No More Rabbit Ears: The Leaf Antenna by Mohu

 

I'll be honest, I can think of few things less sexy to review than an antenna. This isn't because they're not useful, it's just without a lot of specialized equipment, there isn't much I can say about them.

I live in The Valley, with a direct line of sight to the HDTV transmitters that cover all of Los Angeles. On the clear day each year, I can see Mt. Wilson from my front door. TV reception is so good, I could stick my finger in a TV's antenna input and my dome could probably pull in a signal. Picture that for a second.

But The Leaf by Mohu is actually kinda cool, and looks very different from any antenna I've seen.

The Leaf is an indoor TV antenna that is - quite literally - paper-thin: 0.04-inches thick. It's flexible too, as if someone laminated a piece of 9x11.5-inch construction paper. Inside, presumably, are a bunch of wires, but you'd never know by looking at it. If it weren't for the coax cable coming out the bottom (top? edge? it doesn't matter) it could be mistaken for a placemat from Ikea.

According to Mohu, The Leaf was designed by "experienced antenna engineers who have been designing antennas for the US military for years." Their sister company, GreenWave Scientific, builds some truly freaky looking antennas that appear menacing enough to scare feeble children, ne'er-do-wells, and/or your average politician (I know, I know, redundant).

Installation is the interesting thing. Because it's flexible, omnidirectional, and dichromatic (or, you might say, bendy, works in all directions, and is black on one side, white on the other) you can mount it in a lot of places a normal antenna would look sad. Think rabbit ears. Those things never exactly exuded "high style." One of the examples Mohu shows on their website involves mounting (really, sticking) The Leaf flush under a cabinet for a kitchen TV. Cool. Given its flatness, you could really mount it anywhere out of sight.

I connected The Leaf to a 50-inch Panasonic plasma, because it was there. Feel free to connect your The Leaf to whatever TV you see The fit. A quick channel scan later, and I had free HDTV. A whopping 113 digital channels (!). Whenever you're upgrading from a different antenna, you should always do another channel scan. You never know what may turn up.

Compared to an old active Terk antenna I've had kicking around for years, The Leaf was unfazed by placement or direction. Any orientation pulled in signal, with no blips in picture. The only way I could flummox the thing was by spinning it around in my hand, which, as you can imagine, is ridiculous. So instead, I held it still and spun myself around. Surprisingly, no change.

I slid The Leaf into a nearby bookcase. Other than the protruding coax cable (easily hideable, if a clean install is your goal), it was invisible and still pulled in perfect signal.

The problem with ATSC signals (like all digital transmissions) is that you either get 'em or you don't. I can't speak to The Leaf's performance at the edges of signal range. If you have an antenna now, and you occasionally get dropouts or metablocking, I can't say if The Leaf would be better or worse. It's worth a shot, though, as whatever wafer-thin-mint magic they've got going on inside this thing seems to work pretty well.

If you're looking to find out more about what free HDTV channels you can receive in your area, check out antennaweb.org, or the really nerd-cool TVFool.com.

For $50 The Leaf certainly isn't cheap, but its fantastic flexyformfactor (TM, by me, just now) is certainly worth a premium. For a second TV in a weird location, or even a slick behind-the-screen install with a wall-mounted flat-screen, you should definitely check out The Leaf.

 

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