Updated April 2022
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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.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best indoor antennas

These days there are a number of options available for those interested in ditching pricey cable bills, and one of the best (and cheapest!) is an indoor antenna.

Inexpensive and easy to install, an indoor antenna is a great way to pull in digital-quality over-the-air stations such as ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and many more, while eliminating costly monthly bills and long-term contracts. Indoor antennas give you budget-friendly access to news and entertainment and are an excellent complement to your favorite streaming apps.

To select the right indoor antenna for your needs, you'll want to consider signal range, how much you should expect to pay, installation, and various indoor antenna features, such as amplifiers and cables.

I1 indoor tv antenna
If you are in the right area and you have the right indoor antenna, your reception may actually be better than what you could pull in with an expensive cable service.

How to buy the best indoor antenna

Signal reception

ABC, CBS, NBC, and other over-the-air stations can be watched with an indoor antenna, but which signals do these devices pull in? There is not much difference between competing indoor antennas in this area. The majority of indoor antennas receive both VHF (channels 2 to 13) and UHF (channels 14 to 51) signals. The majority can also receive HD signals, which include 1080p and also 4K. The latter is an important feature as NextGen TV becomes more and more available across the country. NextGen TV is the new technology for over-the-air transmissions, offering improved signal clarity and reach over existing over-the-air technology.

Unidirectional vs. multidirectional

One of the biggest decisions when purchasing an indoor antenna is whether to buy a unidirectional or multidirectional antenna. Unidirectional indoor antennas need to be pointed in the direction of a tower to pull in the cleanest signal. Indoor antennas of this type are usually the best choice for rural users who can point their antenna at a distant tower, which limits stray signal noise that can affect station quality.

As the name implies, multidirectional indoor antennas don’t need to be positioned to point at a tower as they pull in signals from all around them. Multidirectional indoor antennas work best – and will pull in the most signals – in urban areas.

Range

Go back even a couple of years and you’d be lucky to find an indoor antenna that could reach 50 miles. These antennas now often start out at 40 to 50 miles in range, with some manufacturers claiming their antennas can receive a signal from 250 miles or more away. Indoor antennas have a range of anywhere from 25 to 300-plus miles, depending on the antenna. While range is not as important for those who live in an urban area, rural users should look for indoor antennas with greater range.

Installing an indoor antenna

With an indoor antenna, your goal is to position it within your house in such a way that you will receive a variety of stations, all with a good signal. Getting in the way of this goal is the building you live in itself. As such, installation can be a bit tricky and can also vary a bit depending on the antenna you buy.

Flat and thin indoor antennas are usually fairly easy to mount on a wall. For the best signal, make sure that the antenna is on an external wall or, better yet, a glass window. Some of these are tabletop antennas, so you won’t need to worry about mounting them.

Try moving an antenna to several different locations and then rescanning your TV, noting the number of stations and the clarity of the signals you receive from each location. Height can really help here. If you can, try mounting the antenna on the wall, the second floor, or even in the attic.

Whatever indoor antenna you end up going with, it should include a detailed set of installation instructions, in addition to any hardware you will need to mount the antenna.

St1
Staff Tip
For the greatest installation flexibility, go with an antenna that can be mounted either inside or outside.
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Indoor antenna features

Power

Simpler indoor antennas do not require power to operate. More sophisticated ones – particularly those that include an amplifier – usually need a power source. Most indoor antennas are plugged in via a USB cord, although the majority of manufacturers include an adapter so you can also plug the antenna into a socket.

Cable

The cable included with an indoor antenna is the means by which the signal is transmitted from the antenna to your TV. While they won’t take a ton of abuse if you install them out of the way, cables should still be rugged enough to hold up over time.

A key factor here is the overall length of the cable. The longer the cable, the more mounting options you will have and the better your chance of pulling in numerous high-quality stations. Indoor antenna cables can range from several feet to over 30 feet, with the average being 10 to 20 feet.

Amplifier

Unless you’re going with a super inexpensive indoor antenna, the chances are good that your antenna will come with an amplifier. Amplifiers can be used to boost distant signals and are an important feature to have if you are in a rural setting and trying to pull in good-quality channels.  The downside here is that amplifiers tend to boost every signal coming in, which can lead to poor signal quality. Amplifiers should include a switch to turn them off. If you are in a more urban area (within 25 miles of a tower) or are experiencing a bad signal, try turning the amplifier off as that may help.

Color

Indoor antennas mostly come in white or black. Some are white on one side and black on the other, giving you a choice of the color you wish to display on your wall or window. A small number of indoor antenna manufacturers offer a wider range of colors.

One benefit of over-the-air signals is that they use less compression than either cable or satellite signals, which will often result in a better-quality picture.

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Indoor antenna prices

Inexpensive

Indoor antennas start out at around $10 to $15. In this range, you will often find simple wall-mount antennas that are not powered. Features such as amplifiers are rare here, and the range is usually less than more expensive antennas, often in the 25- to 50-mile range.

Mid-range

As you move up into the $15 to $25 range, you will find indoor antennas with a greater signal range, often 50 to 150 miles. Indoor antennas here tend to come with longer cables for more mounting options and often include an amplifier for strengthening signals.

Expensive

Indoor antennas in the $25 to $40-plus range usually offer the greatest signal range – often over 200 miles – and the best-quality amplifiers. If you are in a rural location trying to pull in distant signals, consider antennas in this price range to receive the most stations and the best signals.

Dyk2 indoor antenna
Did You Know?
Urban areas often have anywhere from 50 to 100 over-the-air stations that you can pull in with an indoor antenna.
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Tips

  • Blend in your indoor antenna. If you’d really like your antenna to disappear in a room, select one that can be painted. This will allow you to match the room color so your antenna blends in better.
  • Scan in several locations. If your TV has the ability to scan for channels, try to scan with the antenna mounted in a few different locations to find the one that will provide you with the most channels and the best signal quality.
  • Amplifiers are ideal for multiple TVs. In addition to pulling in more distant stations, an amplifier can also be helpful if you are trying to split the antenna’s signal between two or more TVs.
  • An outdoor antenna may be a better choice. If your area does not receive strong over-the-air signals, consider going with an outdoor antenna for improved signal quality.
  • Cut the cord with an indoor antenna. If you’re thinking about cutting the cord and picking up an over-the-air indoor antenna but are still unsure, take a good look at your last cable bill. One month of cable typically costs several times what an indoor antenna goes for.
     
I2 indoor antenna smart tv
To make the best of your over-the-air viewing experience, consider upgrading to a new smart TV to go with your indoor antenna.

FAQ

Q. Can indoor antennas be used outside?

A. Mounting an antenna outside your house can greatly improve the signal you receive for one good reason – the signal won’t need to go through your house to reach the antenna. While the majority of indoor antennas are designed solely for indoor use, some are built to withstand rain, snow, and other outdoor elements. As mounting an indoor-only antenna outdoors will typically quickly ruin it, check the specifications carefully before buying one of these antennas if you plan to mount it outside.

Q. How do I know which channels I’ll be able to pull in with an indoor antenna?

A. Buying an indoor antenna and then discovering that you can’t pull in any clear stations with it can be both disappointing and a waste of money. Luckily, the FCC runs a website called DTV Reception Maps that you can use to find over-the-air stations in your area. Simply enter your address or zip code on the site and it will return a full list of stations you will receive with an indoor antenna, in addition to their signal strength. A real bonus here for those with unidirectional antennas is the ability to click on a station’s call sign to find out what direction the antenna should be pointing to receive the station.

Q. Do indoor antennas work during a storm?

A. Unlike a satellite dish, an indoor antenna will not experience issues such as signal loss or corruption during a storm. Not only will you still be able to enjoy your favorite TV shows during a rain or snowstorm with an indoor antenna, but your TV will also be there to provide you with any relevant emergency information regarding the weather.
 

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