As many contemplate cutting the cord for basic, yet high-definition television viewing, or to perhaps augment cable with advanced over-the-air capabilities, as we’ve done with Tablo, finding a great antenna is paramount. Most are probably best served by roof-top or attic placement, yet it’s the least practical for a variety of reasons. While Mohu may have pioneered the “flatenna” several others have joined the fray. And I reached out to a few players in this space that have kindly provided their least obtrusive indoor antenna offerings for an OTA receptivity showdown. Which will wear the crown of best indoor antenna?
Comparing antennas is an exceedingly difficult task, as our individual locations in relation to the broadcast towers obviously vary in terms of distance and interference (either within the home or the environment). Not to mention, different stations around the country broadcast with differing strengths and frequencies. To make matters even more complex, not all tuners are not created equal — meaning the televisions, over-the-air DVRs, and other devices we each possess will have varying degrees of reception. So your mileage will absolutely vary from mine. Most small, indoor antennas are rated for receptivity in the 25-35 mile range, but those that are offered with amplification can be extended to 50ish.
Primary testing was done using a 22″ Vizio television with what I’d call a typical tuner – not the worst, not the best. In our home, the best antenna reception is achieved via the front rooms which have a northwest exposure, but with what seems like a clearer line of sight to the east where most of the towers are located. The back of the house and the basement are more challenging. Indeed, according to AntennaWeb, some of the stations I’d like to receive would theoretically require an outdoor antenna and/or amp. Fortunately, I was able to prove them wrong in some cases. Lastly, the antennas below generally performed better in a vertical orientation over laying flat – especially in the back of the home.
Mohu Leaf ($40)
In my environment, in terms of form and function, the Mohu is the hands down winner. In the front breakfast nook, it tied for pulling in the most stations at 37, including the critical four majors (NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS). It was also the best performer in the more difficult areas of the house by a comfortable margin. The Leaf ties for smallest footprint and is white/black reversible which helps for unobtrusive placement. Related, there are two holes at the top corners with pins provided for quick and easy wall mounting.
Channel Master Flatenna ($10)
In the front of the house, Channel Master went toe-to-toe with Mohu, pulling in 37 stations, and at $10 (shipped free!) it’s ridiculously cheap. However, the antenna material is flimsier than Mohu and reception is not nearly as good in the back of the house and basement, especially when horizontal. But, did I mention it’s only $10?? And it does come with a square of adhesive for wall mounting.
HD Frequency CC Mini ($40)
This antenna provides the most distinctive look, which could be a bonus in many homes, and clocked in with a respectable 32 channels from the front of the home. Once again, your mileage will vary. But, of this roundup, they alone ship with premium RG-6 coaxial cable which may help attenuate in different environments and the included clear 3M Command Strip hook is a nice perk. Further, HD Frequency offers larger models with presumably even better reception.
Winegard FlatWave Amped ($65)
The Flatwave is the only antenna I looked at with a USB-powered amp, although Mohu provides similar. But, surprisingly, it pulled in fewer channels than the other contenders — 27-30 up front. And this probably reinforces that every situation is going to be somewhat unique and you should buy your antenna from a merchant with a good return policy (unless it’s that disposable $10 Channel Master). The entire FlatWave line ships with 3M Command Strips, for possibly the least destructive mounting option, and is also black/white reversible.