Review: Winegard FlatWave Amped HDTV Antenna

There are lots of ways to get television content into your home, and everyone makes it seem like it’s a simple matter of literally cutting the cord. Get your entertainment from online streaming, and use a pair of rabbit ears to get your local news fix. Easy, right? If you live in or near a big city, that may be true. But having recently left urbania for smalltown USA, I can attest that it’s not so easy after all when the nearest TV towers are miles and miles away. When Winegard announced FlatWave, a new line of flat, passive or powered HDTV antennas, I was all ears.

The FlatWave line includes three products. The standard FlatWave (MSRP $40) is a passive, paper-thin dual-band antenna that claims to pull in signals from up to 35 miles away. The 13” x 12” wafer is black on one side, white on the other and weighs just 0.34 lbs., making it simple to mount on a wall or window for an optimized signal. The FlatWave Mini (MSRP $30) is also passive; it measures 7.25” x 9.25”. It is optimized for UHF reception (but you might get some strong VHF signals) with a range of only 25 miles; it’s intended for cities. The FlatWave Amped, with a range of up to 50 miles was the one that grabbed my attention. Why amplified? Without the extra boost, I assumed there was zero percent chance of getting any signal to my TV. In addition to living 45 miles away from the nearest TV towers, my home is also built like a bunker. Concrete and steel and most windows facing away from those towers.

The FlatWave Amped (MSRP $70) is the same size as the standard FlatWave, measuring 13” x 12” and it’s also reversible - black on one side, white on the other. Like the other models, it comes with a 15-foot white mini-coaxial cable. I found the cable to be quite flexible, so it was easy to lay it over doorways to optimize placement while being less visually intrusive. The amplifier’s power is supplied via USB. The FlatWave Amped comes with a 110V USB charger that you plug into the wall or you can plug it directly into your TV’s USB port. An LED indicates that it’s powered up.

Set up was a snap. I simply plugged in the USB charger and attached the antenna to the coax input on my digital converter box. However, I quickly discovered that placement of the antenna was crucial, and even weather conditions and time of day affected reception.

It was a darky and stormy day when I first set up the FlatWave Amped. With the antenna just sitting next to the TV, I did a channel scan and picked up 12 channels. Not bad, but I was missing a few major stations. Propped up next to a window that faces the direction of the towers in Jacksonville, FL 45 miles away (but blocked by a corner of the house) I still only received 12 channels. I truly expected more. When I taped the antenna firmly to the window, I gained 2 more channels, for a total of 14. Oddly enough in my bunker-esque house, taping the antenna directly to an interior wall (that is clear of the corner of the house) and facing the towers, I got the best reception - 16 channels. What was most surprising, however, was when I ran a channel scan the next day. It was later in the day, and brilliantly clear. On that day, with the antenna still taped to the concrete wall, I picked up 26 stations. This included multiple stations from Savannah, GA, 158 miles away. Call me impressed.

As a reality check, I grabbed an old indoor/outdoor digital antenna and dragged it out of the garage. This is an aluminum antenna (3’ x 2’) designed to go on a roof or up in an attic. My home lacks an attic and the pitch of the roof makes mounting an antenna a difficult proposition, but I wanted to see how it performed indoors. On the same day (and reception conditions) that I picked up 26 channels on the FlatWave, I put the metal antenna against the same wall. After performing multiple channel scans, the best I could get was 25. The Winegard FlatWave was clearly a winner in this situation. However, I would have to say that if I had been able to get the metal antenna mounted outdoors and on top of my 30-foot roof, the tables would have been turned. Given that I (and most people) wouldn’t put an aluminum antenna inside their home, the FlatWave, with its decor-friendly design, is a simple choice.

I had assumed that I would always be tied to cable to get my local news. A quick check at dtv.gov/maps suggested that getting more than five stations would be difficult. With a properly placed (and frequently updated channel scan) I discovered that my options weren’t nearly as limited as I assumed. With more and more cable-cutting options available, such as the new Roku Streaming Stick and Google Chromecast, the Winegard FlatWave is one more tool sharpening my cable-cutting scissors. Snip, snip.

Share | |
COMMENTS
MrSatyre's picture

Tried two of these, one branded Winegard, the other from some no-name company (but the packing, product, labels, manual were identical), and neither one could tune in more than one ATSC channel clearly, two more ATSC channels badly and three NTSC channels (unwatchable), in two houses, one 20 miles from Washington DC, another 33 miles from DC. Identical results with different channels. I tried different rooms on the first and second floors, and I tired different walls. I tried amplified and non-amplified. But, to give Winegard the benefit of the doubt, I have also tried antennas by Terk among others, with similar results. Both houses were on the tops of hills, however, with limited obstructions between the transmitters and the antennas, so I really can't account for the terrible performance. Except for the obvious answer, of course.

aopu.mohsin's picture

Another similar product is Mohu Leaf, which has very good reviews at Amazon. The price range seems similar as well. Wonder if anyone has ever compared these two products head to head!

Good article. It's "cut-the-cable", "save money - get a Roku" time!

MatthewWeflen's picture

I'm using the Mohu Leaf basic (non-amplified) antenna in Chicago, about 7 miles south of downtown. I get about 50 channels, including several from Indiana. They are available "refurbished" from Amazon for a very good price (basically just returns). If you're in an urban area, I can't recommend it enough. It is very omnidirectional, much better than my prior amplified Terk antenna.

The Mohu plus Netflix/Hulu has completely obviated cable television in our household.

sathishdht's picture

I used 3 of these antennae for almost 1 and 1/2 years. One was non-amped and other 2 were amped ones. Both sell in the local wholesale warehouse for $30 and $45 respectively, not bad for something free you can watch for rest of yours (its?) life...or I thought so. Firstly it is so dependent on weather conditions. I did pick up about 30+ channels, may be a few more on the amped version. But it produces so many digital artifacts, broken images, stutter etc it becomes frustrating to watch. Other than ABC7, NBC5, WWTW and some local channels there is nothing more worthy watching to recall. Most are non-English / Spanish channels or channels telecasting what looks like 70s and 80s re-runs. Honestly, cut the cable if you want to, but this is no replacement for real cable. Make what you will out of this, but this is my experience, you will soon be out of it. I can see a use in 3rd, 4th or 5th bedrooms, kitchen TV maybe were cable is not worth the additional cost...

Michael in Dallas's picture

I own two GE antennas that are made for the attic. They are about 20" x 20" x 20" when assembled and mounted on a flat piece of wood for a base. I have one for each HDTV. They cost about $40 and require some assembly. I live in a second story apartment in north Dallas. I have them on shelves about six feet tall and they are aimed at the windows towards the broadcast antennas south of Dallas. I don't need cable because I receive up to 93 channels with them. I also have HuluPlus, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Warner Archive Instant and 53 other channels on Roku. Cut the cord. My image quality is so much better than local cable, it makes my neighbors jealous.

boulderskies's picture

Having very recently cut the Cable, I can say from experience that finding the right antenna for your location is the most challenging and most important part of the project. I first tried a flat antenna from Mohu having read glowing reviews on Amazon. I picked up 3 non-English speaking channels. Unless I wanted to learn another language, it wasn't going to work well.....And then the real research began.

What I learned is that this whole area of consumer electronics is almost 100% site-specific; it depends on where you live! Therefore, unlike any other category of components I can think of at the moment, its got to be tough to write an objective review the majority of people can relate to. From a portability, I-dont-have-to-get-up-on-the-roof standpoint, a review can be a paragraph. From a practical is it going to work for me, inclusion of real world information would be real helpful and result in a longer review...

In my roundabout way, what I'm saying is before you buy ANY antenna, go to tvfool.com, Signal Locator section and find out specifics of your location. The FlatWave may indeed work for you but a review with no specific location information beyond "I live in such and such and the antennas are about X miles away" doesn't help much.

Leslie Shapiro's picture
I should have noted it in the review, but the graphic at the top of the article is my home location, and that is the map generated by www.dtv.gov/maps for my home. Out of the 26 stations, only one was non-English. A few were 70's repeats - but who doesn't love catching up on old "Ironside" episodes?
boulderskies's picture

Right but without the signal analysis of nearby TV station towers, geographic location is almost meaningless. tvfool.com offers this analysis and helps the user put various antenna choices into perspective.

Good review tho.
Scott

AlliK02's picture

Hello, I'm using HD Clear Vision Indoor HDTV Antenna and it works perfectly... you can read reviews here http://usemyreviews.com/hd-clear-vision-indoor-hdtv-tv-antenna-free-air-...

X
Enter your Sound & Vision username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading
setting var node_statistics_112185