Which TV antenna is best?

It’s a little-known fact, but your TV can pick up local TV channels — without paying for any kind of service — with the help of a good antenna. All you need to do is plug it in and have your TV search for channels. These antennas aren’t the gaudy bunny ears of years past anymore, either.

The best TV antenna is the GE Outdoor TV Antenna. It’s not too pricey and can pick up 4K-quality broadcasts from stations up to 70 miles away.

What to know before you buy a TV antenna

Indoor vs. outdoor

Indoor and outdoor TV antennas have the same goal but get there in different ways.

  • Indoor antennas are easier to install — many simply stand on some feet or suction-cup to a surface — but need to be placed in specific spots, such as near windows, to get the best reception. They also have a much shorter range, with few exceeding 50 miles.
  • Outdoor antennas can be complicated to install, often requiring mounts, specific tools and a heavy time commitment. However, their range is huge — they can detect signals from up to 200 miles away. Their signal is also cleaner, as being installed high up means they face fewer obstructions.

Channel frequency

Over-the-air signals are sent out on three kinds of frequencies — very high frequency low and high, plus ultra-high frequency. Most TV antennas only pick up one or two of these kinds of frequencies, so double-check the requirements of the stations you want to pick up and choose an antenna accordingly.

Direction

TV antennas are either single-direction or omnidirectional, with the difference becoming more apparent the farther away you are from where your desired signal is broadcast. If you want to pick up many signals, get an omnidirectional antenna. If you want to pick up specific long-distance signals, get a directional antenna.

What to look for in a quality TV antenna

Range

Better TV antennas have longer ranges. They give you greater access to signals and help maintain quality reception for those a long distance away. Keep in mind that the effective range is usually shorter than the maximum range — like reaching for something at the back of a high shelf versus something on the counter.

Indoor antennas have shorter ranges, typically around 50 miles. Outdoor antennas can have ranges of 50-200 miles.

Cable length 

Most TV antennas include a coaxial cable to connect the TV and the antenna. A quality cable is long enough to connect the two, with just enough slack to be hidden out of the way. If the cable is too long or short, you can always buy another one.

How much you can expect to spend on a TV antenna

TV antennas typically cost $25-$150. Most indoor antennas cost less than $50. Outdoor antennas typically start around $50 and increase in price with higher effective ranges.

TV antenna FAQ

How does a TV antenna work?

A. To understand TV antennas, you need to start with the TV. Your TV has a built-in ability to understand over-the-air signals broadcast by local TV stations, but it doesn’t have the ability to pick them up. That’s where TV antennas come in — they detect the signals and send them to your TV over a coaxial cable to be translated into images and sound you can understand.

How do I know what channels I’ll be able to pick up?

A. That depends on what stations are in your area, how much range your antenna has and what frequencies it can detect. The biggest aspect is figuring out what stations are nearby — several websites let you input your address and give you a list of stations and their requirements to be picked up. Once you know what stations are available, just decide which ones you want and grab an antenna with specs that match the requirements.

Can an old TV hook up to a new antenna?

A. Yes, but you may need to jump through a hoop if it’s more than a decade old. Modern TVs have built-in digital tuners that can understand and translate the all-digital signals TV stations use. Old TVs don’t have this tuner, so you need to buy a converter box as a go-between.

What’s the best TV antenna to buy?

Top TV antenna 

GE Outdoor TV Antenna

GE Outdoor TV Antenna

What you need to know: It’s effective and cost-conscious.

What you’ll love: It can pick up signals up to 4K quality at a maximum range of 70 miles, plus it’s weather-resistant. With separately purchased accessories you can send signals to multiple TVs in your home at once. It includes everything you need to install it.

What you should consider: High winds have been known to interfere with its reception. A few consumers had durability concerns in harsher climates. Reception is spotty at the edge of its range.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top TV antenna for the money

GE Ultra Edga Indoor TV Antenna

GE Ultra Edge Indoor TV Antenna

What you need to know: It’s perfect for picking up nearby stations.

What you’ll love: It can pick up signals up to 4K quality, can detect most frequencies and is easy to install thanks to an included wall mount. It’s small at only 6 by 12 inches and is reversible with a black and a white side.

What you should consider: Its maximum range is only 40 miles. The included cable was too short for some customers and a few reported some reception issues.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

PBD Digital Amplified Outdoor HD TV Antenna

PBD Digital Amplified Outdoor HD TV Antenna

What you need to know: It’s designed to pick up even the most distant stations.

What you’ll love: It can pick up signals up to 4K quality and all frequencies, plus it has a huge range of 150 miles. It has a wireless remote control to trigger its 360-degree rotation, includes a 40-foot coaxial cable and has several built-in amplifiers.

What you should consider: It’s pricey. Some purchasers felt the instructions were confusing and included no information on how to fix issues that may arise.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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