TV Antenna Review: Top Picks From Consumer Reports' Latest Tests
The right model will get you free over-the-air TV and make it easier to cut the cord with cable
TV antennas might seem like a relic of a bygone era, when the number of channels you received could be counted on one hand. But as consumers try to trim their ever-escalating cable and satellite TV bills, antennas are making a comeback. In fact, about one-quarter of all broadband households now use an antenna, according to research firm Parks Associates.
Consumer Reports just finished testing a new group of indoor TV antennas of all shapes and sizes in urban and suburban homes, and found that most of these locations were able to receive dozens of free over-the-air channels. (Outdoor antennas tend to perform better than indoor TV antennas, but they’re not practical for everyone.)
That’s good news for the growing number of people who are dumping traditional cable packages but keeping streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. An antenna can supply their live TV, including local news and other broadcasts.
Tips for Antenna Shoppers
The antennas we tested ranged in price from $10 to more than $100—and we found little correlation between price and performance. The antenna that pulled in the most stations for most of our testers cost just $35, and several pricier models were in the lower half of our rankings.
We included some amplified TV antennas in our review. These models can boost signal strength to help pull in stations that might otherwise be on the fringe. But our tests showed that amplified antennas weren’t always more effective than nonamplified models—they can also amplify noise and distortion, and overload reception from closer stations.
The number of channels you receive will depend on your location and environment, as well as the placement of the antenna in your home. You may need to try several models before finding the best antenna for your needs. That’s why we strongly recommend purchasing from a retailer with a no-hassle return policy. Also, it’s a good idea to regularly rescan for channels, because you might have missed some the last time you scanned. And use our tips on where to place your antenna to get the best reception.
Before you buy a new TV, check our buying guide and ratings of models from all the major brands. You’ll also find our exclusive brand reliability information based on feedback from more than 118,000 readers. Every set we evaluate goes through a battery of tests, backed by expert viewing panels, to determine high-definition picture quality and UHD performance with 4K material.