If you’ve ditched cable for good, the first place you should look for an alternative is over-the-air television — it offers some of the same channels you were paying for, after all, only they’re free. Gone are the days of massive TV antenna dishes; replacing them are relatively small antennas like the Elecwave model we’re reviewing. With the right antenna, you’ll be able to pick up over-the-air networks from many dozens of miles away, but a low-quality antenna is almost as bad as not having any antenna at all. How does this Elecwave model perform?
Though I’ve entertained the idea of setting up an OTA TV system over the last several years, I’ve never gotten around to it. Things changed this summer on a whim when I acquired the Elecwave HDTV Antenna, a saucer-shaped product made of lightweight plastic and with the promise of picking up signals as far as 100 miles away. Given that I live about 50 miles from Cleveland, such range claims would mean I’d be able to pick up all the major networks (CBS, FOX, etc) in HD quality, plus a couple dozen or so smaller networks.
To be honest, I was skeptical.
The Elecwave is quite light in the hands and smaller than I anticipated, being about the diameter of a dinner plate and as thick as a typical TV remote. It includes all of the mounting hardware necessary to affix it to a post or pole, as well as a powered antenna booster and lengthy coaxial cable. It does not include the digital TV converter (“dTV box”), though most modern flat screen televisions already have these integrated.
I decided to skip the built-in dTV option and instead connected the Elecwave to a dedicated digital converter box, one that included DVR functionality and a few other features. What’s the point of replacing cable with OTA TV if it’s only half as useful? With the TV antenna attached to a plastic pole and mounted only about 6ft off the ground, it managed to pick up channels 1 – 24, including CBS and FOX in HD. Color me surprised.
Given that the product claims to have a 100-mile range thanks to its amplified nature, it should have been able to pick up the channels I would be able to get were I located in Cleveland metro rather than an hour outside of it. Using the website Antenna Web, I learned that were I located in Cleveland, I’d be able to get up to 59 channels across 17 different networks.
The catch there is that the antenna had to be at least 30ft off the ground whereas mine was only 6ft high. To remedy that, I bought a huge steel pipe and fixed it in the ground using concrete. Elevated about 25ft off the ground, the number of channels I picked up jumped to around 50, which was about what online OTA guide sites said I could expect to get in the region.
This included both the standard-definition and high-definition versions of major networks, such as CBS, NBC, and The CW. When coupled with the dTV box to which the antenna was connected (not included with the antenna), the quality was excellent and was indistinguishable from cable/satellite. That said, the Elecwave antenna is not perfect.
While the product is advertised as being omni-directional, which would mean it could pick up channels from any direction, I didn’t find that to be true. Rotating the antenna a few inches to the left, for example, got me a handful of channels I couldn’t pick up if I rotated it the other direction.
The difference between channel reception across the entire diameter, though, wasn’t drastic, meaning I mostly got the same channel lineup no matter which way the antenna faced. You will have to consider a motorized mount, though, if you want optimal reception.
The Elecwave over-the-air TV antenna is pretty cheap at $50 on Amazon, making it one of the more inexpensive amplified 100-mile-range options. While there are cheaper antennas on the market, they require you to be located nearer to a major city; the amplified nature of this antenna and others like it mean you can pick up channels over much further distances. Those located between two major cities, such as Cincinnati and Indianapolis, could get 100+ channels with an antenna like this.
Is it perfect? No, but it is very close and I can’t find anything worthwhile to complain about. Reception is excellent, the construction quality has held up to several heavy, prolonged rainstorms, and the price is cheaper than an average month of cable. Available on Amazon.