The best outdoor TV antenna
Before making the decision to cut the cord and cancel your cable or satellite subscription, you need to find a new source of programming. You certainly could choose a streaming service, but it carries a monthly fee, which sort of defeats the purpose.
If you want truly free TV, you can pull in local over-the-air broadcast-television signals using an antenna. Once you have the antenna purchased and in place, you can watch TV for free.
To pull in signals from the greatest distance, you'll want to make use of a powerful outdoor TV antenna, and the following guide will give you all the information you need to make an informed selection. Our favorite model is the 1byone Digital Amplified HDTV Antenna.
Considerations when choosing outdoor TV antenna
Before making the move on an outdoor TV antenna, understand which types of programming are available over the air where you live. You may decide you need to maintain a least a limited streaming subscription to receive the shows you want in addition to over-the-air free programming.
As a general rule, over-the-air free-TV signals are available only for the major traditional networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CW). Other networks, such as ESPN, A&E, or AMC, are only offered through a cable, satellite, or streaming subscription.
The free TV signals include locally generated programming, such as local news broadcasts. Some free TV signals offer a couple of extra digital channels, expanding your programming choices.
To figure out which signals are available in your area, find a website that allows you to search by ZIP code or street address. This search also will let you know the distance you need your outdoor TV antenna to cover to receive the signals you want.
Once you've determined whether you want over-the-air TV, you should consider the following features to find the perfect outdoor TV antenna for your needs:
Compatible frequencies: Signals are available in three different frequency bands, including UHF, VHF-Low, and VHF-High. Make sure that any outdoor antenna you select will be able to pick up the frequencies for the channels you want. Some antennas struggle with VHF-Low signals, for example.
Directional limitations: Some TV antennas are able to pull in signals only from the direction in which they're pointed. Other antennas are omnidirectional, meaning they have the ability to gather signals from any direction. A single-direction antenna should work over a greater distance (in that particular direction) than an omnidirectional antenna.
Range: Outdoor TV antennas typically have a reliable range of about 50 miles. However, depending on terrain and directional capabilities, you may be able to access signals from as far away as 200 miles.
Rotating base: To deal with directional limitations like we mentioned previously, some outdoor TV antennas have a rotatable base. This allows you to point the antenna in whatever direction you need to pull in a particular signal. A motorized base can be controlled with a remote-control unit.
Basic outdoor TV antennas cost about $30 to $50, but they will not have a lot of signal-acquisition strength. The best TV antennas for outdoor use cost $50 to $125.
Q. What is the advantage of an outdoor antenna over an indoor antenna?
A. Primarily, an outdoor antenna will be able to pull in signals from a greater distance versus indoor models. Indoor antennas are easier to install than outdoor antennas, though.
Q. How do I gain the ability to pull in greater distance signals?
A. Some outdoor TV antennas naturally have a larger signal range than others. However, the best way to gain more signal strength is to use range-amplifier hardware, which you'll have to buy separately.
Outdoor TV antennas we recommend
Best of the best: 1byone Digital Amplified HDTV Antenna
Our take: Long-lasting components and excellent signal quality set this outdoor TV antenna apart from the pack.
What we like: Delivers better quality than you'd expect when tall buildings or trees are in the area. Installation is fast and easy.
What we dislike: Really works best with signals from less than 50 miles away.
Best bang for your buck: RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi HDTV Antenna
Our take: Works nicely over a long distance, and delivers a strong signal, even in areas with large trees.
What we like: Considering its low price point, the build quality of this antenna outperforms quite a few others on the market.
What we dislike: Uses directional technology, so you're limited to pulling signals primarily from one direction.
Our take: Powerful outdoor antenna that can overcome obstacles and uneven terrain to pull in signal.
What we like: Assembly and installation are easy. If mounted outdoors, it will stand up to all kinds of weather.
What we dislike: Does not have an omnidirectional feature, so it must be aimed at the signal you want to receive.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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