Do you want an antenna to chop the twine?

A lowly over-the-air antenna is among the many most cost-effective and longest-running methods to chop cable TV, letting you watch all the key broadcast networks and extra with no month-to-month charges.

However earlier than you begin fretting over antenna varieties, set up places, and over-the-air DVRs, take a second to think about whether or not you even want an antenna within the first place. Whereas an antenna will be good to have, it isn’t important to chopping the twine, and getting one arrange will be extra bother than it’s price.

To determine whether or not an antenna ought to be a part of your cord-cutting setup, listed below are some questions you should ask your self:

Are you getting a dwell TV streaming service?

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Streaming bundles akin to YouTube TV might need all of the native channels you want.

In the event you’re signing up for a bundle of cable channels over the web, that service would possibly have already got all of the native channels you want. YouTube TV, Hulu with Dwell TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now all provide dwell feeds from the key networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) in most U.S. markets. Simply enter your zip code within the hyperlinks above to view every service’s native channel protection.

With different dwell TV providers, native channel protection is extra restricted. Sling TV doesn’t embody ABC or CBS in its lineup, and it solely gives native Fox and NBC feeds in a small variety of U.S. markets. FuboTV doesn’t embody ABC, whereas Philo and AT&T Watch don’t embody any native channels. In the event you subscribe to one in all these providers—otherwise you forgo dwell TV bundles solely—an antenna will help fill in these broadcast channels that you simply’re lacking.

Do you want dwell PBS?

PBS isn’t a part of any dwell TV streaming service at present. Whereas you should use the PBS app to observe most programming on demand—and might entry extra of the PBS catalog with a $5-per-month Passport membership—getting a dwell, native feed nonetheless requires both an over-the-air broadcast or conventional pay TV service.

Are you into basic TV?

An antenna doesn’t simply get you the key networks and public broadcasting. It might additionally present different channels akin to MeTV, Comet, Cozi, and Many years, which usually occupy the bandwidth that native broadcasters aren’t utilizing for main networks. A few of these “digital subnetworks” have even develop into extra fashionable than main cable channels, and for essentially the most half, they’re solely out there to cord-cutters with an antenna.

Are you in a market served by Locast?

locast Jared Newman / IDG

Locast can spare you from needing an antenna, however solely in a handful of main cities.

Final 12 months, a service referred to as Locast began promising free dwell streams of native broadcast channels in main U.S. cities. It’s presently out there in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Denver, and it offers all of the channels you’d get with an antenna in these areas (together with PBS and the aforementioned digital subchannels). Residents in these cities can watch via the Locast app on Roku, Amazon Hearth TV, Apple TV, Android TV, iOS, Android, and the online.

Locast is a non-profit group, and it claims to be counting on an exemption in copyright legislation that enables re-transmission of native broadcasts for non-commercial functions. Regardless of widespread media protection, TV networks haven’t tried testing Locast’s legality in court docket. Honest warning, although: Whereas Locast is ostensibly free, customers have reported that their streams get interrupted or lower off until they pay a $5-per-month donation.

Do you subscribe to Hulu or CBS All Entry?

With Hulu’s $6-per-month on-demand service, you’ll be able to watch reveals from ABC, NBC, and Fox the day after they air dwell. CBS All Entry additionally gives next-day reveals from its personal broadcast channel for $6 monthly, and it features a dwell native broadcast in most locations. In the event you’re primarily enthusiastic about prime-time community reveals—moderately than dwell sports activities or native information—these two providers can obviate the necessity for an antenna.

Need the flexibleness of your personal recordings?

tabloquad Jared Newman / IDG

An over-the-air DVR, such because the Tablo Quad, provides you extra management than the cloud DVRs streaming providers provide.

As an alternative of simply connecting an antenna on to your tv, you’ll be able to arrange an over-the-air DVR such because the TiVo Bolt OTA or Tablo Quad to report broadcast channels. In contrast to the “cloud DVRs” of dwell TV streaming providers, these units don’t have any ad-skipping limitations, storage deadlines, or restrictions on recording sure channels.

Many over-the-air DVRs now provide computerized business skipping, and a few will even present entry to video information you can switch to different units and examine offline. There’s one thing to be stated for having your personal assortment of movies that isn’t depending on the whims of streaming TV suppliers.

Stickler for video high quality and low latency?

Dwell TV streaming providers have made huge strides in video high quality through the years, and plenty of of them now assist easy 60-frames-per-second video at resolutions of 720p or increased. Nonetheless, they will’t evaluate to an over-the-air broadcast’s uncompressed sign, which exceeds the video high quality of even cable.

Broadcast TV additionally gives the bottom latency of any dwell video supply, so you’ll be able to watch main sporting occasions whereas checking Twitter or Fb and keep away from working into spoilers. Even when you have a dwell TV streaming service with native channels, you would possibly need to maintain an antenna useful for these particular events.

If, having answered all these questions, you’re feeling assured about shopping for an antenna, our antenna guide will help you pick the right one and put it in the proper place. You can also read our guide to cord-cutting DVRs for recording all those free broadcast channels.

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