Saturday, February 4, 2012

getting it for free

I've been going without cable or satellite tv for years, but I usually don't watch much tv, so no big deal. Up until now I I've been using a cheap, rabbit ears antenna. One of the ears is half broken off. The reception is okay but I have to get up and adjust the antenna a lot for certain channels, and a lot of times the whole thing ain't so cool.

Well, I looked into an antenna that Caitlyn Martin wrote about, the Clearstream2. At Amazon, people can get it new from around $60 to $90 bucks. Here's a link to to the page that shows it at Amazon.

I read through a bunch of the reviews there, and it sounds really cool. But in the end, I went down to Walmart and bought a RCA digital flat antenna, multi-directional, amplified. Walmart shows only the model ANT-1500 online, for about $50, but the only one I saw in the store was an older model, the ANT-1450, which I got for about $30. Here's a link to the page that shows it at Amazon.

So, neither one of those models is a top-of-the-line antenna, but I figured what the heck, try it and see what happens. I figured I could always take it back and get something else online, or maybe at Radio Shack or something.

Turned out pretty good, so far. In North-Central New Mexico, there isn't gonna be much on the air to choose from. It's just Albuquerque and no other major population centers anywhere nearby. Kinda isolated.

But hooking this thing up, inside the apartment, without mounting it or anything, and not even near a window, I ran the re-programming set-up and got 25 digital channels and 2 analog channels. There's 3 religious channels that are breaking up pretty bad; all the rest are coming in great (except for the two analog channels -- they're coming in fine but the picture looks like, well, analog) (I don't know where those 2 analog stations are broadcasting from, but the programming doesn't look the least bit interesting, so whatever). Maybe I can get more channels by mounting it up high and/or near a window, but I don't think I'll bother doing that because I'm getting all the channels I want just fine already.

So, I guess the main factors are:

- How good is the antenna? Those rabbit-ear ones for $9.99 will work, but not that great, and you have to adjust them all the time.
- House or apartment? If you can mount it outdoors, it's a lot better.
- Where do you live? Population-density makes a difference. Reading user comments about that Clearstream2 antenna, users were reporting anywhere between 15 to 100+ channels, depending on where they live. Dude living about 35 miles from the Dallas/Ft. Worth antenna farm, for example, said he gets 66 (42 digital) with it mounted on his roof. Caitlyn Martin wrote that she was getting about 40 channels with it in Raleigh, NC, mounted inside. So I figure I'm doing okay with my cheaper antenna, connected inside, over here in NM.

Bottom line, if you can live without ESPN, etc., free over-the-air tv is at least an option. At first I wasn't too happy when all the stations moved to digital, but with a half-way decent antenna, it's quite a bit better than it used to be in the analog days.

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