some spots, however, where only an outdoor antenna will do the job. With a reception range of over 70 miles (sometimes more depending on your location), Wingard’sElite 7550 provides incredible performance and impressive signal quality, thanks to Winegard’s proprietary TwinAmp technology, which amplifies VHF and UHF (the two different types of OTA signals) separately and with less noise than other amplified antenna models.
It’s also smaller and lighter than many outdoor models, making it easy to find the proper location for mounting, andsupports multiple connected TVs at once — you’ll just need to supply the splitter yourself. With an outdoor antenna, you’ll have one less device to worry about in your home theater.
How we test
The majority of these picks were tested in our downtown Portland, OR offices, as well as in residential locations to get the best possible impression on the signal strength of each antenna. We then cross referenced our findings with those of other experts and consumers to assess any differences and gauge the relevance of inconsistencies (if there were any to begin with) for our final rankings. For the few choices on this list we did not get hands-on time with, we based our appraisal on the opinions of fellow tech publications, expert outlets, and user comments.
A word on signal strength and quality
We’d love to tell you there’s an ideal location in your home in relation to a signal tower, but the truth is there isn’t. In reality, like so many other things in life, the process of finding the best spot for an antenna requires trial-and-error, some finesse, and maybe even a little luck. This inconsistency is true not just of different geographical regions, but in variations between antenna models. What may be the best location for one antenna may not be as effective for others.
Further, there are differences in the signal types that your antenna will be picking up, and some antennas may be better at picking up certain signal frequencies than others. The two main signal types are VHF and UHF. The basic difference between the two is the channels broadcast in those frequencies. Channels 2-13 are broadcast in VHF, while channels 14-51 are UHF. Most antennas can pick up both VHF and UHF, but some can only pick up one or the other. This will be noted in an antenna’s product description.
However, there are some tips to ensure the best possible reception.
- Face antennas directly toward towers, if possible.
- Place your antenna with as minimal geographical interference (mountains, hills, trees, buildings, etc) as possible.
Try to keep interference from radios, cell phones, or other electronics to a minimum. This doesn’t necessarily mean keep the antenna away from your TV, however; in some instances the best location for an antenna may well be directly behind or under the TV.
In general, the ranges listed by manufacturers are estimates and shouldn’t be taken at face value. While it’s still best to opt for an antenna listed with longer reception ranges for locations far from broadcast towers, there are no universal testing criteria for establishing what an antenna’s operating range is. Plus, environmental factors will impact accuracy.
Finally, while we have recommendations for amplified antennas, we aren’t entirely sold on the efficacy of that technology. Despite the name, “amplified” antennas or in-line amplifiers do not boost the signal reception itself. Rather, they strengthen the signal that is being picked up, meaning if you’re getting a slightly fuzzy signal, the amplifier will try to artificially boost the quality on the TV. We’ve had varying degrees of success there, but in general there often isn’t going to be an appreciable change in quality. It’s also important to note that amplifiers should not be used in areas where signal strength is stable. This can cause noise and other picture quality problems.