You’ve cut the cord and you’ve got a subscription to virtually every Internet video streaming service in existence, but you’re still missing out on things like your local news, those popular prime time shows and live sports. You’ve heard whispers and rumors of free high definition channels just floating around, free for anyone to take advantage of, but you’re skeptical. What if I told you that in order to benefit from all of that free TV content, all you needed was a fairly inexpensive antenna? What if I told you how to choose the best TV antenna? You might be thinking to yourself that I have to be pulling your leg. After all, TV antennas are relics of some ancient technological stone age, right?
Wrong. Modern TV antennas are much more sophisticated than the antennas of yesteryear. They have the ability to deliver dozens of high definition channels, often times even better than cable, and are inexpensive and easy to install. The antenna is an invaluable tool for the cord cutter, as it offers quality content for a very small, one time cost. Your antenna can get you live NFL games, your local news, and more than 90 of the 100 most watched TV shows. If you still don’t have an antenna connected to your TV, it is imperative that you read this step by step guide on how to choose the best antenna for TV immediately. Below, find our instructions for finding the best TV antenna (whether indoor or outdoor TV antenna) for your needs!
5 Steps for Choosing the Best TV Antenna
Wondering how to choose the best TV antenna? It’s easy. These are the simple steps we’ll cover. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through each one in detail:
- Find out what over-the-air channels are available in your area
- Determine whether you need a directional or omnidirectional antenna
- Choose between an indoor or outdoor antenna
- Decide if you need an amplifier for your antenna
- If you live in a remote rural area, you’ll need a long-range antenna
1. Find out what over-the-air channels are available in your area
Before you can determine the best TV antenna for your needs, you need to get an idea of what channels are being broadcast in your area by using a handy online tool like TVFool or AntennaWeb. Simply pop in your location details and they will tell you what channels an antenna in your area is likely to receive. Chances are there will be several including affiliates of the major networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS.
The more channels you are apt to get fluctuates depending on your distance from broadcast towers, the height at which the antenna will be installed, the type of residence you live in, and an array of other factors. If you live in a metro area, you’re likely to pick up quite a few more than someone who is rural and further away from the broadcast towers. Also, if you live in a rural area, you might want to consider a stronger, outdoor TV antenna vs. a lower-profile indoor TV antenna.
Other things you’ll need to consider:
- Are there any tall objects (e.g. high rise buildings, lots of trees, etc.) in your area that will obstruct the line of sight of your antenna?
- Does your residence have any restrictions on mounting an antenna outdoors?
- Could an indoor antenna be mounted on a exterior facing wall in your home?
2. Determine whether you need a directional or omnidirectional antenna
Now that you know which channels you’re likely to receive, you have to decide whether you’ll be better off with a directional or omnidirectional antenna. Take a look at the results you got from TVFool or AntennaWeb and you’ll notice a geographical map that shows you which direction the TV transmissions are originating from.
If most of your channels seem to be coming from one direction, then a directional antenna oriented toward the direction of the broadcast transmissions is best. In general, a directional antenna can be stronger and pull signals in from further out, but they can also be tricky to place correctly.
If the signals seem to be coming from all over the place, then an omnidirectional antenna is the way to go. The great thing about an omnidirectional antenna is it’s a lot easier to place since it will pull signals from every direction.
3. Choose between an indoor or outdoor antenna
Now that you know whether you need a directional or omnidirectional antenna, you can narrow down the options even further by figuring out if you need an indoor or outdoor TV antenna. Generally speaking, if you live in an area that is close to the transmitter towers (approximately 30 miles), then an indoor antenna will do the job and may be the best TV antenna for your needs. Consider options like the stylish and very popular Mohu Leaf (our pick for the best indoor TV antenna) or the AmazonBasics HDTV antenna, which Amazon is currently bundling with their fantastic Amazon Fire TV streaming player. These are two of the best TV antennas out there.
Keep in mind that indoor TV antenna reception can vary significantly depending on where you decide to place it. If you’re finding that you’re having trouble picking up the channels you should be getting, try getting the antenna to an elevated position and towards a window or outward facing wall. It may take a little experimenting to get the best indoor TV antenna reception.
If you live further away from broadcast towers and the indoor guys aren’t cutting it, you probably need to consider a good outdoor TV antenna which we will get into a little further down in this list.
4. Decide if you need an amplifier for your antenna
Antennas with “amplifiers” are often sold at a higher price tag, and you can find after market add-on amplifiers that will work with your current TV antenna. In theory, amplifiers are supposed to amplify the signal that the antenna receives, essentially boosting that weak signal into something watchable.
Amplifiers don’t do anything for the signal fidelity. That is to say that if reception of a particular channel is spotty to begin with, an amplifier won’t prevent dropouts. But if you live far away from your local transmitter towers, or if you’re just having difficulty receiving channels, an amplifier might do the trick. Just make sure that you can get a refund if it fails to better your situation!
5. If you live in a remote rural area, you’ll need a long-range antenna
If you’re really far away from transmitter towers (50+ miles), you’re going to have to invest in an antenna that is mounted on your roof. Before you get bummed out, modern day antennas don’t look like giant whirligigs anymore. In fact, the best outdoor TV antenna, the Mohu Sky, is small, sleek and even elegant. But don’t mistake their small stature with poor quality, as they boast a 60-mile range and are seriously powerful, helping you get the best outdoor TV antenna reception.
These options are stronger and can pull broadcasts in from further distances. So if you find that the smaller guys just aren’t cutting it, you’ll probably have to look into investing in one of the big boys. They may be a bit more expensive and require some elbow grease, but once they’re up and delivering multiple channels of high definition entertainment all for the low price of nothing, you’ll find that the extra effort was well worth it.
What Are The Best TV Antennas?
Now that you know how to pick the best TV antenna for you using the factors described above, it’s time to take a look at our recommendations.
For indoor TV antennas, we recommend:
The Mohu Leaf – an affordable, small, sleek antenna with a 50+ mile range. The best TV antenna for those seeking a quality indoor antenna.
The AmazonBasics HDTV antenna – another very affordable and function option. A close second to the Mohu.
For outdoor TV antennas, we recommend:
The Mohu Sky – this device blows the competition out of the water. Its small, sleek design is lightweight and attractive, and its range and functionality are unrivaled. This is without a doubt the best TV antenna if you need a bit more range than the indoor options offer.