Best over-the-air antennas iMore 2020
The ClearStream 2MAX is the perfect mix between range and aesthetics. It's the sort of antenna you're serious about over-the-air TV but don't have to contend with any any serious environmental obstructions. It's not invisible, but also not monstrous to look at.
The best OTA antenna for most people
The ClearStream 2MAX can be mounted outdoors or indoors (like in an attic). It includes a 20-inch J-mount mast, and a 20dB amplifier. It's got a 4-star rating on Amazon, with more than 200 customer reviews. Plus it's been a favorite of our own staff. If you need a good over-the-air antenna, this is what we'd go with.
Who should buy this antenna?
The ClearStream 2MAX is the best option for someone who wants something better than a stick-up indoor antenna, but doesn't want an ungainly outdoor model that looks more like a clothesline than a way to get free over-the-air TV. And don't let the sub-$50 price fool you — this is a fully functional OTA antenna.
And you get everything you need to mount the 2MAX in the box. You get a pivoting mast, the mounting hardware, amplifier and more.
Is it a good time to buy this antenna?
Yes. A stylish antenna will never go out of style. And the technology mostly remains the same. There will be minor tweaks across revisions, but an antenna is an antenna.
Plus the ClearStream 2MAX will work just fine once the ATSC 3.0 standard is actually implemented. An antenna is just the — an antenna. So the ClearStream 2MAX will work just as well with 4K broadcasts as it does today with 1080i broadcasts.
10 reasons to buy the ClearStream 2MAX
- A powerful antenna without much bulk
- Gives access to free over-the-air broadcasts
- Doesn't require additional software
- Doesn't count against your ISP data cap
- Stands up to rain, wind and sun
- Listed 60-mile range
- Will work with ATSC 3.0 standard
- Will work with future 4K broadcasts
- Includes all the mounting hardware you'll need
- Includes a free 20dB amplifier
3 reasons not to buy
- If you can't attach a semi-permanent antenna to your home
- If you need an antenna with even greater range
- If the terrain simply doesn't allow for over-the-air broadcasts
The best antenna for most people
The ClearStream 2MAX is an indoor/outdoor antenna that receives broadcasts from local (OK, relatively local) stations — stations that might or might not also be available through your streaming service of choice. So an antenna like the 2MAX can fill the hole that streaming solutions may leave behind. That's particularly of use when it comes to local news and regional sporting events.
The ClearStream 2MAX works well outdoors or hidden in an attic.
Additionally, over-the-air broadcasts typically have less compression than what you'll get over streaming channels — so the pictures will look better. And once you've got the hardware, you get all the content for free.
Setup is simple. It's just a matter of screwing a couple of wingnuts and mounting the antenna on a mast somewhere. (Remember, outdoors and higher is better than indoors and lower.) The 2MAX includes all the hardware you'll need to mount it, and depending on your circumstances, installation really can take just a few minutes. Plug the antenna into your TV or other tuner box, and you're good to go.
Alternatives to the ClearStream 2MAX
The Channel Master CM-2018 is another (and very popular) option. It's got a higher VHF gain, so it may be able to pick up more distant stations. It does, however, have a larger visible footprint.
The CM-2018 is the sort of old-school outdoor antenna you might remember back from the 1980s. (Look around your neighborhood, folks.) This updated model rates 60 miles for VHF and 45 miles for UHF and will almost certainly get the job done if you need more VHF oomph. Not bad for about $50.
If you can't rig up an outdoor antenna, the RCA ANT1650 flat indoor antenna is another popular choice. It's got a much shorter range and will be more subject to environmental noise — but it really all depends on your circumstances. It's also got a lower price — about $30.
This is the sort of thing you're likely to find sitting on a living room entertainment center or bookshelf, connected directly into a television set. It'll get the job done for the strongest channels, but you can pretty much forget about receiving anything at a distance.
If you're looking for an indoor antenna that really looks good, the Mohu Blade is the one you'll want. It's sleek and stylish, not taking up too much room on an entertainment center, or mounted on a wall. (It's your choice which direction you want to go with that. Otherwise, it's sort of your standard 40-mile indoor-type antenna.
But, man, it looks good, with the metal ring on the inside, and the flecked composite-type design on the antenna itself.
For more folks, the Channel Master CM-2018 is where we'd start. It hits the sweet spot between price, performance, and overall visible footprint. If you need something more powerful for VHF, the CM-2018 is a good bet, and if you just can't mount an antenna outdoors, the RCA indoor model may do you nicely.
The team that worked on this guide
Phil Nickinson is the editor of CordCutters.com, the Head Dad behind Modern Dad and Editor Emeritus of AndroidCentral.com. He's been a journalist since starting at his hometown newspaper in 1998, and with Mobile Nations since 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @Mdrndad.
Jerry Hildenbrand is Mobile Nation's Senior Editor and works from a Chromebook full time. Currently, he is using Google's Pixelbook but is always looking at new products and may have any Chromebook in his hands at any time. You'll find him across the Mobile Nations network and you can hit him up on Twitter if you want to say hey.
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