Almost four years after becoming a cord cutter, I finally bought an over the air antenna. Until then I’d been subsisting on a diet of Netflix, screeners, network websites, streaming videos from my computer, the kindness of friends, iTunes and Xbox video purchases. My TV habits had quickly turned to binge watching series once they were finally available to me, or catching up next day, and I found to my surprise that it wasn’t a great hardship to give up on shows that aren’t easily accessible to me.
But finally, earlier this year, I decided to replace the antenna I’d had to return back when I first cut the cord, after it started smoking when plugged in — a feature I felt unnecessary.
A friend’s recommendation and then reviews led me to select the Winegard FL5500A FlatWave Amplified Razor Thin HDTV Indoor Antenna. Easily assembled and nearly paper-thin, it sticks on a window, wall, or other flat surface, with either the white or the black side exposed. Plugged in, it offers me seven high definition channels with clear and consistent reception. I get CBC, CTV, CTV 2, Global, City, Radio-Canada and, I think, OMNI. This means I can get various seasons of Murdoch Mysteries nearly 24 hours a day in 2 official languages as well as a wide selection of commercials punctuated by some shows.
If I lived elsewhere I could get US network signals as well, but since Canadian networks love nothing better than to simulcast US programming, I don’t feel the loss. I still sometimes forget I have live TV now, but I’ve been able to watch the Oscars, The Voice, and The Good Wife live and so all is well in my world.
About a month after I purchased my own OTA antenna, Antennas Direct offered to send us a couple of ClearStream antennas to test. Their Micron XG is just as easy to assemble, compact and can sit relatively unobtrusively on a shelf — and gets me the same number of channels as my Winegard. The decision between them, then, was purely a matter of aesthetic preference.
The ClearStream 2V can be used as an indoor antenna as well, but it’s primarily designed for outdoor use and promises the greatest number of channels. Outdoor mounting is impractical for me so when I opened the box and saw the bulk of the antenna, and couldn’t get past the first step of assembly without tearing my hair out, I abandoned the effort. (ClearStream has a toll free number for help but I didn’t think they could do much about “how in the world can I make that contraption fit with my decor?”)
I also have added another tool to my cord cutting arsenal: Chromecast. A thumb-sized media streaming device attaches to an HDMI port on the TV and plugs in, then with a quick setup it can stream from apps, the Chrome browser or from iOS or Android devices. I haven’t played with this as much as I expected, since most of the apps and online streaming are available to me in via my Xbox (which came with my Internet contract), either through the apps or by the video player networked to my laptop. Still, I love how portable the Chromecast dongle is for travel, perhaps, and look forward to experimenting further.
I still intend to see what’s available once cable companies begin offering skinny basic and pick and pay, but with all these gizmos available to me, I feel less and less tempted to uncut the cord.
Do you want one of my test antennas? Comment with your own TV-watching solutions and indicate which of the ClearStream antennas you’d like: the Micron XG or the ClearStream 2V. I’ll draw a winner for each one randomly on May 15 at 5 pm PT.