Best Outdoor TV Antennas

Updated November 2021
Best Outdoor TV Antenna Review by BestReviews
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Buying guide for best outdoor TV antennas

Cable and satellite TV packages can be expensive, and if you don’t watch TV that often, you may find yourself wondering if there is a more affordable option. Well, how does free TV sound? Cord-cutters have been enjoying this wonderful perk for years, and you can, too, with the help of an outdoor TV antenna that gives you access to all of the over-the-air (OTA) channels in your area. With an antenna like this in your arsenal, you can watch some of the most popular local channels in your vicinity without paying a dime.

Notably, it is not a good idea to simply buy the first antenna you spot on Amazon or at the store. There are a number of factors that should be considered before you purchase a new TV antenna. First and foremost, you should consider which channels you would like to receive and view. Then, use that information to determine the range, channel frequencies, and type of TV antenna you would need to achieve this goal. A strong signal is required, and that can only be attained by maximizing your signal reception.

Outdoor TV antenna mounted on roof
Some outdoor TV antennas include a mast so you can elevate your TV antenna above your roofline.

Key considerations

Your preferred channels

Your initial task is to determine which channels are available in your area and decide which ones are of interest to you. You can do this by visiting a website like TV Fool or Antennas Direct and entering your address. The website will then show you all the broadcast towers, and therefore all of the available over-the-air channels, in your vicinity. It will also show you exactly how far away each broadcast tower is from your location. Note the local channels that you may be interested in, and write down their azimuth and real channel numbers for your reference. These will come in handy later.

Range

Look at your list of channels, and determine how many miles away the farthest channel that you’re interested in is. Use this as your baseline when determining the range (in miles) that your antenna needs to offer. Antennas possess various stated ranges, from a short 40 miles to a lengthy 150 miles or even more. You should choose an antenna with a range that is slightly greater than what you think you might need. That way, you won’t have to grapple with poor video quality from faraway channels.

If you don’t see what you need right away, keep looking. Many outdoor TV antennas offer a 50- or 60-mile range, but some exceptional ones can pick up TV signals from as far as 200 miles away.

Channel frequency

Over-the-air channels may be classified as Very High Frequency (VHF) Low, VHF-High, or Ultra-High Frequency (UHF). VHF-Low channels have a real channel number between 2 and 6. Real channel numbers 7 to 13 are considered VHF-High, and real channel numbers 14 to 51 are considered UHF. Note that the real channel numbers may be different from the channels that appear on your TV when you are scrolling around to see what’s on.

It’s important to understand which types of channels you want to access because not all antennas can pick up all signal ranges. Most can pick up VHF-High and UHF frequencies easily, but you may need to do a little more research to find a product that can pick up VHF-Low frequencies, as these are less common.

Directional vs. omnidirectional

Outdoor TV antennas are either directional or omnidirectional. Omnidirectional antennas pick up signals equally well in all directions, but these products may have a smaller overall range than directional antennas, which can only pick up signals pointed in a single direction. The right type for you depends on where the TV signals for the channels you’re interested in are coming from and how far away they are. This is where the azimuth data you should have recorded earlier comes in handy. The azimuth gives you an idea of which direction the signal is coming from. If all signals are coming from roughly the same direction, a directional or omnidirectional antenna should work equally well. But if signals are coming from different directions, an omnidirectional antenna works better.

Another option is to select a directional antenna with a rotating base. You control it via a remote, and you can rotate it 360 degrees to pick up signals in all directions, thus making it a “multi-directional” antenna.

If you already own a high-definition TV, make sure your TV tuner can receive HDTV signals before investing in a new antenna.

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Features

Installation

Installing most outdoor TV antennas isn’t complicated, but the exact nature of installation depends on the model you choose. Your antenna should include instructions on how to set it up, test it, and troubleshoot it. It should mount firmly to your roof and should not wobble in windy conditions. If you feel uncomfortable installing your own antenna, consider hiring a professional to do it.

Size

As a general rule, the greater an antenna’s range, the larger its size. Size is a significant factor to consider for two reasons. First, it may be more cumbersome to install a large TV antenna than a small one. If you go the former route, you may want to enlist the help of others just in case it is too cumbersome to manage on your own. Second, some people may find large TV antennas to be unsightly. If this is the case for you, consider investing in the smallest TV antenna you can find that still offers the range and channels you need.

Durability

If you live in an area prone to extreme weather conditions, such as strong winds and heavy rainfall, it’s especially important that you choose a durable antenna that won’t wobble, twist out of position, or fall apart in these conditions. 

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Caution
If you choose to use a signal splitter to connect multiple televisions to the antenna, be aware that you could experience a drop in signal quality.
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Pricing

These antennas vary in price from around $35 to well over $100. As you shop, you will likely notice that some brands offer different iterations of an antenna at different price points. Notably, a higher price tag does not necessarily indicate a larger range or superior signal quality. Often, a higher price is an indicator of better build quality.

If you live in an area that receives significant snow, rain, or wind, consider investing in an antenna that costs at least $50 to be sure your purchase holds up well over time.

If you’re a cord-cutter who lives in a rural area with weak signals, consider investing in a Yagi antenna. A Yagi antenna soaks up weak signals and concentrates them so you can enjoy high-quality free TV despite your location.

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Tips

  • You can boost the signal reception of an outdoor antenna. Investing in a high-quality range amplifier, which attaches to the cable running from the antenna to your TV, can help you get a strong signal. You can also buy antennas that have built-in amplifiers.
  • Some landlords are finicky about tenants who want to perform their own installations, particularly on the outside of the building. If you don’t own your residence, obtain permission from your landlord before installing a TV antenna outdoors.
  • If your signal reception is poor, consider upgrading to a more powerful antenna. Alternatively, try removing any obstructions, like tall trees or branches, that may be blocking the signal and interfering with your TV reception.
  • If you’re concerned about weather affecting the performance or integrity of your outdoor antenna, there is a possible workaround. If you have an attic, consider installing your new antenna there. It will be shielded from the elements but should maintain its effectiveness in this location.
  • If you choose a model with a rotating base, place your remote control in a secure spot. Always put it back when you’re done using it, too. If you were to lose the remote control for your antenna, you may not be able to rotate the antenna anymore. Subsequently, you could lose your ability to tune in to certain channels.
HDTV antenna mounted on a roof
Check your antenna after heavy winds or rain to make sure it hasn’t bent or moved out of position.

FAQ

What channels will I be able to receive with this kind of antenna?

A. The answer to this question depends on where you live and the specific range (notated in miles) that your outdoor antenna offers. As previously mentioned, you can research which channels are available in your vicinity by entering your address into a signal analysis website.

Would this type of TV antenna work with my older TV?

A. It should work with most televisions, but if you have an older TV set, you may need to buy a converter box that connects to your TV and the cable leading to your antenna.

Do TV antennas placed outdoors work better than indoor TV antennas?

A. These antennas are not necessarily better than indoor TV antennas, but they do tend to offer longer ranges. Therefore, an outdoor antenna is likely the best option if you intend to reach signals that are far away.

What if my TV does not have a built-in tuner?

A. A tuner is part of a TV that helps it receive TV signals. If your TV does not have a built-in tuner, consider purchasing an external TV tuner.

 

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