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Best Outdoor HDTV Antennas

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 8 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 205 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best outdoor HDTV antennas

    Last Updated October 2018

    While more and more people are enjoying streaming TV online these days, there’s a growing TV revolution that’s a modern take on a tech throwback: so-called “cord-cutters” are ditching their cable TV subscriptions and opting instead to use HDTV antennas to receive local channels.

    Modern outdoor HDTV antennas have come a long way since the days of rabbit ears – new models are capable of receiving digital broadcasts in crystal-clear high definition. With the right antenna, you can receive dozens of channels ranging from your local news stations to airers of classic reruns.

    RELATED: The cord-cutter's secret weapon

    If you’re itching to join the cord-cutting revolution – or you just want to see what local channels you can get for free – there’s never been a better time to buy an outdoor HDTV antenna. Read our shopping guide on outdoor HDTV antennas to get the lowdown on what to look for.

    Before the age of cable TV, many homes were built to use an outdoor antenna, with wiring from the roof to one or more coaxial ports in the house. If you live in an house built before 1990, check to see if there are any existing connectivity options that you can use with a new HDTV outdoor antenna.

    Types of HDTV antennas

    At their core, all HDTV antennas operate in basically the same way: each receives local broadcast signals and sends them to a device with a tuner (usually a TV) for decoding and playback. But with antennas, placement is everything – the number of channels you receive and the picture quality both depend on the antenna’s form factor and location. Before you start shopping, familiarize yourself with the three main types of HDTV antennas.

    Outdoor: Outdoor antennas are built to be attached to a house, typically on the roof or its edge. Traditional outdoor antennas are large and bulky, but newer models deliver the same reception in a much smaller form. Outdoor antennas are more rugged than indoor models because they’re built to withstand the elements.

    Indoor: Indoor antennas are smaller antennas designed to be placed on a horizontal surface or attached to a window. Indoor models are the most portable and the easiest to adjust, although it’s important to keep in mind that they’re subject to more interference because they’re indoors. Indoor antennas almost always require a signal amplifier, but their simplicity makes them a cord-cutter favorite.

    Attic: Attic antennas are somewhat of a hybrid between outdoor and indoor antennas: they’re big and powerful enough to pick up signals from miles away, like an outdoor antenna, but they’re not designed for outdoor use. If you live in an especially harsh climate – or you just don’t like the look of an outdoor antenna attached to your roof – an attic antenna is a good alternative.

    If different local broadcast towers are in opposite directions from your home, consider buying a motorized outdoor HDTV antenna, which can swivel as needed to point in the direction of particular towers. Some even save the ideal positioning for each channel, so you can make sure it’s pointed in the right direction on a per-channel basis.

    Outdoor HDTV antenna features to consider

    While different outdoor HDTV antennas try and stick out from the crowd with different product designs and form factors, at the end of the day, there are really only three features that matter when you’re comparing antennas: range, signal amplification, and mounting hardware.

    Range: Hands down, the most important feature of any HDTV antenna is its range, that is, the distance from which it can receive broadcast signals. If you live close to your local broadcast towers, an antenna with a range of 25 miles or more will suffice, but if you live in a rural area or far from your local towers, you’ll need a model with a range closer to 50 miles.

    Signal amplification: Many outdoor HDTV antennas include built-in signal amplifiers, or optional in-line amplifiers. Many users find signal amplification makes the difference between “pretty good” signal quality and “outstanding” signal quality. While a signal amplifier isn’t necessary for every situation – users who live close to broadcast towers can typically pick up a signal without one – the majority of antenna owners benefit from using one. If you’re not sure what the signal quality is like in your home, buy an outdoor HDTV antenna with a signal amplifier – you can always disable it if you don’t need it.

    Mounting hardware: If you’re mounting your antenna on the roof, you’ll need hardware to make sure it’s securely attached and will stay that way. Quality mounting hardware is key to making sure your antenna will stay up in the event of inclement weather. As you’re shopping for an outdoor HDTV antenna, pay close attention to models that include their own mounting kits or you’ll have to buy one separately.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Despite what the marketing material says, there’s no such thing as a “digital” antenna. TV stations broadcast their digital signals using a subset of their older analog frequencies, so any older antenna should be able to pick up new digital signals. Newer antennas have updated hardware, so it’s worth it to buy a modern model.

    Outdoor HDTV antenna prices

    Outdoor HDTV antennas aren’t expensive – you can pay from $15 to $150 – but there are a few features worth paying extra for. Keep these price ranges in mind as you shop.

    Inexpensive: Between $15 and $29, you’ll find competent models that offer excellent value. Models in this price range can feel a little flimsy, but that’s OK – many deliver excellent picture quality and even include mounting hardware. If you live in a densely populated area, or you’re buying an antenna for occasional channel surfing, you can find good options in this range.

    Mid-range: Between $30 and $59, expect to see models that have longer ranges and include signal amplification hardware. Models in this price range are good at the basics and often include luxury features like motorized 360° control. If you’re in a spot with reception that’s less than ideal, you’ll likely need to look at antennas in this range.

    Expensive: Between $60 and $150, you’ll find giant antennas designed to provide TV signals to multiple TVs. For most people, models in this price range are overkill – and not many people want to attach an antenna this big to their roof. If you miss the old days of giant T-shaped metal poles on the side of houses, you’ll need to spend a pretty penny. For most people, a less expensive model will perform just as well.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you’re planning on using a signal amplifier to boost the quality of your outdoor antenna signal, remember that you’ll need to plug it in. Before buying an antenna or amplifier, make sure you know which power outlet you’ll be using.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • Be certain that your TV has a coaxial input and a built-in tuner. Not every TV has a built-in tuner, which means it can’t receive free over-the-air broadcasts without the help of an external tuner. External tuners (sometimes referred to as “converter boxes”) usually cost less than $30. If you’re unsure if your TV has a built-in tuner, look through the on-screen menus; if there’s a “scan for channels” option or a menu for channel setup, that indicates that a tuner is already present.

    • If you’re using a signal amplifier, test the signal quality before installing it. Signal amplifiers connect in between your antenna and your TV, and use power from an AC outlet to boost the signal quality. In most cases, a signal amplifier will take a good signal and make it nearly perfect. However, if you’re already getting great reception, a signal amplifier can degrade the picture. Before setting up your signal amplifier, connect your outdoor HDTV antenna directly to your TV and scan for channels. If everything looks good already, you don’t need to use an amplifier.

    • Know your rights. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a rule known as the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rule. This prohibits any organization or individual from preventing you from installing an outdoor HDTV antenna. If your local neighborhood association or homeowners association tries to implement rules restricting your right to mount an antenna, direct them to FCC rule 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000, or visit the FCC website to learn more.
    If you have trouble getting a clear signal, attach your outdoor HDTV antenna to your TV and watch the picture as you make positioning adjustments. Remember to move your antenna as high up as possible, and make small changes as you monitor the TV’s picture quality.

    FAQ

    Q. Can I use an outdoor HDTV antenna indoors?

    A. Yes, if you have enough space for it. Outdoor HDTV antennas are built to be placed high up without obstruction, out of materials designed to withstand the elements. As a result, these are larger and bulkier than other antennas. An outdoor HDTV antenna will certainly work indoors, but be prepared for it to be larger than equivalent indoor models.

    Q. How can I tell what stations my antenna will receive from my home?

    A. Multiple websites exist to help you search for the broadcast towers closest to your location. To see what channels you may pick up, search the web for antenna resources that can help you identify in which direction you need to point your antenna.

    Q. Are outdoor antennas difficult to install?

    A. It depends. Most outdoor HDTV antennas include a set of brackets that hold the antenna and get screwed in to the side of your house, which is a relatively simple procedure, depending on where you’re installing the antenna. Outdoor antennas are intended to be mounted high up, usually on rooftops, so if you’re installing it in an elevated location, you’ll need proper safety equipment, starting with a ladder. Most users install their antennas themselves, but if your ideal antenna location is in a precarious spot, call a professional.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jaime
      Jaime
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer

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