Best TV antennas of 2024: Indoor & outdoor models tested | TechHive

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A great TV antenna is the best way to save money on TV entertainment. You’ll need to put up with commercial breaks–unless you also buy one of the best over-the-air DVRs–but a strong antenna will pull in 20 to 60 channels of digital TV absolutely free. And chances are, you’ll get it in higher resolution and/or better image quality, because both cable TV and streaming service providers compress the video to reduce bandwidth requirements. TV Accessories

Best TV antennas of 2024: Indoor & outdoor models tested | TechHive

A rooftop antenna will pull in the most channels, but we’ve tested lots of indoor models that are nearly as good, especially the amplified models–and those are easier to set up. Mounting an antenna in your attic is a good compromise because you won’t need a mast, but there will still be fewer barriers between the antenna and the airwaves the TV signals travel over.

These are our top picks in each TV antenna category–indoor, indoor amplified, roof-mount, and attic–followed by a buyers’ guide with all the information you’ll want to consider while shopping.

Updated November 15, 2023 to add a link to our ZapperBox A1 review. An excellent antenna that can be deployed indoors or out, it includes a couple of unusual features not strictly related to tuning in TV broadcasts. Fortunately, you’re not expected to pay anything more for those features, even if you make use of them.

If you live close enough to the broadcast towers for the stations you want to watch, a less-expensive non-amplified antenna like the Channel Master Flatenna might be all you need to cut the cord. At the time of our review, we found that Channel Master itself was offering the best price on this antenna: Just $10, plus $7.50 for shipping. The direct-from-the-manufacturer price has since increased to $20, plus shipping.

This antenna impressed us with its ability to pull in more broadcast channels than the competition. Further, those it did receive were a little stronger than from our runner-up, which should make for happier TV viewing.

The Televes Bexia is a high-performance indoor TV antenna suited for homes in areas with strong to medium powered TV signals. In our tests, it was comparable to the best indoor antennas we’ve tested, in including Winegard Flatwave Amped. The primary difference between the Televes and Winegard products–besides their price tags–is that the rigid Bexia can be mounted or rest on a surface, where the Flatwave Amped needs to be tacked (or taped) to a vertical surface, such as a wall or window.

The word “smart” gets bandied about quite a lot these days, but it’s more than just hyperbole in the case of Channel Master’s Smartenna+ over-the-air TV antenna. This amplified antenna has a tiny tuner onboard that can virtually change its reception pattern to pull in the most stations possible. We like it a lot.

The Ultra-Vizion Transparent Indoor Amplified antenna works well for local TV reception in areas of strong signals, and its transparent design is much more pleasing to the eye than the competition.

The Televes Dat Boss Mix LR (model 149884) is the best outdoor TV antenna we’ve tested. It delivered an excellent performance, pulling in strong signals from local and distant TV towers. It’s a great choice in areas with medium to low reception levels, and it comes with a built-in amplifier and in-home distribution amplifier, plus a 5G filter to eliminate interference from cellphone signals.

The Antennas Direct DB8e’s reception is just as impressive as its looks. This is a large, heavy antenna cleverly designed to receive weak signals with two antenna arrays, or in areas of better reception to point to towers in different directions.

The Winegard Elite 7550 immediately impressed with its ability to pick up more broadcast channels than the competition at higher signal levels. It has a built-in amplifier and performed well on both VHF-High and UHF broadcast bands. Because of its size you’ll want this one in the attic or outside of your house.

The Clearstream 4 Max is a little larger than our top-ranked choice and wasn’t quite as good at pulling in stations but it’s still a solid antenna. Its unique double figure-eight design is sure to look distinctive and it can receive signals from different directions, which is useful if you live in an area with stations in multiple places.

Before you decide which type of TV antenna you need, you should determine which broadcast channels are available where you live.

To do this, head over to Rabbit It pairs the FCC’s broadcast TV database with topographical maps to give you a pretty detailed estimation of which signals will reach your house and how strong they’ll be.

Select the “Signal Search Map” and either zoom in on the map to your house or try entering the address in the search box (outlined in green, below). I have had mixed results with the search box, but try that first since it’s easier if it works. Once your house is displayed on the map, click the “Move Pushpin to Center of Map View” button beneath the map (highlighted in red, below).

The website RabbitEars is an excellent tool for determining which type of antenna you’ll need to pull in over-the-air television broadcasts.

Click the “Go” button and you’ll get something like this in return:

RabbitEars will generate a list of TV broadcast tower locations in the vicinity of your home address, which you can use to determine which antenna you’ll need to pull those channels in.

The table above above looks complicated, but it’s really not. The strongest signals are at the top and weakest at the bottom. They’re also labeled “Good,” “Fair,” “Poor,” and “Bad” according to how strong they are at your location.

To find the right antenna for you, consider these criteria:

As a rule of thumb, indoor antennas are suitable for areas with strong or very strong signals, attic/outdoor antennas work in areas of medium signal strength, and larger outdoor antennas are best for areas surrounded by weak signals.

In addition to signal strength, the RabbitEars table lists the channel numbers advertised on air, while the number in brackets is the actual broadcast channel (for more on this, read on). TV network details follow, along with the station name and the distance from the transmitter to your location. Reception depends a lot on local conditions, but whatever the environment, it starts getting difficult beyond 50 to 75 miles.

The list also includes the direction of the transmitter, which is important. Not all TV signals you want will necessarily come from the same geographic location.

Predicting which antenna will work with certainty is almost impossible. The information garnered from sites like RabbitEars will provide a strong indication of what should work, but there are other variables at work.

In some areas, especially in cities or areas with lots of hills, signals can bounce off obstacles like buildings and cause interference, trees can grow leaves in the spring and block stations you got fine in the winter, and atmospheric conditions can alter the way signals reach your house.

Moving an antenna just a little to one side or up and down can have a big effect on reception. If you’re putting up an external antenna, one side of your roof might bring in nothing while the other side provides perfect reception.

Your next step is to figure out which stations you want to watch. After all, there’s no point wasting time trying to get weak stations if all your favorite shows are on strong ones.

You can check a TV listing guide to see everything that’s on the air in your local area and make a list of which stations you want to watch. You’ll probably need to enter your zip code and be sure to choose “antenna” or “over the air” as your TV provider in the online program guide, so you don’t get cable channels you can’t receive with an antenna mixed in.

Once you’ve made your list, examine the RabbitEars results to find the channels you want to watch. Write down the number in parenthesis, which is the “real channel,” the “Direction (true),” and the color (green, yellow, or red). The colors will inform you if an indoor antenna will be sufficient, or if you’ll need an attic or roof-mounted model to pull them in.

It’s important to remember that any indoor antenna will a compromise. You will always get better results with an attic model, and best results with an outdoor antenna.

Many indoor antennas are flat, so they’re easy to set up, usually by hanging them in a window on the side of the house facing the transmitter. Some look different but the principle is the same: Install them in a favorable location.

Indoor antennas are typically fine for all the strong local channels, but if you want channels that are weaker or further away, you might need to go larger and put an antenna in your attic space or on your roof. If you don’t want to climb onto your roof, and you have an attic, the Winegard Elite 7550 can be installed either in your attic or on your roof. The higher you can go with an antenna–and the fewer line-of-sight obstacles to the broadcast towers you’re looking to tune in–the better your TV reception will be.

This TV antenna has a motorized rotator attached to its mast, which you can use to turn the antenna to point it in the direction of the broadcast tower whose signals you want to tune in.

If you install your antenna in the attic, you’ll probably get slightly less signal than if it was on the roof because it’s an enclosed space, but it might be enough to get stable TV reception. If you hate the look of an outdoor antenna, then experiment. An attic-mounted antenna will also be easier to maintain.

The direction of the TV transmitter tower is also important. If you’re using an indoor antenna, you’ll want to put it in a window facing that direction. If you’re using an outdoor antenna, it should be pointed in that direction. As signals get weaker, going from green to yellow to gray, the direction becomes more important. If you want to tune in weaker stations from towers in different directions, you’ll probably need an antenna rotator. This motorized device will turn the antenna so that it’s oriented to pull in those weaker signals when you want to watch them.

Knowing the real channel number will help you select an antenna. TV broadcasting in North America is spread across three frequency bands: VHF-Low (channels 2 through 6), VHF-High (channels 7 through 13), and UHF (channels 14 through 51). Because of the different frequencies in use, antennas are designed to cover one, two, or three bands. Not every antenna covers them all.

A length of coaxial cable cut and ready for a connector to be attached.

The connection from your antenna to your TV is every bit as important as the antenna itself. You need a high-quality coaxial cable (“coax” for short) for the job. Coax has a center wire that carries the signal and is surrounded by a plastic insulator. An outer braid shields the center cable from interference, and an outer sheath protects the cable from the elements.

If you’re ditching satellite for over-the-air TV, you can probably use the existing coaxial cable from the satellite dish, but if it doesn’t work, be prepared to buy and run new coax. Make the cable a single run if possible because you’ll lose a little signal strength each time you use barrel connectors to tie shorter cables together. The most common type of coax cable for TV is called RG-6.

TechHive tests TV antennas in a location in the Washington, D.C. metro area. (Until 2020, we tested in the San Francisco Bay Area, so you might see references to that location in older reviews). The D.C. location receives strong signals from local TV stations, but presents several challenges: There are a large number of trees around to influence reception; some of the independent D.C. TV stations are weak and difficult to receive; and with a good antenna, it’s possible to pull in channels from the distant Baltimore market.

Indoor antennas are tested indoors and outdoor antennas outdoors. Each time we test a new antenna, we retest our current top pick to ensure a fair benchmark.

We use a set-top box to scan for channels and record the number of RF channels received by each antenna and their strength. Each RF channel carries a number of digital stations, but the number is different per channel and can change, so digital stations received isn’t as useful a measurement. We scan several times and adjust the direction of the antenna on some rescans.

Our picks are the antennas that receive the largest number of stations with the highest signal level in both the UHF (channels 14 through 51) and VHF-High (channels 7 through 13) bands, which are the primary TV broadcast bands.

Best TV antennas of 2024: Indoor & outdoor models tested | TechHive

Tv Led Color Strip Martyn Williams produces technology news and product reviews in text and video for PCWorld, Macworld, and TechHive from his home outside Washington D.C.. He previously worked for IDG News Service as a correspondent in San Francisco and Tokyo and has reported on technology news from across Asia and Europe.