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 or satellite provider, buying an HDTV antenna is the best way to pipe live sports, news, and other programming into your new 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) 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
Mohu Leaf Plus
Monoprice Active Curved HD5
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The Clearstream Eclipse is a consistent top performer. 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 on our list.
While the Eclipse is 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 think you'll also appreciate its detachable cable, which isn't a universal given in this category.
Though you'll pay a slight premium for it, the Clearstream Eclipse is a top performer and quite handsome to boot.
The FLATenna might not have the aesthetic flair of the Clearstream Eclipse, but it holds 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. The FLATenna offers very comparable performance to our top pick for less cash. If you're not sure an antenna is right for you and want to test one out, the FLATenna indoor TV antenna offers the best performance for the cost we've come across.
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 our testing, we kept several points in mind. 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 those with more complex designs?
We then 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 is separated into two parts: subjective and objective. The subjective portion includes things like how easy the device is to unpack and set up, how clear the instructions are, 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 observ how clear each the signal is for each station. We then repeat this process if the antenna offers optional amplification.
We also ran these tests in a second location, to check for consistency of results, as the HDTV antenna experience can change drastically based on location. In previous testing, antennas were able to pull in about 100 channels from a location based in LA. In our thick-walled Boston testing lab, we can only 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.
It's evident 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 it's best to place them out of the way of foot or vehicular traffic if possible. These results also lead us to highly value the consistency of a signal. For example, we've noticed all of the devices have their signal interrupted by a passing semi-truck, but that disturbance is 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 are made of thin 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 receive that signal, free of charge.
What Are The Benefits of an HDTV Antenna?
An HDTV antenna provides free, live broadcast TV with no need for a recurring subscription. You pay once for the antenna, then you’re free to watch whatever TV signals it can find, all in high definition.
As stated above, though, there are a few caveats to this unlimited TV smorgasbord. Such limitations 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 very easy. You just attach the antenna to your TV's coaxial input 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. This is a great way to supplement streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ with live TV.
Of course, this means the available channels will be limited to what's available in your area (if any). Depending on your location, you could get over 100 channels or close to zero. To find out, you can employ a service such as Antennas Direct, which can tell you which channels are available in your area based on your zip code.
Also, because the signal is line-of-sight, your placement of the antenna can significantly affect its performance. We recommend testing out a few different locations to find out 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
The Winegard indoor HDTV antenna is an above average performer, but its performance will cost you. While the FL5500A ties with the Leaf Plus in terms of pulling in the most channels of the group, the consistency of its reception leaves a 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 may seem like a small bonus, but we like that it offers you more options for placement fresh out of the box (and without the need for extension cables). Overall, the FL5500A is a solid device that, unfortunately, is a little on the expensive side.
The Mohu Leaf Plus is offers plenty to like, including solid reception and plenty of channels. In our testing, 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. While it will certainly get the job done, it's also pricier than some of our lists other options.
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 holds up to the Winegard FL5500A in terms of its image quality, it wasn't able to find nearly as many channels as either device in our tests.
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, the HD5 could be a good pick for you.
The ReLeaf is an above-average antenna with an impressive selling point—it's made out of recycled materials. The ReLeaf offers 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 is 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 toward 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 feels fairly sturdy. Rather than flimsy plastic, the ReLeaf is constructed of rigid, post-consumer recycled cardboard that holds up surprisingly well. 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 making 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 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 it's been a relatively popular choice on Amazon. 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. 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, you can likely do better.
That said, we chose to keep the antenna on our list in hopes of saving you from the purchase if you do find it online.
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.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.