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Indoor aerials

Indoor aerialsIs yours one of the 30 per cent of households in the UK today using an indoor aerial or antenna? If so, it's most likely for a second or even third TV. But for some people, it'll be the only way you receive a TV signal. Between 2006 and 2011, we tested a wide range of indoor antennas and aerials. If you want to compare more recent models, you can look at the same features that we tested to work out what will be best for you.

The indoor aerials we recommend should be widely available. Before you commit, though, ask if it's OK to return the aerial if it doesn't work in your home. Don't buy from anywhere that will not give you a full refund if you need to bring it back.

Note that an amplified aerial does not necessarily give a better performance. And don't be swayed by aerials that have two telescopic rods, as well as the TV aerial part: these are designed for FM radio - you won't need this as digital TV carries all the major national radio stations as well.

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Pros and cons of indoor aerials

The indoor aerials we tested really did vary. All of them can receive digital TV if you have a strong enough signal - that is, you live near a transmitter and your TV room happens to face it with a clear path.

However, when it comes to medium and weak signals - which you are much more likely to have - some indoor aerials perform a lot better than others. It's also important to note that, unlike the snowy picture you sometimes used to get with old analogue signals, with digital you can go from a good picture to none at all very quickly.

One thing is clear. There's no guarantee that any of the indoor aerials we tested will enable you to receive digital TV in every room in your home. You may get some groups of stations but not others. Or some groups with the aerial in one position, and others by moving it a bit.

Whether or not you get a really good picture will depend on several things, such as where you live, where your windows are and where in the room you put the aerial. But it will also depend on your choice of aerial.

Also, many internal aerials had other problems - such as cables that were too short to put your aerial up high for better reception, or weak joints or loose screws. A few tended to topple over because they were top heavy or had heavy cables.

So check out our results before you go shopping: see our reviews of indoor aerials for test reports of each model and our recommendations for the best aerials.

We found that it was often much more difficult setting up an indoor aerial for digital TV, particularly if the set-top box or digital TV was new and not already tuned in. For some useful hints for how to go about this, see our Tuning your indoor aerial page.

Alternatives to indoor aerials

Rooftop aerials

You can't beat a good rooftop aerial for TV reception. Rooftop aerials are also less susceptible than indoor aerials to disruption from passing traffic - indoors and outdoors - though bad weather conditions can still cause a problem.

Any rooftop aerial, in good condition, is capable of receiving terrestrial digital TV service such as Freeview. To find out what's available in your area, use the Digital UK Coverage Checker

For rooftop and loft aerials, a local aerial installer should be able to advise but make sure you go for a licensed one. The Registered Digital Institute is the UK's official body for registering licensed digital aerial and TV systems installers - use their consumer website, getmedigital.com, to find a local licensed installer. Otherwise, try the CAI (Confederation of Aerial Industries).

Loft aerials

If you can't have an aerial on the roof, you might be able to fit a big enough roof aerial in your loft. You probably won't get as strong a signal as you would with a rooftop aerial, but it could be stronger than with an indoor one. Surrounding houses and trees might block it and obstacles like roof tiles and that big water tank will cut back the signal. The signal strength may also be more vulnerable to weather conditions, for instance. 

Last updated: July 2013

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