There was a time when watching a television show didn’t involve paying someone for the broadcast signal. A passive pole antenna — “rabbit ears” as they were known — was placed on top or to the side of the TV and got plugged into an input on its back. That was it — television channels could now be accessed at no additional cost. Compare that with a cable box or satellite service where ongoing payments must be made and it seems that the consumer is getting the short end. But what too many people seem to have forgotten is that free TV signals continue to be broadcasted today. And in high-definition. All that is needed is the one-time investment in an antenna capable of picking up the signals, decoding them properly and presenting them to the TV’s tuner so a quality picture can be viewed.
So why aren’t more people using a stand-alone antenna to get HDTV? It’s less of a cost issue and more about how the placement of the television itself isn’t conducive to an indoor antenna being able to get a good signal — it’s too far inside the home and there’s far too much electrical interference bouncing around (i.e., cell phones, wireless networks, etc.). But the other reason is esthetic: TV’s are now an attractive part of the home while TV antennas are ugly beasts that stick out like sore thumbs.
Solving both problems seems to be the province of mohu’s The Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna. Let’s take the esthetic first — it’s flexible and reminiscently thin as a sheet of paper, with the connector at one end only jutting out an inch or two. One side is white and the other is black so camouflaging it isn’t the issue that it would be if it were built like a standard vertical indoor antenna. The The Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna can be placed close to the TV or moved farther away — like next to a window — since standard coaxial cable is used. And those who rightly say that an antenna placed up close to the TV might not be effective need to look at the candy bar-like digital amplifier that is also part of the package.
The Leaf Ultimate is placed next to a window which is about 40 feet away from the TV. Its lightweight nature can let a strip of masking tape hold it securely, but there’s pre-cut holes for those wanting to use thumbtacks or nails instead for a more permanent installation. The cable connection is pointed down so that a coaxial cable (included) can be socketed in and run over to the antenna input on the back of the TV. This end of the coaxial cable is then screwed into the included digital amplifier, whose own coaxial cable sockets into the TV’s antenna input. To power the amplifier, a USB cable goes from it into a USB port on the TV: an included USB AC power plug can be used if the TV doesn’t have a USB port or they are all being used.
Turning on the TV, the antenna input is chosen from the menu and the auto search mode cycles through the channels for those that can be received. There’s no settings or buttons on The Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna to press.
Now as is obvious, what is being received are those broadcast networks who operate towers in range of the antenna — in the case of this location, they’re less than 50 miles away (this mohu antenna is rated as handling signals within this limitation). Flipping through the “dial,” there’s no problem in catching the local broadcast networks in all their HD glory. The picture on each of the channels looks good and sharp and the sound is clear and distinct. There is no difference between what is being seen here and those same channels received by the cable box normally connected to the TV.
To compare The Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna’s signal reception strength, it’s now repositioned next to the TV. With the connections once again made, the television checks the signal as it cycles through the channels again, and the same channels as before are accessible with the quality of the images they’re presenting being indistinguishable from before. Of course each location is different, due to its placement relative to the broadcast towers. But since the antenna is amplified, having to place it at different locations relative to the TV in order to access a signal is not an issue.
Bottom line: The Leaf Ultimate Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna enables a high-definition TV to receive HD broadcast networks at no cost. The antenna’s physical appearance lets it become part of the decor and do its job silently. And at a cost of only $89.
- Based on antenna design of the U.S. Military
- Can be painted
- Not using the pre-cut holes for nailing the antenna to a surface could potentially crack it
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.