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Are you ready to escape the tyranny of cable monopolies? The proliferation of subscription streaming services over the last decade has made it increasingly plausible to be a heavy TV watcher, caught up on all the latest water-cooler shows, without ever paying for a traditional cable or satellite package. Holdouts may claim that Amazon Prime won’t broadcast your local news or sports, but it is possible to get those things. All you need is a TV antenna.
You don’t need obtrusive set-top rabbit ears or roof access for large metal lattices, either. The current generation of indoor HDTV antennas are often paper-thin tiles that you can discreetly attach to your apartment wall or window from the inside. They can often pick up a signal that’s even brighter and sharper than the same channel coming at you through cable. Best of all, an antenna is a one-time purchase. Once you have it, you have broadcast television for life. If you want to cut cords from your cable company, but don’t know where to start, this guide will help you find the best indoor TV antenna for your particular needs.
- Best free-standing: Antop AT-500SBS HD Indoor Smart Bar Antenna
- Best flat: Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro
- Best budget: 1byone Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
- Best low-profile: Mohu Leaf Metro TV Antenna
- Best translucent: Monoprice Clear Window HDTV Antenna
How we selected the best indoor TV antennas
We have combed through customer and critic reviews to select a range of the most reliable indoor TV antennas currently on the market. All of the options below are from established and trusted brands with great track records. Broadly speaking, there are only subtle differences among Indoor antenna models, so our picks focus on budget and form factor, rather than different practical applications.
What to consider before buying one of the best TV antennas
If you have access to install an antenna directly onto your roof, then you should possibly consider going with a more traditional outdoor TV antenna, as they perform stronger across the board than indoor options. If you’re here, you are more than likely an apartment dweller without that luxury, or are unable to install an antenna on your roof, in which case indoor is the way to go. The things you should know before buying are very similar, though.
What can you watch using a TV antenna?
The vast majority of American homes have broadcast access to local affiliates of major networks, including CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, PBS, and the CW. Your selection beyond that will vary somewhat, based on where you live, with a mix of regional and local broadcast channels. If you’re on the fence about getting an antenna, you can use online tools like AntennaWeb or DTV Reception Maps to check what stations should reach you. These sites will tell you the distance to source and what strength of antenna you will need to pick each one up, giving you a baseline for how powerful an antenna you need to get to see the channels you want.
Won’t the image quality be bad, though?
Despite the fact that it’s a free option, broadcast TV may look better than what you get from your cable provider. Over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts are less compressed than the equivalent channels being transmitted through cable. This means that the Full HD (1080p) video from an antenna often comes through brighter and sharper when you’re firmly in range. Signals decay over distance in both wired and over-air transmission no matter what, and cable signals are typically covering a much longer distance than your local stations, and with much less bandwidth devoted to each individual station, while OTA broadcasts have more room to breathe.
Range, gain, UHF, and VHF
The most important spec on any TV antenna, indoor or outdoor, is its maximum range. This determines how far your antenna can “reach” to grab signal sources from local broadcast stations. Range doesn’t vary all that much among antennae. Many “standard” indoor designs can reach about 60-80 miles away. High-end antennas with built-in signal extenders can often reach about 200 miles. Whether those distances are good or bad will depend on your location and where your nearest local stations are.
The gain of an antenna, measured in decibels (dB), refers to its ability to pick up a long-range signal in a given direction, measured against a standard reference antenna’s strength. As you might expect, the higher the number is, the better, with high-end antennas often topping around 30dB. For indoor TV antennas, the listed gain can often refer to a built-in amplifier, which for technical reasons doesn’t end up giving a good one-to-one comparison against other antenna specs. In those cases, the base gain isn’t always listed, so you take it with a grain of salt and focus more on the listed range.
Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) and Very High Frequency (VHF) refer to the radio frequency bands through which TV stations are broadcast. More contemporary stations broadcast on the UHF band, which offers more bandwidth at a higher frequency. VHF is less common, but remains in circulation. The distinction between these two doesn’t matter quite as much for indoor antennas as it does for outdoor models, which are typically able to pick up UHF and the high end of VHF. Outdoor antennas are more capable of actual distinction, with the room to have different sensing elements for each.
The best indoor TV antennas: Reviews & Recommendations
The best indoor TV antennas are more powerful and accessible than ever. You may be surprised by how much better the viewing experience is than cable. No matter your budget or needs, the best indoor TV antenna to complete your setup is very likely here among the choices we’ve collected.
Best free-standing indoor antenna: Antop AT-500SBS HD Indoor Smart Bar Antenna
Why it made the cut: The Antop AT-500SBS HD Indoor Smart Bar antenna takes up a bit more room but gives you extra performance.
- Range: 80 miles
- Installation: Wall-mounted or free-standing, vertical or horizontal
- Size: 7.95 × 3.82 × 29.65 inches
- Color: black, white grey
- Great performance
- Included range adjuster dial
- Works with 2 TVs
- Very large
Most indoor antennas right now take the form of a flat sheet, trying to minimize their presence. The Antop HD AT-500SBS Smart Bar does not. The largish rounded beam looks more like a soundbar than a modern antenna, and thus demands a bit more space. Luckily, if you have the room, its design feels right at home alongside most modern TVs, home audio, and other living room gadgets. It also offers quite a bit of flexibility. It comes with a stand, but can also be mounted on a wall. You can set it vertically, like a tall column, or horizontally.
More importantly, though, it is a great performer. The AT-500SBS offers a particularly nice range of power-user features, including the ability to connect to two TVs at once, a dial for tuning the range, and built-in FM and 4G LTE antennas that serve to filter out cellphone and radio signals and ensure your shows come in crisp and clean.
Best flat indoor antenna: Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro
Why it made the cut: Mohu’s most luxe offering does everything right, showing why they are one of the most recognized brand names in the space.
- Range: 65 miles
- Installation: wall/window
- Size: 12 x 21.5 in
- Color: white/black (reversible)
- Easy setup
- Great performance
- Detachable cable
- Larger than comparable indoor antennas
The Supreme Leaf Pro is the most expensive, tricked-out offering from well-known indoor antenna maker Mohu. It has all of the features you would expect: Great performance, easy setup, and an inline signal amplifier. It even has a small LED indicator to show you when you are getting a strong signal. On top of that, it features a USB-powered signal amplifier, which can help extend its range and improve picture quality from more distant stations. Aesthetically, its reversible black and white panels give you more options for discreet placement.
The one drawback is that at 12 x 21.5 it’s nearly twice as wide and large as many competing antennas. Of course, a larger antenna is a more capable antenna, so its outsized presence is the cost of a clear picture.
Best budget antenna: 1byone Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
1 BY ONE
Why it made the cut: 1byone’s Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna gets the job done reliably and at a low price.
- Range: 50 miles
- Installation: Wall/window
- Size: 13.3 x 9.3 in
- Color: Black
- Consistent performance with relatively nearby stations
- May not deliver advertised range
- Black on both sides and can’t be painted
1byone’s Digital Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna is widely recommended as one of the best budget indoor TV antennas, and we agree with popular consensus. Among Amazon’s best-selling antennas, it costs less than $30, which is about as low a price as you can expect to pay for a decent indoor antenna.
While it is a solid antenna at that price, we recommend tempering your expectations around its performance. The current Amazon listing above states an extremely unrealistic 200-mile range–as powerful as an outdoor antenna with a signal booster. The company’s own site, however, lists a much more realistic 50-mile range.
Both customer reviews and testing from trusted critics said that it performed best within 15-30 miles. It sits at 3.9 out of 5 on Amazon with a commanding 14,612 ratings at time of writing and is a best antenna list mainstay because urban apartment dwellers are one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of cord-cutters (both because the majority of cord-cutters are 18-29, and cities have greater access to the high-speed internet that makes cord-cutting possible). In that minimal-need use case, this 1byone antenna should be more than enough to get as many nearby channels as you can for the lowest possible cost.
Best low-profile antenna: Mohu Leaf Metro TV Antenna
Why it made the cut: Mohu’s tiny Leaf Metro is the smallest and most discreet indoor antenna we could find that still performs reasonably well.
- Range: 25 miles
- Installation: Wall/window
- Size: 11.5 x 4 inches
- Color: black/white (reversible), paintable
- Reversible and paintable
- Detachable coaxial cable
- Short range
If Mohu’s large, high-performance Leaf Supreme Pro sticks out too much, Mohu also makes an especially small antenna for picking up shorter-range signals. The Mohu Leaf Metro is a tiny, inexpensive, portable model that focuses on being as unobtrusive as possible. It’s just a wee little 4-inch strip, with black and white sides. It’s also paintable if you want to really hide it. The included coaxial cable detaches so you only need to have the wire defacing your wall while the TV is on to pull your attention from it.
The natural trade-off is that it’s only effective within about 25 miles, but if you’re in a major metropolitan area this really won’t matter much, so this might be the tiny apartment dweller’s best friend, as the name “Metro” suggests.
Best translucent antenna: Monoprice Clear Window HDTV Antenna
Why it made the cut: Monoprice has one of the only translucent antennas on the market for when space and light are a real premium.
- Range: 60 miles
- Installation: wall/window
- Size: 13 x 9 in
- Color: translucent white
- Powered in-line signal amplifier
- Cable can’t be detached
Monoprice has long been trusted as a reliable manufacturer of basic household tech, such as cables and adapters, and their HDTV digital indoor antennas live up to the brand’s general reputation. The Clear Window stands out and makes the cut because its antenna sheet is translucent, letting light through when placed on a window. This could be crucial if you live in an apartment with very limited natural light where you might not want to sacrifice a printer sheet worth of light from your window. It is an otherwise solid performer for the price, which should meet most basic indoor antenna needs.
Q: Do indoor TV antennas really work?
Absolutely! They worked decades ago when big CRT boxes would come with extendible rabbit ears on top, and they work even better now. The current crop of indoor TV antennas is more than powerful enough for all but the most rural users.
Q: What is the longest range indoor antenna?
Technically the longest range we’ve seen on an indoor antenna is around 200 miles, although it isn’t clear how effective it works at that distance. Even under the best circumstances, TV antennas work best when you aren’t pushing the limits of their range, as a host of factors may limit your specific antenna’s ability to pick up a signal, including physical interference between you and the broadcast source.
For quality, standard indoor antennas, we see them more confidently rated for around 80 miles. The further you go beyond that, the more likely you will probably want to try using an outdoor (or at least attic) antenna.
Q: Where is the best place to put an indoor TV antenna?
The best place in your home will vary, but you generally want the highest possible place with the fewest physical barriers between it and the outside. Often, the top of a window near your TV is your best option. In a multi-story home, you might consider running cable and placing it near a wall in your attic.
Final thoughts on the best indoor TV antennas
These aren’t your grandparents’ indoor TV antennas! If you’ve cut out cable, or are considering it, an HDTV TV antenna may be better than you’d have imagined for covering all your local news, sports, and public access weirdness, especially if you’re near a reasonably large metropolitan area. When your antenna arrives, make sure to take a little time and experiment with different placement options. Remember: The same antenna can perform quite differently at different locations, even within the same room.