By Jim Kimble / Published April 13, 2023
An indoor TV antenna is an inexpensive way to get local channels that carry professional sports, prime-time sitcoms and news broadcasts.
Streaming services such as Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime and Hulu give you plenty to watch, but come with a monthly bill.
An indoor TV antenna has a one-time cost, and gives you the four major broadcasters ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. Other channels such as PBS, and sub-channels such as MeTV, operate on public airwaves.
The drawback to TV antennas is that the market is flooded with models that over promise on performance. Specifically, any indoor TV antenna that promotes a range of 100 miles or 250 miles will disappoint anyone expecting to get a VHF or UHF channel from that far away.
- What is the Best Indoor TV Antenna?
- Summary: Best Indoor TV Antennas tested
- How do you test indoor TV antennas?
- Which indoor TV antennas were tested?
- Indoor TV Antenna FAQs
Digital signals diminish quickly by design, and do not travel along the curve of the Earth. The Federal Communications Commission regulates Television Market Areas (TMA) across the U.S. and ensures that broadcast signals don’t overlap.
If you live more than 35 miles away from local broadcast towers, chances are you will need to use an outdoor antenna.
All TV antennas, including homemade ones, can receive over-the-air channels in High Definition or HD resolution up to 720p or 1080i. Generally speaking, most indoor TV antennas are designed or amplified for UHF channels, but some models can get VHF channels on the Hi-VHF band.
The current broadcast standard for digital TV signals is called ATSC 1.0. It is set by the Advanced Television Systems Committee.
If you own a new Smart TV from Sony, Samsung, LG or Hisense, then you may be able to tap into the new broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0 or NextGen TV.
The NextGen TV standard is rolling out at local TV stations across the U.S.
NextGen TV has a number of capabilities, including picture resolutions up to 4K with High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Dolby Atmos audio. But for now, stations are largely broadcasting up to 1080p resolution.
Streaming may get most of the attention as cable TV use continues its decline, but cord-cutters are pivoting into free OTA TV as a way to save money.
What is the Best Indoor TV Antenna?
The ClearStream FLEX UHF VHF Indoor HDTV Antenna is the overall best indoor TV antenna for maximizing your channel lineup.
My picks for the best indoor TV antennas are purely results driven based on my own hands-on testing. Throughout the year, I have two to three TV antennas connected to TVs or OTA DVRs at my home so I can continue checking on performance.
Before I finally make a decision, price and availability of a TV antenna play into what I recommend. Not everyone’s home or surroundings are the same, so that is why I have narrowed by selection down to three models.
I am not suggesting that these three units are the only “best” models out there. Rather, I am saying that I have spent enough time testing these TV antennas out that they live up to most or all of what’s promoted on the packaging.
The ClearStream FLEX is the best indoor TV antenna that is capable of receiving UHF and Hi-VHF channels.
It’s a leaf-style TV antenna that performs best when it is stuck to the top of a window or high up on a wall. The FLEX is 16 inches wide and 11 inches vertically. There is a Hi-VHF element inside the flat-panel design.
My prior pick for the best indoor TV antenna was Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse. But after testing in areas with Hi-VHF stations, the FLEX has proven to be a better buy.
Having the Hi-VHF element may prove to be less significant over time as stations transition to NextGen TV, which operates on the UHF band.
In Boston, I pulled in more than 81 channels without an amplifier, and found just as many channels when I moved closer to broadcast towers mid-year. In Maine, the FLEX drew in 15 channels, which was the same number that the Eclipse drew in prior testing.
Local networks included an NBC and ABC affiliate that were both about 40 miles away. This antenna performed very well during overcast weather conditions and storms. The picture quality was steady and crisp through testing in both locations.
If you only need a well-designed indoor TV antenna for UHF stations, then you should buy the ClearStream Eclipse instead of the FLEX because it’s significantly cheaper.
The FLEX antenna includes a 20dB amplifier and a USB power adapter. The adapter for the amplifier can be plugged into the USB port of a television or electrical outlet.
The FLEX is black on one side and white on the other. So you can pick which color you would rather see in your apartment or house. The antenna includes adhesive making it easy to attach the antenna to a wall or window without using tacks or tape.
My ClearStream FLEX came with 12 feet of coaxial cord, but the cord length may vary. Antennas Direct says the FLEX has a “peak gain” with Hi-VHF 2.0 dBi and UHF 3.9 dBi. The amplifier has 18 dB.
I had better results when I detached the amplifier from the TV antenna. It’s best to perform a channel scan with and without the amplifier to see what gets the best reception.
The ClearStream Flex is available at Amazon and through Antennas Direct.
Channel Master Flatenna
The Channel Master Flatenna (or FLATenna 35) is my runner-up pick largely due to its performance and price.
The antenna is 13.5 inches wide and over 9.5 inches vertically. It is smaller than the ClearStream FLEX, but has a similar leaf-style design. One side of the antenna panel is white, the other is black.
The Flatenna includes a 12 foot detachable coaxial cable that you can plug in to your television or an OTA DVR, depending on your setup.
Adhesive strips come with the antenna, so you can easily mount it to a wall or a window. Channel Master says that the Flatenna has 3db VHF gain, and 6db UHF gain.
I tested the Flatenna on a new Vizio Smart TV that I have in a guest room, and on a HDHomeRun located in my basement-level office.
I was able to get 62 channels with the Flatenna but I noticed slight pixelation with a few channels that were broadcasting from towers around 30 miles away.
For example, an ABC station that is just outside of my market area, has occasional pixelation with the Flatenna, but no issues with the
Otherwise, the Flatenna gives exceptionally strong performance for its size and price.
When I ordered the FLATenna directly from the Channel Master website, the price was $20. It also sells on Amazon for slightly more.
For anyone who lives in a metropolitan area or large city, the Flatenna is an excellent budget pick. I do recommend mounting the Flatenna in a window and facing the broadcast towers you want to receive signals from.
The Mohu Arc is the best table top indoor TV antenna.
Like its name suggests, the Arc has a leaf-style design, but its top slightly bends backwards. It measures just under 12 inches wide, and 8.25 inches vertically. The panel is made of a harder plastic than the Clearstream FLEX or Channel Master’s Flatenna.
This Arc is ideal for setting up on a window ledge or book shelf, and it will work well for people who cannot mount an antenna on a wall. Elevation and an antenna’s placement is always important for optimal reception. I would recommend using the Arc if you are a city dweller who lives in an apartment building or high-rise building.
You should have broadcast towers fairly close by.
I was able to get channels from broadcast towers that were up to 25 miles away. Placing the Arc next to my Roku TV on the basement level of my house, I got a little over 40 TV channels, including all four major broadcast networks.
The Mohu Arc comes with an antenna stand. The Arc has 10 feet of coaxial cable that is affixed to the antenna. I prefer a detachable cable that the FLEX and Flatenna have.
The Mohu Arc’s stand snaps on the frame of the TV antenna. The stand is sturdy and keeps the antenna in the direction I had placed it.
Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of table top TV antennas because they rarely get the maximum number of potential channels.
But not everyone needs a really powerful TV antenna to get free over-the-air TV channels.
Summary: Best Indoor TV Antennas tested
If you don’t have a cable TV subscription, or want to get rid of one, an indoor TV antenna might be your gateway to a lot of free television, including sports, news and primetime TV shows.
Here are three of top picks based on my year-round testing:
- Top pick: ClearStream FLEX
- Runner up: Channel Master Flatenna
- Table-top antenna: Mohu Arc
The ClearStream FLEX is the best indoor TV antenna that you can buy. Its unique design drew in the highest number of channels — 84 channels in Boston. It pulled in 15 channels in Maine. The Eclipse performs better without the amplifier if you’re living close to broadcast towers (10 miles or less). Overall, the FLEX has been remarkably consistent and brings a lot of value considering its price.
The ClearStream FLEX can be purchased at Amazon or Antennas Direct.
The Channel Master Flatenna strikes the right balance between price point, and its ability to pull in a high number of channels. That was 64 in the Boston market. There was some slight pixelation on a couple of channels, but overall it proved to deliver solid performance for its small size and budget price.
The Channel Master Flatenna can be purchased at the Channel Master online store, or Amazon.
The Mohu Arc is a table-top style antenna that isn’t as powerful as my other two picks. But it can be a suitable alternative for people who either cannot or don’t want to mount an indoor TV antenna on a wall. It should be at least near a window sill for optimal reception. You can purchase the Mohu Arc at the Mohu website.
How do you test indoor TV antennas?
I spend most of the year using a variety of indoor and outdoor TV antennas at my home in Boston with additional testing during the summer in a woodsy spot in Southern Maine.
Instead of trying out a variety of antennas in one location for a few days, I do it at two very different places and for long periods of time.
The indoor antennas featured in this guide were tested in locations that are about 87 miles away from one another. The goal is to measure how each TV antenna performs in metro and rural environments. Each location has its own set of challenges for receiving digital TV signals.
Testing happened over a period of months instead of hours or days. That gives me insight into how these antennas perform during nice weather, and awful storms with high winds.
I use Smart TVs, HDHomeRun, and Tablo over-the-air DVRS to measure signal strength and the number of watchable channels.
The goal here is to determine what indoor antennas should work best for the largest number of people. Keep in mind: indoor antennas have significant limitations compared to outdoor antennas. Yet even a rudimentary homemade antenna can be powerful and help many people get free TV.
Which indoor TV antennas were tested?
I started reviewing indoor TV antennas in 2017 in Boston, and a second home in Southern, Maine. I have tested models from AmazonBasics, Antop, Antennas Direct, Channel Master and Mohu.
The list below reflects the indoor TV antenna models that have been tested from 2017 up to the latest round of testing in 2023.
- AmazonBasics Ultra Thin Indoor Antenna
- Antop Paper Thin Smartpass Amplified Indoor Antenna
- Antop Mini “Big Boy” AT-406BV
- Channel Master Flatenna (35 mile model)
- ClearStream Eclipse
- ClearStream FLEX
- Mohu Leaf Glide
- ClearStream VIEW
- Mohu Arc
- Mohu Blade
- Mohu Leaf Chroma
- HDFrequency Aerowave
I chose three models from my running list of tested antennas based on performance, price and availability.
Indoor TV Antenna FAQs
Is there an indoor TV antenna that actually works?
Have you bought an indoor TV antenna in the past, and wound up frustrated with the results? Did you buy an indoor TV antenna that promised you a “250 mile range”, and wound up disappointed? Don’t fall for crafty marketing tricks.
Here are six things to know before you pick your next one.
1) Knowing in advance whether your local broadcasters are using the UHF or VHF band is a critical piece of information before you shop. The Federal Communications Commission maintains a reception map for consumers. Sites such as rabbitears.info, or the Antennas Direct search signal map are also handy tools.
2) Avoiding an indoor TV antenna that claims to receive signals from 100 miles away or more is a good idea. Suspect-marketing is a red flag for any product. (If any TV antenna could receive signals from hundreds of miles away, your picture would be an unwatchable jumble of multiple channels from different TV markets.)
3) Indoor TV antennas are marketed with confusing terms such as digital tv antenna, HDTV antenna, HD antenna, 4K antenna, 8K antenna and so on. None of these marketing monikers will boost your signal or improve performance. It’s all the same.
4) Even the best indoor TV antennas require some finesse. Expect to do more than one scan for TV channels. Any time you move your TV antenna, you need to rescan channels under the TV settings to see if you get better results. Consider your first installation temporary until you try a couple of scans.
5) Elevate your TV antenna as high as possible and near a window. The higher the elevation, the better chance you will have at getting the maximum number of channels.
6) Try scanning for TV channels without an amplifier before connecting one. Amplifiers actually dampen noise rather than “boosting” a signal or making it stronger.
What channels can I get with an indoor TV antenna?
All four major broadcasters, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, use the public airwaves to broadcast their local stations. You will also find PBS, Telemundo, UniMás, and the CW.
But if you switch from cable TV to using an antenna, you may notice that you are getting new channels as well. Local network affiliates like NBC are broadcasting more than one channel from their broadcast tower. These sub-channels include MeTV, dabl, FAVE TV, GRIT, ionTV, ion Mystery, Comet, LAFF, Stadium, Court TV, Charge!, StartTV, PBS Kids, and independently owned TV stations.
Is the TV signal different on cable vs antenna?
Yes. Cable companies typically compress the TV signal to deliver it to homes. Over-the-air signals undergo much less compression so the picture quality is noticeably better.
So even though a cable channel may distribute a channel in HD resolution, an antenna channel with 1080i or 720p resolution will always look better.
How can I get more TV channels with an indoor antenna?
Elevation is one of the best ways to improve a TV antenna’s reception. TV signals travel by line of sight. Place an indoor TV antenna high up on a wall, and near a window, you may get more channels and better reception.
Is there a NextGen TV antenna?
Local TV stations across the U.S. are gradually switching to a new broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0 or NextGen TV. This new format does not require a specific “NextGen TV” antenna. You will need a TV tuner, OTA DVR or Smart TV that supports getting NextGen TV signals.
Do I need an antenna amplifier?
If your indoor TV antenna includes an amplifier, it’s best to do a channel scan without using it to see how many channels you get. If some channels get poor reception or pixilation, you can power on the antenna amplifier and do a second channel scan to see if that improves the picture.
Sometimes antenna amplifiers can do more harm than good when you are close to the towers of local TV stations.
Antennas are designed to receive digital television signals, and ideally, avoid any noise or distortion. Trees, high power lines, mountains and hilly terrain can all impact a digital signal reaching your antenna.
Unlike analog signals from years ago, digital signals depend on a line-of-sight path.
An antenna amplifier (a.k.a. booster) might be necessary to cut back on noise, especially if you are using a long run of cable between your antenna and TV set, or have a splitter for multiple TVs.
Should I use an LTE filter with a TV antenna?
LTE/4G signals from cell phones can also cause pixelation and problems with picture reception.
Most of the time, TVs will ignore the space that LTE bands occupy. But there are exceptions. LTE bands reside adjacent to TV broadcasting signals and if the signals are strong enough, they can cause interference in lower frequencies. Interference from LTE bands may increase in the next few years as more space is allocated for cell phone carriers and less for digital TV signals.
The best LTE filter that you can buy independent of an antenna is the Channel Master LTE Filter (model: CM-3201). It covers almost all the LTE transmission bands in the U.S. — between 700MHz and 2000MHz.
Do I need a 4K or HD antenna?
When you see terms like HD antenna or “4K Ready” antenna, this is just marketing-speak. There are a wide variety of marketing blurbs on the front of antennas boxes, stating that the antenna is a “HD antenna” or “4K ready” or “ready for the next generation of broadcast television.”
Antenna aficionados will tell you there’s no such thing as an HD antenna, even though the term is widely used by manufacturers.
Here’s another way of saying it.
There’s nothing special in the design of an antenna that gives it the ability to pick up HD signals. Digital television is broadcast in high definition 1080i and 720p resolutions. There are no over-the-air broadcasts in 4K. As my video on how to make a quick, homemade antenna demonstrates, a simple wire can get you HD channels.
The next generation of broadcast TV is a ways off. The Advanced Television 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 and a number of other improvements. There are no 4K broadcasts over-the-air. And when they come, you’ll likely be shopping for a new converter box instead of an antenna.
How to install an indoor TV antenna
- Use a free online tool like DTV Map by the Federal Communications Commission or Antennas Direct to see if local stations are broadcasting on UHF or VHF.
- Place your indoor antenna in or near a window facing broadcast towers.
- Scan for channels under the Settings section on your TV. (This might take up to 30 minutes.)
- Move the antenna higher, and re-scan for channels if needed.
- Try an amplifier and/or an LTE filter to improve reception.
If you are worried about spending money on a TV antenna, there is a simple test you can do at home to see if over-the-air channels are available in your area.
A popular video on my YouTube channel demonstrates how I made a very basic antenna by splicing open a cable cord. A simple cord isn’t great for year round TV viewing, but can serve as a baseline or test to see whether over-the-air TV is available.
A well-made TV antenna is going to get better reception and more channels. A simple wire antenna lacks an optimized design and amplification that improves reception.
Can I use an indoor TV antenna with a Smart TV or streaming device?
If you have more questions about using TV antennas, I have guides to help. TV antennas can be used on Smart TVs and older non-Smart TVs. You can connect any antenna to a TV tuner or OTA DVR so you can watch over-the-air channels through a streaming device, tablet or smartphone.
For more news on streaming, how-to guides and reviews, head over to the main page of The Cord Cutting Report or follow the CCR on Google News.
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
Note: This review was published February 10, 2019, and has been updated.