Dust off the rabbit ears for HD
Julie Govan is the Brand Manager at Crutchfield, and has been writing about consumer electronics since 1999. Her areas of expertise include home theater, surround sound, digital cameras, and HDTV. In her spare time, she also writes book reviews and fiction. She earned a B.A. in English from Davidson College, and went on to receive a master's degree in English literature from the University of Virginia.
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Often, when someone comes into my living room, they point to the brushed silver contraption that stands just over a foot high in the corner. "What's that?" they say. "It's a TV antenna," I answer. (It's actually the Terk HDTVi indoor UHF/VHF antenna, in case you're wondering, which I borrowed from a co-worker and have yet to return.) "Really?" they respond, surprised."You still using one of them?"
My answer always surprises them. It turns out most people think of TV antennas as dead technology -- about as relevant as an 8-track player or mono VCR. They don't realize that an HDTV antenna pulling in over-the-air HD programming will deliver the best HD broadcasts currently available.
Yep, that's right! In my experience, over-the-air HD broadcasts tend to outperform both cable and satellite HD programming consistently. I see no evidence of the compression noise and visual artifacts that I sometimes experience when watching cable and satellite. And when I am showing less techy family and friends "what HD looks like" it's inevitably the over-the-air channels, in both 720p and 1080i, that make them go "Wowwwwww."
So if you haven't taken advantage of the over-the-air HD broadcasts in your area, you should. There may be a lot of free high-def viewing available that you weren't getting before. (And if you live in an area with tough reception, make sure you get the right kind of antenna for your setting -- you can get started on that with our article on Choosing & Installing an Antenna.)