Over-the-air antenna, you complete me

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.

MicronAbout 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.

2VThe 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?”)

Chromecast_dongleI 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. 


15 thoughts on “Over-the-air antenna, you complete me”

  1. I have Mohu Leaf antenna that gets me not much, as I am in Sault Ste Marie, ON. Oddly, I have friends who get some US OTA stuff (I can see the US from my backyard, literally), I wonder if that clarstream 2V would work? Well there would really only be one way to find out……

  2. This information is great, these would be the only channels I’d want to get. I’ll have to think about investing in an antennae.

    Please review more, it’s difficult enough to know what streaming devices stream what without having to double check if the article is about the US version. It took a few articles and waiting before I found out both the ChromeCast and AppleTV in Canada wouldn’t get HBO NOW. It would be very appreciated.

    1. Thanks, let me know if you want to be entered in the draw for one of those two antennas instead of investing in one. Lightly used — as in less than 5 minutes :)

  3. I miss TV for my Jays games. To finagle a better wifi connection, I’ve done plenty of trial and error walking about the condo. The Micron XG might be just the right size for all that walking!

  4. I have a Monoprice antenna that’s OK. I can only get one channel, though. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I can get a second. I think a large part of my problem is because I live at the bottom of a hill. I’m interested to try the Micron XG (or the Winegard). So, I’d like to be entered into a draw for the XG.

    These days, I rely mostly on Internet streams from the broadcasters and Netflix (on my Apple TV).

    1. I kind of love the Winegard’s portability (and I just think it’s cool that it’s so thin), but the Micron is better to sit on a shelf, and it’s pretty unobtrusive.

  5. Apple TV with AirPlay and Netflix is my solution. I’ve started buying more and more content on iTunes because I can’t be bothered with the sometimes working network TV sites. I’d like to try the micron XG antenna!

    1. Hey Other Diane, I’ve been considering Apple TV except I think my Xbox fills the same role (though some different apps). Now that CraveTV will be available on Apple TV that might change things for me.

  6. I’m a slave to cablevision, because when the gov’t took away the normal over-the-air channels, I could no longer use rabbit ears on my old tv to pull in the NYC stations. I’d need an antannae that can go at least 70 miles and give me the major networks, so should I win an antannae, well, I’d take the ClearStream 2V and stuff it in the attic. Not sure if contest applies to me as I live in US, all those pesky customs things and such….

  7. We still have regular cable. The alternative to what we have now costs more. Since our household pay for the one line, the other TV is set up with an OTA indoor antenna by RCA. Last year I also bought a digital converter from Best Buy for $60. This arrangement lets us keep using our old analog TVs and watch HD channels. On good days, I can get CTV, CBC, CBLFT, CHCH, TVO, Star Ray, City, OMNI 1 & 2, YesTV, CW, WNED, ABC, CBS.
    The digital converter by Homeworx is also a PVR, that uses something as small as a USB key. Although, I rather use my JVC VCR. Been using this unit for over a decade.

  8. I live in Montreal and get 25 channels with an OTA antenna. No cable for 3 years and loving it. The tricks:

    1) Setup is king and can vary for your location. Look at TVFool.com to see where the signals are coming from and let that guide your antenna placement. Despite advertising, antennas don’t magically “pull in” TV signals from mid-air like a giant sucking vacuum cleaner.

    2) Gotta get outdoors, even if means balcony or window. Indoor is only good for local channels, and even then the reception is somewhat unpredictable (unless you’re in an area within a few kms of the transmitters). I mounted a small antenna on the roof and I was picking up US signals with no problem, couldn’t get all of them inside.

    3) Invest in a good OTA DVR. For the same price as a few cable bills, you’ll be able to buy and own a killer OTA DVR setup. Look up models like the Channel Master DVR+ which easily does whatever your old cable DVR does (but better and for free) or check out Canada’s own TabloTV which allows you to record or watch live OTA on streaming boxes like Roku, AppleTv, iPad as well as your mobile devices when you’re not at home. SiliconDust’s HD HomeRun adds OTA tuners to your home network for use by Windows Media Center and other tablet apps if you’re into that. Or, an OTA tuner card can be purchased by Hauppage and added directly to your PC.

    4) Get more information. Unfortunately, no one really advertises how awesome free OTA TV is: same (well actually better) HD picture than cable, 5.1 sound and 90% of the most popular shows on TV for free. Simply add a streaming service for speciality on-demand shows and you’re set. Big box stores and major Canadian networks don’t invest in promoting OTA TV, they all try to get you to sign up for cable. My favorite resources include “Average Joe Consumer Product Reviews” for Canadian OTA product reviews. There are also great community Twitter accounts to follow that give tips, OTA info for your area and local station status (example @TorontoOTA and @MontrealOTA) so you can get help and guidance for your setup.

    As for your draw, wouldn’t mind the Micron XG for a friend in an appt so I can introduce them as well to the awesome world of OTA!

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