Warning, this is a really geeky post. Reading about comparing the performance of two HD TV over-the-air (OTA) UHF antennas may be hazardous to your health.

When I got my HD DirecTV TiVo (HR10-250) two weeks ago I needed a decent outdoor antennae to pick up local HD channels. It was a Saturday and I decided to just pick up the Terk HDTVs Antennae at Best Buy along with my TiVo unit. The unit was extraordinarilly overpriced at $150 but I knew I could return it. I slapped it on a cable and threw it on my deck (no aiming at all) and got pretty good signals. Last week I received my real antennae, the ChannelMaster 4221 (the ChannelMaster 3021 is the same unit FYI). This new antennae was a mere $35 with shipping from a good online retailer. The 4221 looks like a real antennae. Four separate bowties, lots of metal, etc.

I took new signal readings off my receiver with the Terk right before doing this to avoid any comparison to previous readings that could have different atmospheric things going on. I allowed the receiver to tune into the station for five seconds and then I recorded the maximum signal strength received to that point. After getting fresh readings for the Terk I plugged in the ChannelMaster and was ready to be stunned. However, on the first read everything was horrible. Lesson number one is the CM4221 is much more directional than the Terk. I went up and pointed it towards the direction of downtown and got much better readings.

In the end I was stunned with the performance of the Terk more than the CM4221. The Terk did as good as the CM4221 and even better than it on the weak signals. Given the price difference I did stay with the CM4221 and returned the Terk, but I was surprised by the differences. Here are the signal strength measurements. (Note: I included the reading from tuner A and B.)

Station Freq Terk HDTVs CM 4221
KMWB 22 62/62 48/40
WFTC 21 92/95 92/92
KPXM 40 57/60 28/22
KARE 35 88/88 90/90
KTCA 34 90/90 95/92
KTCI 16 88/85 90/90
KSTC 44 90/90 92/92
WCCO 32 90/90 92/92
KMSP 26 92/92 92/92
KSTP 50 90/90 90/90

If you are reading this looking for HD antennae advice these tests were done in the Minneapolis area by highways 494 and 62. One disclaimer I need to add here is that I did not spend a lot of time tuning the direction and the CM4221 is just sitting on my balcony pointed toward downtown. Notably, it is about 1 foot behind the metal railings of my patio and I’m not sure if that causes interference. I intend to have it properly mounted on the roof when I have my DirecTV satellite upgraded to a triple-LNB unit.