Best HDTV Antennas - TV Antenna Reviews and Reception Tests
We admit it. We spent hours and hours testing HDTV antennas and watching hours and hours of daytime TV. Our grueling research (OK, it wasn’t that grueling) has led us to the conclusion that the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna is the best by far. It had one of the highest channel pickup rates of any we tested, a crystal-clear display and a slim, unique design. The cherry on the sundae is the long coaxial cable, which gives you a wide range to find the best spot for channel pickup. With a 50-mile range, this antenna is the best you can get.
Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna has amazing reception and picks up an abundance of channels.
AmazonBasics Ultra Thin Indoor Antenna
The AmazonBasics Ultra Thin Indoor antenna is an inexpensive, non-amplified HDTV antenna with great channel clarity and reception, especially in urban areas.
The small, discreet 1byone Amplified blends into its surroundings, while still giving you access to high-definition cable TV channels.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna is the overall best of any we tested.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna is the overall best of any we tested. This model picked up 32 channels in our downtown office – the most of any antenna we tested – and 33 in a nearby apartment. The coaxial cable is long enough to give you the freedom to find the best spot for reception in your home, and the innovative circular design is wall-mountable.
This antenna is amplified and has a 50-mile range, one of the longest in our testing group. It’s ideal for people living far away from a TV tower. In our tests we were able to watch PBS, ABC, NBC and CBS in high-def.
The ClearStream Eclipse is one of the few HDTV antennas we found that comes with a lifetime warranty. If you experience any problems or it stops working, you don't have to worry. Antennas Direct also offers a convenient “TV antenna selector” feature on its website to help you select the best model for your home.
Best Budget Antenna
Though it is a non-amplified antenna, the AmazonBasics Ultra Thin Indoor HDTV antenna is a good option for cities and budget-conscious adopters.
If this is your first foray into over the air television, it’s a good idea to start with a decent-quality, inexpensive device like the AmazonBasics, which doesn’t require a difficult setup or heavy upfront investment. Because it is a non-amplified device, it does not require an external power source, so its setup consists of placing the antenna panel and plugging it into your TV.
The omnidirectional antenna has a 35-mile radius, which is shorter than other antennas we tested, but it still performed well in both our tests. It did, however, catch fewer channels in our suburban setting test. The channels the AmazonBasics antenna could pick up displayed with good quality and had few reception problems. If you have access to nearby TV towers, the AmazonBasics indoor antenna works as well as more expensive products, which makes it an ideal option for city-dwellers.
Best Antenna Design
The 1byone is both inexpensive and nice to look at, making it our pick for best design.
The 1byone is both inexpensive and nice to look at, making it our pick for best design. This antenna comes in black or white, and at less than a foot tall and across, it’s one of the smaller models we tested. Plus, with its 20-foot coaxial cable, you have some flexibility in mounting it on the wall.
This antenna picked up 16 channels in our downtown office surrounded by buildings and 21 channels in a nearby apartment with fewer surrounding barriers. While those numbers are on the low end of the spectrum, we were able to pick up ABC, NBC and CBS with good quality depending on the location.
Best Channel Reception
The ClearStream Micron is an amplified antenna that managed to pick up more channels than any other HDTV antenna in our tests.
Surprisingly, the Micron has a smaller signal-searching radius than many products we reviewed, at 30 miles. Even so, it received 26 channels in our urban test and 39 when tested in the suburbs. Most of the channels had good signal quality, and the ones that didn’t were mainly subchannels that other antennas didn’t even pick up. The antenna’s design isn’t particularly graceful. It’s made of hard plastic with feet that are supposed to slide into groves along the back of the antenna’s body, but the feet don’t attach well and fall when you pick up the device. Its attached cord is nine feet long, leaving a little room to maneuver to find the best placement, but since it’s meant to sit on a hard surface, it has fewer placement options than mountable products.
Best for Suburban Areas
With a wide signal radius and great performance in areas with few obstructions, the Winegard FlatWave is a great HDTV antenna for suburban and rural areas.
It has an amplified signal that reaches TV towers up to 50 miles away. The Winegard struggled to connect in our city test and managed to pick up only 18 channels. In our suburban test, however, it doubled this performance and received 36 channels with good reception for the majority. Unlike many of the antennas we tested, the Winegard FlatWave device is not made of a thin, papery substance. At 0.6 inches deep, it still has a slim profile for easy mounting or hiding behind a TV. It also has a convenient 18.5-foot coaxial cable. Though it costs slightly more than average for this product category, the Winegard FlatWave is a good value, both due to its great performance outside of the city and its lifetime warranty.
Why Trust Us?
We’ve all fallen victim to unreasonable cable bills and thought, “Do I really need this?” Many of our experts have cut the cord altogether and turned solely to online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. So when we had the chance to test and evaluate a cheaper way to access live TV, we were pumped.
Our experts know you’re used to a clear, crisp picture, so antennas with spotty output scored lower. It’s important to get the most for your money, so the more channels these antennas picked up, the better.
In short, we don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars every month for quality TV channels, and we don’t want you to have to, either.
How We Tested
We tested every HDTV antenna in two locations: our lab in a small metropolitan downtown surrounded by other buildings, and in a second-floor apartment a few miles south with unobstructed west-facing windows. These locations are served by one TV tower that's 35 miles away and another that's 50 miles away.
In both locations, we moved around the space, scanning for channels until we found the spot that received the highest number. Then came the most difficult part of our tests: watching TV. We watched hours and hours of local television, taking note of picture quality.
We also looked for signal breakup or glitches. Using all the data we gathered, we assigned a score to each antenna. Devices with the most channels, best picture quality and fewest glitches received the best scores.
Key Features to Look for When Buying an Indoor HDTV Antenna
Most of our top-performing antennas cost about $50 or less, so great antenna TV reception isn’t very expensive. Non-amplified antennas tend to cost a little less than amplified ones, but the extra performance is worth the price, since you’re likely to get more channels and a better-quality signal for your money.
Location, Location, Location
Your HDTV antenna's placement is key for optimal television enjoyment. Fewer obstructions between the antenna and the broadcast tower equal better reception. One way to figure out the best place to put your antenna is through trial and error. Try several locations near enough for the antenna’s cables to reach your TV and evaluate how many channels you can pick up and the quality of the channels you’re interested in watching.
One helpful tool is antennaweb.org. You can type your ZIP code or address into the system, and it gives you a map of the stations broadcasting nearby. It also includes information about how far each station is from you and the station’s broadcast channel. The map is meant for use with outdoor antennas, but it can give you an idea of what channels you can expect to pick up and which direction you want to aim your antenna.
Amplified vs. Passive
Non-amplified antennas, also called passive antennas, don’t require external power sources, have shorter ranges and costs less than amplified antennas. Amplified antennas require an external power source, like a wall plug or USB connection to your TV, and they cost a little more. But amplified antennas provide a generally higher quality and greater number of channels. They are ideal for suburban and rural areas that are farther from broadcast stations, whereas passive antennas work better in cities, as they’re close enough to pick up signals.
However, not every amplified antenna has better range than every passive antenna, so it’s important to check the antenna’s advertised range. The products we tested have 35- to 50-mile ranges. It’s also important to remember that both types of antennas benefit from optimal placement. Even with a long-range, amplified antenna, you should take care when choosing where to put it.
Design and Accessories
HDTV antennas come in a wide range of shapes and types. They can stick to your wall, sit behind your TV or hang on a window: It’s up to you and the service you’re able to get in various locations throughout your home. Keep in mind you might need to place your antenna in a very visible spot to pick up the maximum number of channels, so get one that is the right color and design to fit your living space.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Antennas
We stuck to indoor antennas for our tests, but outdoor antennas also allow you to tune in to local TV channels. Outdoor HDTV antennas are larger and sturdier devices that are designed to be mounted on your roof. As such, the installation of outdoor antennas is more complicated. Because the installation requires mounting the antenna to your home’s exterior and running cables from the antenna to your TV, it's important to find the ideal placement for your antenna prior to installation. Many outdoor antennas are motorized, however, and can rotate to aim in different directions. The main advantage of an outdoor antenna is better signal reception, due to sturdier hardware and better placement. Outdoor antennas also have longer ranges and generally pick up more – and better-quality – TV stations. However, they cost more than indoor antennas.
But indoor antennas have pros as well. They're less expensive than outdoor antennas, and less of a commitment, if you’re just looking to try it out. The installation process is much simpler, so indoor antennas are better for apartments and spaces without roof access. If you live in a city or close to a TV tower, the extra range of an outdoor antenna isn’t necessary to receive a great signal. For both indoor and outdoor antennas, however, placement is the key to getting the most channels and the best picture.