Indoor aerials: How we test indoor aerials
Which? puts indoor TV aerials to the test so we can tell you exactly what you need to know when you're buying a new one. We'll help you avoid poor reception and aerials that just aren't up to the job.
We put every aerial through the same tests - a mixture of technical lab testing and real-life testing in homes - so we can answer the important, no-nonsense questions with confidence and give you a verdict you can trust. Read on to find out:
- What makes a Which? Best Buy indoor TV aerial?
- How we test indoor TV aerials to find the best?
- How we'll identify which indoor TV aerial you should buy?
What makes a Best Buy indoor TV aerial
A Best Buy indoor aerial maximizes your chances of getting a decent picture but is no guarantee of success. Where you live, the size of surrounding buildings and the position of the aerial all play their part.
We test indoor aerials in the lab but also test in real homes in different locations to ensure they work whatever transmitter you receive your TV signals from. We also test that an aerial is easy to set-up and use, that the cable is a decent length and that any built-in amplifier actually improves the performance of the aerial (many do not).
We also ensure that reception is good across the whole TV band. Digital TV and radio stations are grouped in bundles called multiplexes that are transmitted at different frequencies across the TV band. There are six multiplexes altogether. Poor reception in one part of the TV band could mean you can’t receive a multiplex and therefore you will miss out on all the channels it carries. Best Buy aerials perform well across the whole band so you should receive all the channels available.
Our exhaustive mix of tests in the laboratory and in real homes, aims to find out which aerials pick up the most channels and work best with a weak signal.
Initial lab tests take place in a radio-frequency test chamber, but our experts then ups sticks (and aerials) and moves to some domestic surroundings: houses in Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead and Finchley. Each location is served by different types and strength of TV transmitter.
Working in different rooms and on different floors, we find the optimal position and angle for each aerial. We note how critical this positioning is for a good picture, while tuning into six TV channels (one from each multiplex) plus two radio stations.
A total percentage score based on the combined performance across all multiplexes in all three locations helps us identify the Best Buys.
Best reception will always be achieved by using a rooftop aerial but this isn't always possible if, for example, you live in a block of flats. Reasonable reception from an indoor aerial can only be achieved in a strong signal area but by choosing a Which? Best Buy you'll be maximising your chances of getting good quality pictures and sound.