Channel Master Smartenna review: Big, ugly, expensive, but it does the trick

The Good The Channel Master Smartenna sports some of the best reception of any of the indoor models we tried. It offers the flexibility of indoor or outdoor use and features a coaxial socket so you can provide whatever length of cable you need.

The Bad Expensive. Relatively large and bulky, so it needs to be screwed to a wall or mounted on a table. Coaxial cable not included.

The Bottom Line The Channel Master is a large indoor/outdoor OTA antenna that performed well but costs more than competitors.

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7.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 7

The Channel Master Smartenna is the grown-up version of the company's Flatenna, and it's designed to be used in areas where TV reception is a little patchy. While none of the indoor models we tested are designed to perform like a dedicated outdoor antenna, the Smartenna did better than most at pulling in a usable signal.

It's also one of the most expensive we tested, and we consider the $40 Antennas Direct Clearstream Eclipse a better value.

Unlike the other indoor models others in our test, the Smartenna can also be used outdoors, and Channel Master says it will work over a greater distance if you do -- 50 miles versus 35 miles indoors. To this end, the antenna is designed to be weather-resistant with "UV stabilized plastics" that can also be painted. While the cheaper Flatenna is lightweight and designed to be mounted in a window, the Smartenna is heavy at 1.5 pounds and needs to be screwed to a wall with the available bracket or propped up on the included feet. When we say it's big, we mean that, at 13 inches by 11 inches by 1.5 inches, it's even bigger than the (admittedly slim) DVR we used to test it with.

Sadly the Smartenna doesn't come with a coaxial cable, which means you'll need to factor in the extra cost (or borrow one from the cable box you won't use any more).

The antenna is designed to be used without amplification, and as a result we found it had the most watchable signals on our test channels in both our Manhattan and Long Island tests. Of our list of 11 test channels, the Smartenna fared second-best with six displayed to a watchable standard (most got five or less, and only the unamplified RCA SLIVR did better). The extra channels the Smartenna received mostly came from our Long Island test, so if you already live in a good reception area, as with our Manhattan test, this antenna could be overkill. As far as the total number of channels it could pull in, it was in the middle of the pack, though.

While the model is clunky and requires a little more effort to install than the other antennas the Channel Master Smartenna is definitely one to look at if you want to improve your television signal. That said, it's not the best value at $60.

See how the Channel Master fared in our cord-cutters guide to indoor antennas here.