Cutting the cord doesn’t mean you have to give up on TV entirely. There’s definitely streaming video, but a good over-the-air (OTA) antenna can capture free digital HD broadcasts from TV stations in your area and display them on your big screen beautifully. This week we’re going to check out five of the best OTA antennae available, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week we asked you for your favorite over-the-air HD antennae; the ones you thought offered the best performance for the money, looked good in your home or home theater, got decent reception where you live (although there are definitely other factors involved there), and overall stood out above the others. Here’s what you said, in no particular order:
The Mohu Leaf made quite a name for itself when it launched. We tested it hands-on and loved it, and it’s just as paper-thin and easily mounted anywhere in your home as it looks. Mohu sells a few varieties of the Leaf, namely an amplified (and USB powered!) and unamplified version, and the new Mohu Curve, which is similar to the leaf, but designed to look a little nicer and not have to be mounted on the walls. The Leaf is a simple, omnidirectional antenna that can be mounted in any direction, on any flat surface, just preferably above the TV it’s connected to. It sports a 10ft cord attached to it (16ft with the amplified version), brags 35 mile reception (50 miles for the amplified version), and will set you back $ 40 for the unamplified version and $ 66 for the amplified version.
Those of you who nominated and praised the Leaf noted its small form factor, super-easy setup and installation, and its “mount anywhere, seriously even upside down” design. It’s not perfect though—some of your noted that it’s great for OTA UHF channels, but not for VHF channels. Full disclosure, I nominated this one partially because I did the review for it, but also because I liked the Leaf so much that I got one for my own TV. You can check out the full nomination thread here.
The Clearstream 2 antenna is a long-range directional model that we’ve reviewed before, with great success. It’s remarkably powerful, and while it’s not an omnidirectional antenna (you’ll need to position it appropriately in order to get the best possible signal), that can be a good thing if all of your available networks broadcast from the same direction. The C2 is actually an indoor/outdoor antenna, so if you prefer to mount it outside, you can—you don’t have to, though. It boasts a 50+ mile range in ideal conditions, a 70 degree beamwidth in the direction it’s positioned, and aluminum construction that’s built to last.
Those of you who nominated the C2—namely our own Whitson Gordon—noted that it’s not the prettiest antenna to have sitting next to your TV or in the window, but it works like a charm, is remarkably powerful, bringing in channels crisp and clear, and it’s forgiving even if it’s poorly positioned for broadcasts in the opposite direction. If you’re interested, it’ll set you back $ 96 at Amazon, and you can read more about it in its nomination thread here.
RCA’s ANT1050 is an unassuming, flat, diamond-wing-shaped antenna that can be mounted horizontally on the wall or on any flat surface. It’s an omnidirectional antenna, meaning placement isn’t as important with directional models, and it’s broad 17 inch wingspan is designed for reception. A little assembly is required with it; you’ll have to put it together when you get the package (not that it takes much effort) before you plug it into your TV.
The ANT1050 is a fairly simple model—something those of you who nominated it said: Simple, goes anywhere, gets the job done, and doesn’t cost a lot of money. It’ll set you back $ 11 at Amazon, a price low enough that you can give this a try to see whether or not you’ll actually get decent reception in your area or if there are channels in your area worth watching before you run out and spend a lot of money on a more expensive antenna. Read more in the nomination thread here.
The Terk HDTVa is an amplified, highly directional antenna capable of picking up UHF and VHF channels. It’s small enough to sit next to a TV in an entertainment center, or on a bookshelf facing a window. It’s a bit more powerful thanks to the fact that it’s amplified, and even though it looks bulky, it’s not. A single cable carries power and signal to it, and while it definitely looks like an antenna or some kind of ray gun, it’s not a metal and plastic monstrosity next to your TV or on your windowsill. If you want one, it’s available for $ 40 at Amazon.
Those of you who praised the Terk HDTVa noted its power specifically—namely that its amplified, directional nature gives it an advantage over several others, especially if all of the networks you’re trying to pick up at in one direction. Rain, snow, and other bad weather are no match for it, according to its nomination thread here.
If the Wineguard Flatwave looks familiar, it should. It has a similar flat, rectangular design to the Mohu Leaf and a number of other antennae that are similarly designed, but that’s largely because it works. The Flatwave comes in amplified and unamplified versions, packs a 15ft (18.5ft in the amplified version) cable and boasts a range of 35 miles (50 miles in the amplified version). Like most other flat, omnidirectional antennae like this, you have the option to mount it anywhere—on the wall, horizontally or vertically, anywhere you’ll get decent reception. It’s paper thin, and can fit just about anywhere without looking horribly out of place. The unamplified version will set you back $ 32 at Amazon, while the amplified version costs $ 60 at Amazon. It’s also known for being widely available at Costco stores.
Those of you who nominated it praised its visual appeal and slim design, and while it’s certainly not perfect—you noted its flimsy cable attachment and thin cord—it does support power over USB for the amplified model, which is a plus. You can read more in the nominations thread here.
Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to an all out vote to determine the community favorite.
The honorable mention this week goes out to the HD Frequency Cable Cutter, which didn’t fare terribly well in the nominations round, but was picked hands down as The Wirecutter’s favorite OTA HD antenna, and we put a lot of stock in their suggestion. If you’re planning to spend about $ 100 on free, over-the-air HDTV, you could do much much worse than this. We should also give a nod to the Monoprice Indoor/Outdoor Antenna (7976), also mentioned by The Wirecutter, nominated by a few of you, and under $ 20.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at email@example.com!