Best Outdoor TV Antenna: ANTOP “Big Boy” 400-BV
After testing with multiple TVs in a woodsy location, the best outdoor TV antenna is the ANTOP AT-400BV.
The AT-400BV is also referred to as the “Big Boy” model. It can be mounted either on a roof or roof peak. The antenna has a metal bracket on the back of the panel for mounting. It comes with all the hardware needed for installation. That includes a 39-foot cable with a thick weather resistant coating.
Getting yourself a TV antenna can change the way you look at your finances, and your cable subscription. If you properly set up a TV antenna, there’s an excellent chance that you will get a much better HD quality picture compared to cable. Channels like CBS, ABC, PBS, NBC, The CW and FOX are all yours for the taking and looking better than your pay-TV subscription. That’s true even if you own a 4K TV.
How is this possible?
TV antennas are pulling in digital signals directly from a broadcast tower. Cable companies like Comcast have to compress the broadcast – at the expense of picture quality — to send it through the cable cord going into your home. This review will cover my findings using the AT-400 BV, and give you some resources so you can easily figure out how to set up your own TV antenna.
Digital broadcasts only began around seven years ago, and a surprisingly small number of Americans know about free high definition signals despite the best efforts of the federal government. That’s beginning to change in a dramatic way.
An estimated 22 million people are expected to drop their cable TV subscription this year.
So whether you’re a football fan who wants to watch NFL and NCAA games, or a PBS addict who wants every episode of America’s Test Kitchen, a TV antenna gets you free high definition programming for life.
You don’t need to start calling yourself cord cutter to enjoy the benefits.
ANTOP AT-400 BV: THE BEST OUTDOOR TV ANTENNA BY THE NUMBERS
- Application: Indoor/Outdoor
- Amplification: Smartpass Amplified
- Reception Pattern: Multi-directional
- Distance to transmitter: 60/70 mile
- Frequency Range: 87.5-230MHz, 470-700MHz
- Gain Switch-OFF: 10dB; Switch-ON: 33dB
- Output Level: 100dBuV Max
- Noise Figure: <3.5dB
- Impedance: 75Ω
- Power Supply: DC 12V via power adapter
- Cable Length: 39ft
- Size: 22 X 10 X 4.7in
How I tested ANTOP AT-400BV
I brought the ANTOP to a woodsy spot near the coast of Maine, where I have done some testing on other antennas.
The two-story property is located in a hilly area and has trees on three sides that are taller than the home by about 10 feet. There was already an RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi antenna being used here, which was getting roughly a dozen over-the-air (OTA) channels.
AntennaWeb.org and tvfool.com were both used to figure out what would be the best direction to point the ANTOP antenna and scan for channels. You just need to type in your address to get a free detailed analysis of potential broadcast towers in your area that can give you free TV. I was invited by ANTOP to test out a couple of their antennas. They provided me with the AT-400 BV for this review.
What to look for in a new antenna
Whenever I’m testing out a new antenna, I have a rough litmus test on what I want to get out of it. Sure, a quality picture without any kind of pixilation or lag is a top priority. But there’s more to look for than just watching your local NBC station. Here is a short list of other things a good antenna should do for you.
- Unlock new local channels: You should not assume that your local Comcast TV package will have every local channel that’s out there. You might get big networks like NBC, CBS and ABC. But there are other networks that might have your local news, weather or good movies.
- Get HD quality: Major networks like NBC, CBS, PBS and ABC should come with high definition clarity. You should notice the difference in picture quality right away if you are able to get OTA channels in your area. Go back to the same channel on cable, and there will be quite a difference in picture quality.
- Receive sub-channels not offered on cable: There’s a good chance that your local network affiliates like NBC are broadcasting more than one channel from their broadcast tower. These sub-channels might not all be in HD quality. Many of them aren’t. But there has been a rise genre-specific channels with programming as good as many a cable channel. If you’re a true crime fan, you might find a sub-channel like ESCAPE. Episodes of Forensic Files and American Greed are broadcasted regularly. Those two shows are regularly shown on cable channels like HLN and CNBC.
- Range: Being able to pull in channels from a far distance, and have a decent gain to pull in VHF and UHF signals is one of the more important aspects of any antenna you choose. I recommend using an amplifier with an antenna because in many cases it can help with getting channels.
ANTOP AT-400BV specs and performance
The antenna required little assembly after screwing in two VHF enhancer rods on each side of the panel. This is a multi-directional antenna and comes with a amplifier, which I’ll get back to in a minute. The panel measures 22 x 10 x 4.7 inches. The construction was sturdy and built to withstand being outdoors and enduring all sorts of weather. That was true even with the 39 feet of cord that had a rubber hood over the end coax cable that attaches to the back of the antenna.
Before getting on the roof, I connected the antenna to a TV in a loft apartment above the garage. I placed the TV antenna on the edge of a second-story deck. I used a tabletop base that comes with the ANTOP antenna for this setup.
From the second-floor deck, I was still below the Yagi antenna on the property and well below the tree line surrounding the back end of the house. My channel count jumped to 19 channels total from this spot, including sub-channels. I picked up some real gems in HD like PBS Kids (with three sub-channels) and a CBS affiliate showing a football game. That had two more sub-channels.
I knew this wasn’t an ideal setup that would get me the most channels. I was surrounded by trees, aiming for line-of-sight signals. Generally, the higher your antenna, the better the reception. The roof proved to be the best location.
TV antenna amplifier performance
Other antennas that I’ve tested here have struggled with picture quality. I noticed right away that the ANTOP was getting a stronger signal even from a less-than-ideal placement. This was probably due two features in particular. The ANTOP AT-400BV comes with a Smartpass amplifier that you can actually switch on and off. A small bulb on the amp turns green when it’s on, yellow when it’s off. This TV antenna also has a 4G LTE Filter, designed to block 3G and 4G interference from cell towers.
I looked over my online readouts before getting on the roof and I also used a small compass to make sure I was facing in the right direction. Most of my towers were coming from the northeast. In the end, I wound up with 30 channels, including one that was 53.5 miles away in neighboring New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire channel and sub-channels that came with it was nothing great in terms of programming. But the location of the tower proved that the ANTOP AT-400BV actually had the ability to draw from antennas in the 60 to 70 mile range without a problem.
The ANTOP gave me new channels that I couldn’t get before like CBS, PBS and PBS Kids along with a couple of independent stations that were in the area. After adjusting the direction of the antenna and re-scanning for channels, there was a noticeable improvement with picture quality compared to the older antenna on the property.
The picture was crisp and pretty much flawless. There was only one channel that I wanted to get that eluded me, a local FOX affiliate that had a tower about 60 miles away. Since I could get the New Hampshire channel without a problem, the terrain and the tree line that went above the house and roof was the likely factor blocking me from getting the FOX affiliate north of me. I’ve never been able to get this channel with any antenna that I’ve tested here.
Findings and other antenna resources
You also may notice on AntennaWeb whether there is anything else that might be blocking a line-of-sight path from the tower to your home. Mountains, hills and high power cables can all have a serious impact on antenna reception.
If you want more step-by-step instructions for looking over signals, please look over my guide: How to Choose the Best TV Antenna & DVR.
The “Big Boy” AT-400BV is easily the best outdoor TV antenna that I’ve tested this year. I more than doubled my channel lineup, got a better picture and even picked up a channel about 60 miles away.
Spending money on a decent antenna like this that you can use for years to come is a much better investment for your home entertainment than handing money over to Comcast or Spectrum every month. With DVR options like Tablo-2 or a HDHomeRun tuner, you can easily record anything you can pick up as well with very little setup.