TV Antennas: The Big (and Free!) Picture | Consumer Reports
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TV Antennas: The Big (and Free!) Picture | Consumer Reports

August 15, 2019

If the idea of using
an antenna seems retro, you haven’t tuned
into changes in how Americans are consuming TV. With more people
cutting the cord and opting for streaming
services instead of cable, TV antennas are popping
up in more and more homes. It’s not all rabbit
ears, either. Models come in a variety
of styles, from flat and subtle to hard to miss– and can cost anywhere from
$10 or less to more than $80. And while these devices
may look different, they’re all designed
to do the same thing. Pull in free,
over-the-air channels. Talking about mess. Our testers took home
10 popular indoor models to try in two locations. Near a window, and near the TV. All of them found the window
location clearly worked best. Keep in mind, results
will vary based on how close you live
to the broadcast towers, and whether your home is
surrounded by obstructions such as trees, or buildings. Even the weather can
affect performance. To get the best reception from
your indoor antenna, aim high. Placing the antenna
higher in the room, or in an upstairs room
or attic, will generally deliver the best performance. Be sure to try the antenna
at different locations around the room, or
in different rooms. And rescan in each spot to see
where it picks up the greatest number of stations. If you don’t live near a
tower, an amplified model can boost signal strength. If the antenna is a
directional model, it also helps to face it
toward a local TV transmitter. Not sure where that is? The FCCs DTV reception
maps can help point you in the right direction. Finally, don’t just
set it and forget it. Rescan for channels
every once in a while and you might pick up a few
you couldn’t get before. To see which antennas
did best in our testing along with full
results, go to


  • Reply hogensan April 6, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    TV has become PC feminist. – Only for women.

  • Reply Joseph1NJ April 6, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Cord cutter checking in. Cable TV prices are absurd these days, and the content, garbage.

  • Reply Max April 6, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    ATSC 3.0 = 4K UHD Video over the air –

  • Reply Irfan April 6, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    I disconnected dish network 4 years ago , and i am using free to air tv and i am super happy , saving 50$ to 120$ a month and no BS

  • Reply Bruce John Shourt April 6, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Once again, the writer for the script failed to tell critical information and that is you don’t just watch the TV picture while adjusting the antenna. After scanning you should go into the TV or tuner menu and find the signal indication and watch it for each channel. The goal is to find the optimum location and orientation of the antenna for the channels you most want to receive, typically the six network stations for ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC, and PBS.

    For some tuners like some models of Sampson TVs the channel signal indication in buried deep in one of the categories of the menu. For others it might also be when you press one of the buttons on the remote control to see the status or the channel number indication.

    There are two characteristics of the indication. One is signal strength and the other is signal quality. It is possible to have high strength but the picture won’t be stable if the quality isn’t high enough. Most tuners have only one indication.

    The video showed another error of operation in that currently most major market TV areas of the US have one or two stations on "RF" VHF channels, the actual channel frequency, not to be confused with the "virtual" channel numbers the stations indicate in guides. And, in most of the areas that have RF VHF channels, the stations are transmitting on channels 7 through 13. The antenna for those is/are relatively short horizontal rods and the rule is the higher the RF channel number the shorter the "rabbit ears" rods and they should be oriented 90° toward the stations. In the video the person was shown pulling the "rabbit ears" telescoping rods to their longest length and pointing them nearly vertically which are both wrong. It might be correct horizontally for the few areas that also have some RF channels on 2 through 6 like Reading, Pennsylvania.

    The report was correct for consulting the FCC’s DTV reception website to see what channels are potentially available for specific addresses and I also recommend that consumers avoid the other websites that have too much and somewhat confusing information and almost always have advertising for antennas, including some modern day patent medicine/snake oil miracle technology "HDTV antennas" that are over priced.

    There’s no such thing as an HDTV antenna. We are using the same antennas since the beginning of television, then color television, then television with UHF channels, and now digital television including high definition TV. It is correct to market and advertise "Antennas for HDTV".

    I am an early adopter of analog and digital TV and I provide much free antenna and reception information posted on the San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist. Search for "cord cutter" in the For Sale category. I also post the information on eBay. Search "Winegard Antennas For HDTV".

  • Reply Stargate Academy April 6, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    I live near train tracks and whenever the train passes through, my screen goes off for a few seconds and then picks up again. Guess I need to move away from train tracks!

  • Reply mountainhobo April 6, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Got rid of that idiot box 10 years ago. Haven't missed it once.

  • Reply T Jam April 6, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    It says “ to see which antenna scored the best in our testing, and to see full results, go to”.
    I can’t find results on CR app.!!

  • Reply Mike Morales April 6, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    I found that only a rooftop antenna was good enough to even pickup far away stations.

  • Reply Vikingdescendent April 6, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Try using a coaxial cable. Turn the outer end into a loop, and place it near the window. I get 5 channels.

  • Reply Bargainteers April 7, 2018 at 1:47 am

    I live in Detroit, we just steal cable.

  • Reply Benjamin Burkhardt April 7, 2018 at 1:53 am

    What about outdoor antennas?

  • Reply John Pommon April 7, 2018 at 4:20 am

    Bruce John Shourt previously commented about patent medicine/snake oil antennas and apparently youtube censored it.

  • Reply L G April 7, 2018 at 7:00 am

    I am glad you bring this topic! Most people dont even know that this is possible… And dont forget, over the air signal is NOT compressed. This is not the case with cable, satellite or fiber tv signal. So, as long as you get a good enough signal, you will get a better picture over the air. Sadly you did not mention any outdoor antenna. The really are the way to go, you will usually catch far more stations with an outdoor antenna + get better reliability. Please make another round of evaluation that will includes outdoor models (+ antenna rotors maybe?), and antenne cable. Thanks!

  • Reply kn7gez April 8, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    Power bill went down. DVR 155W. Apple TV 1.7 W

  • Reply Bruce John Shourt April 8, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Unless all of the testers used the same make and model TV, the methodology is flawed because of the variation in the performance of the tuners. Some are more sensitive than others and some handle multipath better than others.

  • Reply Jeff Pearson April 8, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    link to maps at 1:23 into video:

  • Reply MarK D April 9, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I bought a $5 one, and got 22 channels (in Toronto)

  • Reply Carroll April 10, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    Use a Amplified HDTV Antenna for Better OTA Coverage. Also get a longer cord….

  • Reply wsharp2005 April 11, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    All greed from the media

  • Reply Oinc April 14, 2018 at 4:05 am

    Useless video

  • Reply Jake Spur April 14, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Save your money and make one yourself. This works great.

  • Reply Swarthy Daisy April 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    I am going on two years cable free. I never enjoyed the idea of paying for TV when there was free TV available. I’m not big into watching TV in the first place so I always ended up wasting money on cable because I only watched a few shows here and there. Thanks to YouTube I’m able to get the same shows the day after as long as I’m quick enough before they get deleted. Ha ha Ha

    I use an antenna. There is a review of it on my YT channel of you are interested ☺️

  • Reply Steven S June 20, 2018 at 3:34 am

    The guest bedroom has the DTV antenna because the TV is rarely used. In our area of South Jersey, we can get about 50 channels over the air but not the local ABC network. Nobody knows why but since our 3 BR house has 5 TV's, we only pay Cable for 4 of those TV's. Several of the televisions are HDTV and the DTV rabbit ears don't pull in the cable news shows that we watch too often (CNN, MSNBC) nor do they pull in specialty channels we watch like SyFi and BBCAmerica.

  • Reply Paul C October 8, 2018 at 10:07 am

    this didn't help at all.just an advertisement for their subscription page.

  • Reply Peter Foto January 26, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    BOTTOM LINE: Modern HD antennas work great, 100x much better than the old rabbit ears from years ago. Now a days $15 HD antenna can work just about as well as $100 version. Don't waste your money with an expensive version if you live in a populated area with TV stations within 30 miles, a basic HD antenna will do the job. I pick up around 70 HD channels in my area with a cheap indoor HD antenna. More expensive and outdoor HD antenna versions are good in rural areas where you may need a further range. Though here's the thing, the bigger TV stations have the best and strongest signals so as long as you can pick up the major networks you're in good shape, you'll find the extra 20-30 channels just garbage content channels most wouldn't watch anyway.

  • Reply Truth Stalker February 19, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    For over 20 Years, I've had Subscriptions to Consumer Reports Magazine and for (roughly) about 10 Years, I've had Subscriptions to their Online Reviews. It seems that some of their 'Testers' are slightly biased in favor of apple products because I've emailed them about a discrepancy I noticed in their Review of apple Tablets compared to other bands and the response I received was a lame attempt to justify said bias and when I pointed out the flaw in that response, no further reply was given. They had nothing more to say on the matter. Checkmate! I've since then allowed my Subscriptions to lapse because I felt severely let down by the one and only company my family and I had trusted for SO MANY YEARS to provide us with 'UNBIASED' product reviews. My family and I also have stopped donating to them. 😑

    [I'm warning those whom also care about sincere honesty and are against (hidden) biases.]

    *I purposely spell apple with a lower case 'a' for a reason. It's not a misspelling. 😎 👊

  • Reply Flap Jack February 22, 2019 at 6:46 am

    The mood music lessens the credibility of the report.

    Outdoor antennas work much better, but they were not even mentioned.

  • Reply Google User April 21, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    Tv antenna designs havn't changed in 70 years.
    All these modern gimmicks are merely the same old UHF loop and bowtie antennas that sold for 99 cents now covered in plastic and sold for up to $100 bucks.
    Only SIZE matters with tv antennas and small antennas have small range.

  • Reply Townandcountry Tallywhacker May 26, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Again I have to pay for your real information

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