Indoor aerials used to be a joke, struggling to hold onto the old analogue broadcasts and needing constant readjustment every time you changed the channel.
But with innovative designs and materials, indoor aerials are effective, and can even be a little bit stylish. You can get a good range of Freeview digital channels – and even the more challenging HD channels – and there’s no need to climb up a ladder (or pay a professional to do it for you).
That’s just as well because sometimes an indoor aerial is the only option. Perhaps there’s nowhere to attach an external antenna, or you might live in rented accommodation where you’re not permitted to fit one. Or, you might simply be looking for a temporary replacement while your rooftop aerial is down.
In fact, the only problem is that you’re spoilt for choice, with a range of brands and styles to pick from, in both amplified and unamplified versions. Here’s our guide to the best indoor aerials to keep your TV fed with Freeview.
How to buy the best indoor TV aerial for you
What kind of indoor TV aerial should I buy?
There are four main types of indoor TV aerial to choose from; which one’s right for you will depend on your proximity to the transmitter, and how you want to situate the aerial in your home.
Log periodic aerials are similar to your classic rooftop aerial, with the elements attached or etched into a plastic, fan-like structure. These are good at picking up weaker signals over long distances, but need to be positioned with care and pointed towards the transmitter.
Monopole aerials use a single, chunky pole-shaped antenna, usually attached to a round base (which may be magnetic, for easy attachment to a metal window-frame or radiator). These are normally omnidirectional, so you don’t need to worry too much about positioning, but they may need to be aligned horizontally or vertically.
Loop aerials sit on top of the TV, with the receiving elements wound into a circle or rounded rectangular shape. They’re omnidirectional but may struggle with weak signals.
Finally, flat-panel aerials fold the receiving elements into a slimline, lightweight panel, which can be held by a stand or attached to a wall or window. Flat panel aerials are omnidirectional and don’t need to be aligned, but you still need to position them carefully to get the best result.
How much do I need to spend?
You can buy a good indoor aerial for under £15 – or you might choose to pay more for a model with a built-in signal amplifier, which will typically cost you somewhere between £20 and £40.
If you’re a long way from the transmitter, or if there’s a lot of obstructions in your area, an amplifier can help you pick up channels that you’d otherwise miss out on, and ensure you get a clear picture and audio, free of blocky artefacts and glitches. However, if there’s a source of interference nearby, this can get amplified too: the boosted signal might not be any better, and could even, in some cases, be worse.
Are there any other things I should look for?
Check the length of the cable; if it’s short, that will greatly limit your options for where you can mount the aerial, which could, in turn, affect the quality of your reception. (You can buy an aerial extension cable if needed, though.)
Check the fixtures too: some aerials come with an optional stand, while others feature adhesive pads or mountings. If you want an amplifier, think about getting a standalone one, rather than one that’s built directly into the aerial. This makes the aerial itself lighter and easier to locate, and if the amplifier doesn’t improve your picture you can simply remove it.
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The best indoor TV aerials 2019
1. 1byone Freeview TV aerial with stand: The best basic indoor TV aerial
Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon
This diminutive flat-panel aerial is about as unobtrusive as they come. It’s incredibly light and impossibly thin, and you can lie it flat on your TV cabinet, hang it behind the TV, attach it to a wall or window or simply place it in the stand supplied.
In fact, the only limit to your options is the 1.8m cable – which is a bit of a shame, as location is important with this aerial. We found that Freeview HD reception was temperamental with the aerial sitting on the TV cabinet, but moving it to the wall behind gave us a full, glitch-free complement of 96 TV channels and 32 radio channels. If you don’t mind a little experimenting with the positioning, this is a great aerial for good to medium signal areas, and very affordable.
Key specs – Type: Flat-panel aerial; Amplified: No; Cable length: 1.8m; Extras: Stand, adhesive pads; Dimensions: 230 x 210 x 10mm; Weight: 68g
2. August High Gain TV aerial: The best compact aerial for travel
Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon
The August High Gain TV aerial has a compact, monopole design, with a magnetic stand that will clamp onto a wide range of metallic surfaces, including radiators. It’ll also attach to the roof of a vehicle, which makes it a good choice for travelling – but note that it’s not weatherproof in any way, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the sky if you want to use it in the great outdoors.
Given this aerial’s small size and design, we were braced for poor performance, but the August actually picked up the same set of channels as the 1byone aerial and was slightly less fussy about positioning. Freeview HD channels did seem a little more prone to blocky artefacts, however, so you may need to be careful in weak signal areas – and watch out too for the short 1.5m cable.
Key specs – Type: Monopole aerial; Amplified: No; Cable length: 1.5m; Extras: None; Dimensions: 158 x 140 x 70mm; Weight: 231g
3. SLx 27806R Pillar Indoor TV Aerial: A stylish option for strong signal areas
Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon
You’ll struggle to find an indoor aerial more discreet than the SLx 27806R. Wrapped in grey fabric, this compact pillar-style effort is roughly the size of a drinks can and looks more like a smart speaker than a TV aerial. You can just plug it in, leave it next to the TV and enjoy your favourite shows.
In strong signal areas you’re laughing, but those in weaker areas might not share the mirth. Unamplified, we had to place the pillar on a shelf to get any channels whatsoever, and even then, HD channels were hit hard by signal drops and blocky artefacts. Reaching the shelf was also tricky as there was only 1.5m of cable to work with. Even amplified, the performance wasn’t as glitch-free as with the SLx Gold 277769RG or One For All SV9430. If you live in an area with good signal, this is the least obtrusive indoor aerial we’ve ever tested. If not, you need one with a bit more oomph.
Key specs – Type: N/S; Amplified: No; Cable length: 1.5m; Extras: None; Dimensions: 65 x 65 x 158mm; Weight: 270g
4. Philex SLx Gold 27769RG aerial: The best aerial for bad signal areas
Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon
The SLx Gold 27769RG is a log periodic aerial, so for best results, you’ll need to aim and orient it correctly: a good trick is to look where your neighbours’ rooftop aerials are pointing and copy that. It’s also quite bulky and arguably a little ugly, which isn’t ideal if you like to keep a clean, fuss-free living room.
Still, if you can’t get a stable signal from a regular indoor aerial then the Philex could be just what you need. When properly set up, the SLx Gold 27769RG will pick up channels that smaller aerials miss, and the built-in amplifier even gives you a fighting chance of a decent Freeview HD reception. It’s not going to win any beauty contests, but this aerial does a fine job.
Key specs – Type: Log periodic; Amplified: Yes; Cable length: 1.8m; Extras: None; Dimensions: 320 x 290 x 70mm; Weight: 862g
5. RG Tech Monarch 50 aerial: The best low-profile aerial for weak signal areas
Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re struggling with poor reception but aren’t keen on the imposing Philex, the RG Tech Monarch 50 could be the aerial for you. It’s just 8mm thick, with two rectangular wings going in either direction from the central cable. It comes in black or in a mesh “transparent” version for attaching to a window, and you can mount it there, on a wall or on a TV stand or table, with a 4.5m cable that gives you plenty of scope for moving it around.
You’ll need to experiment a bit to get the best position, but once you find it you can expect excellent reception. Many users in weak signal areas report that the Monarch 50 has helped them get more channels or more HD channels than before, so if you’re not getting all the entertainment you deserve, this aerial’s well worth a try.
Key specs – Type: Flat-panel; Amplified: No; Cable length: 4.5m; Extras: 3x 3m adhesive pads, stand; Dimensions: 400 x 180 x 8mm; Weight: 340g
6. One for All SV9430 amplified indoor digital TV aerial: The best free-standing indoor TV aerial
Price: £23 | Buy now from Amazon
It’s not quite as slimline as a flat-panel model, but this tasteful free-standing aerial nestles nicely among your AV equipment. Its built-in amplifier features a filter to block out interference from 4G signals, and the design is very forgiving when it comes to positioning and angle.
It works well, too. We found the One for All picked up all the channels available in our area, with more consistent HD reception than the cheaper, unamplified models: the only time we saw blocking was on the SD channel, 4Seven. The shortish cable might be a pain if your TV is wall-mounted, though, and you’ll need to keep the power supply plugged in because reception with the amplifier switched off is close to non-existent.
Key specs – Type: Flat-panel; Amplified: Yes; Cable length: 1.5m; Extras: None; Dimensions: 240 x 48 x 48mm; Weight: 499g
7. One for All SV9494: The best indoor TV aerial for advanced features
Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon
One for All’s SV9494 might be pricey, but then it’s no ordinary indoor aerial. It’s housed in a flat-bottomed sphere that you can place on a shelf or your TV table, where it will look more like a mysterious new gadget than what it actually is. The LED bar on the front grows as you move it around to show where you’ll get the strongest signal, and the top half of the sphere rotates to change the aerial’s direction, giving you a little more scope to optimise. It’s something you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever wasted hours twisting an old-school coat hanger aerial around, desperately trying to get a decent picture.
It has a built-in amplifier, but this won’t work miracles, and if you’re a long way from the transmitter you might still want to go for the RGTech Monarch 50, which seems to squeeze a little more from a weak signal. It’s a strong performer, though, with a built-in 3G/4G filter, and it couldn’t be easier to set up and use. True, One for All’s own SV9430 will give you similar results for a whole lot less, but the SV9494 is about as cool and high-tech as an aerial can get.
Key specs – Type: n/s; Amplified: Yes; Cable length: 3m; Extras: None; Dimensions: 168 x 168 x 141mm; Weight: 770g