By Steve Bass
The Miracle of High Definition TV
No doubt, watching a TV show or mobile in high definition is miraculous. The picture is sharper than sharp (so much so that like it or not, you can see the pores on an actor’s face).
I’m a DirecTV subscriber, but I’m too cheap to pay their extra fee for high definition service, so I decided to try an HDTV indoor antenna.
Off-The-Air Reception: Mind-blowing and Free
Portable high definition antenna
The indoor version (Terk FDTV2A Omni-Directional Amplified Flat Digital HDTV) is about the size of a small, thin notebook. It has 360 degree reception and comes with a bracket that lets you mount it a number of ways. I just placed it on a shelf near the TV.
Amazon sells the indoor antenna for about $45. There’s no skill needed to install the antenna. Plug it into the TV’s antenna input port and move the antenna around to find the reception sweet spot. You might have to experiment with the antenna’s powered amplifier to get the best signal. You can make your job easier by giving AntennaWeb your street address; the site will help you orient the antenna’s direction; they also provide a useful FAQ with insights about high definition antennas.
With the antenna plugged in, I whizzed through the TV’s setup to decide which stations were keepers. Except for ABC, I picked up all the major networks, plus each of the multicasting sub-channels, as well as local channels, such as the Spanish speaking stations, and a couple of Asian-language feeds. The FCC has a list of HiDef broadcasting stations and there’s valuable info about antennas and channels (hit the pause button to ignore the dated video pitch) from the Consumer Electronics Association, a trade association.
One problem I couldn’t solve: If I walked in front of the antenna, CBS would fade out until I sat back down.
Terk’s outdoor antenna (TERK FDTVO Omni Directional Amplified Flat Outdoor) takes more skill to install (well, duh…). I tried setting it in the attic as well as outdoors, on the roof. The signal was as good as the indoor antenna and I got all the same channels, including ABC, and had no issue with CBS fading.
HD Antenna? It Ain’t For Me
After a few months of free, off-the-air broadcasts, I’m dismayed to say that it isn’t worth the bother. That’s because it didn’t take long for me to sorely miss the key feature on the DirecTV receiver we use: Fast forwarding through the commercials of shows we’ve recorded. I also miss the quick rewind and the ease of recording shows.