While everyone is jumping on the streaming bandwagon, the best outdoor TV antennas provide access to plenty of channels, totally free of charge. These devices pull tons of channels out of the air, and in many cases are little more expensive than popular streaming devices. And unlike the run-of-the-mill antenna from the dark ages, these are actually incredibly easy to install. What channels are available? There’s the local channels including CBS, Fox, NBC, and ABC, but depending on the device and your location, you may be able to pull in select cable channels as well. Here’s our picks of the best outdoor TV antennas.
— Best Overall: Antennas Direct ClearStream 4V TV Antenna
— Best Motorized: PBD WA-2608 Digital Amplified Outdoor HDTV Antenna
— Best Long Range: Five Star Yagi Satellite HDTV Antenna
— Best 4K Support: LAVA HD2605 Outdoor HDTV Antenna
— Best Multi-Directional: Antop AT-415B 720 UFO Dual Omni-Directional Outdoor HDTV Antenna
How We Selected the Best Outdoor TV Antennas
Terrestrial TV has officially been totally digital for more than a decade now. Still, for some reason, much of the technology to pull channels out of thin air for you to watch still has a smack of retro to it. Here are some of the things we considered when picking the best outdoor TV antennas.
Range: Outdoor antennas all have a range of use, usually measured in miles. A 60-mile antenna, for example, will capture channels in any given direction for up to 60 miles. Some can stretch farther than their given range, though, expect stuff to come in fuzzy. A comparable example of this is like when you’re channel surfing on FM radio during a road trip. A bangin’ classic rock station will eventually become static-y and unlistenable once you’re no longer within range of the station. If you’re smack dab in the middle of a busy city, there’s a good chance you won’t need anything more than an inexpensive indoor antenna for basic cable needs. If you live more than thirty miles from a Starbucks, it may be worth buying an antenna with a wider range.
Setup: Even the more cumbersome outdoor TV antennas may not require special tools to install, but you will, at the very least, need to break out a ladder and climb on a roof. After all, installing it lower may not take full potential out of your outdoor antenna’s range capabilities. Could you farm out the work of installing these devices to someone? Certainly. But that can take buying an affordable outdoor TV antenna and make it expensive real quick. Handypersons expect to be paid for their labor, after all, unless you have really cool friends with tool belts. But whether or not you or a screwdriver-savvy person is installing it, it shouldn’t be difficult.
Build Quality: Aesthetics for this sort of device shouldn’t matter. But a big honking thing that lives on your roof could be ugly enough to make your neighbors whisper about it behind your back. “Hey look, here comes ‘Ugly Roof Boy,’” or other equally hurtful jabs. No outdoor TV antenna looks fantastic, but some models are sleeker than others, and can easily be obfuscated behind a chimney. Nicer models tend to be flat and surprisingly modern looking, though nothing beats the range capabilities of one of the busier, wiry models.
Maintenance: TV antennas aren’t exactly like cars that need regular tune-ups. However, TV signals vary in strength depending on many variables that can change as frequently as the weather. Coincidentally, the weather is one of these variables. The best antennas work through these obstructions, be they nature or man-made like trees and cellular signals. Having the option to rotate your antenna without having to climb on your roof is an excellent feature. If you can’t change an antenna’s direction at will, it better be strong enough to grab signals from within an upstairs balcony or attic. Nobody wants to climb a roof anytime a big game comes on.
Best Outdoor TV Antennas: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Antennas Direct ClearStream 4V TV Antenna
Why It Made The Cut: ClearsStream 4V is one of the most attractive outdoor TV antennas, with impressive power and range, and is 4K ready.
— Dimensions: 20.1 inches L x 28.2 inches W x 6.3 inches D
— Weight: 6 pounds
— Operating Range: Up to 70 miles
— Frequency: UHF/VHF
— Smartphone app helps maximize antenna range
— Works with established cable in homes
— Easy install on vertical and horizontal surfaces
— On the pricier side
— Requires high mounting for optimal results
Even if you are handy with tools and decide to install an outdoor TV antenna yourself, there’s a lot of guesswork when it comes to pointing it in the right direction to get as many channels as possible. Antenna’s Direct ClearStream 4V takes the guesswork out of installation, so you never have to mess with it ever again.
Using the Antenna Point app (available on Google Play and App Store), you can be sure you position the ClearStream 4v Correctly to get as many as 60 channels across 70 miles. Users in the foothills of California recorded getting channels as far as the Bay Area, in fact. Not too shabby for a simple outdoor TV antenna. Plus, its design actually looks like something invented within the last decade, which is not something you can say about many outdoor TV antennas. Granted, you need to mount the device from 30 to 40 feet off the ground for the best results. After installing, ClearStream 4V works with the installed coaxial cable in your home. Using it alone is great, pairing it with an amplifier makes it unbeatable. It’s a little pricey, but nothing beats the security that comes with a stable signal.
Best Motorized: PBD WA-2608 Digital Amplified Outdoor HDTV Antenna
Why It Made The Cut: Installing the PBD WA-2608 Digital Amplified Outdoor HDTV Antenna is as easy as watching classic reruns, and the motorized controls ensure you never have to touch it again.
— Dimensions: 13 inches L x 17.5 inches W x 4.5 inches D
— Weight: 6.4 pounds
— Operating Range: Up to 150 miles
— Frequency: UHF/VHF
— Weather resistant, with lightning protection
— Easy controls
— Above average range
— Supports only two televisions
— Cheap construction
TV antennas may bring in a bevy of HD channels and come with space-age aesthetics, but in many cases, the technology is just like you remember it. Even some of the best outdoor TV antennas need adjusting now and then, which is pretty cumbersome to do, unless you get a motorized model like the PBD WA-2608 Digital Amplified Outdoor HDTV Antenna with Mounting Pole.
This outdoor TV antenna is incredibly easy to install. Because it snaps into place, you won’t need any special tools. The 10-foot mount that comes with the device will give your antenna the extra vertical reach to make channels come in as clear as possible. Better yet, it’s motorized, so you can point it in whatever direction you like, using a handy remote control. This way, you can gauge which cardinal direction will bring in more channels. It covers a range of up to 150 miles, which becomes exponentially larger when you consider it can be pointed every which way. Despite some of the parts of the PBD antenna being cheap plastic, the device is weather resistant, even to lightning. True, it only works with two televisions at once, but that’s not something a coaxial splitter can’t solve.
Best Long Range: Five Star Yagi Satellite HDTV Antenna
Why It Made The Cut: Five Star Yagi Satellite pulls channels as far away as 200 miles, for those living in the middle of nowhere.
— Dimensions: 7.64 inches L x 17.8 inches W x 5.87 inches D
— Weight: 5.48 pounds
— Operating Range: Up to 200 miles
— Frequency: UHF/VHF
— Great Value
— Unmatched range
— Wind, UV, and water resistant
— Cumbersome assembly
— Results may vary
Living close to a local TV channel affiliate makes channels come in crystal clear, usually with an inexpensive indoor TV antenna. For those who live in the boonies, far away from the din of the city, there’s the Five Star Yagi Satellite HD TV Antenna.
This powerful outdoor TV antenna stretches as far as 200 miles away, which should be more than enough range to reach at least a handful of channels. But that’s the floor, not the ceiling as far as channel availability is concerned. With that much range, you may be able to tap into as many as 50 channels, especially if you’re not terribly far away from a major metropolitan area. For an outdoor TV antenna at this price, it’s a pretty solid deal. Unfortunately, it’s not multi-directional, so it may require occasional re-orienting. However, because it’s so powerful, many users report that it works perfectly fine from an attic instead of a roof. Not a bad tradeoff. If you do decide to mount it outside, it’s totally weather-proof, whether we’re talking extreme wind, heat, or rain. Still, this antenna is very polarizing. Users either love it or hate it, so expect to fall into one of those camps, depending on where you live. The device also claims to come “pre-assembled,” which isn’t exactly accurate: it will still require a hands-on setup.
Why It Made The Cut: LAVA Outdoor HDTV Antenna is user-friendly, and one of the easiest ways to get free 4K channels.
— Dimensions: 12 inches L x 16 inches W x 5 inches D
— Weight: 5.48 pounds
— Operating Range: Up to 125 miles
— Frequency: UHF/VHF/FM
— Supports up to eight televisions with the right splitter
— Made to prioritize 4K channels
— Built-in motor and pre-amplifier
— Incredibly slow motor
Antennas are pretty lo-fi, but plenty of terrestrial channels are broadcast in 4K. If you have a fancy 4K television, the LAVA HD2605 Outdoor HDTV Antenna is an easy way to tap into free, high-def channels.
LAVA outdoor TV antenna doesn’t simply provide great picture quality, it pulls in great audio too. It supports 1080p and 4K channels for every single room in your house. Up to eight televisions can be hooked up to this antenna, which should be more than enough for most homes. Setup is relatively simple, and like any great outdoor TV antenna, it’s motorized. However, the motor that rotates the antenna is a little sluggish. If patience isn’t one of your virtues, you may want to spend a little more. If you’re confident in the signal quality in your area, it should be fine. The range is listed as 125 miles, though some users have reported it picking up channels up to 150 miles away. LAVA’s built-in amplifier may have something to do with that.
Best Multi-Directional: Antop AT-415B 720 UFO Dual Omni-Directional Outdoor HDTV Antenna
Why It Made The Cut: Why settle for one direction when you can have them all, with the Antop UFO Dual Omni-Directional Outdoor HDTV Antenna.
— Dimensions: 14.96 inches L x 14.96 inches W x 6 inches D
— Weight: 4.94 pounds
— Operating Range: Up to 65 miles
— Frequency: UHF/VHF
— Full HD support
— Blocks unwanted 3G and 4G signals
— Offers seriously stable coverage
— Less range, despite its power
Out of all the outdoor TV antennas in this compilation, the Antop UFO Dual Omni-Directional Outdoor HDTV Antenna is easily the most unique looking. It’s not just form you can rely on, the spaceship design packs plenty of useful function as well.
While other outdoor TV antennas have to be re-adjusted or rotated to pick up signals, the Antop UFO provides full 360-degree coverage vertically and horizontally, hence its 720 moniker. Like many great things, this comes with a catch. Its range may be more complete, but it’s a good bit shorter, topping out at 65 miles. Considering that the antenna covers 65 miles in every direction, this may be a fair trade. The signals coming in are amplified, and a 4G filter keeps other interference from messing up your reception. Because it’s so easy to set up, it works equally well on homes and RVs. Of course, the bevvy of channels that it does pull in will all be in glorious HD.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Outdoor TV Antenna
Do You Actually Need an Outdoor TV Antenna?
This is an actual question you should ask yourself before deciding to buy or set up an outdoor TV antenna. If you have a cable subscription, you shouldn’t need one. Many channels that would come in using an antenna will be available via your cable box. Same goes if you’re using a live TV streaming service like Sling or Hulu with Live TV, though, channel availability will vary depending on your area and channel suite. If you live within the city limits, or less than 30 miles out, an inexpensive indoor antenna may be more than enough to get the channels you need.
For those that live in rural areas, an outdoor TV antenna is more or less essential for grabbing terrestrial channels. Could you still use an outdoor TV antenna if you live within a city? Sure. Even if you’re close to the signals broadcasted by local network affiliates, you may be able to find even more channels available just out of range. Many of these outdoor antennas are relatively inexpensive and set up pretty quickly, so going channel hunting may be a fun Saturday afternoon adventure. Plus, given the fact that many cable providers compress their broadcasts to save on money, there’s a good chance that the channels you pull out of the air will be truly high definition.
Location, Location, Location
Do you live in an area surrounded by trees? While trees and their positive environmental impact do much to improve your overall quality of life, they’re an awful hindrance when it comes to grabbing television signals. The list of obstructions don’t end there. Mountains, large concrete buildings, power lines, LTE cell towers, LED light bulbs, and weather can all negatively affect you tapping into channels near and far.
One of the easiest ways to overcome these obstacles is to get as much latitude as possible when mounting your outdoor TV antenna. In general, the higher an antenna is mounted, the better the reception. Still, depending on where you live, it may be more prudent to simply drop the cash on a cable or live-streaming TV subscription.
Should I Get an Amplifier?
Every outdoor TV antenna here will grab channels. But will they come in crystal clear? Even the best antenna could use a boost, because, as previously stated, TV signals are fighting with plenty of obstructions. An easy, and more importantly, inexpensive fix is to plug your rig into an amplifier, which helps boost signals and clear up staticy channels. The GE Antenna Amplifier works great, and is incredibly cheap and easy to set up. You may not need it, though. Some outdoor TV antennas come with built-in amplifiers like the Antop AT-415B 720 UFO Dual Omni-Directional Outdoor HDTV Antenna.
Ways to Improve Your TV Reception
The most important thing you can do to improve television reception is picking the perfect place to mount it. The more height, the better, but ensure that wherever it is, that it has a clear view of the sky. Make sure there are no metal obstructions nearby, as they can mess with your antenna’s reception. Occasionally, companies cheap out on the coaxial cables that come packaged with outdoor TV antennas. Using better quality cables is an easy fix, and they come in varied lengths and sizes to suit your needs.
Q: How does an outdoor antenna work?
TV towers broadcast UHF and VHF signals. Your outdoor TV antenna snatches these signals out of the air and transmits them to your televisions. For other outside options, here are the best outdoor Bluetooth speakers.
Q: Can I put an indoor TV antenna outside?
Yes, an indoor TV antenna will work great outdoors, and in fact, will work better outdoors. In general, TV antennas will always operate better outdoors.
Q: How do I get the best outdoor antenna reception?
The ways to get the best reception out of your outdoor antenna are to direct it correctly, reduce interference, connect it with new cables, and use it in tandem with an amplifier.
Q: Does aluminum foil boost antenna signal?
Wrapping foil around your antenna increases its surface area, which does amplify your signal. However, it doesn’t look great, though looks are relative.
Q: Can I install an outdoor TV antenna myself?
You can easily install an outdoor antenna yourself, so long as you follow best safety practices when hopping onto a roof or balcony. Some antennas get decent reception from attics.
Q: How high does my antenna need to be?
For the best reception, an outdoor TV antenna needs to be placed more than 30 feet off the ground. The higher the placement, the better.
Final Thoughts on Outdoor TV Antennas
Nothing beats free, especially when it comes to television. Grabbing free networks out of thin air is easily done, especially with a powerful outdoor TV antenna. Antennas Direct ClearStream 4V TV Antenna is our overall favorite, for its easy setup and stable signals. It’s 4K ready, and requires little to no maintenance. The Antop AT-415B 720 UFO Dual Omni-Directional Outdoor HDTV Antenna is also a fantastic option, with an inspired design that provides some serious reach.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.