Why Use an HDTV Antenna?
The top performers in our review are the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse, the Gold Award winner; Antennas Direct ClearStream Micron HDTV Antenna, the Silver Award winner; and Winegard FlatWave, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an antenna to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 HDTV antennas.
If you are still paying a fortune for cable, here's one word of advice – stop. Cable providers no longer have a stronghold on your home entertainment. Thanks to affordable online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video, there are a number of alternatives to expensive cable packages. But if you're contemplating cutting the cord, you might still be wondering, "How will I watch live TV?"
Enter HDTV Antennas. The thing that cable providers won't tell you is that HDTV antennas pick up free live programs from major networks without any cost to you. That's right – free TV. These programs include major networks such as CBS, Fox, ABC, NBC and others. With these channels, you can catch local and national programs, the World Series, Sunday Night Football and the Super Bowl. You don't have to pay for cable to watch major news and sporting events.
The other thing that the cable company won't tell you is that the signals received from HDTV antennas are usually great quality. Cable companies often compress the signal before it gets to your home, degrading the picture quality. The signal an HDTV antenna grabs is unfiltered and uncompressed, resulting in better picture quality. For additional information getting about HDTV Antennas, check out our other helpful articles on HDTV antennas.
HDTV Antennas: How It Works
TV towers broadcast signals over the UHF band. These ultra-high frequency signals are delivered over the air from the tower. The HDTV antenna grabs those signals from the air and converts them into HD quality picture.
All of the antennas in our comparison are indoor HDTV antennas. No need for you to risk climbing up on your roof to saddle in the antenna like a satellite dish. Instead, these antennas can be placed behind your TV or in the corner of a window. After you decide where you want to put the antenna, all you need to do is connect the coaxial cable to the back of the TV in the antenna input. That's all the installation that is needed.
What Is the Best HDTV Antenna for You?
There are a few things to consider when you are considering an HDTV antenna for your home. The first is the location of your home in relation to a TV tower. You can enter in your location here to find out if there is a TV tower near you. If you are within range, the next thing you need to think about is the surrounding area. Are there a lot of trees? Are you in the middle of the city and surrounded by tall buildings? These obstacles can break up and weaken the signal you are trying to capture. With all these things in mind, you can decide whether an indoor HDTV antenna or outdoor HDTV antenna will best suit you.
We tested both amplified and non-amplified HDTV antennas in our comparison. All of the amplified antennas outperformed non-amplified antennas in terms of signal quality. The caveat is that amplified antennas are more expensive. If you are close enough to a TV tower, a non-amplified antenna will actually be powerful enough to stream HD quality TV to your home. If you're not very near to a tower, it's worth spending the extra bucks to get stronger signal quality.
If you are farther than 50 miles from the closest TV tower, you might want to consider a stronger outdoor antenna. Outdoor antennas are often much larger than indoor antennas and typically require a roof installation. However, if you live in a rural area, a big outdoor antenna might be a necessity to pick up a clear signal.
HDTV Antennas: What We Tested, What We Found
It is important to understand that the performance of HDTV antennas will vary from location to location. Buildings, trees and the distance from a TV tower all play an important part. Our testing facility is served by two TV towers, one that's 35 miles away and one 50 that's miles away.
Signal Quality Testing
We tested all of the HDTV antennas in two locations. The first was in our test lab in the downtown area of a small metropolitan center. Our office building is surrounded by tall townhomes, trees and other surrounding buildings. The second location was in a second-floor apartment complex a few miles south of our office. The apartment doesn’t have any large obstructions facing west (the direction the windows are facing). We tested in both locations to see how the antennas perform in different scenarios.
The first thing we did was search for the sweet spot for reception within both the office and the apartment. This required moving the antenna to various positions and scanning and rescanning for channels. After we found the best place for reception, we watched a lot of local, daytime television. A lot.
We recorded the number of channels the HDTV antenna received as well as the quality of the connection. Take note that each area has different local channels, so you may pick up more or fewer channels. However, this test gave us a good idea of the receiving strength of each HDTV antenna.
We also took into account whether there was any breakup in the signal, glitching, audio problems and any unexpected loss of signal. After we collected all of the data, we scored the quality of each channel that we were able to receive. Great HD quality channels with no interference received a perfect score while any interruption docked the channel quality score. The channel reception scores were then added to determine the antenna with the best overall signal quality.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
The best HDTV antenna in our lineup is the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse. No other antenna had better signal quality across all the channels it received. It is lightweight and comes with a 12-foot attached coaxial cable, so you’ll have plenty of slack to find the best place in your home. Antennas Direct also covers the antenna with a lifetime warranty, so you won’t have to worry about your antenna failing. The ClearStream Eclipse is a great alternative to paying for cable.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Micron HDTV Antenna is our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award winner. This is not a thin and flat antenna that you hang on your wall. This antenna comes with a stand to be placed on a countertop or on the floor. Even though this antenna doesn’t hang from a wall or window, it still picks up many free channels and offers great reception quality as well. The majority of the channels we received were great quality with little to no interference. If you like the design of this antenna, it's a good option to save on your monthly cable bill.
Our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner is the Winegard FlatWave. This HDTV Antenna boasts a 60-mile range to pick up signals from distant TV towers. Attached is a long 18.5-foot coaxial cable to give you plenty of range when you are looking for the sweet spot within your home. The signal quality was not quite as great as our top two, but it is still a great alternative to basic cable, especially if you are a bit farther away from TV towers in your area.