Cord cutting — casting off the yoke of your cable or satellite TV provider — is ever-more popular these days as people binge watch shows available online. But Netflix and Hulu won’t get you everything. To receive free local and live network HDTV channels (including news and sports), simply attach an HD antenna to your TV for less than $40.
We tested HD TV antennas in New York City and judged quality based on several factors: total number of channels received, number of major channels (such as network affiliates) received and audio-visual quality. See How We Tested for more details.
Our favorite amplified antenna is the Mohu Curve 50 Amplified Designer Edition, and our favorite non-amplified antenna is the Mohu ReLeaf. Both were not only easy to set up, but pulled in the largest number of channels, and were reasonably attractive, too. Our favorite budget antenna is the 1Plus P010, which costs around $10, yet picked up nearly 30 channels in our tests.
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Generally, amplified antennas have better reception, but you may be fine with a nonamplified, aka passive, model depending on your location. If stations broadcast within a 20-mile radius of your home, you can probably make do with a passive antenna. If not, an amplified model may help. These antennas usually promise reception within a 50-mile radius. Check the site AntennaWeb.org to see the position of broadcasters in your area.
Buy from companies with generous return policies in case you need to try different options (like amplified vs. nonamplified). Want to watch live TV over your Internet connection? Also check out Sling TV or PlayStation Vue.
Mohu recently announced the Airwave, which combines an antenna and streaming services in one device; while pricey at $149, it’s a smart new avenue for cord-cutters.