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Super Bowl Prep 2015 : HDTV Antenna

Now that the AFC champs (the Pats stomping on the Colts) and NFC champs (Green Bay stunning the Seahawks) have been crowned, it is time to prep for Super Bowl XLIX. To help readers get ready, we took a look at some indoor HDTV antennas which will let them enjoy the big game for free AND at the best resolution:

When things first switched over to digital a few years ago, many who got their games off the air had to either add a converter boxupgrade their analog TV, or sign on with a cable company in order to continue watching their favorite teams. However, if you switched to cable, you may not know that the signal being pushed through the cable is compressed and that the picture for their HDTV is actually better if you just get your signal “off the air.” This means that if you try to watch the big game through your cable setup it may not look as good as the uncompressed broadcast that’s available for FREE!!!

Clearstream Eclipse: The Eclipse from Antennas Direct is rated with a 25+ mile range and comes with 12 ft. of thin flexible  coaxial cable. At around 4 ounces, this indoor antenna is super light. The loop-shaped antenna, with its Sure Grip™ backing, is easy to mount: just peel and stick, no screws necessary. What is even better is that the Sure Grip™ Technology allows the antenna to be moved and remounted without fuss. It will stick to  any flat surface (windows, walls, even behind the flatscreen).

Mounting the antenna is one step. Attaching it to the TV is the other. Our HDTV panel is attached to a  motorized wall mount. While having the TV mounted made adjusting the flat panel for optimal viewing easy, it made attaching the cable awkward because of the location of antenna socket. To make things easier, we added a right angle adapterto the end of the antenna cable. That made it possible to come up from underneath to make the connection.

Cable Cutter: The Cable Cutter Aerowave (CCA) from HD Frequency is a small premium Over-The-Air (OTA) antenna, engineered for city settings wthin 25 miles of broadcast towers. Founder Josh McDonnell, a self-proclaimed “extreme gadget guy” and IT professional with an master’s degree in IT, developed the Cable Cutter and Cable Cutter Mini with a team of highly specialized engineers. The Aerowave is slightly larger than the Mini, however it has been optimized and its performance is nearly on par with the significantly larger Cable Cutter.

The CCA kit included the rectangular module, a 12′ high quality coax cable, and various bits for hanging the antenna. Longer cables are available directly from HD Frequency. The construction of the module is very robust. We also liked that we could easily run any length cable with the CCA. BTW, the Cable Cutter antenna came with a thicker coax than the others. Without the 90º adapter, it would not have been possible to make the connection.

Mohu Leaf: The Leaf indoor TV antenna is a paper thin antenna that can be mounted just about anywhere. What’s more is that the antenna is also paintable and reversible to match the decor.

The unit we have even has a built-in signal amplifier which can be powered by a USB port on the back of the TV. The advantage is that the amplifier will only draw power when the TV is turned on, eliminating parasitic power consumption when the amplifier isn’t needed. Included in the package is a power cube that allows the amplifier to be powered by any standard AC wall outlet should the TV not have a USB port.

Most people know that antennas pick up signals that are “in the air,” but just how exactly do they work? Fortunately, one does not need to know how they work to use one. However, one does need to know how to set things up. While we cannot tell readers how to set up their specific set, we can mention a few of the general things which will be common to all HDTV setups:

  1. Use the remote control and find the selection for setting the “TV channels;”
  2. Look for the “Cable/Antenna” selection and make sure it is on “Antenna;”
  3. With the antenna connected to the TV, select the “Auto Program” option.

Once the “Auto Program” has completed searching, finding, and setting the channels (and if there were no problems), the setup should be completed and there should be a picture on the screen.

Of course, antennas are about their ability to detect signals. One can rate an antenna as being “better” than another if it can detect a weaker signal/find more channels. While this is not always a fair test, it is a reasonable critera with which to judge antennas.

For our test, we hung all of the antennas in the same spot and ran the “Auto Program” function to see which could find how many. Here are the results of our “channel-finding” test:

While many vendors claim their antennas are “omni-directional”, we have found that placement of antennas does influence the number of channels found. BTW, the orientation does not even have to be vertical. To illustrate the point, we repeated the channel-finding test with the three antennas placed flat on the the table. Here are the results:

Surprisingly, all of the antennas picked up more stations, but the Clearstream Eclipse came out the winner this time. Of course, picking up more stations doesn’t really mean anything if they aren’t the ones you watch. Still, more is typically more desirable than less 🙂 The other important criteria is signal-locking ability. However, we won’t be able to report on that until we have seen how they have performed InTheWild.

While finding lots of stations is a good thing and an important consideration, it is not the final word for choosing an indoor antenna. Other factors such as appearance, usability, and cost should be part of the equation. So after considering everything, we have decided to go with the Clearstream Eclipse for the big game. In the end, it was the usability of the Eclipse that put it over the top for us. Moving the Eclipse around was just a matter of peeling it off and pressing it where we wanted it. Easy peasy! No muss, no fuss.

The remaining items on the Super Bowl prep list are: what food to get, where to place the seats, and what kind of beer to drink. We have a little less than two weeks to get ready. Better get them interns off their butts. Here is to an AWESOME Super Bowl…and Go Pats!!! The RainyDaySports prediction? New England Patriots by twelve.[

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