The 10 Best HDTV Antennas
Television: The Real American Pastime
As cool as that would be, it is still a matter of science fiction.
In fact, did you know that viewers once had to actually stand up and physically walk to the TV set in order to change the channel?
Broadcast television has come a long way since its popularization in the 1950s. Rabbit ears and horizontal scan lines are things of the past, fading ghosts on the dim edges of entertainment history. Incredible developments in video capturing, signal strength, and playback quality make today's home theater systems barely comparable to the TVs of yesteryear. In fact, did you know that viewers once had to actually stand up and physically walk to the TV set in order to change the channel? Those were dark times indeed!
Thankfully, some things change. But some things stay the same.
Network broadcasts have, since the early days, been the easiest way to tap into the beauty that is television. Of course, the standards, languages, frequencies, and equipment have all been drastically altered for the better as technology has moved at blinding speed. Still, to this day, some of the highest-quality and most popular shows are beamed en masse through the air, through our walls, and through our very own bodies. But we're a long way from being our own TVs. Currently, our brains lack the ability to capture and decode reruns of Laverne & Shirley on the 700 MHz band (that's channel 64, by the way).
As cool as that would be, it is still a matter of science fiction. In the mean time, television stations have emerged from the dark ages of analog transmission, and maybe right now there is a live air-hockey championship streaming in full 1080p glory straight through your skull. If you would like to actually watch that video while listening to the accompanying audio, there's one tool you'll really need: an antenna.
Commonly known as HDMI antennas, these digital descendants of the antiquated bunny aerials are the key to viewing what some would place among our society's greatest achievements: free broadcast entertainment and advertisements.
But Doesn't Everybody Have Cable Nowadays?
For a few years before digital television was commonplace, cable and satellite TV subscriptions increased at a rapid rate. At that point, the quality of video and audio entertainment was generally higher with these systems than what was available on the UHF band. But as technology kept relentlessly marching forward, the speed and compact size of newer chipsets meant that digitally processed video would soon be available to the masses. By 2016, it was estimated that as many as 20 million US households did not subscribe to a paying TV service, relying on over-the-air broadcasts for new programming.
But as technology kept relentlessly marching forward, the speed and compact size of newer chipsets meant that digitally processed video would soon be available to the masses.
An evolution of time-tested analog broadcasting methods, the modern signals are nothing more than blazing-fast data streams being pumped out by huge transmitters over designated ranges of wavelengths. By the time the FCC entered the conversation in 1990, forces were already at play laying claim to which standards should be adopted in the fresh field of digital broadcast. Rather than set one standard of video, the regulatory body took a laissez-faire attitude, allowing the industry to sort itself out. As a result, consumers will encounter a number of different resolutions and display methods used across the various channels.
The maximum quality image you'll find beamed to your HDTV antenna is 1,080 lines per screen made of 1,920 pixels each. It's worth noting that this is also the highest resolution found on standard blu-ray releases, and higher than that of DVDs. While videophiles and engineers claim that progressive-scan technology offers a better viewing experience than interlaced mode, industry heads have been reluctant to adopt this in practice. Furthermore, some networks are satisfied with providing a maximum of 720p video. While this may not take full advantage of the most state-of-the-art TVs or projectors, it still competes with the quality of cable, and it's more resistant to interference than satellite.
Each of the companies licensing these high-speed wireless transmissions is afforded 19 megabits per second of bandwidth across its assigned frequency range. That's a large enough pipeline to support not only one crystal-clear HD channel, but also additional subchannels that the studio may have to offer. Some companies also utilize these sub-frequencies for the one-way streaming of data feeds, an early example of using the UHF range to access broadband wirelessly.
Taking Advantage Of Broadcast HDTV
So, the idea of tuning into America's favorite hobby sounds better than ever, and you're ready to get started. If you live in a densely populated area, this can be as easy as sticking a cardboard-thin receiver on the wall in your den and plugging it into your HDTV. Even some popular unamplified antennas can pick up dozens of channels in perfect clarity, and those options are especially affordable. There are also plenty of situations where the simplest choices may not be enough.
Even some popular unamplified antennas can pick up dozens of channels in perfect clarity, and those options are especially affordable.
If you live in a rural area, you might be located pretty far from the broadcast stations of the channels you'd like to watch. For these cases, there are long-range units that help to pull faraway signals out of the air that normal indoor antennas just can't detect. A lot of these are outdoor options designed to be mounted on the roof or exterior wall of your home. Many of them can even be adjusted to point directly at the tower you're trying to reach. Orienting these models in the right direction can provide entertainment even to those who live well away from urban areas.
Of course, there are also millions of RVs roaming the highways across the country. For these travelers, over-the-air TV can be as much of a blessing as it is to homeowners, if not more. Both the homebody and the wanderer can use it to access not only the newest entertainment, but also helpful local news, weather, and, in the worst of scenarios, disaster information. With no subscription costs and a wide range of fun and informative programming, HDTV broadcasting helps to further the tradition of American television, and keeps us up-to date and entertained better than ever.
Just make sure you have a good antenna.