Before cable, there was the TV antenna. But once a viewer got a taste of dozens of channels, the advent of cable television became the norm and paying for TV shows, even though it came with commercials, also became the norm. For an HD antenna example, take a look at our Flatwave Mini Indoor HD Antenna review. But for the cable companies, the biggest “norm” is to keep raising the cost. Maybe that’s why OTA (over-the-air) TV viewing has been making a comeback, courtesy of indoor digital antennas. But for this to succeed, the antenna must not just be simple to install, it has to actually work. Good thing that Winegard’s Flatwave Amped Indoor HDTV Antenna does both. If you want to compare this with a similar product, give our Mohus the Leaf Ultimate amplified indoor HDTV antenna review a read too.
I unboxed the antenna and found it to be paper-thin, with a pure black on one side and white on the other. That should take care of using it on most walls, although keeping it unobtrusive always requires a careful placement. Since I don’t have cable television set up in my temporary housing (due to be relocated from a fire), it’s a good chance to see what the broadcast networks have been up to. The Flatwave Amped Indoor HDTV Antenna has a 1db digital amplifier built in to amplify the signal. This should enable it to pull in more signals than a passive model, which could prove helpful since the TV is dead center in the living room area and surrounded by apartments on both sides as well as above and below.
So I placed the antenna against the wall, next to the side of the TV where the USB sockets were (I used painter’s tape so as to avoid pulling off paint when removing the antenna later, although thumb tacks or stick pins could as easily have worked). I plugged the included USB cable into the USB mini-socket on the amplifier module and put the cable’s other end into the USB socket. The only advantage of using the included AC USB adapter would have been that the amplifier would always be “on” as opposed to turning on when the TV did. I then screwed in the coaxial cable from the antenna into the socket on the TV.
Turning on the TV, I went to the “Channel selection” menu and started the process of it “finding” television broadcast signals — both digital and analogue. It took about 12 minutes, with a total of 64 digital channels found. I then began “flipping” through the channels to find a lot of standard-def stations and a few HD ones. But while the sound was good throughout, only the local affiliations of ABC, CBS and NBC came through clearly; the other channels would start to break up or “freeze” within a minute of so of watching. This wasn’t the fault of the antenna, it’s the fault of where it’s placed. So I moved the antenna closer to the window (there was15 feet of coaxial cabling to work with). I then had to rerun the channel selection, which took about the same time and showed me the same number of channels. Only now I found that most of the channels came through as fine as the local networks had before. Standard-def looked good (no herringbone patterns) and the affiliates which were in HD looked as good, if not better than what you’d get from cable. At no cost, I’d add.
Bottom line: Broadcast television used to be free and still is, providing you’ve a digital antenna that is worth its salt. Winegard’s Flatwave Amped Indoor HDTV Antenna does the job of bringing in TV signals efficiently. Whether to continue to pay for broadcast TV or not is up to you.