Each time Apple adds another channel to Apple TV, I ask my wife if we’re ready to “cut the cord,” as they say, and stick with web delivery for our television entertainment. It’d be easy for me, as I’m pretty sure I could survive on NHL GameCenter, Yahoo! Screen and…wait. Is that Fargo show on Apple TV somewhere? I quite like that Fargo show.
Tieraney, however, has a larger of pool of shows that are important pieces of her “winding down” time, as we like to call it. I’ve got video games, and she has ABC Family and the CW. To each his (or her) own. So, when we received the RCA Ultra-Thin Multi-Directional Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna for review, I was curious to see just how much closer it could get us to a life free of our DirecTV bill, which is insanely high when you consider all the channels we block for lack of interest.
This antenna may have the most unwieldy name in the history of products, but it helps us break down the review, so we’ll follow along.
The RCA Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna is designed to be attached to a window or a wall, which you can do with the included two-sided mounting tape or with tacks via the two pre-cut holes at the top. Measuring 13″ wide by 11.25″ high, and with a cable hanging underneath, it’s not the most attractive accessory in the world, but you can hopefully hide it behind a curtain or, in my case, behind the entertainment center.
The location of the broadcast signals around you may not be conducive to your required placement. In my area, I have one tower just to the north, and three towers further to the west, all of which are within 35 miles of my house. Luckily, our TV is on the west wall of the house, so that made things easy. If you’re not so lucky, the 360° reception pattern will require fewer adjustments to get what signals you can.
We kind of covered this under ultra-thin, but the indoor placement makes set-up very easy. You won’t have to climb on your roof or up into your attic, just connect the 12 foot cable to the VHF/UHF antenna-in on your digital ready TV, mount the antenna, scan for channels, and you’re done. This particular RCA antenna can comes an amplifier that plugs into the wall for for enhanced signal strength, but you can save $20 by going without this.
Now, here’s the thing. An HDTV antenna is only going to work for you if you’ve got nearby broadcast signals that it can pull in. You can find this out at www.tvsetfree.com, which will show you the number of broadcast towers in your area, list the channels you should get, and make antenna recommendations. It told me I should get just shy of 50. My RCA Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna found 39, about two-thirds of which had signals strong enough to watch, maybe five of which I’d actually want to see…too much home shopping and evangelism for my particular tastes, which tend to center around sword-fighting skeletons and Bryan Fuller shows.
However, NBC, CBS and ABC all came in perfectly clear, with picture quality that rivals that of my DirecTV signal. This means I could at least get access to shows on the major networks (that matter), and, more importantly, emergency broadcasts when storms are strong enough to knock out the DirecTV signal.
In fact, that’s why I can recommend a low-cost, simple install antenna like this. Is it enough for us to cut the cord? No. Not yet; it looks like I’d have to start with a 60 mile antenna to take that serious step, and even then we’d be missing out on some programming that hasn’t yet found its way to the web.
However, knowing we can still pull in reception during storms is worth the minor investment here as a supplement to our current system. Plus, if we want TV in another room, not having to pay for the rental of another cable receiver would cover the cost of this product within four months.
So, do your research (this article from guest columnist Grant Whipple is a great place to start). Find out what channels you’d lose, and decide if that’s offset by the financial savings of an HDTV antenna. If your entertainment needs center around the major networks, PBS, and—at least in my area—Christian cartoons, I can recommend the RCA Ultra-Thin Multi-Directional Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna based on its easy installation and quality reception of broadcasts with strong signals. If not, you’ll be relying on your Apple TV for pretty much everything that matters. And depending up on how many channels you subscribe to, you may be pushing cable rates anyway.
May as well just start playing more video games instead.
Buy the RCA ANT1150F HDTV Antenna
Provides: Amplified HDTV reception
Minimum Requirements: Digital-ready TV with VHF/UHF input, broadcast signals within 35 miles.