We review the top 12 HDTV antennas for free Over-The-Air (OTA) television broadcasts. Starting at $10, and most are under $30. In addition to fan favorites like Mohu ReLeaf, antenna direct clearstream eclipse, tv bandit and Channel Master FLATenna, we also provide a tutorial on how to pick the best antenna for your configuration.
Which antenna should you get?
If you only have $10 or just want to try another antenna, it’s an easy choice: the Channel Master FLATenna
If you want to “splurge” then we’d opt for either the Mohu ReLeaf
Here’s the list, with the links to Amazon; The review details and a picture are next, followed by a lot of great information to help you make the best choice for your specific situation – all about antennas, amplifiers /signal boosters, cables and more. Let’s get started!
Channel Master FLATenna
Mohu ReLeaf HDTV Antenna
Mohu Curve Amplified HDTV Antenna
Mohu Leaf Metro HDTV Antenna
AmazonBasics Ultra Thin HDTV Antenna
Mohu Leaf 30 HDTV Antenna
Mohu Leaf 50 HDTV Amplified Antenna
1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna
ClearStream Eclipse HDTV Antenna
Winegard Flatwave HDTV Antenna
Winegard FlatWave Amplified HDTV Antenna
HD Frequency Cable Cutter Metro HDTV Antenna
Channel Master SMARTenna HDTV Antenna
Please keep in mind that the prices shown are accurate at time of publication, but with many consumer products these may go up or down at any time. Use the links to get to Amazon for these indoor antennas to find the prices when you are ready to purchase.
Antenna Features, Benefits, Trade-Offs
Channel Master CM-4001HDW FLATenna is an Ultra-thin Indoor HDTV Antenna rated for a 35 mile range. The picture doesn’t do it justice, since it looks like a white (or black, if you select the other color option) plastic rectangle. But that’s pretty much what it is – two light-weight plastic sheets that sandwich the cooper wire windings of the antenna, and a 6 foot co-axial cord coming out of the bottom. And that simplicity is what makes this a top pick, and allows them to sell it for the very low price of $10.
The construction lets you mount this one just about any place that is convenient, and it stays attached to whatever window, wall or even back of the TV that you stick it to. It does an excellent job a capturing the signals and works well across the broadcast spectrum. The FLATenna is intended for apartments and smaller TV viewing rooms, with it’s 6 foot cable. If you need to mount if further, you’ll need to buy a co-axial cable and coupler (see the information section after the antenna reviews for more info and recommendations).
For $10 on Amazon, it’s definitely worth trying if you are thinking about free OTA TV. Use this link to buy it now, Channel Master FLATenna
Mohu ReLeaf is another very thin Indoor HDTV Antenna, and is rated for a 45 mile range. One thing that sets the ReLeaf apart from all the others is that is is made with recycled material. It’s an eco-friendly alternative to the typical metal or plastic construction; It’s made from recycled, “post consumer” cardboard and chlorine free colors. The material is quite sturdy and won’t get soft / soggy under normal indoor usage. Just as you won’t put a plastic body antenna under the water faucet or in the shower, if you follow the same guidelines for the ReLeaf you won’t have any problems. Even the packaging is made from recycled materials, and it comes as the most minimalist way we’ve even encountered. There are no extra paper instructions, user manuals or set-up guides. MoHu has cleverly chosen to print everything on the packaging to eliminate excess paper waste.
Of course, this is an antenna so there is the requisite copper wires inside the cardboard sandwich materials, and the co-ax cables and minimal plastic components are made with Mohu’s proprietary “MohuGrind” plastic mix. This is composed of crushed and ground up recycled cable boxes. How’s that for cord-cutting! Even more, Mohu has embraced using renewable energy for the entire manufacturing process.
So it’s great for the environment, but how is for TV reception? It’s actually quite good, and is even capable of pulling in 4K signals in addition to the 1080p high-definition used by nearly all broadcasters. You many not be able to tell from the picture, but the ReLeaf has small mounting holes on the top which you can use for push-pins / thumbtacks to attach to a wall. It doesn’t come with double sided tape (I guess they didn’t have an eco version of that), so you would need to get your own (Amazon has removable double sided tape
For $35 you can get great reception for free TV and feel good about the environment. Buy at Amazon using this link, Mohu ReLeaf HDTV Antenna
The Mohu Curve is our top HDTV antenna with a built in amplifier / signal booster. The amplifier increases the range to 60 miles and provides a clean, crisp image for the channels in our area. Mohu calls it’s booster technology “CleanPeak Filtering”. As they describe it, with CleanPeak, the amplifier filters out cellular and FM signals, which are essentially noise in your television signal. The filtering lets the Curve pull in a clearer picture, receive more channels, reduce dropouts and increase the overall viewing experience. A second cable from the Curve is provides the power from a USB port. If you connect this to the a powered USB port on your television, you get the added bonus of the amplified antenna turning on and off with your television. For those interested in the specs, the patent pending amplifier gives you a very respectable 15 dB of signal gain across the full television broadcast band. Basically, this means that weaker signals can still be viewed, and with the filtering you are boosting only the signal and not accompanying noise.
The antenna itself is multi-directional and supports 4K as well as high definition broadcasts.
In addition to the great performance, what really sets the Curve apart from the competition is the clean, sleek look of the antenna. It’s free-standing, so can be placed in the entertainment center, on a shelf or a table. It comes with a sturdy stand, so no worry about the antenna falling over.You can easily move it around to find the best place for signal reception. Of course, if you prefer, you can always wall-mount this similar to the other indoor antennas we are reviewing.
One final advantage is the included 16 foot co-axial and USB cables. These are among the longest we’ve found with indoor antennas, and gives you a lot of options for deciding where to place the Curve.
If you can afford the $70 price through Amazon, this is a clear winner. Order with this link, and get started watching free TV again – Mohu Curve Amplified HDTV Antenna
The Leaf Metro from Mohu is designed for homes, apartments and condos in urban / metropolitan areas. With a 25 mile range, you’ll need to be fairly close to the broadcast tower to pull in the best reception. Overall signal quality is good, and the price point is great. A few of the features that put the Metro high on the list include: the very small size of the antenna, about half the size of some of the square antennas; it is reversible with one side in white and the other in black. Both sides are paintable to match your walls so it can be nearly invisible after you mount it (here’s a tip – also paint the co-axial cable, so that blends in as well). The cable itself is a nice length at 10 feet. A bonus feature not found on many other antennas is that the cable is detachable, so that if you do need a longer co-ax, you can simply unscrew this one and screw in the new one.
Order through Amazon Prime, Mohu Leaf Metro HDTV Antenna
If you know that you’ll need more than 10 feet of cable or you want the extra boost that comes with an amplifier, the Metro Bundle is a great deal. You get the same reversible / paintable Leaf Metro antenna to start with. The co-axial cable length is increased by 20 feet, from 10 to 30. And you get the Jolt Amplifier by Mohu which is designed to match with their antenna. Since the amplifier is external to the antenna, you can always decided to use it or not connect it.
For a little less than twice the price of the antenna alone, you get the bundle. Order from Amazon at Leaf Metro Amplified Premium Bundle
This Mohu Leaf is the original design, made from two thin and flexible pieces of plastic. It has a 30 mile range, and all of the same features of the eco-friendly ReLeaf. The 10 foot co-axial cable is removable so you can use a longer one if needed.
The reversible, paintable plastic is stiff enough to hold and maintain its shape without any bending or creasing. Similar to the ReLeaf, this can be mounted to a wall with push-pins through the small holes along the top of the antenna. Or you can use removable double sided tape
The performance is good and the Leaf does a great job of pulling in signals for clear reception of all the broadcast stations in the area. It supports digital signals in both 4K and 1080p high definition. At about $7 less than the ReLeaf cardboard version, this is a good buy on Amazon – Mohu Leaf 30 HDTV Antenna
Amazon is great at developing basic electronics with the same form, fit and function as the original manufactures sell. Their Ultra Thin Antenna is basically a duplicate of the Mohu Leaf, including the 10 foot length co-axial cable. It’s reversible and paintable.
The major selling point is that the Amazon Basics model is about $10 cheaper, and pretty much guaranteed to be in stock. Order it using AmazonBasics Ultra Thin HDTV Antenna
The Leaf 50 with attached amplifier uses the same “CleanPeak Filtering” technology as in the Leaf Metro Amplified Premium Bundle
The Leaf comes with a 16 foot co-axial cable, which should be long enough for most installation. Like other Mohu antennas, the cable is removable if you need a longer cable or prefer a shorter one.
At $60 on Amazon, Mohu Leaf 50 HDTV Amplified Antenna
This is our least expensive antenna with an included external amplifier for signal boosting. The amplifier can be powered from your television, or through a standard 120V electrical outlet using the provided adapter.
Similar to the other antennas, this is made of thin plastic and can be mounted on a window, wall or even the back of your television. The double sided 3M sticky pads even come included in the package. The 1byone comes with a 10 foot co-axial cable, but not removable. At the end of the cable, you can attach the external amplifier which has its own 5 foot USB cord for power.
The 1byone performs well and pulls in local broadcast signals with good clarity. At $25 on Amazon, 1byone Amplified HDTV Antenna
For something a little different, ClearStream has a circular design rather than the square and rectangle designs we’ve seen so far. This seems to provide it with an advantage in picking up the UHF signals since the windings more closely match the quarter and half wavelength dimensions. Overall, if does a good job for reception and is rated for 35 mile range.
Another interesting feature is that the plastic outer covering has adhesive on both sides, so no double sided tape or tacks are required. Like the Mohu antennas, this is black on one side, white on the other and can be painted to match your walls.
The 12 foot co-axial cable is a good length and is removable so you can replace with a longer or shorter cord as needed. At $40, it’s little pricier than some of the other passive antennas in this article, but for the reception quality and ease of mounting, it still makes our list. Get it through Amazon – ClearStream Eclipse HDTV Antenna
This is your basic antenna, with a 35 mile range. Similar to the others in this list, it is make of thin plastic which is black on one side, white on the other. It comes with a 15 foot co-axial cable, which is not removable.
Reception is good across the entire channel range and signal reception is clear.
Like the ClearStream, this antenna will get the job done but it is a little more expensive than comparable antennas on the list. You can order it through Amazon Winegard Flatwave HDTV Antenna for $36.
Winegard FlatWave Amplified HDTV Antenna
Winegard adds their amplifier in this bundle to increase the signal range from 35 miles to 50 miles. If you are a fan of the FlatWave, but are further out from the broadcast tower, this is a good option for you. Alternatively, if you need to place the antenna some distance from your television, the amplifier will help with compensating for the signal loss through a long co-axial cable.This comes with one of the longest cables, 18 feet, which means you may not need to add any extensions.
The amplifier is powered through a USB cable which can either be connected to your television or to a standard 120V outlet with the included adapter.
Reception is good for this antenna across the UHF and VHF bands, and signal quality provides for clear reception.
The first thing you’ll notice about this antenna is that it is constructed different from all the others on this list. It’s not a thin plastic rectangle or circle, but metal. It is not a flexible, bendable antenna – it is rigid and sturdy. Placement and mounting will require a little more planning, since it is bulkier and heavier than the plastic antennas. The antenna comes with some very good 3M-like removable adhesive tape for sticking it to a wall or bookcase. To hold the weight, the tape is quite sticky so you may pull off some paint when removing the adhesive.
While it may not look like it will work, it actually does a great job of capturing TV signals and provides a clear picture. It comes with a 12 foot, removable cable. Give it a try and order through Amazon, HD Frequency Cable Cutter Metro HDTV Antenna .
Our final antenna for this list is the SMARTenna from Channel Master. It also has a different construction from the paper thin plastic antennas from Mohu. It’s the heaviest at 1.5 pounds, and the thickest at 1.5 inches. The 13 inch (wide) by 11 inch (long) comes with mounting feet so that you can place it flat on top of your other AV equipment, or on a bookshelf. We don’t recommend trying to mount this vertically on a wall like the other antennas. But that’s the advantage of this unit, and why it’s on the list. Placing if flat on top of your other equipment makes it blend in more, and you won’t have to find wall space for an antenna. It does not come with a co-axial cable, so you’ll have to provide your own.
Reception was good, and the SMARTenna has one of the longest pull-in ranges for an un-amplified unit at 50 miles. Pick one up at Amazon, Channel Master SMARTenna HDTV Antenna
That’s if for the reviews. Keep reading for more information about antennas and how to choose the best one for your situation. Please remember that this isn’t an exact science, and you may have to experiment a little bit to get the best results for you unique set-up. It’s worth the time and effort, especially when you start enjoying the free over-the-air television in HD and 4K. It doesn’t get better than free!
A broadcaster, or transmitter, takes their content (which could be data, pictures, sound or some combination of all three) and converts it to electro-magnetic signals referred to as “radio waves”. Most stations are identified by the frequency of the radio wave. For example, an AM radio station may be at 1040 kHz (kilo Hertz), an FM station at 98.7 MHz (mega Hertz) and for HDTV the frequencies are from about 41 to 250 MHz (VHF = Very High Frequency) and 470 to 960 MHz (UHF = Ultra High Frequency).
The physical antenna elements are sized to be one-half the wave-length of the signal you are trying to capture (or tune in). Some antenna are one-quarter wave-length in size. Going back to high-school physics, the wavelength of a signal equals the speed of light (c = approximately 300,000 km/second or 186,000 miles/second) divided by the frequency. There are many types of antennas, each with specific benefits depending on the type of signal you are tying to capture. For simplicity here, indoor HDTV antennas are usually made with many loops of thin copper wire in a circle or rectangle; Outdoor and attic antennas have a number of different length metal rods attached to a main center piece.
Most indoor antenna makers usually promise reception within a 50-mile radius for “passive” or non-amplified antennas, and up to 100-mile radius for attic / outdoor antennas. Adding an amplifier can often give you up to double this range as well as make it it easier to tune in closer broadcasters. Check the FCC’s DTV Signal Reception Maps to find which broadcasters are in your area, and their signal strength for your address.
In general, you’ll have better performance the higher you can place the antenna and the more different windings / elements the antenna has. Also, the less physical obstructions (walls, buildings, trees, etc.) between your antenna and the transmitter, the better your reception.
It’s important to note that HDTV is a digital signal, comprised of 0’s and 1’s that your tuner / receiver decodes into the televisions audio and picture. If the digital signal is too weak, or has too much noise, you’ll get a blank screen or a frozen image. It’s basically an “all or nothing” deal.
So if you want better performance than even an amplified indoor antenna can give, you’ll need to consider going bigger and going higher. This means either an attic mount, a roof-top mount, a mast-mount or a combination of mast-on-roof-top. These antennas are generally larger and more sensitive than indoor models, and their installation outdoors in an elevated position lets them receive channels with far less interference than an antenna in your living room. If you live in an apartment, condo, town-house or a neighborhood with restrictions (e.g., HOA or CCR) you may not have this option available.
The next few sections go into more details for these basics, and can help you decide which type of antenna is best for your situation.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Antenna
For most people, an indoor antenna rated for 25- or 50-mile will be enough to capture all the digital over-the-air (OTA) signals available. These are typically mounted on the inside of a window, and come with double-sided removable tape. You will need to consider how far the window is from your TV so that the co-axial cable will reach. You can always get additional cable if you need to more length, just be sure to get the minimum length since you’ll loose some signal strength through the cord.
Our review on the Best Coaxial Cable for HDTV Antennas is coming out soon. You can have it emailed to you, along with out other Daily Best Tech, by signing up here for our newsletter.
If you live in more rural areas, and the distance from your house to the transmitter is further away, you may need a larger antenna or one with more “elements” (the metal pieces, or windings depending on the type of antenna). The larger the antenna, the better it will generally be a receiving the broadcast signal. Long-range antennas are mostly designed for outdoor installation, or in some cases the attic, so you’ll have to think about their placement. Most outdoor antennas will also need a mounting pole (or “mast”). Like indoor antenna, these can be either passive or amplified; Similarly, you can also add an external amplifier to a passive outdoor antenna. Another key consideration is how to run a co-axial cable from the antenna to your TV.
We’ll review the outdoor and attic antenna in an upcoming article. You don’t need to keep checking this article for the link, just sign up here for our daily best tech email and you won’t miss it.
Who Should Buy An Indoor Antenna?
Cable, satellite, U-Verse and FiOS TV subscriptions can be expensive, but often we forget that broadcast TV (which includes all your network channels, PBS stations, Shopping channels for many of the most popular programs) is still free and is transmitter in High Definition (HD) 1080p. Anyone who wants a cheap and easy way to get HD programming from major and local networks should give free over-the-air (OTA) HDTV a try.
Also, if you already get most of your content from online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and others, you may not need to spend more for cable / satellite channels. Most sports programs are also available through free broadcast HDTV. To be able to tune in these stations, you’ll need to have an antenna.
The indoor antennas we reviewed are the best fit for people who can’t or won’t install a roof or attic antenna. We looked at models that can be placed in your window, on a wall, or behind your TV; those are generally designed for simple, unobtrusive setup. And at around $10 for some of the least expensive indoor antennas, it’s hard to say no to giving it a try!
After you get your new antenna, you’ll definitely need to experiment with the placement. Check the FCC map site above to see where your transmitter towers are located, and position your antenna where it will have maximum exposure to those signals. It may be that wall is actually better than a window depending on the orientation of your living room. Also, keep the antenna away from magnetic metals such as security bars or the like, if possible, as they can interfere with your signal. Definitely do not attach the antenna to your refrigerator, furnace or water heater.
Most of the indoor antennas are small enough and light enough to be held in place with double sided tape, which is usually provided. I don’t recommend using duct tape or masking tape, since these can be messy, gummy and often not very effective in any case at holding the antenna up. If you don’t have double sided tape (e.g., here is some on Amazon), packing tape or poster putty may work instead. For some of the larger antennas, these will need to be screwed onto a wall and come with keyhole slots in the back for this. Keep this in mind when choosing the best antenna for you.
Who Should Buy An Outdoor / Attic Antenna?
The rationale for an antenna is the same regardless of whether it’s indoors, attic or outdoors – to get free broadcast HDTV. But you may need to move to an attic or outdoor antenna if you need something bigger to pull in a clear signal. As mentioned in the Basics part of this article, the HDTV signal is digital, creating an “all-or-nothing” scenario for watching OTA broadcasts. In order to receive a signal that is strong enough, or without too much noise, in many cases an indoor antenna just isn’t enough. The larger size, along with the additional elements / windings, gives these antennas the ability to better capture the VHF and UHF broadcast signals.
Attic antennas are the next step up from indoor antennas. These are fairly small, but can be a little bit bulky. Attic antennas are definitely something you don’t want in your living room or anyplace you would see it, unless you really like an industrial look in your decor. Some have a short (e.g., 1 to 2 feet) mast for mounting, but most attach directly to the exposed wood framing in the attic.
Outdoor antennas are larger than attic antennas, and can have up to 40 elements for residential installations. These range in size from a few feet in length to 10 feet, and can weight up to 40 pounds. The antenna is attached to a long metal pole (“mast”), for maximum height as well as to clear the building roof-line. Since these are outside, they are subjected to wind and other weather, so the mast need to be securely mounted to a chimney or structural part of the house.
Outdoor antennas may also come with a motor to rotate the mast (and hence the antenna), to position the antenna elements for optimum reception of a specific broadcaster. This is important in some location where there are multiple broadcast transmitters that are located in different places. In general, an antenna only has about a 20-degree arc where is effectively pulls in signals.
With an attic or outdoor antenna, you’ll need to carefully consider how run the co-axial cable from the antenna to your TV. This will most likely involve drilling holes in walls / ceilings. When considering the labor involved, it’s best to make sure you have a high quality cable that will minimize noise, minimize signal loss and last for many years to come. Our review on the Best Coaxial Cable for Attic / Outdoor Antennas is coming out soon. You can have it emailed to you, along with out other Daily Best Tech, by signing up here or our newsletter.
Non-Amplified (“Passive”) vs. Amplified (“Powered”)
Antennas can be divided into two broad categories: those that need power and those that don’t. If the antenna has an amplifier then it will need an external power source for the amplifier. Depending on the antenna, the power may come from a USB cable or from an AC-to-DC adapter that plugs into the 120V house outlet. The power input is in addition to the co-axial cable that runs from the antenna to your television, delivering the digital broadcast signal. You can also purchase an external amplifier to work with a non-amplified antenna. In general, it’s not a good idea to use an external amplifier with an already amplified antenna.
We will be releasing a review on best amplifiers for antennas later this month. Sign up here for our daily best tech email and you won’t miss it.
Amplified antennas generally have better reception with a higher price, but you may be okay with a non-amplified, or “passive”, model depending on your location. If stations are broadcasting within a 20-mile radius of your home, and you have good sight-lines, you can probably make do with a passive antenna. If not, an amplified model may help. Similarly, if you are using an attic or outdoor antenna, the signal quality from the larger antenna may be sufficient.
Non-amplified antennas don’t require any additional power source. You plug the cable from the antenna into your television and you’re done. However, these antennas typically aren’t as good at receiving signals from longer ranges, so they’re better suited for cities / urban areas, where the broadcast signals don’t have to travel as far.
Amplified antennas are best for the suburbs and rural areas, where a TV signal has to travel a greater distance or has more noise interference. They also tend to perform better in rainy or stormy conditions, which can also affect how well a signal travels. You may also need an amplified if your antenna is more than 30 to 50 feet away from your television, since there is some signal loss through the cable. The downside is that amplified antennas require their own power source, which will require you to plug them into a standard outlet, or in some cases, a USB port in your TV.
It’s worth noting, that in some cases depending on your signal strength, noise and type of television you have, using an amplifier could actually make your reception worse. For that reason, we generally recommend starting out with a non-amplified antenna and then adding on an external amplifier if needed. Alternatively, if you know from past experience at your location, or have information from your neighbors, that you’ll need an amplified antenna, then start with that. Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science and your reception will vary based on a large number of factors.
Our review on the Best Amplifiers for HDTV Antennas is coming out soon. You can have it emailed to you, along with out other Daily Best Tech, by signing up below: