Watching free TV in the UK is easy – Freeview is right there with 80+ channels, and you just need a way for your TV to interpret the signal. And that’s where an indoor TV aerial comes in.
However, when people start looking for the best indoor aerial out there, they sometimes start thinking there are simply no good antennas in the UK. You hear horror stories about expensive pieces of metal and plastic that did, well, nothing.
The good news is that you CAN find good aerials that will let you watch Freeview on your telly, but you have to know what to look for – should you get an amplified TV aerial, is 4G filtering important, and where should you even place it?
In this article, I take a look at the things you have to consider before you buy, and review some of the best indoor TV aerials available in the UK.
Cord Busters' Best Indoor Aerials 2020
Table of Contents
Do I Need An Indoor TV Aerial For Freeview?
If you want to watch Freeview (or YouView) on your telly, you need an aerial – either a big one on your roof, or a small one inside your house. The easiest way (and usually the cheapest) is to use an indoor TV aerial.
Freeview, first established in 2002, is the commercial name for the United Kingdom’s digital terrestrial television platform. Freeview provides access to a large number of free-to-air digital TV channels, including HD channels (and even some limited – for now – 4K content), as well as radio stations, without any monthly subscription costs (You do, however, need to pay the yearly TV licence fee in most cases).
YouView, the competing service that adds catch-up and on-demand programming via broadband, also requires an indoor TV aerial for its over-the-air channels.
- Read our full guide: What’s Freeview, and how to get it on your TV.
Because Freeview channels are broadcast over the air, you need an aerial that will be able to interpret and turn those waves into pretty images on your telly. (Freeview Play, which is the on-demand side of Freeview, uses your broadband connection to stream digital TV content to your device).
Back in the day, most houses and buildings had outdoor TV aerials, either up on the roof or possibly in your attic. While outdoor aerials usually offer the best signal reception, there are two potential issues with them:
- Some houses no longer have outdoor aerials – either the old ones broke down, or these are new buildings where no one bothered to put an outdoor aerial.
- Cabling needed: Connecting the outdoor aerial to your TV, means you need cables running from the aerial itself (on your roof!), to your indoor sockets (usually inside the walls) – and sometimes considerable cable length is needed. Plus, if you have an old house, the in-wall cables can sometimes malfunction. And, you need a socket in your TV room, preferably next to the TV itself.
The solution? An indoor TV aerial that simply connects to your TV and sits right next to it, without complicated roof-top installations or cables-in-the-wall.
Will An Indoor TV Aerial Work In My Area?
It depends. For an indoor aerial to be enough, you need good reception in your house. And for the best indoor TV reception, you need a transmitter that’s close by – preferably less than 15 miles away from you.
As a first step, you can check the estimated coverage with the Digital UK Postcode Checker. You put in your postcode and house number, and the site will give you some details about reception in your area – your nearest transmitter, the estimated reception near your house, and even the number of Freeview channels you should be able to watch with that kind of coverage.
However, you should take these results with a grain of salt. Reception can vary greatly, even between houses that sit right next to each other – it depends on your walls, your insulation, what’s on your roof, and even the trees or other buildings right in front of your house…
So how can you be sure whether even the best indoor TV aerial would be good for Freeview in your house? Unfortunately, there’s only one surefire way: buy an aerial and test it out. The good news? They’re pretty cheap, and a lot of companies would also accept them back if you find out the reception in your house is bad.
The key thing, especially if you have weak or low signals, is to get a high-quality indoor TV aerial, preferably one with good reviews.
Amplified Indoor TV Aerials VS Non-Amplified Aerials
Amplified indoor aerials connect not only to your TV, but also to the electrical socket, and contain an internal signal booster. In theory, amplified aerials are supposed to boost low signals, but in practice, especially with the lower-cost aerials, this doesn’t always help.
In fact, in some cases, amplified aerials might actually WORSEN your reception, either from causing electrical interference, or by boosting the BAD signals (which they can certainly do – the amplifier boosts both good and bad signals, and if you have a bad signal in your house, it might get boosted and you will get a distorted image on your TV).
So our recommendation, in most cases, would be to try a non-amplified aerial first. If you don’t get the best indoor TV signal, you can give an amplified aerial a try – they cost a bit more, but are still pretty cheap, compared to an installation of an outdoor aerial. (Some antennas already include a detachable amplifier – so it’s optional).
Another option is to get a stand-alone aerial signal booster – see my recommendations here.
Where Should I Place My Indoor Aerial?
First, you connect the aerial to the back of your TV (via the coaxial cable that, in most cases, will come with your aerial – but remember to note the cable length). If it’s an amplified model, you also connect it to the power socket.
Depending on the shape of your aerial, you should place it as close to a window as possible. If your aerial has a base, which the aerial stands on, you don’t have a lot of placement options, unless you get an extension lead, and pull the aerial all the way to a window with a large enough ledge.
If you have a flat indoor aerial (like the one that got our Editor’s Choice for best indoor TV aerial), you have more options – you can hang it on the wall, or even better – on a window. Some people even stick it on the TV itself, which is useful if you use a TV bracket to wall mount your TV.
Try to place the aerial at head height, and as close to a window as possible. Electronic devices (other than your TV), such as a microwave or even your washing machine, might interfere with the reception of the TV signal, so try to place your aerial away from those. Occasionally, 4G Cellular signals can also interfere with your reception – so some aerials and boosters offer 4G filtering.
Once the aerial is placed, re-scan the channels via your TV’s settings (or scan them for the first time, if your TV/aerial is new).
If you manage to see the channels, but the quality is not very good, stay on a single channel (BBC One, for example), and move your aerial around until you get the best TV signal. Note that if you move the aerial around, other channels might disappear, and you will have to do a full re-scan.
Once you see the best picture quality, make sure your aerial stays in place (without you having to stand there holding it forever, hopefully) – some models even come with their own Velcro tapes or other adhesive measures.
Do I Need A Special Aerial For Ultra HD (4K)?
4k (or Ultra High Definition) content is becoming more and more popular, especially on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. You get better picture quality (at a higher resolution than normal Full HD), and it all looks bright and crisp.
Unfortunately, there’s almost no 4K content available on Freeview yet. In 2018, the BBC ran a trial with some 4K content on iPlayer – namely a few sports matches, Blue Planet II and Dynasties.
These looked spectacular, but those trials come and go, and at the moment you can only watch a few BBC 4K programmes – including Dracula and Seven Worlds, One Planet
The BBC is promising more trials in the future – and at some point, hopefully, we’ll get a steady flow of 4K content from the BBC – but we’re not there yet.
Remember, however, that at the moment the 4K content is only available on-demand (via broadband) and not live – so your TV aerial isn’t even needed for the 4K stuff.
In addition, if you want to watch 4k content on Freeview, you would need a special Freeview Box that supports 4K – such as the Manhattan T3-R.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that ALL indoor aerials support both Full HD and 4K. Some aerials boast in their marketing about 4K reception – it’s true, they have it – but so do all other aerials from recent years, even if they don’t spell it out.
Best Indoor TV Aerial UK 2020
|Rank||Best Indoor TV Aerials||Our Rating||Price|
|1||1Byone Thin Indoor TV Aerial||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐||CHECK PRICES|
|2||RGTech Monarch 50 TV Aerial||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐||CHECK PRICES|
|3||Biling 4K Indoor TV Aerial||⭐⭐⭐⭐||CHECK PRICES|
|4||SLx Indoor TV Aerial - Pillar||⭐⭐⭐⭐||CHECK PRICES|
|5||SLx 27769RG Amplified Aerial||⭐⭐⭐||CHECK PRICES|
|6||One For All SV9215 Amplified||⭐⭐⭐||CHECK PRICES|
1byone Paper Thin Review
This aerial is our overall Editor’s Choice, because it ticks most boxes: The price is very reasonable, being paper-thin means you can easily mount it on a wall or on a window (it comes with a small adhesive patch), or on your TV cabinet – or even on the back of your TV.
And, it even has a detachable amplifier (so you can decide whether to use it or not), with a decent cable length.
As with all indoor aerials, reception really depends on your coverage, and you might have to move it around in your room a bit until you find the perfect spot (and unfortunately, if your coverage is particularly bad – you’re still likely to get no channels at all – but at least you can try to signal amplifier to see if it helps).
Build quality is not overly impressive, but for the price, and for something you stick on your wall/TV and just leave it there, you get excellent value for money.
And best of all: 1byone’s aerials have been best-sellers for years now, with thousands of positive reviews, and I’ve been using one personally for more than three years. Sometimes it’s a good idea to stick with the model that works well.
RGTech Monarch 50 Review
This aerial promises a lot – a 50 miles range (from the transmitter), technology developed by a NASA scientist, Ultra Wide Band radio technology, 4G Filtering… it all sounds very impressive – but does it work?
The short answer is Yes – this aerial works great, with a more-than-average number of users who got good reception with it. But it won’t do miracles – if the reception is bad in your house, and you’re far from the transmitter (don’t count on 50 miles) – you won’t get all the channels – just like it is with other aerials.
Still, the RGTech Monarch 50 ticks all the boxes and has an excellent chance of giving you a large number of channels with good picture quality, and it’s flat and easy to place (with an aerial stand included in the box). Plus, there’s a transparent version, if you prefer it over the black one.
This is a first-rate aerial that will give you excellent performance and build quality – the only reason it’s in 2nd place, is that it’s a bit more expensive.
Biling 4K Indoor Aerial Review
If you’re not sure whether you’ll need a signal amplifier or not, this aerial comes with a detachable one already in the box – so you can experiment.
Being paper thin means you can easily mount it on a wall or a window, or even stick it on the back of your TV (but you won’t be able to place it on a stand). The cable length is also decent at 4 meters.
We also like the unique colours, the unusual shape, and the fact that it’s black on one side and white on the other – so you get to choose and match to your walls/window.
It supports HDTV and 4K signals (as do all modern aerials), and the detachable signal booster will help with reception in SOME areas. Keep in mind though, the amplifier is powered via a USB cable – so you would need a USB power adapter (like those you would use to charge your phone).
All in all, while this aerial is not as cheap as some of the other aerials, you get excellent value for money thanks to the amplifier – if you need it.
SLx Pillar Review
Let’s face it – most indoor aerials are kind of ugly and are far from being furniture pieces. Sure, some of the flat ones do a good job of “disappearing”, but they’re still black/white squares stuck to your window/wall.
Then there’s the SLx Pillar aerial: it’s pillar-shaped, and covered in fabric, so it kind of resembles the newer Amazon Echo devices. It won’t be the centrepiece of your living room – but it still looks better than most other aerials.
Looks aside – does it work properly? Definitely, for the most part. That is, if your local transmitter is less than 10 miles from your house, then the Pillar is likely to do its job well. If the transmitter is further away, SLx recommend getting a signal booster.
All in all, this aerial is similar to the other ones in how it performs, and is one of the better-priced ones. But its main attraction is the is nice finish – so if you want to place the aerial near the TV and have it look good – this one’s your best bet.
SLx 27769RG Amplified Review
This aerial is different than the others on our list in that it’s not an omnidirectional one. That means you have to point it towards the transmitter in your area, and choose whether to place it horizontally or vertically – you need to test different options and locations for the best signal reception (or look at the aerials on your neighbours’ roofs and see the way they’re directed).
It’s a bit on the expensive side compared to some of the others, but for the price you get a fairly decent build quality. The gain control dial (for the amplification) gives you good control, so make sure you don’t over-amplify, as that may result in a snowy picture.
The fact that it’s amplified also means you need to connect it to the power socket. With good overall reception, this is a very good indoor aerial, it just requires a bit more tuning, and the design is kind of bulky (though it looks like something out of the original Star Trek).
One For All SV9215 Review
One of the more expensive aerial in this roundup, you would expect a higher-than-average performance, but that is not always the case with this model. The flat design is nicer than others, and the aerial can either be mounted on the wall (with the flimsy plastic bolts supplied), or hidden away.
It’s an amplified aerial, meaning it also has a mains lead, so keep that in mind. The amplification doesn’t seem to cause any image disruptions, but for those in low-signal areas, it doesn’t always help much with reception either. Like most aerials, the bottom line really depends on the coverage in your area.