Cable-free streaming services are great for passionate TV fans. But streaming platforms require paying for a monthly subscription, which often exceeds $50. If that seems like an unnecessary investment, getting a TV antenna could be a viable alternative.
An antenna is an affordable investment that secures access to over-the-air television. OTA channels are free, so there are no subscriptions. Depending on the location and strength signal, you could watch several local TV stations or dozens of channels available in that territory.
For most channels and top picture quality, you need the best TV antenna. The guide below recommends the top units currently available but also discusses how to choose an antenna that fits you. Here’s everything you need to know to find the most suitable option!
How to choose a TV antenna
Here’s the good news — the broadcast selection with an OTA antenna is more impressive than you think. Check out this detailed guide to the channels you can get with an OTA antenna in the United States to learn more about the available stations.
If that list covers your requirements, it’s time to select a TV antenna. Ask yourself the following questions before you start shopping so you know exactly what you’re looking for.
1. Are the channels you want available via antenna in your area?
Your home’s location will largely affect the channels you can receive with the chosen TV antenna. Begin by visiting the official DTV maps to analyze your area. The information will provide signal strength and also the broadcast tower location.
2. Do you think you’ll need an amplifier?
If you get an antenna with an amplifier, you can benefit from a signal strength improvement. Amplifiers can improve weak signals and get a better image.
However, an amplifier is an extra investment, and it needs a separate outlet. It won’t use much electricity, but it’s necessary to plan a socket for it. We recommend looking into an amplifier only after you’ve tried your antenna for a while, but if you’ve already had an antenna and been disappointed in the quality, it might be smart to purchase an amplifier from the get-go.
3. Are you going to need a rotator?
While analyzing the broadcast towers in the area, consider their direction from your home. If stations are broadcasting from different directions, you might need a rotator. Rotators make it possible to turn the antenna to get the best possible signal for the channel you want to watch.
4. How many TVs do you have?
The general rule is that a single antenna covers one TV. You can use complex outdoor TV antenna installments to secure signal delivery to multiple TVs, but that could compromise signal quality. We recommend only using an outdoor antenna for your “main” TV, and using an indoor antenna for other devices.
Of course, if you only have one or two TVs in your home, an antenna setup will be a much simpler investment. Many families choose to use an antenna in the main room where they watch live TV the most. But if you’re someone who likes to watch live TV all the time, throughout the home, you might want to think about multiple antennas.
Our pick for the best TV antenna: Mohu Leaf 30
The Mohu Leaf 30 is a pretty compact and affordable antenna. It’s affordable, setup is easy, it includes a coaxial cable, and can blend into home decor. We love it so much that we’ve even written a full review of the Mohu Leaf.
Installing everything is simple since it only takes minutes to connect the cables and scan for channels. Once everything is ready, check out the Flixed TV guide and find your local station for a detailed programming schedule.
Why the Mohu Leaf 30?
For starters, Mohu simply makes extraordinary antennas with a variety of users in mind. The Mohu Leaf 30 has a 40-mile range, which is a very reasonable distance for most people. But if that’s not quite far enough for you, Mohu also makes a “Mohu Leaf 50” with a 60-mile range.
The Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro is the top-of-the-line Mohu product, and it covers a 65-mile range.
Basically, if you need an antenna that works reliably, Mohu probably makes the product. The Mohu Leaf 30 works the best for most people — and that’s reflected in its Amazon product reviews. The 30 had about double the reviews of the 50 at the time this post went live — and the Supreme Pro was even less popular (though still well-rated).
Top Mohu Leaf 30 antenna features
- Easy to blend into home decor. One side of the Mohu Leaf 30 is black to blend into darker color schemes, and the other side is white for white rooms. If you really want the Mohu Leaf to blend into your room, you can even paint the white side to match your wall color.
- Easy setup for high definition. Our reviewer found that the Mohu Leaf 30 was pretty easy to set up, and while not all of the channels were crystal clear, many came through in 1080 pixel high definition!
- Reasonable cost for a solid product. You can easily find cheaper antennas than the Mohu Leaf available on retailers like Amazon, but many of those products have a reduced range and weak signal. The Mohu Leaf hits the “goldilocks” point for our team — it’s a solid product in a reasonable price range for most people.
Where to buy the Mohu Leaf 30 antenna
While the Mohu Leaf’s price varies just like the price of every product, it was priced around $40 at the time of writing. That’s around the cost of a single month of streaming on a service like Sling TV, and it’s a one-time cost. That clears our bar for affordability.
Our top choice is to buy the Mohu Leaf 30 on Amazon. The price is the same as other retailers, and you can get one-day shipping in many locations.
Other options for buying the Mohu Leaf 30 include:
- Best Buy: At the time of publication, Best Buy didn’t sell the Mohu Leaf 30, but it did offer the Mohu Leaf 50 at a discounted price. More range at the same price? We’ll take it.
- Mohu: Mohu itself sells the Mohu Leaf 30, at a few bucks less than Amazon. But if you buy from Mohu, you’ll also have to pay for shipping and it won’t quite be as fast.
- Home Depot: We sometimes forget that home improvement stores sell tech equipment, but the Home Depot does sell the Mohu Leaf 30. Check to see if it’s available in-store in your area, or have it shipped to your home or to the store.
Best outdoor TV antenna: PBD WA-2608 Digital Amplified Outdoor HD TV Antenna
PBD WA-2608 is a fairly compact outdoor TV antenna. Its size is 17.5x13x4.5 inches, so it won’t attract that much attention to your roof. The installation process doesn’t require any tools, so it’s as simple as it can get. You also get a mounting pole for additional convenience.
The maximum antenna’s range is 150 miles, and that’s because of the integrated amplifier. It supported VHF frequencies from 170 to 230Mhz and UFHF from 470 to 890Mhz.
Reasons to choose the PBD WA-2608
The antenna will work at temperatures from -10C to 50C, making it surprisingly weather-resistant. The design is durable, and there’s proper grounding and lightning protection. That means there shouldn’t be any problems during thunderstorms and bad weather.
PBD WA-2608 comes with an integrated motor that allows rotating the antenna to 360 degrees. As long as you find the optimal placement, you can move the antenna to get the best signals from broadcast towers in any direction.
Another advantage is that this antenna supports 2 TVs simultaneously. You don’t need a special adapter or a splitter. That makes it convenient for households with multiple TVs.
Reasons to skip the PBD WA-2608
Put simply, this is an outdoor antenna that doesn’t have impressive signal strength for its category.
Although it comes with an amplifier, obstacles like buildings seem to affect the capability of pulling in the signals too much. If you live in a remote area or have obstacles on the way to the broadcast tower, you could experience poorer signal quality.
Where to buy the PBD WA-2608
While we love recommending a variety of retailers for purchasing streaming products, Amazon really is the best place to buy the PBD WA-2608 right now.
We recommend buying the PBD WA-2608 on Amazon. The price on Amazon was around $50 at the time of publication, and in some zip-codes, you’ll be able to get free same-day shipping with Amazon Prime.
While eBay also lists a few options for buying the antenna, these are mainly used antennas — and they aren’t priced competitively.
Best tabletop antenna: GE Modern Loop Rabbit Ears Indoor TV Antenna
GE Modern Loop might remind users of the classic TV antennas. It features the famous “rabbit ears.” These are adjustable dipoles set on both sides of the antenna. The default dimensions are 2x7x6 inches, but please note the dipoles are extendable to 15 inches.
The antenna supports VHF and UHF signals and is 1080p HD ready, so you can expect optimal image quality. Although it’s compact, you can expect impressive stability. Rubber feet offer a solid foundation and ensure there won’t be any scratches to the surface where you place the antenna.
Reasons to choose the GE Modern Loop
For starters, this is one of the most affordable TV antennas on the market. It’s a tabletop version, and the dipoles make it fit well with the classic decors.
GE Modern Loop is a TV antenna compatible with ATSC 3.0, so it’ll work on most modern TVs. You’ll find the installation is simple, and there’s no need for tools. The picture quality is decent, and you even get a limited lifetime replacement warranty.
Reasons to skip the GE Modern Loop
As a small indoor TV antenna, you can’t expect an impressive range. But the GE Modern Loop has a maximum set at 30 miles, which is effectively less when there are obstacles. That makes the antenna suitable for city environments, but it might not work well if the nearest broadcast towers are far away.
Another downside is the coaxial cable length, which is only four feet. You need to carefully consider the antenna placement to ensure this length has you covered.
Where to buy the GE Modern Loop
We recommend buying the GE Modern Loop on Amazon. Amazon sells the GE Modern Loop at a lower price than other retailers, and it’s available for same-day shipping with Amazon Prime in many locations. That’s pretty hard to beat.
Other options for buying the GE Modern Loop include Walmart and Lowes. The cost of the antenna was slightly higher at Walmart than at Amazon or Lowes at the time of this writing. But the advantage with these options might be that you can pick up the antenna in a store, depending on availability where you live.
Can you use an antenna with streaming devices and smart TVs?
If you read our Roku Ultra review, you’ll realize that an OTA antenna isn’t compatible with an actual streaming media player. The same is true for other streaming devices, as well as portable gadgets like smartphones and tablets.
You can’t connect an antenna to your mobile phone and watch the desired channels. That’s why your best option to use on the go is to install an app like Sling TV or HBO Max on your device.
However, over-the-air antennas are compatible with smart TVs. Most devices have tuners ready to receive signals delivered by a TV antenna. By using that option, you can watch local channels on a smart TV without subscribing to a streaming service.
OTA antennas can be the perfect combo with some streaming services. For example, the list of Sling TV local channels doesn’t include all national networks. But with a small investment, you can access local stations with an antenna. And the best part is that smart TV doesn’t need an internet connection for these channels. So, if you lose your connection for any reason and can’t access the streaming service, you can still watch local channels.
Indoor vs Outdoor TV Antennas: What’s the difference?
The basic difference is self-explanatory. An indoor TV antenna is the one you place within your home. An outdoor installation usually goes on the roof for the best signal delivery. Each option has its advantage that we’ll try to cover below.
Why an indoor antenna is a good choice
Here are some reasons why you should consider an indoor TV antenna:
- Affordable investment. Indoor setups tend to be cheaper than outdoor antennas, even if you choose an amplifier.
- Compact size. Indoor antennas are smaller, and you’ll find them easy to place. The general rule is that they are close to the TV due to the cable length. The size makes them ideal for cities and small apartments.
- Easy to install. It only takes connecting a few cables to get the antenna up and running. From here, you start a tuner on your TV and look for the available channels.
The downside of indoor TV antennas is their power. Their signal strength isn’t impressive, so they aren’t suitable for remote areas where broadcast towers are far from the location. And although they are small, there’s no doubt these antennas might disrupt your room décor.
Why an outdoor antenna is a good choice
The advantages of this setup include the following:
- Strong signal. The sheer strength provided by these antennas makes them better for remote areas.
- Potentially more channels are available. If you have a bigger radius coverage from your antenna, the odds are you’ll be able to enjoy more channels.
- There’s no indoor clutter. You place the antenna on the roof, so you won’t disrupt the indoor décor.
The downside is that it takes longer to install an outdoor antenna. You need to head to your roof and connect the setup to your TV. That might require contacting a pro to handle the installation. And you’ll need to protect the antenna from environmental factors and bad weather. Also, outdoor antennas tend to be more expensive than indoor options.
Our takeaway – an antenna is a one-time investment for forever-free OTA TV
It’s a smart investment to get a TV antenna. The total cost could be from $10 to $60, but it’s not likely to go over that price. And for that money, you can secure long-term access to all free HD channels available in your area.
An over-the-air antenna enables watching TV channels even when your internet connection drops. Yes, streaming services like Sling TV or fuboTV offer many more channels and extra features like DVR. But they are dependent on the internet connection, and you need to pay a monthly subscription. If you miss your payment or the connection drops, or you are in a remote area without the internet, an OTA antenna is the ideal investment. It’s also great if you are on the go in an RV since you’ll have local channels anywhere in the United States.
As for choosing the TV antenna, it depends on your preference. In an apartment downtown, an affordable indoor antenna should cover you with a decent channel selection. But in remote areas, you might need an amplifier or an outdoor antenna with a rotator. Once you find the ideal unit, the installation will be simple, and you can start watching free TV in minutes!
Aneeca Younas • Author
Aneeca Younas is a graduated journalist with years of experience writing in different niches based in Oakland, CA. She is a huge movie fan that also enjoys watching sports. That's why she spends hours daily using various streaming services. Over the years, Aneeca profiled herself as an expert in cable-free and VOD platforms.
Desiree Wu • Editor
Desiree is a full-time Honours Business Administration student at Ivey Business School at Western University. She also works as the Editorial Intern at Flixed. Desiree is based in London, Ontario.