Published on: January 20, 2024
Why pay for cable when the best TV antennas of 2024 offer crystal-clear, free TV right in your living room?
From the bustling streets of downtown to quiet suburbs and rural areas, a TV antenna is your ticket to a wealth of free TV shows and live sports without the monthly bill. You just need to be in a zone with a moderate-to-strong signal.
Live sports, the latest news, and a plethora of local channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, and PBS, are all at your fingertips with over-the-air TV. And don’t forget popular sub-channels such as MeTV, COMET, and GRIT, a haven for Classic TV.
NFL Sunday Night Football is on NBC. NFL Thursday Night Football is on FOX. “Grey’s Anatomy” is on ABC, “The Equalizer” and “60 Minutes” is on CBS. And so on.
With the advent of NextGen TV, or ATSC 3.0, the trend of cord-cutting is changing. Now, you’re not just watching free TV, you’re getting it in stunning 1080p, HDR, and eventually 4K.
What are the best TV antennas?
|Where to Buy
|Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna
|Best overall TV antenna for roof or attic mounting, with UHF and VHF elements, a mounting kit, and adjustable amplifier.
|Antop Shop or Amazon
|Antop 400-BV “Big Boy”Antenna
|Great alternative with UHF and VHF elements, an amplifier, and mounting kit if the AT-800SBS is unavailable.
|Antop Shop or Amazon
|Excellent outdoor multi-directional antenna with UHF and VHF elements, suitable for attic or rooftop mounting.
|Antennas Direct Shop or Amazon
|RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi HDTV antenna
|Best directional antenna for distant UHF or VHF stations.
|Walmart or Amazon
|Powerful indoor TV antenna, slightly larger but provides the most channels with no reception issues.
|Antennas Direct Shop or Amazon
|Channel Master Flatenna
|Budget-friendly option for areas within 30 miles of broadcast towers, excellent for UHF reception.
|Channel Master Store or Amazon
|Best tabletop antenna, ideal for tall apartment buildings where outdoor mounting is not possible.
|Mohu Store or Amazon
You don’t always need a towering outdoor antenna setup to pick up your local TV stations. Today’s indoor antennas, like the critically acclaimed ClearStream FLEX, are sleek, efficient, and unobtrusive.
Not only is it a former top pick of The Wirecutter, the review publication of The New York Times, The Cord Cutting Report’s own rigorous tests confirm it. The ClearStream FLEX gathers a multitude of stations if you are living in an area with a good signal.
And the best part? It costs far less than a month of cable TV service. Some models don’t just take up space on your wall or table, they amplify the signal you’re getting.
Even if you’re far from broadcast towers, you have options with outdoor TV antennas, which is my preferred type to use.
With a TV antenna, you pay for your hardware once. So it’s a worthy investment for years of free live TV. Having a Netflix or Hulu subscription can give you an endless supply of affordable programming, but few things are better than free TV.
I have been giving advice on buying the right TV antennas since 2016 through my hands-on reviews for The Cord Cutting Report, and my YouTube videos. The indoor and outdoor TV antennas reviewed here were testing across three states: Massachusetts, California and Maine over a period of two years and counting.
Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel Antenna
|Up to 85 Miles
|68 in Boston
The Antop AT-800SBS is the best outdoor TV antenna for its performance, weather-resistant coating, and adjustable amplifier.
It is one of the latest models from the Big Boy series of outdoor TV antennas. The antenna picked up the greatest number of TV channels (68 total) from nearby broadcast towers surrounding my home in Boston, and further away UHF stations in Rhode Island.
The body of the antenna has a vertical rectangular shape that is built to receive both UHF and VHF signals. It is made of heavy-duty plastic with a weather-resistant finish.
The AT-800SBS antenna comes with two VHF rods that screw into a pair of mounting holes in the back of the panel. The poles are positioned horizontally for VHF reception. Assembly is simple.
I mounted the Antop AT-800SBS to a 38-inch Winegard pole on my roof’s peak. The roof peak itself is about 30 feet above ground.
The AT-800SBS is a multi-directional TV antenna that includes a metal mounting kit. All the bolts and screws needed to mount the antenna are included.
The AT-800SBS was released in 2020. The antenna has the same dimensions and overall design as its predecessor, the 400BV. Both models weigh just under 10 lbs.
The main difference between the AT-800SBS and the AT-400BV is in their amplifiers.
The AT-800SBS has an adjustable Smart Boost System amplifier. The 400-BV uses a smaller amplifier (called the Smartpass Amplified system) that is not adjustable, but you can easily switch it on and off.
The adjustable amplifier makes the AT-800SBS an even better buy. During testing in Maine, the ability to reduce the amplifier’s strength made all the difference in picking up a hard-to-reach tower located approximately 45 miles away. This tower broadcasts the local FOX station, so being able to receive it meant enjoying free NFL football on Sundays.
Both amplifiers have a built-in 4G LTE filter that blocks 3G and 4G wireless signals that can impact digital TV reception. On the AT-800SBS amplifier, there is a second port to connect another TV or stereo receiver.
This Antop TV antenna includes a 40-foot coaxial cable that is coated with a rubberized finish. The cable is detachable from the antenna. A weather-resistant hood surrounds the coaxial port that connects to the antenna.
The AT-800SBS is about two feet tall and 10 inches wide. The antenna includes a pre-installed metal bracket for mounting on a pole or the side of a house.
A plastic stand is included for using the antenna indoors. Still, the AT-800SBS is made for outdoor use given its size and the mounting bracket. The AT-800SBS has a waterproof and weather-resistant finish.
The plastic casing and the rubberized hood on the coax cable are standout features, protecting the metal components against harsh weather conditions and destructive salt air in coastal areas.
Antop AT-800SBS Outdoor TV Antenna
This outdoor excels in providing solid UHF & VHF reception, ensuring a wide range of channels.
Its weather-proof design makes it durable in bad weather. The adjustable amplifier enhances signal strength as needed. The included mounting kit simplifies installation.
Antop 400-BV “Big Boy” Antenna
|Up to 85 Miles
|30 in Maine; 175 in Los Angeles
If the Antop 800SBS is out of stock, then I would consider purchasing the Antop 400BV.
Aside from the different amplifiers, these two ‘Big Boy’ models are essentially the same, with a few minor differences in design. During testing in Los Angeles, the Antop 400-BV nearly tripled the channel lineup.
In Maine, when the Antop 400-BV was mounted on a roof, it increased the channel lineup to more than 30 channels, up from a dozen with another antenna. The additional channels in Maine included the local CBS station and a station in New Hampshire located a little over 53 miles away as the crow flies.
The AT-400BV ‘Big Boy’ model comes equipped with a metal bracket on the back of the panel for mounting and includes all the necessary hardware for installation. It also includes a 39-foot cable with a thick weather-resistant coating.
In Los Angeles, the Antop 400-BV ‘Big Boy’ was mounted on a pole anchored into a five-gallon bucket. The channel lineup jumped to approximately 175 channels (Channels 2-64), a significant increase from the previous dozen channels.
The additional channels included local FOX and ABC stations, providing access to more local news and NFL games. One of the key takeaways from the Los Angeles testing was the importance of the antenna’s finish in terms of longevity.
The L.A. house is close to the beach, where salt air can be destructive to metal components left outdoors year-round. An outdoor TV antenna (a ClearStream Fusion) rusted apart within a matter of months due to its exposure to salt air.
The rubberized hood on the cords and the weather-resistant finish on the ‘Big Boy’ models have proven to be a better option if you are living near a beach, where salt air can cause oxidation and rust on metal components.
|61 in Boston
The ClearStream 4Max is another UHF and VHF outdoor TV antenna with a shorter but wider design compared to the Antop ‘Big Boy’ models.
The ClearStream 4Max measures 31.3 inches in width and stands 17.5 inches tall when not connected to a pole. During my testing just outside of Boston, I received 68 channels, including stations in the Providence, Rhode Island area.
The ClearStream 4Max features a pair of figure-eight UHF elements that you attach to a vertical antenna spine. Each UHF element has a male F-type connector that plugs into the spine.
Two VHF dipoles screw into the top of the spine behind the UHF elements. The UHF elements and the antenna spine are made of hard plastic, while the VHF dipoles are metal and about as wide as a pencil.
People often inquire about using the ClearStream 4Max as an indoor TV antenna. The only other place I would consider installing the ClearStream 4MAX is in an attic.
The ClearStream 4MAX package includes a J-Pole, mount base, and a bracket to attach the antenna. The J-Pole or mast is used for mounting the TV antenna on a wall along the roof or roof peak. Please note that there is no coaxial cable included with the antenna, so you will need to purchase your own.
The 4Max antenna was tested in the exact same location as the Antop and performed just as well. However, the 4Max requires more assembly of the antenna elements compared to the Antop.
In terms of design and extras, the Antop antennas slightly outperform the ClearStream 4Max. The Antop features a weather-resistant finish, a more sophisticated amplifier, and includes all the necessary cable for TV setup.
I didn’t use the mast that came with the 4Max TV antenna; instead, I utilized the 38-inch Winegard J-pole mounted on my roof for testing various outdoor TV antennas.
ClearStream 4Max Outdoor TV Antenna
The ClearStream 4Max provides decent UHF & VHF reception for range of channels. It comes with a mounting kit, including a J-Pole, for convenient installation options. It’s versatile enough to be used in an attic setup.
RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi HDTV antenna
|34 in Maine
The RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi HDTV antenna is a directional outdoor antenna with UHF and VHF elements.
The RCA Yagi is best suited when you are trying to receive signals from a harder-to-reach broadcast tower that is 50 to 60 miles away. The antenna measures 34.5 inches in length, with its widest element spanning 33.1 inches.
Assembling the Yagi is relatively easy, involving three core parts assembled in six steps. This TV antenna comes with all the hardware necessary for mounting on a roof or in an attic.
A 75-ohm transformer included in the package connects the antenna to the coaxial cable that runs to your television or TV tuner. The antenna includes a short J-pole-style mount and base (or foot), along with all the screws and nuts required.
The RCA Yagi has endured several harsh Maine winters without any rust or breakage. It has been installed on a low-lying house lot surrounded by dense forest, which stands several feet higher than the roofline.
For years, the Yagi was mounted at gutter level on the house in Maine. Receiving a local FOX station from a broadcast tower approximately 40 miles away was challenging due to the dense forest terrain and varying elevations.
However, two modifications were made to maximize the RCA Yagi’s reception and double the number of channels it could receive.
We combined two J-Poles to create one that is approximately five feet tall. Additionally, we added an ANTOP SBS-602B HD Smart Boost Antenna Amplifier. Initially, simply plugging in the amplifier didn’t increase the number of channels or immediately capture the elusive FOX station.
The best reception was achieved by using the amplifier’s dial to reduce the amplification gain by half. Each adjustment of the amp’s dial required a channel scan.
The cable run was slightly over 30 feet. The channel lineup remained the same whether it was connected directly to the TV or plugged into a Tablo Dual Lite.
After adding an amplifier and raising the antenna by five feet, the RCA Yagi excelled in capturing harder-to-reach stations in Maine and New Hampshire compared to the Antop multi-directional antennas.
The Yagi increased the channel lineup from 30 to 34 stations compared to the Antop 400BV.
Both the Yagi and Antop are excellent outdoor TV antennas. However, this testing round serves as a good example of how, in some cases, a directional antenna yields better results than a multi-directional antenna based on factors such as terrain, geography, and distance from broadcast towers.
This particular Yagi model has been available since 2009 and comes with a 12-month limited warranty.
RCA Compact Outdoor Yagi TV Antenna
The RCA Yagi is best suited for hard-to-reach signals, offering dependable UHF & VHF reception.
It includes a mounting kit with a J-Pole for easy installation and can withstand tough winters, ensuring durability in harsh weather conditions.
|55 in Boston
|Peel and Stick
The ClearStream FLEX is the best indoor TV antenna capable of receiving both UHF and Hi-VHF channels.
It’s a leaf-style TV antenna that performs optimally when placed on the top of a window or high up on a wall. The FLEX measures 16 inches in width and 11 inches in height. It incorporates a Hi-VHF element within its flat-panel design.
My previous choice for the best indoor TV antenna was the ClearStream Eclipse. However, after testing in areas with Hi-VHF stations, the FLEX has proven to be a superior option. The significance of having the Hi-VHF element may diminish over time as stations transition to NextGen TV, which operates on the UHF band.
If your requirement is solely a well-designed indoor TV antenna for UHF stations, then purchasing the ClearStream Eclipse instead of the FLEX is recommended, as it is significantly cheaper.
The FLEX antenna includes a 20dB amplifier and a USB power adapter. The amplifier’s adapter can be plugged into a television’s USB port or an electrical outlet.
The FLEX is dual-sided, with one side in black and the other in white, allowing you to choose the color that suits your apartment or house decor. The antenna comes with adhesive, making it easy to attach to a wall or window without using tacks or tape.
My ClearStream FLEX came with a 12-foot coaxial cord, although the cord length may vary. During my testing period in Boston, I received more than 55 channels while it was connected to an HDHomeRun Scribe DVR.
I achieved better results when I detached the amplifier from the TV antenna. It’s advisable to perform a channel scan both with and without the amplifier to determine the best reception.
ClearStream FLEX Indoor TV Antenna
The ClearStream FLEX stands out by delivering the most channels for an indoor antenna, thanks to its 20db USB amplifier.
It offers easy installation and a reversible color design for versatility in any setting.
Channel Master Flatenna
|Approximately 30 miles
The Channel Master Flatenna (or FLATenna 35) is my budget choice for an indoor antenna. The Flatenna is smaller than the ClearStream FLEX but shares a similar leaf-style design. One side of the antenna panel is white, and the other is black.
The antenna measures 13.5 inches in width and just over 9.5 inches in height.
The Flatenna includes a 12-foot detachable coaxial cable that you can plug into your television or an OTA DVR, depending on your setup. Adhesive strips are provided with the antenna, making it easy to mount on a wall or window. According to Channel Master, the Flatenna offers 3db VHF gain and 6db UHF gain.
I tested the Flatenna on a new Vizio Smart TV in a guest room and on an HDHomeRun located in my basement-level office.
With the Flatenna, I was able to receive 62 channels, although I noticed slight pixelation on a few channels broadcasting from towers around 30 miles away.
I selected the Flatenna for its combination of performance and affordability. For individuals living in metropolitan areas or large cities, the Flatenna is an excellent budget option. I recommend mounting the Flatenna in a window and facing it toward the broadcast towers from which you want to receive signals.
When I ordered the FLATenna directly from the Channel Master website, it was priced at $20. It is also available on Amazon for a slightly higher price.
|40 in Boston
|Table Top Stand
The Mohu Arc is the best tabletop indoor TV antenna for city dwellers living in apartments with nearby broadcast towers.
With the Arc placed next to my Roku TV, I was able to receive channels from broadcast towers that were just 25 miles away, all without breaking the bank. In total, I enjoyed access to over 40 TV channels, including all of the major broadcast networks.
The Mohu Arc includes an antenna stand, allowing you to position it conveniently beside your TV on an entertainment center or a window ledge.
The Arc comes with a 10-foot coaxial cable that is permanently affixed to the antenna. Personally, I prefer a coax port to be detachable.
Setting it up is fairly straightforward. The antenna stand easily snaps onto the frame of the TV antenna.
The stand is sturdy and well-balanced, providing flexibility to place the antenna on a nearby bookshelf, window sill, or entertainment center.
Tabletop TV antennas, in general, may not deliver the maximum number of potential channels compared to other types, such as outdoor TV antennas or indoor antennas that can be mounted in a window.
However, not everyone requires an extremely powerful TV antenna to access free TV channels, including major broadcast networks.
There are also individuals who need an indoor antenna but prefer not to mount a leaf-style antenna on their window or wall.
I have tested tabletop TV antennas over the years, including a few this year. While they may not perform as exceptionally as outdoor TV antennas or indoor TV antennas that can be wall-mounted, they offer a practical alternative for certain situations.
How I Test TV Antennas
I began professionally testing indoor and outdoor TV antennas in 2016. Prior to that, I had been using antennas as an enthusiast on and off since graduating college in 1995.
My testing sessions since 2016 have taken place between Boston, Massachusetts, and Kennebunkport, Maine. Los Angeles was added as a third location in 2022.
My latest round of testing spanned 19 months, from January 2021 to July 2022, covering three states across the U.S. At the end of 2022, I concluded a round of testing for the best indoor antennas and added the Channel Master Flatenna to this review.
At the end of 2023, testing in Los Angeles began in a new location that is still along the coastline.
Boston, Massachusetts Testing
My primary testing location is on the edge of Boston city proper, primarily with UHF stations. While TV reception is relatively easier in this location, it still presents challenges common to those living in metropolitan areas or large cities.
For instance, over-amplifying a longer cable run with an outdoor TV antenna when trying to receive a TV station slightly outside of the local TV market in Rhode Island or New Hampshire can lead to reception issues from nearby broadcast towers.
Southern Maine Testing
My second location is more than 100 miles away from Boston, situated in Kennebunkport, Maine. This rural setting is surrounded by dense forest and features a mix of UHF and VHF stations within a 40-mile range. Challenges at this site include finding the optimal elevation for maximum reception and adjusting the antenna direction to receive signals from multiple directions.
The TV market is primarily based out of Portland, Maine, but during my testing, a few outdoor TV antennas managed to receive stations located in New Hampshire.
Los Angeles Testing
In 2022, I incorporated testing and data from my brother’s home in Los Angeles, where three models of indoor and outdoor TV antennas have been used over the last four years.
Los Angeles is a mixed UHF and VHF market. Many stations still broadcast on the VHF band, including the local FOX and ABC stations, while NBC and PBS are on the UHF band.
The majority of broadcast towers are located on Mt. Wilson, approximately 31 or 32 miles away from the home. In 2024, testing began at a new home a few miles north.
How I Rank TV Antennas
By collecting data and measuring results from three locations, both rural and urban, I determine the types of indoor and outdoor TV antennas that should work best for the largest number of people.
The overall goal is to strike a balance between obtaining the maximum number of channels while maintaining optimal reception.
Getting the most channels isn’t always the best metric for rating a TV antenna. Maintaining solid reception from major broadcast networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS, always takes priority.
If a TV antenna captures the highest number of channels compared to others but fails to receive major broadcast networks, it’s not a worthwhile recommendation.
In Maine and Boston, I used a couple of different methods to measure signal strength and the number of watchable channels. Plugging a TV antenna directly into a television’s “F-connection” port usually provides the best reception, but this isn’t feasible for every home.
Sometimes, long cable runs for an outdoor or indoor TV antenna aren’t practical. In such cases, TV antennas can be connected to a separate TV tuner or over-the-air DVR. I used HDHomeRun and Tablo OTA DVRs to assess performance during my testing periods in Boston and Maine.
Testing occurs throughout the year, considering how picture reception performs during rainstorms, blizzards, and windy days. This provides insight into how these antennas perform outside of sunny, clear days.
I evaluate how an antenna performs in a big city with nearby and distant broadcast towers. In Southern Maine, it’s a rural environment where broadcast towers are distant, and obstacles such as tall trees and power lines can impact reception.
It’s important to note that indoor TV antennas have significant limitations compared to outdoor antennas. Outdoor TV antennas benefit from higher mounting elevations, which enhance reception. Many outdoor TV antennas also feature UHF and VHF elements, improving their ability to receive signals transmitted at lower frequencies.
Even a basic homemade antenna can help many people access free TV or determine whether reception is possible in their area.
The indoor and outdoor TV antennas reviewed here are not the only ones on the market that perform well. However, each model in this review has undergone extensive hands-on testing in both rural towns and large cities to assist readers in selecting their own TV antenna successfully.
Given that the marketing of TV antennas often involves over-promising, it’s crucial to establish what actually works in real-life scenarios.
Note: To further verify my testing with readers, I have included photos that I personally took at testing sites at my home in Massachusetts and at family homes in Maine and Los Angeles. I am not using stock images or images credited to a manufacturer.
I spend hundreds of hours throughout the year conducting hands-on testing of streaming services, including Peacock, DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo, Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV. I do the same rigorous testing for TV antennas and TV-related hardware. Check out the review policy to see how I compare products and services.The Cord Cutting Report is a reader-supported publication, and may earn affiliate commissions when you pick a streaming service through a recommendation. Read our affiliate policy for more information.