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HDTV Antenna Recommendations

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/16/2010

HDTV is becoming increasingly common. Once the providence of satellite and cable providers trying to show how technologically superior they were for high-end consumers, HDTV has become the technology of middle market television purchasers.

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    Why Have an HDTV Antenna?

    The first question some might ask when considering what HDTV antenna is recommended for rural areas, dense high-rise apartment buildings, or good old American HDTV watching in suburbia, is why even have an HDTV antenna?

    While it is true that cable providers like Comcast, Time Warner, and others, as well as satellite TV companies like DirecTV and Dish Network offer high-definition feeds directly to their subscribers without needing an HDTV antenna, there are plenty of people who might want to look into getting their HDTV over the air for free. We aren't just talking about low-tech people like your grandmother either. In fact, some of the biggest techies around might be in the market for an HDTV antenna soon as they drop the cable company or drop the satellite company and watch all the latest shows and programming for free.

    Sources like Hulu, and even many channel's official websites, now offer first-run, popular television programming for free. For those willing to go through the setup, these programs can be streamed in high-definition into that big screen 65" Sony Bravia LCD HDTV in the living room. For others, watching television on their computer monitor, laptop screen, or watching TV on a iPad is all they really want.

    HDTV Antenna Recommendations However, these online sources of programming often suffer from one drawback. Most local programming never makes it to these content aggregators, and those shows don't show up on the network's website either. For some, this is no big loss. For others, it is a roadblock in the question to dump my cable company and watch TV for free.

    The HDTV antenna can take care of this problem, both for those high-end viewers and for those, who frankly don't think there is ever enough good stuff on TV to justify paying for it, and are happy to just get their free local channels in high definition.

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    Best HDTV Antennas

    When it comes to deciding which HDTV antenna is right for you, there are plenty of specifications and numbers out there to choke a statistician. However, unless you know what reference quality is and nothing less is good enough for your system, then there are only a few factors that actually end up mattering for most customers. Understanding these will ensure you get the best HDTV antenna recommendations.

    rca-recommended-hdtv-antenna First, is the form factor of the HDTV antenna. If you plan to have your antenna up in a closet, attic, or spare bedroom, then don't pay more for an antenna that has been enclosed and made to look nice. On the other hand, if the idea of some metal contraption sitting in your living room or bedroom makes you shudder, then by all means get one of the nicer looking antennas for HTDV. For a nice looking, small, HDTV antenna, check out the RCA ANT1450B Multi-directional Flat antennas and its series. These plain black squares look nice enough and are easy to blend into the room.

    Second, is whether or not the antenna is amplified. There are varying opinions about the need and quality of HDTV antenna amplification, but if you live far away from the HDTV source, whether in a rural area or not, an amplified antenna can save you a lot of heartburn with tweaking, and twisting, and aiming, and getting everything just right, only to lose the signal quality when the wind blows or it rains. The TERK HDTVa Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna gets good reviews from those who have had previous signal problems. Unless you're in to modern art as your decorating motif, this isn't the choice for people who will need an in room antenna solution.

    Last, is the size of the antenna. No matter who says differently, the physics of radio waves says that when all other things are equal, a bigger antenna will perform better. This isn't to say that small antennas can't work just fine, but if you don't count other humans as neighbors within the surrounding five miles, you already know that fancy electronics and hype are no match for size when it comes to receiving signals. When it's time to just put something big on the outside of your home, check out the Channel Master 2016 Digital Advantage HDTV/VHF/UHF Outdoor Antenna. This unsightly hunk of metal sports numerous arms sticking out with even more things sticking out from them. However, if an inside antenna isn't going to get the job done, this is your shot at getting a consistent quality broadcast.

    In the end, the best HDTV antenna advice is to buy your antenna from a place that has a good return policy. No antenna works for all situations and nothing makes getting the wrong antenna worse than a 15% restocking fee, or not being able to return it at all. So, find a good retailer, and then buy the one that seems to fit your needs best. If it doesn't work, go bigger or go amplified, and soon you'll be watching high-definition television for free.