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In olden days, our TVs weren’t hooked up to cables or satellite dishes, but to indoor aerials. These aerials, known as “rabbit ears” because of their shape, weren’t the highest tech things around. But they had a clear advantage over the methods we use today. With rabbit ears, you could pick up each and every channel for free.
Now a new product has hit the market, advertising the same thing, but working digitally, to in theory access limitless channels. Sounds too good to be true? We thought so too. So naturally we had to give it a go.
The benefits of digital antennas
The allure of a digital antenna is, like I’ve said, that it gets you free TV. That’s just too tempting for most of us to pass up. Even one channel for free, or extra free channels in a package, is enough to make us subscribe to a service. We love getting discounts in our bills too. So when a free TV key tells us we can watch hundreds of channels completely free, we want in.
Furthermore, this free TV key antenna boasts a whole host of other advantages. It claims it will plug into any TV, is fast and easy to set up, and will work as long as you have power. This means you could use it anywhere, in anyone’s house, or even in hotels, all around the world. It gives me the impression this will be a convenient, portable device.
The manufacturers also claim that despite all this you will have a crystal clear picture, even on HD channels. They claim as well that it will work anywhere, even out and about. Again, this sounds amazing. Sometimes you can’t even get good TV reception with a huge satellite dish or cable connection. So having guaranteed amazing quality channels wherever you go sounds like a plus to me. And working on the move? Sounds like magic. If this works it will be a dream.
These are big claims, and we were naturally suspicious. Before even buying, we knew we had to rule out that this was a total scam. So we needed to know what exactly it does and how it does it.
How does it work?
A clear TV key works like any other aerial. It intercepts radio and TV signals and translates them into an image and sound from your TV. The difference between a digital aerial and a traditional one is that a digital aerial will provide a cleaner image more easily.
Something we were very suspicious on finding out, though, is apparently many TVs already come with this technology. Many new TVs have an ATSC tuner already installed, which is basically the same thing. So if you have a modern TV, you probably don’t need this.
Furthermore, a free TV key doesn’t guarantee you all the channels you want, whenever you want them. Some channels are cable-only. This means if you’re using an aerial to intercept signals, there are no signals, so there will be no channel.
How much does the Clear TV Key Antenna cost?
This is the good part. The Clear TV Key Antenna will cost under thirty dollars, postage included. This is a one-off payment, so you won’t need to go on to paying any subscriptions or other charges. And you install it yourself, so there is no installation fee. Couldn’t be simpler! It might even allow you to cut back on cable packages, or cancel cable subscriptions entirely. Which could mean huge savings.
Similar products on the market
Two similar products I found are Mohu Leaf and Winegard.
1. Mohu Leaf 30 TV Antenna, Indoor, 30 Mile Range
Our Rating: (4 / 5)
This product is a slim, sleek digital antenna that can be installed easily and picks up on everything in a 30 mile radius. You can get an amplifier to extend your signal. It is posable and adjustable, just like rabbit ears. This product is more expensive.
2. Winegard Flatwave FL-5000 Digital Indoor HDTV Antenna
Our Rating: (4 / 5)
This antenna is cheaper, but also a bit more awkward. Still, it gets good reception on many freeview channels when you position it properly. And its extra-long cable helps get it to just the right place for a great signal.
Testing the Clear TV Key Antenna
Using this product, I was actually pretty underwhelmed. I already knew it wouldn’t pick up on cable exclusive channels. But, on the flip side, I didn’t realize how many channels were exclusive to cable. Your choices with a TV key antenna are pretty limited. Furthermore, the channels you pick up were basically free to begin with, and you could have got them with almost any antenna.
So it has old antennas beat on quality and reception? Well… not really. I found that it only picked up one or two channels. And no matter where I placed it in the house, even in friends’ houses, it never got more than two. Usually one of them had terrible image that interrupted. To boot, when I tried to find each channel it had to search each time. The “remembered” signal was always wrong. It reminds me of my parents old camping TV. This is because not only does it not receive cable, apparently it can’t receive satellite either.
That said, it does have some advantages:
- It helps you connect to free channels without cable.
- It was very quick and simple to install.
- It’s cheap.
- It works on most (not all!) TVs.
- It looks better than other aerials and you can “hide” it.
But the disadvantages are many too:
- It doesn’t receive cable or satellite.
- It doesn’t pick up many channels.
- It’s no good at remembering where each channel is.
- The quality is not as clear as advertised.
Do we recommend it?
Not really. This product failed to live up to our expectations, the claims it made were completely unfounded, and the quality is dreadful. It might look a bit prettier than an aerial, but I’m pretty sure it works worse than one. Having tried it, it’s put me off trying other makes.
That said, if you want to use it as a back up when your cable is not working, or when you are on the go, it could be good. It does tune into local channels and basic national channels, and some people apparently get better reception than I did. So just bear in mind it is not an amazing solution that will remove the need for cable. It’s just an emergency aerial.