As cord cutters, we spend a lot of time using services and technologies that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. Services and devices like Netflix and Roku go a long way towards replacing the content that we lose when we cut the cord, and we spend a lot of time on this blog talking about them.
But not all cord cutting solutions are new ideas. And one of the oldest ways to watch TV is rapidly becoming a favorite of cord cutters. We’re talking, of course, about antennas.
We don’t mean to imply that antennas can’t be cutting-edge. New HD digital antennas are different from the ones that your grandparents used. But they still serve the same basic purpose: they give you access to free content over the air.
We’ve written extensively on antennas before. If you need help choosing the right type of antenna for you, trust our how-to guide. And if you decide that you need an amplified indoor antenna or a small outdoor antenna, then read on, because we’re here to review two products from Antennas Direct that are designed to suit your needs. This is our full review of Antennas Direct’s ClearStream Eclipse (an amplified omnidirectional indoor antenna) and their ClearStream 2V (a small indoor/outdoor antenna).
A Quick Disclosure
We have a strict policy of always letting our readers know when we get freebies for a review. Both the ClearStream Eclipse and ClearStream 2V were sent to us for free by representatives from Antennas Direct. As always, we won’t let this affect the impartiality of our review.
The first thing we noticed about these two products was their appearance. They share some design elements, but they give off a different vibe.
First, the ClearStream Eclipse: we loved the design of this antenna. If your walls are white (like the ones in your faithful blogger’s apartment), this model will be very unobtrusive. The design is nice – we liked the circular look, especially compared to the rectangles that most indoor antennas sport.
The Eclipse is designed to stick anywhere. You peel a backing off and slap it on a wall or window, and it stays put. We didn’t experience any issues with it staying up there, though the review period was only a couple of days long.
The Clearstream 2V is a larger antenna, and it’s not quite as easy on the eyes. The circular design elements are still there, but it kind of looks like something you’d put into orbit. This is supposed to be an indoor/outdoor antenna, but it looked pretty funny in our living room.
Unlike the Eclipse, you’ll need to put the 2V together – which is very easy. Here’s a look at the assembled product, with a laptop and Roku 4 thrown in there for scale:
Reception and Picture Quality
Aesthetics are nice, but what we really care about is function. Let’s take a look at how both antennas performed. From our top-secret blogquarters, we get signals of just about every strength – yellow, green, red, and blue (for more information on what these color codes mean, check out our piece on choosing an antenna). Here’s how each antenna did at picking them up. It’s important to note that our testing environment is really tough on antennas: we’re in an area with a lot of hills and buildings in the way of the signals.
The Eclipse antenna did a solid job of picking up most yellow channels, which you’d expect from a multi-directional indoor antenna. It missed one channel that AntennaWeb pegged as Yellow (a major network station about 24 miles away).
On green channels, the Eclipse didn’t fare as well. It failed to pick up two stations that were 9 and 34 miles away, respectively, in different directions. This isn’t as bad as it seems – it’s actually fairly typical for our testing area. Overall, the Eclipse was able to pick up more than 20 channels, which is on the high end of average for amplified indoor antennas in this space. It didn’t live up to its advertised range, but few antennas do, especially in our tough area.
So what about the larger ClearStream 2V? When we tried it inside, it outperformed the Eclipse, but not by as much as we expected. We tried the antenna in a few different spots, and we were able to pick up some channels that Antenna Web categorized as green or light green. But for the most part, the channels we got with the ClearStream 2V and not with the ClearStream Eclipse were a little choppy and sometimes got pixelated on us. Positioning the antenna mattered more with the 2V than with the Eclipse, which makes sense given their respective designs. The 2V clearly fared better when aimed at the station without walls in the way, so those using it as an outdoor antenna would have better luck. But no matter how you slice it, the ClearStream 2V seriously underperformed its advertised range of 60 miles in our trials.
It should be noted that our testing spot is a rough one for antennas. For comparison, the cheap rabbit ears that we often recommend to city dwellers pick up nothing here – even when we add an aftermarket amplifier.
The ClearStream Eclipse may not have lived up to its advertised range, but it did quite well for an indoor antenna in our tough testing area. For it’s price range, we consider it a very solid deal. It gets extra point for its appearance, which is the most aesthetically pleasing of any antenna we’ve reviewed. The Eclipse offers steady performance, reasonable range, and a sleek design. We recommend it.
We weren’t blown away by the ClearStream 2V, though – it just didn’t seem to offer a significant step up in range to go with its higher price tag. The 2V is clunkier, too – for an “indoor/outdoor” antenna, it sure looks ugly indoors. While we’ve noted that our test area makes for a kind of trial by fire for antennas, we still expected more from the 2V.
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