3 TV antennas designed for home decor
An amplified TV antenna is generally a staple in a cord cutter’s arsenal.
But how about one that’s designed to look good in your living room? Mohu, Antennas Direct and Antop are among a growing list of antenna makers that are designing indoor TV antennas that are focusing on style.
How do these eye-pleasing TV antennas perform against the best indoor TV antennas out there? I spent roughly three months testing out a trio of these new indoor TV antennas to find out.
Antennas Direct makes the ClearStream VIEW, a picture frame that hides a powerful indoor antenna that’s on par with its two best indoor TV antennas.
Mohu released the Leaf Chroma designer indoor antenna, which has a variety of reversible color schemes. And Antop has a World Map indoor TV antenna that can work either while perched on a bookshelf or on a wall.
The variety of antenna designs has only grown in 2017 and 2018 as more people are opting to cut the cord on cable TV. So it’s not too surprising that antenna manufacturers are trying to appeal to a wider group of people by dressing them up a bit and focusing on style.
This review and guide is aimed at helping people who are looking for an amplified TV antenna, but are thinking about how it looks, too.
Assuming this may be one of the first articles you’ve read about TV antennas, I’ll quickly sum up a few things you should know before sharing my findings. Some of the data used in this review comes from my months-long study published in January: Best Indoor TV Antennas of 2018: The Definitive Cord Cutters Guide.
Information from my first antenna guide, How to Choose The Best TV Antenna & DVR is included here as well.
How these amplified TV antennas were tested
I tested these three TV antennas where I live in Boston using two televisions in opposite ends of my home. Signal strength and the number of channels that each antenna received were tested with an HDHomeRun Connect Quatro.
I also used the signal strength meter on a 4K HDR TCL Roku TV.
The antennas were connected directly to the TV, and later to the Connect Quatro. So I could see how the over-the-air signals came in when the antennas were directly connected to the TV and when they were streamed to a smartphone and PC over WiFi.
I usually test antennas in two different locations: where I live in Boston, and a second testing spot in a rural section of Maine about 87 miles away. There was no testing at my second site in Maine this time. But I collected enough data from my last round of testing to estimate with confidence how these antennas would likely perform there.
There’s been a little bit of channel shuffling where I live in Boston. So that slightly changed the number of channels I can get compared to when the Best Indoor TV Antennas of 2018 review was published.
What to expect from an indoor amplified TV antenna
There is no one perfect antenna that works great for everyone. Outdoor TV antennas will always outperform the best indoor amplified TV antennas that you can buy. That’s because your antenna is pulling in digital signals that within a line of sight.
The best way to figure out what kind of antenna you may need is by using free online tools like AntennaWeb. Just type in your address or zip code and you’ll get a list of broadcast towers within 40 to 50 miles of your home.
Most people in the U.S. are within range of broadcast towers. It’s just a matter of how many are within range, and what kind of obstacles are in your path. Trees, mountains and power lines can all impact your TV reception. Ideally, you will be able to pull in HD channels like NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS and PBS in crisp, uncompressed quality.
Your local cable provider won’t be able to deliver the same picture quality with these channels. Cable companies have to compress signals in order to feed them through a cable cord into your home.
You will also get sub-channels. Here’s an example of one: my local FOX station is channel 25. But I also get channel 25-2, which is a secondary channel broadcasted from the same tower. I get the ESCAPE channel is on 25-2, which has shows like American Greed and other true crime fare.
The best TV antennas out there will get you channels High Definition 1080i or 720p without any problems. Sub-channels sometimes have a lower picture quality like 480p. You may find some with 720p or 1080i, depending on the broadcaster.
Explaining terms like HDTV antenna, 4K Ready antenna
All three of these antennas are labeled by the manufactures as HDTV antennas. But really, there’s no such thing.
The same goes for a so-called “4K ready” antenna, which isn’t as important as it sounds. Any TV antenna that’s built today is receiving digital signals over the air that transmits HD quality in 1080i or 720p. There are no over-the-air broadcasts in 4K.
Antennas described as 4K Ready antennas are referring to a next generation of broadcast TV, which has yet to come.
The Advanced Televisions Systems Committee (ATSC) is working on the next standard for broadcast television. The term ATSC 3.0 refers to this new standard, which is expected to include 4K picture quality. So, no matter what you buy for a TV antenna, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether the labeling says HDTV antenna or 4K Ready antenna. It really doesn’t matter.
Having said all that, I’m listing here the official names of the antennas that I’ve tested to avoid any confusion of the particular models.
- Antop World Map Indoor HDTV Antenna (Model: AT-122B)
- Mohu Leaf Chroma Designer Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna
- ClearStream VIEW Wall Frame Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
Do I need an amplified TV antenna?
It depends. My preference is to buy an antenna that comes with an amplifier, but has the option to turn it off, or detach it.
All three units that were sent to me for this review are amplified TV antennas.
Just remember, antennas need to pull in a digital signal and transmit it to your TV without interference. Amplifiers help pull in signals that are further away. It can also help you overcome natural obstacles like trees, hills and power lines.
Amplifiers aren’t always ideal. If you’re trying to pull in a signal from a tower that’s close to your home – let’s say it’s less than 10 miles away – then an amplifier might be impact getting decent reception. So ideally, you may want an antenna where you can control whether the amplifier is being used.
ClearStream VIEW Wall Frame Amplified Indoor HDVT Antenna
The best TV antenna out of this bunch was the ClearStream VIEW for its innovative design, and overall performance.
The VIEW is a TV antenna that’s hiding in plain sight without sacrificing the number of channels you can get. The performance matched the ClearStream FLEX with drawing in VHF and UHF signals.
With the VIEW, I picked up 51 channels total on the 4K HDR TCL Roku TV in my living room, and had the same number of channels accessible on the HDHomeRun Quatro. I got the same results on an older 1080p television placed in a guest bedroom at the opposite end of my home, where getting decent reception is tougher.
Antennas Direct uses its patented loop design with the VIEW, which first won acclaim among reviewers with the ClearStream Eclipse.
The ClearStream VIEW is priced at $69.99 at AntennasDirect.com. Shipping is free and the antenna has a 90 day return policy. The VIEW has a lifetime warranty and comes with all the parts and wires you’ll need to start getting free live TV right away.
ClearStream VIEW specs
Inside the box, you’ll find a 20dB in-line amplifier. There’s 12 ft. of coax cable that connects to the antenna and another three feet of cord that connects to the amp. The cord comes with a rounded end to make it easier to connect to the frame.
The amplifier can be plugged into a nearby wall socket or you can use a USB port on the back of your TV. That’s especially useful for an antenna that’s trying not to look like one. The VIEW antenna is designed as a 14.25 inches by 18.25 inches picture frame that comes with a matte for 9 photographs. The actual glass window is 12 inches by 16 inches.
Cutouts for photos measure between 3.5” x 3.5” and 3.5” x 5”. You could also remove the mat for a larger photograph or replace it with a different one.
The actual antenna is the back panel of the picture frame. It snaps into place with four plastic side locks. Hanging the picture frame is pretty easy.
There’s a plastic bar at the top of the back panel with a keyhole in the center so you can mount the frame to the wall with a nail or screw. I placed the picture frame on top of a bookshelf where I already had a couple of other picture frames. Appearance-wise, you couldn’t really tell the difference between any of the frames. Antennas Direct says that you can also paint the picture frame to better match it to your décor. But the black looks pretty nice.
Mohu Leaf Chroma Designer Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna
The performance of the Mohu Leaf Chroma was great overall for pulling is signals from broadcast towers that are 40 to 50 miles away. Mohu says that the Chroma picks up signals up to 65 miles from your home.
The Leaf Chroma had no problems pulling in most major networks in my area, including ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and PBS stations. Sub-channels, especially the far away ones around in the 50 mile range, came in crisp with no pixilation.
Mohu Leaf Chroma specs
The Leaf Chroma has a built in amplifier that can be powered from a wall outlet, or a USB port on your television. The antenna panel measures 25 inches by 7 inches. It comes with 16 feet of coaxial cable. Mohu says the Leaf Chroma is outfitted with two patented filters called Jolt and Clean Peak. One is designed to remove unwanted radio frequency signals, while the other boosts ones you want to bring in.
This Mohu antenna could be ideal for someone who is trying to pull in signals from broadcast towers that are far away. But the amp was too powerful to pick up a signal from one tower that’s just under 10 miles away.
For me, it wasn’t a deal breaker because I could get the same NBC station from another nearby tower. Similar to the Mohu Leaf Glide that I tested before, the Leaf Chroma also did a noticeably better job picking up faraway sub-channels like ESCAPE and GRIT.
The Chroma is a multi-directional antenna that comes with a couple of different color options. The one sent to me for testing was Frost Blue on one side, and Midnight Black on the other. Mohu says these antennas with reversible color schemes were designed based on customer input.
Mohu is selling the Leaf Chroma for $69.99 on its site. The antenna comes with a one-year warranty. So far, there are two different color schemes: Frost Blue/Midnight Black, and Easy Beige/Tranquil Grey. Mohu says more colors are on the way.
Antop Paper Thin World Map HDTV antenna
The omni-directional World Map indoor HDTV antenna (model: AT-122B) pulls in signals from broadcast towers that are close by (under 10 miles) and towers that are about 50 miles away.
I pulled in 48 channels with the World Map antenna while it sat on a small table near my desk. That included an NBC station from a broadcast tower about 9 miles away. Towers for CBS, FOX and PBS stations are about 40 miles away. The channels and sub-channels came in bright and crisp with no pixilation.
You can keep the antenna on a small stand or stick it to a wall.
One of the best assets of Antop antennas are its amplifiers. The SmartPass Amplifier has a switch on the side so you have the option of shutting it off in case you’re in an area where amplifying your antenna is a detriment to your TV reception.
Using the Antop amplifier
When the amp is switched on, an LED light turns green and yellow when it’s powered off. Antop recommends rescanning for channels if you switch the amplifier on or off. The amplifier can be powered by an electrical outlet or a USB outlet on your TV.
Another feature of the amp is the LTE filter. It’s designed to keep 4G and 3G cell phone signals from interfering with picture reception. The World Map is .06 inches thick, and 15.75” by 8.27” inches on its surface. The antenna comes with 10 ft. of coaxial cable and plastic stand for using it on a tabletop or bookshelf.
Here’s a quick confession. I prefer to have an indoor antenna on a wall or near a windowsill because in most cases those locations improve reception. Generally speaking, the higher you place your antenna, the better the TV reception. The Antop World Map antenna was able to flout that rule of thumb and get me all the channels that I wanted.
You’re not limited to just using the World Map antenna on its stand. It comes with a double-sided sticker for placing it on the wall. There is a pair of pinholes at the top of the map so you can secure the antenna to a wall using pushpins. The pins are included.
What’s the best amplified TV antenna with some style?
The ClearStream VIEW got me the highest number of channels, and did the best job of hiding in plain sight.
So if I was looking for an indoor amplified TV antenna that doesn’t really look like an one, I’d check out the ClearStream VIEW. AntennasDirect is using the same patented loop design that’s in their critically acclaimed ClearStream Eclipse, and ClearStream View.
So you’re getting an amplified TV antenna with a proven track record. You’ll also be able to stick some family photos in the frame. I got 51 channels from my home in Boston, which is consistent with my tests with the ClearStream FLEX and Eclipse.
Based on prior testing of the FLEX and Eclipse models in Maine, I’m confident that the VIEW would do just as well. (Those tests yielded 21 channels there, including towers broadcasting CBS, NBC and PBS within a 40 mile range.)
The Antop World Map amplified TV antenna was fun to use and did exceptionally well with drawing signals from towers that were both close by (under 10 miles) and far away. When it was on a tabletop or desk, the Antop World Map antenna performed as well as a wall mounted antenna. And it’s designed so that it can be put on a wall if need be.
I’d recommend trying the Mohu Leaf Chroma for someone who wants a smaller amplified TV antenna and only needs to draw from towers that are a bit further out – in the 20 to 60 mile range.
Do you have a favorite amplified TV antenna that has a bit more style? Does it really matter to you how an antenna looks? Tell fellow readers about it in the comments below.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble