Consumer Reports: Tips for finding the best TV antennas

TV antennas have come a long way since the days of rabbit ears covered in tin foil.

With more and more people dropping cable to cut down on expenses, antennas have become increasingly popular.

Chris Patterson and his family cut cable years ago and started using an antenna to watch pro sports and local news.

"There's no monthly fees, and you don't have to have any sort of contract with a cable company or any other company," Patterson said.

Consumer Reports recently tested indoor antennas of different shapes and sizes in urban and rural homes.

"In our tests, most models were able to receive dozens of free over-the-air channels," said Jim Willcox, Consumer Reports tech editor.

One that did well is the Winegard FlatWave Amped. It has a super-thin design you can mount on a wall or a window.

And some good news for bargain shoppers, "Our tests found little correlation between price and performance," Willcox said.

One example: this budget model from Naxa combines the rabbit-ears-and-loop design of classic antennas with more modern features.

No matter which antenna you choose, there are several factors that impact the number of channels you'll get--some you have control over, others you don't.

"Where you place your antenna can be really important. We suggest placing it as high as you can and preferably close to a window." Willcox said.

Other factors, like where you live and what's around your home, like buildings or trees, can also impact reception. That means you might have to try several models before finding the best antenna for your space. So Consumer Reports suggests you shop somewhere with free returns and exchanges.

As for Chris-he found another benefit to his antenna.

"A couple of years ago when there was a major storm, and the cable went out in town for a couple of days-if you had an antenna, you could still watch TV," Patterson said.

One last tip: rescan for channels every month or so because you might pick up some new stations you couldn't get earlier.

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