Modern TV antennas can deliver perfectly crisp picture quality in full HD and come in a variety of form factors and prices.
However, there is no ‘best’ TV antenna for every situation. It is most important to choose the best antenna for your needs.
TV Antenna Style Options
Today’s TV antennas range in cost from $20 to $200+ and come in several different form factors:
Flat Antennas – Are indoor antennas designed to be mounted in a window or on a wall
Table-Top Antennas – Can be as small as a paperback book, designed to be placed indoors on a flat surface near a window
Outdoor Antennas – Come in various styles and are typically mounted on your home’s roof, in your attic, or on another structure like a pole or tower
How to Choose the Right TV Antenna
Indoor TV antennas are best for those living in urban areas, 30 miles (50 KMs) or less from local OTA TV broadcast towers.
For those living in the suburbs or the country - between 40-60 miles (65-95 KMs) from local OTA TV broadcast towers - it is more likely that you’ll need a more powerful attic or roof-mount TV antenna.
Keep in mind that distance ratings on TV antennas are approximate, and don’t take obstructions or interference into account.
As well, bigger isn't always better when it comes to antennas. It is not worth investing in a high-performance '150 mile' fringe model if you live in an urban or suburban area as it can overdrive the tuner in your Tablo DVR or TV.
(We recommend checking out http://www.tvfool.com/ to find out how far away you live from your local OTA TV towers.)
Many quality antenna manufacturers (including Winegard, Mohu, Antennas Direct, and Antop) offer searchable online databases and 1-800 helplines to help you choose which TV antenna is best for your area.
Where to Buy Your TV Antenna
Most ‘big box’ retail stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowes stock a variety of TV antennas. You can also order them online from retailers like Amazon, as well as directly from manufacturers.
If possible, try to purchase your TV antenna from a store with a good return policy as you may need to test more than one before finding the right ‘fit’ for your home.
TV Antenna Accessory Options
Amplifiers are either built-in to the TV antenna or are an optional attachment that connects to the coaxial cable of your antenna. They’re designed to strengthen the signals that your antenna receives but won’t help you pull in additional channels.
There are two primary, types of OTA TV antenna amplifiers:
- In-line or Pre-Amplifiers: These are either built-in to the TV antenna or are an optional attachment that connects to the end of the coaxial connector of your antenna. Some require an additional A/C adapter to power the device.
- Distribution Amplifiers: Unlike regular TV signal splitters, distribution amplifiers are designed to mitigate signal loss when splitting the signal from a TV antenna between multiple devices. If you plan to share your antenna’s signal between your Tablo and multiple TVs, or you have a long run of coaxial cable (100+ feet) between your TV antenna and your Tablo, a distribution amplifier is a handy accessory.
TV Antenna Filters
Over-the-Air TV signals can sometimes be polluted by unwanted materials. The most common source of TV signal pollution (AKA interference) today are 4G/LTE cellular signals, which has made LTE filters quite popular.
Some higher-end TV antennas, distribution amplifiers, and tuners (including the ones in Tablo) already include some LTE filtering, but if you do live near a cell tower, investing in an LTE filter could be worthwhile for an improved experience.
TV Antenna Signal Attenuators
If you live in the shadow of your local broadcast towers, you could be overpowering your TV or Tablo DVR’s tuners by sending too strong of an OTA signal. This is called ‘overdriving’ and can result in a poor viewing experience or even the inability to tune into some stations.
However, you can easily reduce your signal with an attenuator. These devices are quite affordable and come in both variable and specific models to help you reduce your OTA TV signal by just the right amount.
Uni-Directional vs Multi/Omni-Directional TV Antennas
A big part of capturing the most TV channels possible with your antenna is knowing where your local broadcast towers are located. If they’re clustered together, you can point a uni-directional TV antenna at the broadcast tower source to receive a strong OTA signal.
However, in some locations, there may be multiple TV broadcast towers in different parts of the city or you may live in between two cities with their own sets of towers. To receive the widest variety of OTA TV stations, an omni-directional TV antenna or combining signals from two uni-directional TV antennas may be required, especially if the towers are more than 40 degrees apart.
VHF Frequency Support
While most OTA TV antennas on the market are designed to capture both frequencies of OTA TV signals (VHF and UHF), some antennas – especially certain ‘flat’ indoor antennas – are optimized primarily to capture UHF channels.
If some of your local TV channels are broadcast on the VHF frequency, make sure the antenna you get is designed to receive those OTA signals. You can read more about this by clicking here.
Antenna Marketing Tactics to Be Aware Of
The more mainstream cord cutting gets, the more TV antennas we’ve seen with claims on their packaging or in their marketing materials which can potentially lead consumers astray. Let's debunk a few...
Claim #1 – HD and/or 4K Capable
All TV antennas are designed to capture signals in the OTA TV frequency band. Today’s OTA TV is all digital and broadcast mostly in 720p or 1080i HD quality, therefore ALL TV antennas are ‘HD’ capable.
Moreover, antennas will not enhance/upscale the actual broadcast picture quality, so don’t choose one TV antenna over another because it claims to be ‘high definition’, HD/UHD, or 4K capable.
Claim #2 – Access to Cable-Only TV Channels
TV antennas whose packaging or marketing materials indicate they provide access to cable-only channels like ESPN or HBO. If the channel isn’t broadcast Over-the-Air, there’s no ‘special’ TV antenna that will pick it up.
(See what channels are available in your area with Tablo’s signal locator tool.)
Claim #3 – ‘No Monthly Fee’/'No Contract’
Over-the-Air TV has always been 100% free and has never required a contract. Choosing a TV antenna that doesn’t make these kinds of claims does NOT mean a bill will start showing up in your mailbox.
Claim #4 – OTA TV is ‘New’
Some antenna vendors are taking out advertorials claiming recent changes in ‘government rules’ have allowed for the concept of Over-the-Air TV to even exist, which is just incorrect.
Television has ALWAYS been broadcast Over-the-Air and in fact, is a critical component of TV station licensing requirements in the United States and Canada.