The most important consideration when choosing an antenna is range. In other words, how far away can the antenna be from a broadcast tower and still pick up the signal? For the most part, anything 50 miles and up will be more than enough, and even 35 miles should work, unless you live in a very rural area. Any distance below that, you’ll want to make sure there’s a tower close by, or you may have problems getting a good signal.
Many antennas come with built-in signal amplifiers that increase their effective range by boosting the signal they pick up. This sounds like it should be a great feature to look for, but there are a couple caveats:
External power source: Amplified antennas usually require an external power source. With most antennas you just need to connect the coax cable to your TV and you’re set, but antennas with built-in amps also need to be plugged into a power outlet. This can make placement trickier, so keep that in mind.
Weaker signal strength: Depending on where you live, an amplifier may actually make your reception worse. If your location has a mix of both strong and weak TV signals, an amp can boost the stronger signals (which don’t actually need boosting) to the point where they overwhelm the weaker ones, with the result being worse signal strength than an unamplified antenna.
Indoor antennas need to be mounted fairly close to your TV. And while putting it out of sight behind the TV would be ideal, this doesn’t always translate to getting the best reception. In other words, you may end up with an antenna hanging on your wall in plain view. Make sure the one you select isn’t something you’d hate looking at every day! Many antennas are simple flat squares that can be painted over, which helps a lot in this situation.
Unless you have a stockpile of coaxial cables lying around, you’re probably going to need to use the one that comes with your antenna. Double-check that it’s not too long or too short for your room! Too long, and you’ll end up with a mass of cable dangling in space. Too short, and you may not be able to position the antenna optimally. There’s no hard-and-fast rule here—just be aware of your room size so you don’t have to buy extra cables.
Most antennas these days support 1080p HD (some even support 4K broadcasts). All the antennas in our roundup support at least 1080p. But just to be sure, we recommend checking the specs on any antenna you’re considering—you don’t want to end up with poor picture quality when you could have had better!