Sold by Tristar Products, Clear TV is a digital HD indoor Antenna that can help you watch live high-definition broadcast television without an expensive cable bill.
Clear TV might be past its prime, but it’s still a big seller.
Maybe you’re thinking about buying Clear TV Antenna, canceling your cable subscription (known as cutting the cord), and saving a ton of money. Maybe you bought one of these digital antennas in the past and want to know if any improvements have been made. Or, maybe you’re just confused and need some advice.
In any instance, you’ve come to the right place! Here, we’ll explain how Clear TV works, how it might help you save money, other options for cutting the cord, how you can get the most content for your money, and more.
Let’s begin by understanding the basic concept of how the Clear TV Antenna works.
How Does Clear TV Antenna Work and Where Are the Rabbit Ears?
Remember those clunky rabbit ears you had a long time ago? The ones that sat on top of your TV and were several feet long?
Well, Clear TV Antenna is essentially just a modern version of these, with one major difference: instead of picking up analog signals and displaying them on your TV, Clear TV captures digital signals floating around in the air.
What’s the difference? Without getting too technical, from a user experience perspective, it's all about picture quality.
Imagine there’s a jigsaw puzzle sitting on your desk. In order to send it to your friend across town, you have to break it smaller pieces, so they can easily fit into an envelope. Then, once your friend receives the puzzle, they’ll put it back together and see the picture it contains.
This is similar to how video is sent from a broadcast tower to your TV. It’s first broken down into smaller pieces and transmitted through the air, and pieced back together by an antenna or your cable box, forming a picture on your screen.
When analog signals are broadcast through the air, pieces of information easily get lost. On the other hand, digital signals are much more “stable.”
So by the time everything reaches your TV, digital signals still contain much of what was originally broadcast, resulting in a crisper, clearer picture than analog.
You probably noticed that the Clear TV website used the word “broadcast” a lot. And we’ve used it here even more. But why?
What Channels and Content Does Clear TV Antenna Provide?
The Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 required that all broadcasters switch from analog to digital signals as of February 17, 2009. Why is this important?
This meant that if most of your favorite programming was on broadcast TV, such as NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS, and others, you would need to purchase a new digital antenna like Clear TV to continue watching television.
Pro tip: If you purchased your TV prior to 2007, you might also require a digital converter box.
However, premium content (e.g. HBO, TNT, Disney Channel, Lifetime, etc.) is not broadcast over the air, so it’s still a subscription-only service. What’s this mean for you?
The Clear TV Antenna gives you access to over-the-air channels like CBS, FOX, NBC, ABC, CW, etc., and nothing extra. Do you enjoy shows like Law & Order, The Tonight Show, America’s Got Talent, and the Good Wife? Since these are aired on major networks, Clear TV can help.
But if you also like to watch cable-only channels like HBO, Nickelodeon, Lifetime, etc., Clear TV will not provide access. For this, you’ll need a cable subscription through companies like Uverse, Charter, Comcast, COX, etc.
In short? Clear TV can help you save thousands by cutting your cable bill, but you’ll also lose access to much of your favorite content (which might not be too bad if you didn’t watch most of your channels anyway).
Keep an Eye on Your Tower Distance and Signal Strength
Up to now, we’ve learned that Clear TV Antenna basically works like any other antenna. It picks up broadcasts sent from local towers, puts them together, and displays them on your TV. And because these digital signals don’t lose information, you’ll get much better picture quality.
Digital signals aren’t perfect though. In an ideal scenario, digital signals can reach 150+ miles, but you have to have a perfect line of sight. In normal terms? Your digital signal can be scrambled if you’re on the other side of a hill, ridge, or even a tall building.
This is why tower location is so important. Your chance of getting good reception with Clear TV depends on 1) how close you are to the nearest tower, and 2) if you’re directly in the path of its signal.
To find out how close you are to a TV broadcast tower, we’d recommend visiting AntennaPoint.com or the FCC Reception Map.
Here’s the catch though: Many Clear TV customers complained that—even though they were within the range of a transmission tower—they still couldn’t get good reception.
What Is the Real Cost of Clear TV Antenna?
If bought directly from the company, the Clear TV Antenna will cost $19.95 plus $7.99 S&H (you can order another antenna for an additional $7.99 S&H), plug it into your TV, and you’re good to go.
However, Clear TV is available through numerous retailers, including Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and more, for as little as $15 plus tax. This means you’d pay about $33 for two antennas, after tax (we calculated tax at a 10% rate).
Sure, this is only a difference of about $2 when compared to purchasing it directly through the manufacturer. But you’ll be able to take your antenna home immediately, it could make the return process easier if you’re not satisfied, and you’d be saving about $16 in non-refundable S&H fees!
Thinking about paying an extra $14.99 for Clear TV’s amplifier? If so, remember that amplified antennas are generally only useful if you live 50+ miles from a tower. They also won’t necessarily help you tune into channels any better, so if you’re barely getting a signal, an amplifier may or may not help.
What Is the Cheapest Way of the Getting the Most Content with Clear TV?
Taking all of your expenses together (we’ll come back around to this in the final section), this means you’d have a one-time cost of $15 for Clear TV, an $8 monthly fee for a Netflix subscription, and an $8 monthly fee for a monthly Hulu membership (or $12 monthly for a commercial-free experience), and perhaps another $10 monthly fee if you wanted HBO and its premium content through their own app.
Alright, if you wanted to go even fancier, you can always add on another monthly $20 charge for Sling TV that will bring you premium cable network channels such as Food Network, Travel Channel, AMC, ESPN, etc.
In total, this means you could cancel your cable subscription and still get most of your favorite content for as little as $46-$50 per month plus a one-time cost for $15 for the Clear TV antenna!
At first glance, this might seem too good to be true. Does Clear TV really provide access to free TV for this low price? In most instances, yes (more about this shortly). Is it right for you, though? This requires some explanation.
Analysis of Customer Reviews of the Clear TV Antenna
We can talk about the technology behind Clear TV all day, but what ultimately matters is how the antenna performs in real life.
Since writing our original Clear TV review, a whopping 575 HighYa readers have chimed in about their experiences. Overall? Clear TV had an average rating of 1.9 stars.
Common complaints revolved around:
- Failure to work as advertised. Primarily poor signal strength, as well as very few channels; often only 1-2.
- Low quality.
- Poor customer service experiences. This included the high, non-refundable S&H charges (keep this in mind if you’re thinking about the BOGO offer!) and difficulty obtaining refunds.
For these reasons, a lot of people call Clear TV a “scam.” Often times, this has less to do with the antenna than it does with peoples’ expectations, since they often believe that Clear TV will allow them to cancel their cable subscription, but still keep access to all their favorite cable-only programming.
And when they call the company to complain, many are met with poor customer service, which adds more fuel to the fire and makes them feel “scammed” even more.
A Note About Installing Your Clear TV
While a relatively small number of Clear TV customers complained about the installation process, how you choose to install your antenna can make a big difference in the reception you get.
For this reason alone, you’ll likely want to install your Clear TV near a window or outward-facing a wall, lay the antenna flat (horizontally), angle your antenna in the direction of the broadcast tower, use a better cable, and more.
What can you ultimately expect with Clear TV? Let’s wrap everything up.
The Bottom Line
Since launching in mid-2013, not much has changed about Clear TV Antenna, including its relatively low online customer reputation. It has largely been a success for the company, so they’ve also released several spin-off products.
But there have been some minor (and important) changes:
- Tristar Products (the company behind Clear TV) has added an FAQ to the website
- A longer 60-day refund policy is available, and perhaps most importantly,
- Clear TV is available at hundreds of third-party retailers.
In a nutshell? Clear TV may not necessarily be a bad option since it looks sleek and works basically like any other antenna.
But given the product’s reputation for shaky performance, we’d recommend shopping for the antenna at a local retailer, such as Walmart, Walgreens, Target, etc. Beforehand, you’ll definitely want to learn more about other popular digital antennas, including the Mohu Leaf.
Pro tip: For help choosing the right HD antenna for you, be sure to read this Digital Trends article. And to see how Clear TV stacks up against digital antennas from other manufacturers, Toms Guide provides an in-depth look.
If you’re not satisfied, this means you can easily return it, without worrying about losing money in excessive S&H charges or dealing with any customer service headaches.