How to buy the best indoor aerial
By Andrew Laughlin
Frustrated with fuzzy Freeview TV reception? An indoor TV aerial could help. We show you how to buy the best indoor TV aerial for your home.
An indoor TV aerial is a simple and affordable way to maximise your chances of getting great Freeview picture and sound quality on your TV. However, they vary widely in terms of performance.
Best Buy aerials can pick up all your favourite channels in even weak signal areas, whereas Don't Buys struggle to get any sort of reception. In this guide, we explain all the key things you need to know when shopping for the best indoor aerial.
Just want to see great indoor TV aerials? Take a look at the excellent models we've selected below, or for more choice head over to our expert and independent indoor aerial reviews.
Top five best indoor aerials for 2018
If you want an indoor aerial but don't want it cluttering up your living room, then this model could appeal. We were impressed with the way this wall mountable aerial can be hidden away but can it improve your Freeview TV reception? Read our review to see the results of our expert testing.
Get the best TV picture with an indoor aerial
All new TVs come with a Freeview tuner, meaning you can watch great television channels (including high-definition ones if you have Freeview HD) without needing a subscription or additional equipment.
However, even after the completion of the digital TV switchover boosted Freeview coverage in the UK to 98.5%, some people still struggle to get good reception in their home.
The best TV signal will always be achieved with a rooftop aerial but that's not always an option. For example, you may live in a block of flats without aerial access, or maybe you're already using the aerial connection for another television in your home. This is where an indoor aerial can help.
What type of aerial should I buy?
Indoor aerials come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the key thing to consider is how you'll need to angle, or 'polarise' yours to match the local transmitter that's beaming Freeview to your home. If you don't do this, you could still see a fuzzy, distorted picture.
Some aerials are 'omnidirectional', meaning they don't need to be angled, but most will need to be polarised either horizontally or vertically. This is often just a simple process of shifting the aerial from one way to another.
The majority of transmitters in the UK are horizontally polarised, but the best thing to do is take a look at the rooftop aerials in your neighbourhood to see how they're aligned. That way you'll know what type of polarisation you'll need.
There are four main types of indoor aerial:
Monopole or 'rod' aerials: These look a bit like car antennas. They can be omnidirectional, but you'll also find ones that shift from horizontal to vertical polarisation.
Log periodics: These models look the most like typical roof-top aerials. They usually have a perspex fan and the aerial elements are etched onto the panel. The design of log periodics means they can usually be adjusted vertically or horizontally with ease.
Loop: Usually consisting of a circular loop, this design does not require any specific horizontal or vertical angling and so will work with both types of transmitter. We find that loops generally have good sensitivity, but don't always get every available channel.
Patch: These flat panel aerials can sometimes be mounted on walls or hidden away - some even double up as picture frames. They're often loops and antennas folded into a panel, and are usually omnidirectional, so you don't need to worry about horizontal or vertical angling.
Amplified vs non-amplified aerials
An aerial with an amplifier - or signal booster - can marginally increase the likelihood of picking up medium or low signal strengths. However, it's not a guarantee for success.
The internal amplifier of the TV will usually do a better job and we've found that boosters on inferior indoor aerials can actually cause picture interference, particularly if the aerial is placed too close to the television or set-top box.
For indoor aerials with the most efficient amplifiers, check our Best Buy indoor aerials
How do I get my favourite channels?
Digital TV channels and radio stations are grouped into six bundles, called multiplexes, that are transmitted at different frequencies across the TV band. Poor reception in one part of the TV band could mean you miss out on some, if not all the channels carried on a multiplex
Best Buy indoor aerials perform well across the whole TV band, so you should receive the channels available on every multiplex. If you want to know whether you have full reception, tune to BBC One, ITV, BBC One HD, Dave, Yesterday and QVC, as each is delivered on a different multiplex.
A good aerial should give you at least the first three channels, although the latter three can depend on where you live. The Digital UK website has a useful guide showing what reception you can expect in your area, or check the Freeview website for Freeview channels at your address.
Where should I place my indoor aerial?
Plug the aerial cable into the back of the TV or set-top box you’re going to use. Switch your TV to BBC One and start moving your indoor aerial around to find good reception. We typically find aerials work best near a window at head height. If this is some distance away from where the TV is placed, then you may need extension leads.
Finding the optimal position for your indoor aerial is crucial in getting good, sustained TV reception; so we recommend securing it when you’re up and running. Adhesive Velcro pads are a good option, or Blu Tack can work well, too. Some aerials can even be wall mounted and that can make it even easier to hide them away from view.
For more tips and hints, head to our guide on how to set up an indoor aerial.
What do I do if still have poor reception?
Even Best Buy indoor aerials sometimes can't get good TV reception in your home. This can be down to a number of external factors, such as where your house is in relation to other buildings.
If you still have poor reception, then consider:
- Installing the indoor aerial in a higher location and, if possible, running an extension lead down to your TV.
- Wiring an extension from a working rooftop aerial to your TV with poor reception (we’d advise getting a professional to do this).
- Having a rooftop aerial installed. Again, get a professional - check the Confederation of Aerial Industries for more on this.
- Using a video sender card to re-broadcast the Freeview signal from a working set top box in your home. These can cost around £25, but go into the hundreds for the top end models.
If none of that works, Freesat is a non-subscription, digital satellite TV service from the BBC and ITV. You get a good range of SD and HD channels, but you'll need to have a satellite dish installed on your house to receive the service (if you don't already have one).
For more information check out our comprehensive guide: What is Freesat?
Freeview 4G interference
Due to the way some 4G mobile services are delivered in the UK, there's a chance - albeit a very small one - that they could interfere with your Freeview TV picture.
This disruption is possible because the 800 MHz band now used for 4G sits right next to the spectrum used for Freeview. Homes in areas that use higher frequencies to deliver TV channel multiplexes, notably channels 59 or 60, are most susceptible to interference from 4G services.
Early reports suggested millions of households could be affected, but now the problem is thought to be nowhere near that widespread. Many indoor TV aerials that we test come with a 4G filter already fitted, but you can also request one from support body, at800.
If you want to check whether you could be affected by 4G interference, Digital UK has a postcode coverage checker that shows if your area uses channels 59 or 60. Just select 'detailed view' to get more information.