Flush mount using double-sided tape makes placing antenna convenient. Picks up HD signals well within its 35-mile range.
Doesn’t pick up channels well indoors, away from the window. Semi-gloss paint or rough walls will prevent double-sided tape from adhering to wall surface.
Long, 16-foot cord. Very fast setup. Picks up major television stations well, particularly in urban and suburban areas within 25 miles of transmission towers.
Amplifier doesn’t do much to improve the signal. Like most flat panel antennas, a lot of repositioning is required to find an optimal reception angle. Adhesive stickers don’t always work.
Low-profile flat antenna is easy to set up out of the way. Longer cable allows for more range to position antenna.
Takes a few tries to find a sweet spot for reception. Sensitive to line of sight interruptions, causing signal loss. Doesn’t pick up signals at 50 miles.
Upgraded antenna boasts much better reception. Grabs signals well, even amid city skyscrapers.
Like most antennas, positioning must be tweaked to find the best spot. Not all get good reception. No amplifier included.
Very lightweight and easy to mount on a wall or in a window. Long coaxial cable. With no line of sight obstacles, can pick up HD signals from 35-40 miles away.
Included adhesive stickers don’t work well on window glass. No amplifier. Positioning for good reception can be a little frustrating.
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While most of us think of our cable box or streaming service as the primary source for our favorite TV shows and movies, there’s a growing trend that’s disrupting the entertainment delivery market: more and more people are hooking up over-the-air TV antennas for picking up free live broadcasts in high definition.
Luckily, today’s HDTV antennas are a far cry from the rabbit ears of yesteryear. The days of constantly fidgeting for perfect reception are gone, and modern antennas are capable of delivering crisp, clear digital signals, complete with 5.1-channel surround sound. While antennas still rely on being near local broadcast towers, digital signals are much easier to receive than the original analog broadcasts that were part of the previous broadcast standards.
The bottom line: if your memories of TV antennas include snowy reception and having to hold specific positions just to get a picture, prepare to be happily surprised.
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While the idea of needing an antenna to watch TV may feel like a retro throwback to our shared pre-technological past, over-the-air TV is a significant part of the cultural trend known as cord-cutting.
A 2016 survey found that 17% of American households use HDTV antennas, instead of subscribing to paid cable TV.
Cord-cutting — the act of abandoning your cable TV subscription in favor of streaming TV over the internet and receiving local broadcasts with an HD antenna — is fast becoming a phenomenon. Cord-cutters rely on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video to deliver their favorite shows and movies, then supplement those services with local broadcasts to deliver local news and programming from the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW, and PBS). The practice is becoming so popular that cable companies often attempt to provide customers with incentives to bundle cable TV with internet service.
But despite the cable industry’s best efforts, cord-cutting is on the rise, and that’s good news for HD antenna shoppers — because the demand means antennas are getting more affordable and more capable each day.
Much like with satellite TV antennas, HD antennas can be negatively impacted by bad weather conditions. While HD antennas are not as susceptible to inclement conditions as their satellite TV counterparts, it can nonetheless be difficult to get clear reception on bad weather days.
Most HDTV antennas are basically the same, but there are three categories that are useful to understand when shopping:
Outdoor or attic antennas are perfect for situations where one antenna will be receiving TV signals for multiple TVs, or instances where broadcast towers are particularly far away. Outdoor antennas are best for getting strong reception, but can be unsightly, and they’re more susceptible to weather problems. Attic antennas don’t have a direct sky view, but are typically large enough to receive a strong signal. If you plan on installing one HDTV antenna and connecting it to your in-home coaxial wiring, so you can watch broadcasts from multiple locations, an outdoor or attic antenna is your best option.
Desktop antennas are typically smaller units meant to sit on a flat surface. They’re usually about the size of half a loaf of bread, and frequently feature built-in amplifiers. Desktop antennas typically only pick up content from closer broadcast towers, and are only meant to provide a TV signal to one TV.
Flat antennas are popular because they take little to no space at all, yet still deliver strong HDTV signals. Flat antennas are typically made to attach to window panes, and are the most affordable kind of antenna available. Similar to desktop antennas, flat antennas are only intended to supply signal to one TV at a time.
In the U.S., all over-the-air broadcast programming is free. Most of the major non-cable networks broadcast in full HD, or 1080p.
If you live far from broadcast towers, your HDTV antenna may not get a very strong signal. If you get good, but not great, signal from your antenna — for example, if the picture looks good, but cuts out regularly — you may benefit from an antenna signal amplifier.
Antenna signal amplifiers are small devices that are connected between your antenna and your TV. Once plugged in, an antenna signal amplifier boosts the incoming signal, resulting in fewer playback glitches and a clearer picture. Signal amplifiers come in many shapes and sizes, and some desktop antennas include built-in amplifiers.
Not every setup requires a signal amplifier, but if you do run into reception difficulties, a signal amplifier should be the first thing you try.
Most television broadcast stations feature one channel while airing additional content on sub-channels. For example, if you receive ABC as channel 2.1, you’ll likely also get channels 2.2 and 2.3 broadcasting reruns, public access programing, or other community-based content.
One of the best things about HDTV antennas is that they can be integrated into high-tech setups easily, and many modern solutions exist to help bring broadcast TV into today’s culture of tech. Unlock the potential of your HDTV antenna with these gadgets!
Networked video tuners connect to an antenna, then translate the over-the-air TV signal to become a network video source, so other devices on your home network can access TV. For example, with a networked video tuner and the right software, you can stream from your HDTV antenna to your smartphone, tablet, or media player.
Game console adapters are USB dongles that connect your over-the-air TV signal and integrate it with the console’s native entertainment features. For example, Microsoft offers an antenna adapter that adds local TV to their Xbox One console, and even lets you use it as a DVR.
DVR systems are designed to act as a set-top box DVR with your free over-the-air TV. With a focus on simplicity, these DVR systems are perfect for those looking to have the cable TV experience without those pesky subscription fees.
If you buy any additional gear to record TV broadcasts, remember to bring sufficient hard drive space. A single hour of HDTV can require up to 10GB of space.
As you’re shopping for your HDTV antenna, consider these tips.
Before deciding where to place your antenna, check AntennaWeb.org for information about where your closest broadcast towers are. Your antenna should be oriented in the direction of those towers, ideally as high up as possible.
Signal amplifiers are terrific, but in certain instances they can be counterproductive. It’s possible to over-amplify a signal from your antenna. Before using a signal amplifier, test your antenna’s reception on its own — if it already gets a clear picture, adding an amplifier may distort the video, making it unwatchable.
Use shielded coaxial cable to connect your HDTV antenna. Shielded cable delivers a stronger signal by reducing interference.
As you’re deciding which HDTV antenna to buy, pay special attention to each model’s range. Some models are built for picking up signals up to 80 miles away, while others are only rated to pick up broadcasts within 30 miles.
Q. Can I buy a DVR to record broadcasts from my HDTV antenna?
A. Yes! Several off-the-shelf DVRs are designed to record over-the-air broadcasts. Most antenna DVRs also include additional streaming video features, like Netflix and Hulu. Just be aware that broadcasters can set a “do not record” flag on certain programs, which will disable your ability to record those shows, although this is a fairly uncommon practice.
The United States updated its broadcast television standards in 2009, requiring all stations to transition from transmitting analog signals to sending digital signals. As a result, over-the-air broadcasts are now available in full high definition (HD) and digital audio.
Q. Are any over-the-air broadcasts in 4K?
A. Over-the-air broadcast standards aren’t yet caught up to delivering 4K content. However, in the United States, a new 4K-based broadcast standard (ATSC 3.0) is currently being developed, and tested for future deployment. The current 1080p broadcast standard is likely to live on for several years, because the costs of upgrading for content providers are significant.
Q. Can I get closed-captioned TV with an HDTV antenna?
A. Absolutely. Most over-the-air broadcasts include closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. Closed captions can typically be accessed with your TV’s remote.
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