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Attention cordcutters: Mohu AirWave bundles your local TV channels into handy app form (hands-on)

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John P. Falcone/CNET

Mohu pioneered the sort of bargain flat digital TV antenna you can buy on Amazon for as little as $20. Now, the company's new AirWave antenna is looking to deliver over-the-air channels where cordcutters want them: Straight into the streaming video device they're already using, where they live side-by-side with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the like. In other words, no more switching inputs to watch live over-the-air TV.

The Mohu AirWave (a mockup of which is pictured above) will cost $150 when it arrives in April or May. (It will initially be a Best Buy exclusive.) The AC-powered TV antenna can be located anywhere in your home that's in range of your Wi-Fi network, and it includes an Ethernet jack for wired reliability, too. It then streams the over-the-air channels to a companion app on your entertainment device of choice. (In many areas, that would include CBS, the owner of CNET.) The company is promising compatibility with Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android and standard web browsers. Additional platforms could follow. And, of course, there are no pesky cable-like subscription fees.

In addition to more flexible placement options in your home -- not just behind the TV set -- the AirWave is also equipped with Mohu's "ClearPix" technology, which is said to offer improved reception by choosing the optimal internal antenna configuration based on the location and strength of given channels.

Seeing the AirWave in action

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John P. Falcone/CNET

After seeing a mockup of the AirWave at a CES event, I was able to see a working product demo later in the week, deep in the bowels of the Westgate Hotel. The Mohu team had the system up and running on an Apple TV.

The biggest surprise was the app's full-on electronic programming guide (EPG) for all of the local channels it was pulling in. Normally, that's the sort of thing for which you'd pay a monthly fee (as on Tablo products and TiVo's cable DVRs), but Mohu says it's eating the cost.

In the demo, the streaming worked perfectly smoothly -- indistinguishable from the Netflixes or Hulus of the world. Mohu says that all of the compression is being handled in the AirWave itself, so even less muscular devices (say, a low-end Roku) shouldn't have trouble with the video streams.

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Streaming live over-the-air TV to the Mohu iPad app.

John P. Falcone/CNET

The AirWave is a single tuner device, but multiple clients inside a home can watch any given channel at the same time. (No word on a total limit of simultaneous streams, or if the initial streamer will have "lock-out" control on switching channels.) Alas, the Mohu will not support streaming to devices outside of the home network. Nor will it have any DVR functionality. But Mohu is considering all of those missing features for possible follow-up products.

A full evaluation will have to wait for the final production model, but my initial impressions of the AirWave were quite positive. The product's biggest challenge is that it's competing in an increasingly crowded landscape for cordcutter-friendly devices -- everything from the TiVo Roamio OTA, Channel Master DVR+ and the HD Home Run (and its companion Channels app), as well as the just-announced AirTV, Tablo Live and Tablo Droid.

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Power and optional Ethernet are the only hardwired connections.

John P. Falcone/CNET

Mohu AirWave key specs

  • Powered antenna that streams live TV to compatible devices via Wi-Fi or Ethernet
  • Compatible apps coming to Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS, Android and standard web browsers
  • $150, no subscription fees, US only

Updated January 10 with additional hands-on impressions.

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Where to Buy

Mohu AirWave

Part Number: CNETMohu AirWave

MSRP: $150.00

Visit manufacturer site for details.