Best TV Antennas

Updated November 2020
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Buying guide for best tv antennas

We tend to think of TV antennas as antiquated technology, but cord cutters have begun to remodel their image. Now, they represent an easy way to access free TV without paying for a bunch of channels that you don’t need. 

The look of TV antennas has been updated, too. The rabbit ears of old have been replaced with thin sheets that you hang near your window. 

If you want to optimize your TV’s performance, you need a strong signal, which is why it’s important to understand what to look for before you invest in a TV antenna.

After compiling all the specs of modern TV antennas, we put together this information on what’s available and what to look for. 

TV antenna ranges tend to be optimistic. If you’re trying to reach a signal that’s far away, it’s best to purchase an antenna with more range than you think you need.

Key considerations

Preferred channels

The first step is to figure out which channels are available in your area. You can do this by going to a website like TV Fool and entering your address. It will show you all the channels that are available in your area and how strong the signal is for each. Write down the channels you are interested in and their distance away from you. It’s also wise to make a note of the channel’s azimuth and its real channel number. More on this below.

Range

Once you have your list of channels, check how far away the furthest channel is that you’re interested in. You should choose a TV antenna that covers at least this distance. The distance your antenna will be able to cover will depend on the type of antenna it is.

Indoor vs. outdoor

Indoor antennas connect to your TV and should be placed somewhere where they can get a clear signal. These models are compact and easy to install, but because they must travel through walls and because they’re often low to the ground, their signal doesn’t travel as far. The best indoor TV antennas usually max out at around 50 miles.

Outdoor antennas, on the other hand, are more complicated to install, but they also tend to be more powerful. This is because they are usually installed higher up and there are fewer obstructions between the antenna and the signals it is trying to reach. Some outdoor antennas can reach nearly 200 miles. This is the way to go if you’re trying to reach channels that are far away.

Channel frequency

Over-the-air channels are broadcast on three frequency types. Very High Frequency-Low (VHF-Low) channels are channels 2 through 6. Channels 7 to 13 are broadcast on VHF-High, and channels 14 to 51 are broadcast on Ultra High Frequency (UHF). Not all TV antennas cover all these ranges, so it’s important to be aware of which ones you need for the channels you want.

Remember to focus on the real channel number. This may be different from the number of the channel on your TV. This information is available through TV Fool and other signal analysis websites.

It isn’t difficult to find TV antennas that cover VHF-High and UHF channels, but if you’re interested in a VHF-Low channel, you may need to do a little more research to find an antenna that can pick up this lower frequency.

Directional vs. omnidirectional

TV antennas may be omnidirectional or directional. That is, they may work equally well in all directions, or they may be focused in a single direction. If the towers you’re trying to reach are all pretty close to you, it shouldn’t matter which kind of antenna you choose. But if you’re trying to reach a tower that is far away, a directional antenna pointed toward the tower will give you the best chance of picking up the signal. Use the azimuth data you collected to figure out where the towers are that you’re trying to reach.

Testing TV antennas
After considering 76 TV antennas we purchased our top pick and tested it in the BestReviews lab to make sure it properly kept a signal.
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Features

After you’ve narrowed down the type of TV antenna that you need, you can begin comparing models based on their features.

Installation

Installing most TV antennas isn’t complicated. The TV antenna should come with instructions on how to set up and test the antenna, along with troubleshooting tips if you run into issues. Indoor antennas require the least work to set up, while you’ll probably need to go up on the roof in order to install an outdoor antenna properly. Of course, if you don’t feel like doing it yourself, you can always hire someone to do the installation for you.

Whichever type of antenna you choose, be sure that it is securely mounted so that it won’t fall off or move out of position. Some indoor antennas employ suction cups so they can be adhered to windows, but these don’t always work as well as users hoped. You may need to occasionally reposition the antenna or find an additional means of securing it.

Cable length

Most TV antennas include a length of coaxial cable to connect the antenna to the TV. If the included cord is too short, it may not reach your TV. On the other hand, if it is too long, you’ll have a bunch of extra cord that you’ll need to store out of the way. This shouldn’t be a serious concern for most users, though. If the coaxial cable that’s included doesn’t suit your needs, you can always purchase another one separately.

Design

Design is primarily a concern for indoor antennas in a visible location. Most models today are flat, rectangular devices that resemble a piece of paper. They are usually available in black or white. There are also some larger models that resemble slim, rectangular boxes. You should first focus on finding an antenna that fits your needs, and then if you’re torn between two models, go with the one that blends in the best with your home.

Expert Tip
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Price

TV antennas range in price from about $25 to $50 for indoor antennas and $40 to $150 for outdoor antennas. The difference in price depends on the antenna’s range and the frequencies that it can pick up. You can expect to pay more for antennas that have a longer range and for those that pick up less common frequencies.

All TV antennas do more or less the same thing, so base your decision on the channels you want to receive and the equipment you need to pick up the signal more so than on the antenna’s price.

Tips

  • If your antenna isn’t powerful enough to pick up the signals you want, consider purchasing a range amplifier as well.

  • You can install a rotator on your TV antenna if you want to pick up weak signals that are in different directions.

  • If you don’t own your residence, it’s a smart idea to check with your landlord before installing an outdoor TV antenna.

  • It’s best to install your indoor TV antenna in a window facing the direction of the TV tower you’re trying to connect to.

Other products we considered

Much like picture quality, there’s no way around the fact that you’re going to encounter static at some point. Plenty of potential causes exist, but the most likely culprit is audio interference.

If you’re looking for an antenna that minimizes your chance of sound interference, look for a product with audio-filtering tech that is supposed to eliminate things like radio station signals, wireless radios, and cell phone signals  the elements that commonly cause interference.

Skyscrapers, large trees, and other tall objects can cause interference, making it more difficult to get a signal. Try to place your TV antenna in an area that is free of obstructions.

FAQ

Q. What channels will I be able to receive with my TV antenna?

A. That all depends on what’s available in your area and what type of antenna you choose. You can figure out what’s in your area by entering your address into a TV signal analysis website. Then you can use this information to help decide which TV antenna to purchase.

Q. I have an older TV. Can I still use a new TV antenna?
A. You may need to purchase a converter box in order to make your old TV compatible with modern TV antennas, but, yes, it is possible to use new TV antennas with older TVs.

Q. Can I use a TV antenna if I already have satellite or cable?
A. You can, but you probably don’t need to. Most cable and satellite TV providers already offer the same channels that you could get with a TV antenna.

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