While many of the major streaming platforms make live TV possible, the feature is often locked behind a steep subscription hike. If you've cut the cord and parted ways with your cable provider or shipped back your satellite dish, then buying an HDTV antenna is the best way to watch live TV without that monthly fee.
To help you find the right HDTV antenna, we've scientifically tested and reviewed the best HDTV antennas. With its chic design and detachable cable, the Antennas Direct Clearstream Eclipse 35(available at Amazon for $39.99) is our top pick for the best TV antenna. However, most of the antennas we tested brought something to the table.
These are the best TV antennas we tested, ranked in order:
Antennas Direct Clearstream Eclipse 35
Channel Master FLATenna 35 CM-4001HDBW
1byone Thin and Shiny Indoor HDTV Antenna (2019)
Mohu Leaf Plus
Monoprice Active Curved HD5
RCA ANT111E Indoor Digital TV Antenna, Non-Amplified, 40-Mile Range
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The Clearstream Eclipse was last year's pick for the best indoor TV antenna and is still our top performer—though the competition was a bit tighter this year. In our testing, we found the Eclipse was able to capture a good number of channels, but where it really stood out was its reception. It was clearer and more consistent than every other antenna we tested.
While the Eclipse was our top performer, where it really differentiates itself from the crowd is its usability and aesthetic. In a sea of black rectangles, its elegant, circular design is a breath of fresh air. The device also features a black side and a white side, so you can choose which fits better with your home decor. The included "Sure Grip" adhesive strip provides a mounting option that's strong enough to grip the wall without needing screws or pins, but not so strong it peels off your paint when repositioning. We also appreciated its detachable cable, which isn't a universal given in this category.
While the Clearstream Eclipse is a top performer and quite handsome to boot, you will pay a slight premium for it.
The FLATenna might not have the aesthetic flair of the Clearstream Eclipse, but it did hold its own in terms of performance. The FLATenna was actually able to pick up more channels than any other antenna we tested, all the while maintaining a very clear, consistent signal. The FLATenna also offers the same black side/white side design of the Eclipse but doesn't have much else to differentiate it from the other flat rectangles out there.
Where we think the FLATenna really shines is in the performance it offers for its price. For less than half the price of the Clearstream Eclipse, the FLATenna offers very comparable performance. If you're not sure an antenna is right for you and want to test one out, we think the FLATenna indoor TV antenna offers the best performance for the cost.
I'm Mark Brezinski, and I've been testing and reviewing consumer tech of all kinds for over a decade. I spent several years developing testing for and reviewing dozens of different product categories for Reviewed, from cell phones to headphones to washing machines.
In previous HDTV antenna testing, we tried to keep variables to a minimum by using non-amplified, indoor HDTV antennas with a 30- to 40-mile range. While that certainly allowed us to make more direct comparisons between products, it really didn't provide much context for the product category of indoor HDTV antennas as a whole. What is the performance difference between amplified and non-amplified antennas? How good are the higher-end models compared to the lower-end ones? Is there any difference between the newer, flat rectangle designs and a set of rabbit ears?
Once we determined the scope of the article, we began our research, looking for the best antennas with their specific feature set. To do this, we researched the market, scoured existing buying guides, and compared antennas with the highest overall customer ratings (using FakeSpot to determine the authenticity of user feedback).
Our testing was separated into two parts: subjective and objective. The subjective portion included things like how easy the device was to unpack and set up, how clear the instructions were, and our overall impressions of build quality. For our objective tests, we set up the antennas in the same spot in our Boston-based testing labs, scan for channels, then observed how clear each the signal was for each station we were able to tune in. We then repeated this process if the antenna offered optional amplification.
We also ran these tests in a second location, a suburb outside of Seattle, to check for consistency of results. What we found was just how drastically the quality of your HDTV antenna experience can change based on location. In the previous iteration of our article, antennas were able to pull in about 100 channels from a location based in LA. In our thick-walled Boston testing lab, we were able to get between 30 and 50 channels, though in all models we were able to directly correlate some signal drop-outs with large trucks driving by outside. In a suburb 20 minutes south of Seattle we were able to get between 4 and 11 channels, with results that fluctuated on a day-to-day basis.
Basically, we wanted to show just how finicky getting reception on these devices can be, even the high-performing units. You really don't want to move them around once you mount them and to place them out of the way of foot (or vehicular) traffic if possible. These results also led us to highly value the consistency of a signal. For example, we noticed all of the devices had their signal interrupted by a passing semi truck, but that disturbance was more severe and lasted longer for some devices compared to others.
What Is an HDTV Antenna?
When you think of a TV antenna, you might picture the classic rabbit ear design from the 1950s. While those are still around (and still work, though not well), most modern HDTV antennas look like thin sheets of plastic.
Antennas are basically just receivers that are able to tune into signals broadcast by local sources, typically along the UHF (ultra high frequency) or VHF (very high frequency) bands. Assuming you're located close enough to a broadcast source, your HDTV antenna can listen in to that signal, free of charge.
What Are The Benefits of an HDTV Antenna?
The main benefit of an HDTV antenna is there’s no recurring subscription cost. You pay once for the antenna, then you’re free to watch whatever TV signals it can find.
As stated above, though, there are a few caveats to this unlimited TV smorgasbord. A few limitations of the technology include your available channels being limited to what's available in your geographic location and how finicky signal quality can be depending on environmental factors.
How Do I install an HDTV Antenna?
Installing most HDTV antennas is fairly easy. You just attach the antenna to your TV via the included coaxial cable. If the antenna has signal amplification, you’ll need to connect it to a power source as well (otherwise the coax is the only necessary connection). From there, you just mount it to your wall, ideally out of the way of foot traffic, which can interrupt the signal.
How Do HDTV Antennas Work?
Your local TV stations are constantly broadcasting HD signals, typically on the UHF (ultra high frequency) or VHF (very high frequency) bands. An HDTV antenna basically just tunes into those frequency bands, allowing your TV to pluck programming right out of the air, for the one-time purchase price of the antenna itself.
Of course, this means the available channels will be limited to what antennas are broadcasting in your area if any. Depending on your location, you could get over 100 channels or close to zero. We’d recommend checking the FCC broadcast maps to see what stations are available at your address before you purchase an HDTV antenna.
Also, because the signal is line-of-sight, your placement of the antenna can significantly affect its efficacy. We recommend testing out a few different locations to get a sense for where the signal is better or worse. We also recommend mounting the antenna out of the way of foot traffic or other passing objects, as that can cause the signal to drop out momentarily.
Other HDTV Antennas We Tested
1byone Thin and Shiny Indoor HDTV Antenna - 35 Miles
We found the Thin and Shiny was able to receive a strong signal on most channels. Like the FLATenna, the Thin and Shiny offers great overall performance at a relatively low price. That being said, it was a little scooped by the FLATenna in that regard, which had slightly better performance and was also less expensive.
In terms of its overall look, it's a bit shinier (hence the name) than other antennas we tested. But the "shiny" part leads to a few minor inconveniences, as it picks up fingerprints. The protective shrink wrap is difficult to remove without bending the antenna, too. Further, the plastic wrap goes underneath the plastic molding where the cable attaches. If you're not careful, you'll end up with torn flecks of plastic peeking out from under there.
The newer Winegard indoor HDTV antenna compares to its contemporaries about as well as last year's model did. It was an above average performer, but not amongst the top few. While the FL5500A tied with the Leaf Plus in terms of pulling in the most channels of the group, the consistency of its reception left little to be desired compared to the antennas in our top spots. When it comes to our scoring, we do reward the ability to tune into a higher number of stations, but if those stations have spotty reception (or are an outright garbled mess), we award far fewer points.
The FL5500A came with the longest cable out of all the models we reviewed. It's a small bonus, but we like that it offers you more options for placement fresh out of the box. Overall, the FL5500A is an above average device that, unfortunately, is a little on the expensive side.
The Mohu Leaf Plus is this year's iteration of the popular Leaf model, though the competition was steeper this year compared to last. We found the Leaf Plus had almost identical performance to the Winegard FL5500A. It was able to pull in the most channels of the group, but those channels weren't particularly watchable, with pretty consistent glitching. Again, not a particularly poor performance, but not outstanding either.
We've alluded to the homogenous landscape of flat black rectangles in the indoor HDTV antenna space earlier and praised some antennas for offering something different in terms of their design. While the Monoprice Curved HD5's namesake curved shape and hard plastic construction definitely offer something different, we're not sure that's a good thing. Most of the other antennas on this list are easy to mount to a wall, but the HD5 requires tabletop space or a more robust mounting solution. In a sea of thin, unobtrusive products, it does manage to stand out as pretty bulky.
Of course, if the HD5 had the performance to merit its design choices, we'd praise its innovation in a stagnant industry. Unfortunately, the numbers don't back that up. While the HD5 actually slots between the Winegard FL5500A and 1byone Thin and Shiny in terms of its image quality, it wasn't able to find nearly as many channels as either device.
Unlike the Winegard and Leaf plus that managed to outperform it, however, the HD5 does have a slightly more modest price. So if you're looking for a decent antenna and specifically want something that's more durable than the rest of the flimsy plastic squares on this list, maybe the HD5 is a good pick for you.
The ReLeaf seems to be an above-average antenna with an impressive selling point—it's made out of recycled materials. The ReLeaf had about average signal strength, netting a decent number of channels but missing out on a few the top performers were able to capture. Its signal quality was also good, with most channels coming in crystal clear and steady. Again, nothing to really call it out as a top performer, but definitely more towards the front of the pack than the back.
While the selling point "made from recycled materials" might make you doubt the ReLeaf's build quality, it felt fairly sturdy. Rather than flimsy plastic, the ReLeaf is constructed of rigid, post-consumer recycled cardboard: it actually felt a lot more solid in our hands than most of the other antennas we tested. That being said, the plastic designs of other antennas are likely more durable in the long run and you'd likely have to take a bit of special care with your ReLeaf to ensure its longevity: splashes that would roll down other antennas will stain or degrade the ReLeaf.
Of course, if you're looking for a more environmentally-friendly option, the ReLeaf is a great choice. It's clear Mohu put a lot of thought into all the ways they could make this product more green, from its materials to its manufacturing to printing the instructions on the box itself. Typically when we see a company making responsible choices like this, it typically means the product is a lot more expensive for consumers. If you want an affordable, sustainable choice, the ReLeaf is your best choice.
You might not recognize this manufacturer or model number, but if you go on Amazon and search for "HDTV antenna," chances are the Vansky VS-TX01 will be the first non-sponsored product in your search results (complete with "Best Seller" tag). For a lot of tech staples, hopping onto Amazon and getting the first cheap, basic model available will be good enough. If you're looking for a new HDTV antenna, however, this Amazon Best Seller leaves a lot to be desired.
Not only were we unimpressed with the number of channels the VS-TX01 was able to receive, but its overall reception was much poorer than the other devices on this list. This places just below the Mohu ReLeaf on our rankings, as the drop-off between the two in terms of performance is pretty steep. Compounding matters, while the Vansky antenna features optional amplification, we found it actually hurt the product's overall signal quality, turning previously clear (or at least watchable) channels into garbled messes. The only thing this antenna has going for it is its price, but even in that regard, the FLATenna completely blows it out of the water.
The world of modern HDTV antennas is almost completely dominated by the flat black rectangle. Given that, we knew we wanted to include at least one rabbit ear antenna as a kind of baseline. So, how do the older models stand up to the newer ones? Not very well, I'm afraid. The old ways are pretty underwhelming for how much work you had to do. This model contained two dipoles (antennas) and a loop—all of which you need to fiddle with on a channel-by-channel basis to get a clear image. While this antenna is certainly the least expensive on our list, it also dramatically underperformed each other antenna we tested. It's probably not worth the kitsch factor.
Ben is an experienced industry journalist who formerly served as Senior Editor of News and Features at Reviewed. He now contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Most recently hailing from the vast wilds of the American southwest, he is an avid photographer who is deeply disturbed by the lack of wide open landscapes in Boston.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.