Why a TV Antenna Might Be Your Best Friend During the Next Disaster

The easiest way to get live local news in real-time during disasters is often from broadcast TV news coverage.

A TV antenna might seem like an anachronism; something no longer needed, especially with the plethora of streaming services available today. But, in the past year or so, I've been so glad to have access to free broadcast TV through my antenna.

The reason is this: Broadcast TV is the most reliable medium for getting real-time news in times of crisis, surpassed only by a battery-powered radio (because that will work even if the power goes out).

I live in Santa Monica, or basically, Los Angeles, CA.  Last year we had brush fires so close that ash fell from the sky. This year we had riots and looters blocks away from our home.  Oh, then there's the pandemic of course.

In all of those cases, we relied on free broadcast TV to get the latest local news in real-time. Everything turned out fine for us, but live local TV coverage was key for keeping us informed of the situation.

Cable and Internet service can be pretty flaky, especially during disasters. How often does your Internet go down even when everything is normal? During a natural disaster such as a severe storm, earthquake, or flood, the Internet infrastructure is that much more vulnerable. All it takes is for the cable or optic fiber to be cut somewhere along the way to your home for you to lose Internet access.

Therefore, I think it's a good idea for those who have strong TV signals in their area to have a TV antenna. That isn't everyone; many folks have weak TV signals which are pretty flaky too. But if you live in or near a large city, you probably can get free broadcast TV pretty reliably.

So, as part of good disaster preparedness, I'd recommend first visiting the Station Finder to see if there are broadcast strong TV signals in your area. If there are, you can get a low-cost indoor antenna. Set it up to make sure you can receive local stations. The next time your cable or Internet goes out during a crisis, you'll be glad you have broadcast TV as a backup! - Brian

What To Do If You Lost TV Channels After Re-Scanning

You've probably heard by now that you're supposed to re-scan for TV channels early and often to get the most channels in your area, especially during the "FCC Re-Pack".

While that is generally true, there are some circumstances where you could actually lose channels after re-scanning. I've gotten lots of comments and emails from readers who've lost channels after scanning. And it finally happened to me too!

Here are two scenarios where you could actually lose TV channels after a re-scan.

  1. The reception conditions changed from when you originally scanned to now
  2. The station's RF channel changed, and your TV is still looking at the old channel

Let's examine the reasons and the solutions.

1. The Reception Conditions Have Changed

It's possible that the TV signal for the channel you lost was stronger when you originally scanned than it is now. There can be many reasons for this, including time of day, atmospheric conditions, electrical interference, or a weaker signal due to obstacle or lower transmitter power. 

If you lose a station, sometimes you can go into your TV's settings and simply add it back. Consult your TV's manual for how to do this.

If that doesn't work, or if you have a lot of missing channels, AND you are using an indoor antenna, you might want to try this trick:

Let's say you are using a flat antenna hanging on your wall. Open the closest window, and hang your antenna outside, facing towards the TV towers in your area, then run the scan. That's an easy way to temporarily give your TV the best possible reception during the scan. When done, bring your antenna back inside. You may not be able to tune all of the channels, but at least they will be in your TV's memory so you can experiment with your antenna position.

2. The Station's RF Channel Changed and Your TV Can't Find It

This happened to me with my old Sony Bravia TV from 2008. 

One day, I suddenly lost my local NBC station due to the "FCC Re-Pack". Fine. I re-scanned like you're supposed to. But then, I lost a whole bunch of other channels, including my local CBS and NBC stations. What happened??

Well, I went on the Station Finder and noticed that my local CBS station, KCBS normally on channel 2.1 on my TV, had moved and had an RF channel of 34. Well, I know that modern TVs have the ability to map a channel's physical RF channel to a different tuner channel on your TV to make it so the channel number you know and love never changes, even if the physical frequency changes.

So, theoretically, I should have been able to see KCBS on channel 2.1, but for the heck of it, I tried tuning to its physical RF channel, 31.1, and voila!!  KCBS was there!!

I actually talked to the head of engineering at KCBS and he told me that some older Sony TVs don't have the ability to map the RF channel to a different displayed channel. So, on my TV I need to now find KCBS on channel 31.1 instead of channel 2.1.

To figure out if this is happening in your case, go to the Station Finder and enter your zip code. Click the call letters of the station you lost and look for the RF channel.

The FCC Station Finder showing the actual channel

Try tuning your TV to that channel plus .1 or .3. or other tenths in that channel. So in this example, the RF channel is 31, so you should try tuning to 31.1, 31.3, and so forth (the the tenths are more often odd numbers).

If you go back to the original channel for that station (in my case 2.1), it's possible that your TV will be able to "connect" the new channel to the old displayed channel.  In my case, that didn't work, but I'm happy to get CBS again, even if I have tune it at channel 31.1 instead of 2.1.

Update Your TV's Firmware

Another thing you can try is to update your TV's firmware (i.e., the software that runs inside your TV), especially if it is an older TV.

Check your TV manufacturer's website for any updates. Sometimes  you can download these to a USB stick, then plug it into your TV to update it.

Try re-scanning after that.  You might get the channels back.  Or, if your channels came in at odd different channels (like mine did), they might get mapped back to the correct channels after the update.

Did This Work For You?

Let me know if any of these tips helped you get channels that you lost after your re-scan! If you found a different solution, let us know about it! - Brian

Thirty Things You Could Accomplish If You Gave Up TV for Lent

While discovering free and cheap ways to watch TV is a good thing, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In 2017, the average American spent almost four hours a day watching television!

That's a HUGE amount of time to spend staring at a TV screen! What could you accomplish with that time? When you look back on your life, will you wish you did something else with that time?

Giving it Up for Lent

This year, Lent runs from Wednesday, February 26th to Thursday, April 9th, 2020. That's 44 days x 4 hours = 176 hours that you could be doing something besides watching TV. Why not consider doing something else with that time?

I'm not necessarily talking about any religious reasons here. But, just like New Year's Day is a time for folks to commit to new resolutions, Lent might the ideal time for folks to give something up, because other people are doing it too.

Or, if giving up TV completely is too much for you, how about giving up only on weekdays?  Or, just on weekends?  Or, just give up one of your streaming services, like Netflix?

Some Things You Could Do Instead of Watching TV

Here are some things to do if you decide to give up TV during Lent:

  1. Volunteer for a cause that you believe in
  2. Read all of those books that you bought but haven't had a chance to read yet
  3. Start learning a new language
  4. Practice playing (or start learning) a musical instrument
  5. Get in shape (walk around the block, ride a bike, do yoga, lift weights, go to the gym)
  6. Catch up with your parents, siblings, cousins, other family, and friends
  7. Play with your kids or help them with their homework
  8. Start a side business or create a source of passive income!
  9. Do those household repairs that you've been putting off.
  10. Take partner dance lessons
  11. Start a blog
  12. Plan a dream vacation
  13. Go to a church (or synagogue) group
  14. De-clutter your home!
  15. Paint your walls an exciting new color
  16. Redecorate your home; re-arrange your furniture
  17. Sell your unused items on eBay and make some extra cash
  18. Take an evening adult education class at your local college
  19. Create art/crafts, or do scrapbooking
  20. Scan all of your old photos so they'll be saved for posterity
  21. Become a mentor 
  22. Do photography
  23. Attend Meetup.com groups
  24. Clean out your garage, tool shed, or storage unit
  25. Take a cooking class
  26. Join a local sports league (soccer, volleyball, hockey)
  27. Do your taxes
  28. Take an online course
  29. Create a video to share on YouTube; a how-to video or something educational, funny, or otherwise entertaining.
  30. Help someone you know who is lonely or in need. Bring them a meal, or just offer companionship.

I'm sure you have plenty of things that you can think of!

So, do you think you could give up TV for Lent? What would you like to accomplish during that time? Please comment below! - Brian

How to Eliminate TV Interference from Your Amazon Fire TV Stick

One of my readers told me that his Amazon Fire TV Stick was causing interference with his broadcast TV channels. When he unplugged the stick, his reception improved and his TV could receive more channels.

I did a quick test with my own Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (purchased in 2019) and didn't find any difference in my TV reception with on or completely unplugged.

However, when I researched online, I found a ton of other users in various forums complaining of TV interference caused by their Amazon Fire TV Sticks. They all said the interference went away when they unplugged the Stick.

The problem seems to be more common with Amazon Fire TV Sticks as opposed to other streaming boxes like Roku, Apple TV, etc. The earliest post on this problem that I could find was in 2011, continuing all the way up to 2019. Unfortunately, no one mentioned exactly which Stick model they had.

How to Test Your Stick

If you want to check for this problem, first unplug your Stick and check your TV reception, especially the flaky channels. Then, plug your Stick in and watch a program on it to make sure it is running, then switch back to antenna. Compare your TV reception to the first run. If there is a channel you lost after you plugged in your Stick, unplug it (or put it in sleep mode) and verify the channel comes back. If it does, there's a good chance your Fire TV Stick is causing interference.

Three Solutions

If you've confirmed that your Fire TV Stick is indeed causing interference with your TV reception, there are three solutions that folks have confirmed solve the problem (other than just not using your Stick).

1. Wrap It In Foil

Multiple sources on the forums plus my reader confirm that wrapping the Amazon Fire TV Stick in tinfoil solves the interference problem!

The foil acts as an electromagnetic shield around the Stick, preventing the worst interference from escaping.

Theoretically, a perfect shield would also prevent your wireless remote and Wi-Fi from working with the Stick. But, no one has reported that problem. If you do have problems with your remote not working or Wi-Fi not connecting after you wrap the Stick, try leaving some gaps in the foil.

Some folks are also concerned about trapping heat. Well, foil conducts a lot better than plastic, so as long as there isn't an air gap between the plastic case and the foil, I don't think heat will be a problem (the foil might even act as a heatsink of sorts). But, it's another thing to keep an eye out for.

2. Use a Long Male-to-Female HDMI Extender Cable

A less "hack-y" solution is to get a long HDMI extender cable (like six or ten feet) and use that to plug your Stick into your TV. That will allow you to place it far away from your antenna. You will to experiment with position until the interference goes away.

Folks in the forums have reported that this works as well, and there's less chance of causing problems with your Wi-Fi or remote with this method.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

3. Put it To Sleep

The third solution is to put your Fire TV Stick into sleep mode every time you want to switch to broadcast TV. You can do this by pressing and holding the Home button on the remote. You'll see this screen on your Stick:

Amazon Fire TV Stick screen after holding the Home button for five seconds

Choose "Sleep" and your interference should go away.

Of course, this can be a pain to do every time you switch from your Stick to Broadcast TV, but it does work.

Conclusion

So there you have it, three ways to stop your Amazon Fire TV Stick from interfering with your TV reception. Did any of these work for you? Please comment below! - Brian

Review: The Mediasonic HOMEWORX Digital Converter Box HW130STB

If you have an old tube TV or a flat-screen that does not have a digital TV tuner, then the only way you can watch free broadcast channels on that TV is to get a digital converter box, or tuner box, as it is sometimes called.

You plug your TV antenna into the box, then you connect your box to your TV. It converts the signal either to an analog signal that your old TV can use, or to a digital HDMI signal that you can plug into a more modern HDTV.

Many of these boxes today have a USB port where you can plug in a USB drive or stick. You can then record broadcast TV shows for viewing later.

My Recommended Converter Box: The Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB

There are many converter boxes on the market today with almost the same feature set. At just $30, the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB is one of the lower-cost units out there, but it has pretty much the same features as more expensive boxes.

Setup and Channel Search

I found the setup for the Mediasonic HOMEWORX box to be very easy. I never consulted the manual. I plugged in an antenna, plugged in power, then plugged it into my flat-screen Sony TV using an HDMI cable. Note that if you're using it with an old tube TV, you'd use the included analog cables instead.

Rear panel of the Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box
Rear Panel

After turning on my TV and selecting the appropriate HDMI input, I got the setup screen prompting me to do a channel search:

Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box setup screen
Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box setup screen

I kicked off the channel search by pressing the big OK button on the remote and it only took the unit a few minutes to do a complete channel scan:

Found channels on the HOMEWORX converter box
Found channels on the HOMEWORX converter box

After that, I could start watching live broadcast TV. Pretty simple!

Tuner Quality

The unit found 140 channels in its scan. For comparison, my excellent Sony HDTV found 154 channels.

So, the tuner is not quite as good as my Sony, but the vast majority of the channels it didn't find were ones I wouldn't watch anyway, i.e., foreign language, etc. It found all of the major networks and major local channels in my area (Los Angeles).

So, the tuner quality was more than sufficient for me.

Picture Quality and Channel Surfing

I was surprised that such a cheap unit could have such good picture quality. It was basically indistinguishable from my Sony TV's picture quality! HD channels looked crisp and colorful.

The unit was also pretty quick when changing channels. Time to change channels was about the same as my Sony.

The Remote Control

The one annoying thing I noticed was that you have to point the remote control right at the unit. If you're off by a bit, it won't register. It's not the end of the world, but it would take some getting used to.

The remote control for the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB
The remote control

If you read the reviews for other low-cost converter boxes, the remote control seems to be the weak link in most of them. Other units have problems with buttons triggering adjacent buttons, cheap feel, or like this one, the need to aim precisely.

If (or when) your remote breaks or gets lost, the good news is that the remote for this model is available separately on Amazon for only ten bucks. If you have the HW-150PVR, this is the remote on Amazon. Mediasonic also told me that their unit works with the Logitec Harmony remote control. but I have not verified this myself.

Setting Up a USB Drive or Stick

There's a USB port right on the front of the box where you can plug in a USB drive or flash stick. I chose the latter since I had a bunch laying around.

I plugged it in, and the unit immediately recognized it, but I couldn't get it to work at first. I went into the menus and realized that I had to initialize it first. After I did that, it worked fine.

Formatting a USB drive on the HOMEWORX converter box
Formatting a USB drive

Pausing and Recording Live TV

Even if you don't plan to use your converter box as a DVR, it might be nice to plug in a USB drive anyway so that you can pause live TV.

After I formatted the drive, I tried searching backward while watching live TV, but it wouldn't let me. I had to first pause to enter recording mode, then resume play. Then, it would let me rewind to the point at which I hit the pause button, or forward to the current time. Not the end of the world.

You can also just hit the record button to start a recording that you want to save. Super easy!

If you go into the menu system, you can find a page with your recordings. They are stored with somewhat cryptic file names but at least they contain the station call letters.

Page showing recording I made with the HOMEWORX converter box
Page showing recording I made

It took me a while to figure out how to replay my recording. The key is to look at the hints at the bottom of the screen which tell you which buttons to use on this page. I was able to select my recording and play it using this "legend".

One cool thing is that I was able to plug the USB stick into my Windows PC and play the .mts file recordings using Windows Media Player! Nice!!

Scheduled Recordings (DVR Functionality)

The fact that is box can do any kind of recording at all is pretty amazing at this price point. There is also the capability to do scheduled recording. You set up these recordings on this page:

How to set up scheduled recordings on the HOMEWORX DVR
How to set up scheduled recordings

This is very reminiscent of how we used to set up recordings on old-school VCRs. But to my surprise, there is actually also a channel guide available if you press the EPG button! Press "OK" to record any show.

The Program Guide

Granted, it's not as flashy the channel guides on some of the more expensive DVRs out there like the Tablo, Channel Master Stream+, or the Amazon Fire TV Recast. Those are much easier set up recordings on, or even record whole seasons (however they require Internet access to display the guide). The Homeworx unit only shows one channel's shows at a time.

But, as I mentioned, at this low price, this box is worth it just for the converter functionality. I see the DVR as a bonus that you may or may not use.

Signal Strength Meter

One thing this box does that my Sony TV doesn't is provide a signal strength meter.

Manual channel search page showing signal strength meter ("Quality") on the Mediasonic HOMEWORX converter box
Manual channel search page showing signal strength meter ("Quality")

This can be VERY useful if you're trying to fine-tune your antenna placement.

Summary

This is a great little box that lets you use a broadcast TV antenna with your older TV at a low cost with a basic but functional DVR as a bonus!

My only real beef with the unit is that you have to aim the remote precisely at the unit in order for it to trigger, but that's not a showstopper for me.

The picture quality and functionality of this one are great. If you need to find a converter box for your tube TV or older flat screen, check this one out! You can find it on Amazon:

Hope this review was helpful to you. Let me know what you think of the Mediasonic HOMEWORX HW130STB in the comments below, or send me a question! - Brian

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

Amazon Fire TV Recast: a Slick DVR from Amazon with Alexa Integration

The Amazon Fire TV Recast is Amazon's broadcast TV DVR solution which lets you record live TV using your TV antenna.

Unlike the Tablo and Channel Master Stream+, the Recast has its storage included inside the box, making for a cleaner setup. Recordings can be made or viewed from any TV in your home that is attached to an Amazon Fire TV stick or box. It's a great choice if you already own Amazon Fire TV players, and if you're really into Alexa.

The Package

Since the storage is included inside the box, the package is pretty simple. You get the Fire TV Recast box, which measures about 7" by 7" by 3" thick, a quick start guide, and a power adapter, that's it.

Amazon Fire TV Recast
Everything you get with the Amazon Fire TV Recast

Setup

Setup requires an iOS, Android, or Kindle device. You'll have to download the Amazon Fire TV app to set up the Recast.

Because the hard drive is internal, there's very little physical hookup required, other than plugging in power and connecting the antenna.

Because the Recast doesn't connect to your TV directly, you can put it anywhere in your home, ideally somewhere where your antenna strength is greatest, like upstairs, or even an attic!

The Fire TV app will guide you through the configuration process step by step. You'll have to temporarily switch to the Recast's Wi-Fi network on your device during the process, but the app does a good job of holding your hand as you go. It will even tell you which direction to point your antenna!

Amazon Fire TV app
The Amazon Fire TV app will even tell you which direction to point your antenna during the setup process.

Tuner Quality

One thing I always look at in a DVR is the quality of the tuner. So, I did a scan using my very good Sony TV tuner and got 117 channels here in Los Angeles.

I scanned with the Recast and got 116 channels! That's pretty much within the margin of error of being the same as my Sony. So, the Recast tuner is good!

The picture quality of the Recast is excellent. Hard to distinguish it from the picture when I run the antenna straight into my TV.

The User Interface

The Recast requires an Amazon Fire TV device to watch recordings on your TV. So, I started up my Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.

At the top row, there was a "DVR" option, so I selected that and got this screen:

Amazon Fire TV Recast home screen
Amazon Fire TV Recast home screen

This is where I got confused. I clicked down, and immediately started seeing live TV. OK. But I couldn't find a way to change channels, so I clicked the Back button to return, and clicked down one more level to take me to the line of channel previews below.

But strangely, there seemed to be some non-broadcast TV channels there. I explored the channel guide below that, and found Pluto TV channels. Where were my broadcast TV channels?

After doing a lot more scrolling, I finally found the section of the guide that had broadcast TV channels:

Amazon Fire TV Recast channel guide
Amazon Fire TV Recast channel guide

I question the decision to include live streaming channels from apps like Pluto TV in the Recast channel guide. I guess some people might like it, but felt a bit lost, like "what am I watching?" The feature would have been totally cool if you could actually record streaming shows, but when I tried to set up a Pluto TV show for recording, it wouldn't let me.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that no channel numbers are displayed. Only the station's logo is displayed, so it's hard to tell at a glance whether you're watching broadcast TV or an app. But, I guess some people won't care, as long as they are watching something they like.

The Recast works with your Fire TV player to respond to Alexa commands. I was able to push the microphone button on my Fire TV Stick remote and tell Alexa to watch NBC, and voila! The Recast tuned to my NBC broadcast TV channel (4.1 in my area). You can also ask Alexa to show your recordings, to delete recordings, to show the channel guide, and much more.

Fast Forward and Rewind

Another thing I look at when I evaluate DVRs is how rewind and fast forward work. As with the other DVR's I've reviewed, you can rewind and fast forward live TV (within the limits of when you started watching that show and the current time).

On the Recast, you can jump head in 30 second increments or back in 10 second increments using the directional buttons.

If you use the FF and Rewind buttons, you can seek. You'll see a small preview window that updates every second or so, along with a time counter showing the time stamp of where you're seeking to. So, you won't see the main image speed up or go in reverse when seeking, but the little preview window helps you figure out where you're jumping to.

Channel Surfing

One of the gripes of the Tablo recorders is that it takes 5-7 seconds to change channels, which makes channel surfing a chore. On the Recast, it took me between 4 and 5 seconds to change channels, which might seem like a small difference, but it was noticeable.

Recording

Recording on the Recast was a breeze. I simply selected a show in the guide to record and the Recast displayed options for recording just that show or all episodes.

Recording page on the Amazon Fire TV Recast
You have the option of recording just that episode or the whole series

With the Alexa integration, I was also able to just say "record Star Trek Deep Space Nine", and the Recast was set up to record the series. Great!!

Amazon Fire TV Recast scheduled recordings screen
Recordings I set up with the Recast. So easy!

So, setting up recordings on the Recast couldn't be easier!

No Subscription Required for the Channel Guide!

The Tablo requires a small monthly fee or one life time fee of $150 for the channel guide. The TiVo has a fee as well.

The great news here is that there's no fee for the channel guide. I was able to scroll out twelve days into the future in the guide before I stopped seeing results!

Two Tuner vs. Four Tuner

I bought the two-tuner version of the Fire TV Recast. That means I can record two programs at once, or watch one live channel while recording another. Or, two people in my home can be watching different live channels on separate TVs or devices.

The four-tuner Recast allows you to record up to four programs at once, but it still only allows you to watch two live programs at the same time. Be aware! This has bitten some folks who have more than two TVs in their homes.

Fire TV Devices Are Required

The Recast has a lot going for it. But, probably the biggest downside for some people will be the fact that it only works with the Amazon Fire TV streaming players. If you have Roku, Apple TV, or other streaming box, you'll have to purchase Fire TV Sticks for all of the TVs you want to watch recordings on. If you're already into the Amazon device ecosystem (as many folks are), this isn't a problem for you.

Note that you can watch and record shows on your iOS, Android, or Kindle device. However, on my iPhone 7 it took about 12 seconds to buffer up a live TV show before I could view it.

Also, there's no way (that I know of) to watch your recordings in a web browser. If you want to do that, check out Tablo.

Conclusion

After reading some mixed reviews on the Recast, I was actually pretty impressed after I used it myself. Having the hard drive included made setup easy. Sure, the user interface was not so intuitive to me at first, but I quickly got over that. The Alexa integration was super slick!

If you love using Alexa, you'll love the ability to change channels, schedule recordings, skip ahead, and so forth, using voice commands.

Amazon Fire TV Recast Pros:

Cons:

I would recommend the Recast as a whole-home broadcast TV DVR solution if you already own Fire TV sticks or boxes!

Get It Here

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

Questions? What do you think of the Recast? Please comment below. - Brian

Should You Get the Amazon Fire TV Stick (2019)?

The Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K are among the most popular streaming players out there. They're great because of their ease of use, excellent search functionality, Alexa integration, and plethora of streaming apps.

For this review, I purchased the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. The 4K Stick can display higher resolution (i.e., not just HD, but 4K resolution), and the 4K's remote has TV volume, mute, and power controls.

Since there is only a $10 difference between the 4K stick and regular stick, I would recommend the Fire Stick 4K even if you don't have a 4K TV. Getting the power and volume controls on the remote alone is worth $10. The Stick 4K also has a more powerful processor and is faster. And if you ever upgrade your TV to 4K, you'll be all set.

What You Get

The Amazon Fire TV Stick comes with a surprising amount of stuff: remote control with batteries, power adapter and USB cable, quick start guide, and short HDMI extender cable so you can mount the stick behind your TV easier.

Amazon Fire TV 4K and everything that comes with it
Amazon Fire TV 4K and everything that comes with it

Installation

Installing the Stick on your TV is pretty simple with a few caveats.

First, Amazon recommends using the HDMI extender for optimal Wi-Fi performance. If you can plug in your stick directly into the side of your TV, and it works fine (as it did with mine), then leave it. Otherwise, plug the stick into the extender, then plug the extender into your TV.

For power, Amazon recommends using the included power adapter rather than plugging the USB cable into your TV for power. In addition to being a better quality source of power, the power adapter allows your Fire TV Stick to get firmware updates when the TV is off.

I went with Amazon's recommendation and plugged the stick into a power strip.

The Fire TV Stick plugged directly into the side of my TV.
The Fire TV Stick plugged into the side of my TV with USB power coming from a power strip.

Note that the USB port on the Fire Stick can only be used for power. You can't, for example, hook a hard drive up to it and expect to play content from the drive like you can with Roku.

Setup

When I turned on my TV and selected the proper HDMI input, I saw the Fire was up and running. Using the direction keys, I selected English as my language, then found my Wi-Fi network and entered my Wi-Fi password using the letter-picker. This part is cumbersome, but common to all set-top boxes when using Wi-Fi and is unavoidable.

Amazon Fire TV Stick letter-picker
Amazon Fire TV Stick letter-picker

My unit went through a firmware upgrade and re-booted, then asked me again for my language.

If you purchased an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, you'll go through a brief setup process for your remote's volume controls.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K setup for volume controls
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K setup for volume controls

Now, the last time I bought an Amazon Fire TV, it came pre-programmed with my Amazon account information, which made setup a breeze!

Unfortunately, it seems that Amazon is no longer doing that (perhaps for security reasons, or cost). Now, you have to enter your email address and Amazon password using the cumbersome letter picker.

After starting up, there is a short introductory video which points out the main features of Fire TV. You can also select some commonly-used apps to install.

The Home Screen

Amazon re-vamped their home screen layout a while ago, and to me, it's not as straightforward as, say, the Roku home screen. I also didn't like having the Sprint ad right in the middle of my app grid!

Amazon Fire TV Stick home screen
Amazon Fire TV Stick home screen

But, that's not a showstopper and overall, it's simple to navigate around using the four-way directional buttons on the remote, once you get used to it.

Channels

There are all of the standard pay channels that you would expect, including Netflix, Hulu, and so forth. However, Amazon content always has priority on the Fire Stick, something which some folks have complained about.

I love free channels, so I found many of the ones I like such as Tubi TV, Crackle, and Pluto TV.

I'm also really into YouTube, but due to the feud between Amazon and Google, the YouTube app has been pulled off of the Amazon Fire TV store a few times. Currently, it's back on there, but the YouTube TV and YouTube Kids app are not available.

In any case, you can still watch YouTube on the Fire TV using the Firefox app (or Amazon's Silk browser). The experience is nearly the same as using a native YouTube app. There's even a shortcut to the YouTube site in the app store, so the lack of a native YouTube app is not really a problem.

There is no iTunes of course.  You need Apple TV for that.

Voice Search

The Fire TV was one of the first streaming media players to have voice search, which is really handy because it’s so cumbersome to enter anything using letter-picker. Just hold down the microphone button and say the name of the TV show or movie that you're searching for.

The voice recognition works well, as you would expect it to from the makers of the Echo.

In the original Fire TV, voice search would only give you results from Amazon. Now, it still gives Amazon results more prominently, but if you click "More Ways to Watch", it will show other sources, even free ones like Pluto TV, if available there!

Amazon Fire TV search results. Click on "More Ways to Watch" for non-Amazon sources
Amazon Fire TV search results. Click on "More Ways to Watch" for non-Amazon sources, including free sources.

Alexa Integration - Like Getting an Echo for Free

The integration with Alexa means that you can do even more than just search using your voice. You can give commands like "rewind five minutes" or "fast forward 30 seconds" if you hold the microphone button on the remote.

But even better, the Alexa integration means it's like having an Amazon Echo included. I was able to tell Alexa to play my music and it started playing my Amazon songs. You can ask for the weather or dinner recipes or nearby Mexican restaurants, just like you could with an Echo. Cool!

Web Browser - A Real Bonus!

Fire TV comes installed with Amazon's Silk browser, or you can install Firefox for free. This allows you to watch videos embedded on some websites (some are blocked when watching on streaming players).

Navigation using the remote works, but is nowhere near as easy as using a mouse or touch screen. It's fine for light browsing duties.

I personally was glad to have a web browser so I could watch embedded videos on my local PBS station's website!

Roku does not have a native browser. There are third party ones, but they either require monthly subscription or have low ratings. So, the native web browser on Fire TV Stick is a really nice feature!

My Overall Recommendation

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a great player, no question. The picture quality is great, and the user interface is snappy. If you're into Alexa, this player is for you. Even if you don't own a 4K TV, I would get this over the regular Fire TV Stick.

If you're not so much into Alexa or the Amazon ecosystem, I would recommend the Roku because it has more apps, more 4K content, is a tad easier to use, and has YouTube natively.

Where to Get It

Click the link below to get Amazon Fire TV Stick on Amazon:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

What was your experience with Amazon Fire like? Please leave a comment below. - Brian

Should You Upgrade Your Roku?

Roku is one of the most popular streaming media players. If you're a cord-cutter, there's a good chance you own one. But, if you have an older Roku, should you upgrade it to a newer one?

I compared the features of three generations of Roku players and performed some basic performance tests on each one. From this information, I'll give you some advice about whether you should update your Roku or not.

The Contenders

In this test, I'm comparing the Roku 2XD, the Roku 3, and the latest top-of-the-line unit, the Roku Ultra.

Each unit accomplishes its basic mission: streaming media from the Internet via Roku channels. But, each subsequent generation has more features and improved performance.

1. Roku 2 XD

Roku 2 XD
Roku 2 XD

The Roku 2 XD was introduced in July 2011 and is among the second generation of Roku players. It can output up to 1080p resolution, so it's still usable today in most TVs today.

Roku has announced that it is no longer supporting the Roku 1 and 2. Some apps won't work on it, which could be a huge problem.

Another annoying problem with the 2XD is its slow user interface speed. Switching between apps is SLOW compared to more modern Rokus, as you will see later.

The feature I would miss the most in the 2XD is voice search. In later models, you can hold the search button and simply say the name of the show or movie you want to find. You can still search using the letter picker in the 2XD, but it's painful.

The Roku 2 XD also doesn't have a USB port, but playing video from a USB drive is probably a much lesser-used feature.

The Wi-Fi on the 2 XD only supports 802.11 b/g/n and not the more modern higher-speed standards.

2. Roku 3

Roku 3
Roku 3

The Roku 3 was introduced in March 2013 and is among the third generation of Roku players.

It has a faster processor and the wonderful voice search remote that you'll love if you hate using the letter picker.

The remote also has a headphone jack for silent viewing, and TV volume control, which I think is another great feature (since my TV remote always seems to be just out of reach when a jarringly-loud part of a movie comes on).

It also lets you stream video stored on your smartphone to your TV!

3. Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra 2018

The Ultra is Roku's current top-of-the-line model. The first Ultra was introduced in 2016, but has been updated in 2017 and 2018.

It has everything the Roku 3 has but with a more powerful ARM Cortex processor. Feature-wise, there are just a few small additions like the power button on the remote, so you can shut off your TV without searching for your TV remote, and the "lost remote" button on the unit. When pressed, the remote makes a beeping noise so you can find it - handy!

Performance

As you can see, the basic features of the second, third, and current (seventh) generation of Roku players, haven't changed that much. Yes, there are more bells and whistles, but at its core, the Roku is still primarily a streaming video player, and even the old 2XD still accomplishes that task.

But, there's a huge difference in UI reaction time between the second and third generation Rokus.

I tested the time required by each Roku to do basic some basic tasks and charted them here:

Roku speed comparison chart
Roku 2 XDRoku 3Roku Ultra
Boot Up84 sec36 sec28 sec
Launch YouTube40 sec11 sec7 sec
Launch Roku Channel41 sec9 sec6 sec
Launch Amazon Prime Video15 sec15 sec9 sec
Launch Tubi TV54 sec16 sec10 sec
Speed comparison of various Roku devices

As you can see, the Roku 2 XD can be painfully slow to switch channels. If you include the time to exit a channel, it can take over a minute to switch from one channel to another! If you're doing this many times per day, that can add up to hours of wasted time per week!

The Roku 3 offers a vast improvement in speed, and the Roku Ultra is just a tad faster over that.

Roku has continually improved the remotes with small but useful features like headphone output, voice search, volume buttons, and now, TV power button, though none of those features are "must haves" for most people.

Should You Upgrade?

Based on my measurements, I would recommend upgrading if you are using a generation two or older Roku device. These include the following players (introduced in 2012 or earlier):

These all use the same or slower processor as the Roku 2 XD which I tested for this article, meaning that these will have the super slow user interface. They also might not work with the latest apps (Roku channels). You'll be better off upgrading if you have any of these.

Based on the processor, I would also upgrade if you have these third generation Roku players introduced in 2013: Roku 1, Roku SE.

What to Get

Here are some of the current-generation Roku players if you have an older Roku and want to replace it. I recommend the Roku Streaming Stick+ or Roku Ultra.

If you have a tube TV, I recommend the Roku Express+ 2018 edition. The newer version won't work with a tube TV.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

I Recommend Keeping These

If you have a different Roku that was introduced in 2013 or later that is not in the list above (like the Roku 3), and you're happy with the feature set, my advice would be to stick with it unless you want to shave a few seconds off the time it takes to switch channels.

So, the models I recommend keeping are:

Of course, if there is a feature, like 4K output, that you want and don't have, then of course you'd have to upgrade. But, based on usability and speed, I'd recommend sticking with the devices above if you're OK with the feature set.

Hope this helps! Let me know which Roku model you have and how you like it in the comments below! - Brian

Note, I got the information on the Roku models from this great Wikipedia article.

Use Your Roku to Play Videos From Your Phone on Your TV Wirelessly

As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, my favorite overall streaming media player is the Roku. It's got the most content and a ton of great features. One feature that you might not be aware of is the ability to stream video, music, and photos from your iOS or Android phone to your TV wirelessly!  And it's not difficult to set up!

The Down Low

I need to clarify that this technique lets you watch or play back media that is stored on your phone. This is not quite the same as mirroring your phone's screen to the TV.

You can't, for example, display a website from your phone on your TV using this method. Using a different method, you can mirror your Android phone to your Roku. Mirroring is not supported for iPhones however.

This technique is still super cool though, as you can play your own videos from your phone on your TV!

How to Do It

The first thing you'll need to do is get the official Roku app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Even if you don't want to stream, you might want it anyway to use as a remote.  It's free.

The Roku app at the App Store
The Roku app at the App Store

Next, make sure your phone is on your home's Wi-Fi network - the same one as your Roku.  For most people, it will be.  If it isn't, you should set up your home Wi-Fi password on your phone, not just for this, but also to minimize your phone's data usage on your cell phone plan.

Next, launch the Roku app on your phone and tap the Photos+ icon.  It will search for devices and your Roku should appear (make sure your Roku is on).  Go ahead and select it.

The Roku app on Android
Select your Roku device when it comes up

You should then be able to select Music, Photos, or Videos.  Tap one of them to search for something to play/display on your TV.  Select the item and it will start playing (or be displayed if it's a photo).  It's as simple as that!!

The Roku app on iPhone
Select what type of media you want to play/display on your TV

After your media uploads, it should appear on your TV! That's it!

Playing media from my phone on my TV using Roku
Playing media from my phone on my TV!

A Few Caveats / Debug Tips

For me, this worked great both on my iPhone 7, as well as HTC One M7 Android phone.  I used it on my old Roku 3 just to make sure it would work on an Roku older model, and it did!

Note that it does take a bit of time to download large videos, so you might need to wait a minute before viewing.

Also, my Android phone did not display portrait-mode videos properly.  They appeared sideways and squished.  This might just be because I have an older Android phone.  

Both portrait and landscape mode worked properly on my iPhone.

If your Roku is not appearing on your phone, make sure the Roku is turned on and on the same Wi-Fi network.  If still not working, do a firmware update on your Roku.

Applications

The process of playing media from my phone to my TV using the Roku is so simple that I have disconnected my Apple TV!  That was the one thing I was using it for.

I'll definitely be using this feature to view my phone videos on my TV!

Other uses include showing vacation photos, or doing presentations (if the slides are saved as photos).  You can easily step through your photos using your remote.

You can use the music player for playing background music at a party!

Isn't this cool? What do you think? Please leave your questions or comments below! - Brian

What's Inside a Mohu Leaf Antenna?

If you follow  my site, you know that I'm a big fan of the Mohu Leaf flat indoor antenna. It gives me over one hundred channels here in Los Angeles.

One day, reader Philip asked me what was inside the Mohu Leaf antenna. Hmmm, good question!

From all of my antenna testing, I happened to have an old Mohu Leaf Plus. This is an older amplified version of the Mohu Leaf. It's ideal for a tear down because it was made of laminated paper instead of all plastic like they are now.

The Tear Down

The first thing I did was disassemble the module that attaches the cable to the antenna. This was held together with four custom screws.

Disassembling the original Mohu Leaf Plus antenna
Disassembling the original Mohu Leaf Plus antenna

Upon opening it, I was surprised to find a small printed circuit board! At first, I thought this was just a passive filter, but later I realized this was the actual amplifier, placed right against the antenna where it should be!

Mohu Leaf Plus amplifier circuit board
Mohu Leaf Plus amplifier circuit board

Remember, I disassembled the amplified Mohu Leaf.  The regular Mohu Leaf does not have this circuit board or the power module (just a passive balun), see below.

Regular Mohu Leaf with no amplifier
Regular Mohu Leaf with no amplifier

Power is supplied from the USB power module further down the cable. There are only two signal wires, so power is sent through these wires to power the amplifier at the antenna and the signal comes down these same wires via DC blocking capacitors.

Mohu Leaf Plus USB power module
Mohu Leaf Plus USB power module

The Antenna

Now for the part you've probably been waiting for. What does the Mohu Leaf antenna actually look like?

Since this was the older laminated version of the antenna, I could simply cut around the edges and split it open. The center of this antenna two sheets of paper stock with very thin foil for the antenna in between. Unfortunately, it was nearly impossible to peel the paper away from the antenna foil - they were glued tightly together, probably to hide the design.

Original Mohu Leaf antenna peeled open
Original Mohu Leaf antenna peeled open

But, you can see the faint outline of two bowtie antennas. I've outlined them below for clarity.

Mohu Leaf bowtie antennas
Mohu Leaf bowtie antennas

This type of antenna is known as a wide-band printed bowtie antenna. This is a traditional TV antenna style, although the dimensions were carefully chosen by Mohu for optimum reception.

A Comparison

Just to compare, here's a photo of a Winegard FlatWave Amped antenna. It's clear so you can easily see the design:

Winegard FlatWave Amped antenna
Winegard FlatWave Amped antenna

So, not all flat antennas are created equal.

Conclusion

So there you have it! The original Mohu Leaf is a dual wide band printed bowtie antenna!

The current all-plastic Mohu Leaf antenna  is much harder to dissect. I've get very similar reception with it, so I would assume it's also a bowtie antenna, but that is just conjecture.

Was that a bit anticlimactic? Were you expecting a more exotic antenna design, perhaps a fractal antenna? Even though the design is very traditional, the Leaf is a great performer, probably due to subtle design tweaks by Mohu. Sometimes it's best to go back to the basics! - Brian

How to Fix Your Sony Bravia TV When It's Stuck on a Channel or Frozen

Last night I was surfing through channels on my TV and encountered a bizarre problem. My trusty 26-inch Sony flat-screen Bravia KDL-46V4100 TV froze and would not respond to any controls. The picture and sound still worked, but the controls were frozen. I tried both the remote and on-unit buttons. Even the unit's volume buttons didn't work.

I went online and found that other Sony Bravia users had experienced this, but I didn't see any confirmed solutions. I tried everything, including different kinds of resets and unplugging my HDMI devices. Nothing worked.

I thought maybe it was time for a new TV; after all, mine was over ten years old. But, I was hesitant about dumping my Sony because so much of it was still working: the screen, the audio, the signal processing, the tuner. Only the control section seemed to be blown.

The Amazingly Simple Solution

The next day, I called Santa Monica TV Repair to get an estimate on the fix. I described the problem to them, and the technician asked me, "is it stuck on channel 5.1?" I was astonished that he could know this without me mentioning it!!

He said he had five other calls about this. All I needed to do was unplug the antenna, then turn on the TV. I tried it and "voila!" it was fixed!! I was able to change the channel, then re-connect my antenna, avoiding channel 5.1 this time. I had control over my TV again!

Of course, he said I'd have to delete channel 5.1 from my channels, or else the problem would happen again. But, that was a small price to pay to get my TV working!!

I figure what happened is that there is some firmware bug in the TV that is triggered by the digital signal coming from channel 5.1, which is KTLA in my city. (Since first writing this article, KTLA fixed the problem for a while, but it's back to misbehaving now. I'm leaving channel 5.1 out of my selected channels permanently).

If your TV remote is still not working, try replacing the batteries.

How to Remove (Hide) a Channel on the Sony Bravia TV

To remove channel 5.1, or any channel on your Sony Bravia TV, press the Home button on your remote, then the left arrow key to go to the Settings menu.

Go down to Show/Hide channels and select it:

Settings menu on Sony Bravia TV
Show/Hide option in the Settings menu

Next, scroll to the offending channel (5.1 in this case) and click "Shown" in order to change it to "Hidden".

Hiding a channel on the Sony Bravia TV
Hiding a channel

Remember to do all of this while the antenna is unplugged or else your TV will freeze up again! After this, you'll lose that channel, but at least the rest of the channels will work!

Something to Remember

What this means for you is, if your Sony Bravia TV ever freezes up, try unplugging the antenna and powering it on again, especially if you live in the Los Angeles area.

Also, I want to make a shout out to Santa Monica TV Repair for their knowledge and honesty. They could have charged me $100 to come out and "fix" my TV! - Brian

How I Watch TV for Zero Dollars Per Month

When it comes to watching TV, I'm a cheapskate. I remember when TV was totally free and I don't want to pay for it now, especially if I'm watching commercials! So, I currently pay between zero dollars per month to a maximum of $15 per month for TV programming.

This works for me but I'm not saying it will work for everyone. For example, if you're not able to get free broadcast TV using an antenna, I can totally understand subscribing to a streaming service for TV. Same thing if you love sports or Game of Thrones (or other streaming-only shows).

I do pay for Internet access, but I'm not counting that as part of my TV viewing cost because I need Internet access for my work. Unfortunately, it seems that cable companies are raising the price of that to compensate for losing cable TV subscribers.

And, I don't watch pirated (illegal) content (here's why). So, if you're looking for a way to watch all of the latest movies and TV shows for free, you'll be disappointed with this article. This is more about how I find enjoyable free content to watch, not necessarily how to watch the latest movies and shows out there.

Having said that, here's how I watch TV for zero dollars per month!

1. Free Broadcast TV Using an Antenna

I live close enough to the TV transmitters in Los Angeles to get all of the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW), local stations, and public stations (PBS and more) for free. Many of these are HD with better picture quality than cable or satellite TV delivers! Here's the complete list of channels I watch on free broadcast TV.

It took a lot of experimentation with antenna position to get all of the networks and local channels. In the end, I used a Cable Cutter Aerowave antenna. Read more about the details of my antenna setup.

Mohu Leaf and Cable Cutter Aerowave
My Two Recommended Indoor Antennas - the Mohu Leaf and Cable Cutter Aerowave

Some of the types of shows I watch for free on broadcast TV include the Olympics, the World Series, NFL football, Big Bang Theory, PBS, and local and national news. Oh, and re-runs of Star Trek (from the original series to Enterprise) on the awesome Heroes and Icons channel!

Rick Steves on PBS
Instead of the Travel Channel, I watch Rick Steves on PBS

Unfortunately, not everyone can receive this many channels (some can't get any). If you live in a rural area, or far from a major city, you might not be able to get free TV using an antenna. To see how many channels you can get, enter your zip code into the Station Finder.

2. YouTube

I watch a lot of YouTube. No, there aren't any mainstream pay-only shows like "Game of Thrones" on there, but there is other great stuff. I watch movie reviews, movie commentary, documentaries, rock concerts, music videos, stand-up comedy, and much more on YouTube. I haven't gotten into any dramas on there, but for other types of content like documentaries, reviews, and concerts, it's great.

For example, if you love HGTV (like me), but don't have cable, check out the free Houzz YouTube channel. In my opinion, it's just as good as HGTV, but without the drama, or commercials. Come to think of it, I think I like it even better than HGTV!

In the Houzz episode above, Mila Kunis talks about a renovation she did for her family.

You can find all kinds of alternate programming on YouTube to satisfy your craving for cable!

3. Free Streaming Services (Roku Apps and Websites)

OK, the free movies on Sony Crackle and Popcorn Flix are definitely older, mostly "D"-level movies, but there are occasional gems. I watched one of my favorite movies, "Up In the Air" on Popcorn Flix recently. I also just watched "Braveheart" on the Roku Channel. I just check these apps once in a while.

Up in the Air
Occasionally, you'll find a great movie like "Up In the Air" on Sony Crackle or Popcorn Flix

I also started watching Pluto TV, which offers both on-demand moves and a live TV streaming experience. The movies are older but are better than those offered on most other free sites.

Blade Runner on Pluto TV
Blade Runner on Pluto TV

4. Free Trial Subscriptions

Many pay services offer free trials. Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix offer one-month-long free trials, enough to binge-watch entire seasons of shows! That's exactly what I did.

The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu
The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu

I tried Hulu for a month last year and binged-watched "The Handmaid's Tale", which was amazing. There were also some good original movies like "Becoming Bond" and "City of Gold".

I also did this with YouTube Premium to watch the entire first season of "Cobra Kai", which was great. Showtime only gives a week for free, but it's enough to watch a few movies.

You may be thinking that these free trials are only a temporary solution since you can only do them once per service. But, new services are cropping up seemingly every few months. There always seems to be one more to try out!

After that, I do occasionally indulge in one month of Netflix or Disney+, etc. But, I cancel after one month so I'm never spending more than $20/month!

5. Recorded Broadcast TV on Tablo

When there's nothing on live TV to watch, I can turn to recordings on my Tablo DVR. It's easy to set up, and you can view your recordings on almost any device with a browser, not just your TV.

Tablo Dual Lite
Tablo Dual Lite DVR

6. The Network Websites / Apps

When I miss the latest episode of "Big Bang Theory", I go to the cbs.com website to watch it for free.

The latest episode of the Big Bang Theory is available on the cbs.com website for free
The latest episode of the Big Bang Theory is available on the cbs.com website for free

Many channels have a Roku app where there are at least a few free full episodes. For example, I watched an episode of "Property Brothers" on the HGTV Roku app, even though most of the content on there is pay-only.

Summary

So, that's how I watch TV for free. As I mentioned, this won't work for everyone, but I encourage you to seek out free alternatives before automatically paying for cable, satellite or streaming services. - Brian

Video: Ten Tips to Get More Channels with Your TV Antenna

One of the most frequent questions I get on this site is, "how can I get more channels with my TV antenna?" I have a blog post with my most effective tips, and now I have a video with my top ten tips to get more channels:

Here are links referenced in the video:

Hope this was helpful! Please leave your comments and questions below. - Brian

The Channel Master Stream+: A Broadcast TV DVR for Single TV Homes

Over the years, many cable-disablers have asked me to recommend a DVR (digital video recorder) that can be used to record free broadcast TV from an antenna. My pick is the Channel Master Stream+, which combines Android TV features with an antenna receiver and DVR. It is my recommended device for recording TV from an antenna when you have one TV. (For a whole-home recording solution, check out the Tablo.)

The Basics

The Stream+ records live broadcast TV from an antenna to an external USB hard drive or a micro SD card. It has a channel guide with no monthly fee that allows you to see up to two weeks in the future, and schedule recordings during that time.

It allows you to pause live TV and fast forward or rewind to the point where you started watching that channel. It has two tuners so you can watch one program while recording another. Oh, it also supports 4K HDR video, in case you have a TV that supports it.

The Stream+ has HDMI output only. It will NOT work with an older tube TV without an adapter.

What You Get

The Stream+ unit costs $149 direct from Channel Master. I purchased mine from them and received it in about a week or so.

In the package, you get the Stream+ unit, a compact plastic unit about the size of one of those extra-wide coffee mugs, a power adapter, remote control, and a quick start guide. The small size is beneficial to me because I can put it on my mantle (unlike the previous-generation DVR+).

The rear panel has digital audio out, coax antenna in, HDMI out, Ethernet, USB port, and 12V power. The side has a micro-SD card port.

Channel Master Stream+ rear panel
Channel Master Stream+ rear panel

Total Cost of Ownership

The Stream+ requires external storage, which is not included, to record video. It is compatible with standard USB computer hard drives. You might have one of these lying around, or you can buy these pretty cheaply these days.

You can also record to micro SD card, but that's a much more expensive media for a given size. I would stay away from that unless you really want a compact self-contained unit.

To get its channel guide data as well as access its Android TV features, the Stream+ has to be connected to the Internet. You can either plug it into your router using an Ethernet cable or configure it to use Wi-Fi. 

Finally, you’ll need an HDMI cable to connect from your Stream+ to your TV. So, the total cost of ownership if you don't already have a USB hard drive lying around is:

$149 (Stream+) + $60 (hard drive) + $10 (HDMI) = $219

Not bad, and a lot better than the previous generation which cost close to $400 total! And again, there is no subscription fee for the Stream+, unlike many other DVR competitors!

Setup

There is some setup involved, but it’s not too hard. You’ll need to connect your antenna to the Stream+, then connect your Stream+ to your TV. Finally, plug in the power adapter. You can plug in the hard drive later.

Configuration for the Stream+ was easy. I powered it on using the remote and went through the wizard-style steps. I selected the language and entered my zip code, then entered my Wi-Fi password and set up the remote to work with my TV (more on that below). When I did the channel scan, my Stream+ found a whopping 120 channels in the Los Angeles area with my Cable Cutter Aerowave antenna!

Watching Live TV

The picture quality on the Stream+ was excellent. There was basically no difference in HD picture quality when I watched it through the Stream+ vs. watching it using my Sony's tuner (i.e., with the antenna plugged directly into my TV instead of the Stream+).

The only exception was that when I watched some SD channels like the H&I channel, the picture was squished, narrower than it was supposed to be. I emailed Channel Master and they gave me a fix: press OK, then down arrow to go into the Google TV settings and change the size from "Normal" to "Wide".  That fixed it for all SD channels without affecting the HD ones!

Regarding the tuner, some channels that had occasional picture breakups on the Stream+ were solid on my Sony. It did a good job at finding channels though and found even more channels than my Sony did.

Pressing the “Guide” button on the remote brought up the channel guide, which was gorgeous. Scrolling up and down in the guide was snappy! Note that the guide does not require a subscription, unlike some other DVRs!

Channel Master Stream+ Channel Guide
Channel Master Stream+ Channel Guide provided by Google Live Channels at no cost

I verified that I was able to pause live TV, fast forward, and rewind to the point at which I had started watching that channel. These functions were very responsive. No hiccups or crashes. You can see the video speed up as you fast forward, which is good (unlike the Tablo, where you just see the time increment faster when viewing live TV, making it hard to know when to stop).

TiVo does have a small killer feature that I wish Stream+ had. When you fast forward to skip over commercials, and then you resume play, the TiVo will start playback of the video a few seconds BEFORE the point at which you pressed the play button. This is because you always overshoot by a bit. This would have been great to have on the Stream+.

The Stream+ powers on very fast, allowing you to start watching TV in under ten seconds, not bad!

Recording

Next, it was time to plug in the hard drive to do some recording. I plugged in my old (10+-year-old) USB drive. The Stream+ asked if I wanted to format it, and I proceeded:

Connecting a USB drive to the Stream+
Connecting a USB drive to the Stream+

After this setup, you can go to any show in the channel guide and select it to record.  If it's a TV series, you have the option of recording the whole series or just one episode. This is fine, but the Tablo recording interface is nicer because it lets you search for TV shows and movies to record alphabetically instead of having to search for it chronologically in the channel guide. With the Stream+, you kind of have to know when the show will be airing, then you have to find it in the guide to select it to record. That could take a lot of scrolling forward.

The Tablo DVR has a much nicer "Netflix-style" grid showing the shows that you can record in the future, although there is a fee for that service.

Because the Stream+ remote does not have a record button, it's not immediately obvious is how to record the show you're currently watching. To do that, press the pause button, then cursor over to the red dot on the screen, which is the on-screen record button.

The Stream+ has two tuners so you can watch one show while recording another.

Some Recording Limitations

One thing that sports fans like to do to record a game, then start watching it part of the way through so they can fast-forward through the commercials. You can do that with the Stream+ if you manually start the recording, but you cannot watch a pre-programmed recording from the beginning while it is recording. This might be a show-stopper for some!

Note that the hard drive format is different from what your computer or laptop uses, so, unfortunately, you can’t just plug it into your computer and copy the video files to your computer.

Also, note that the Stream+ will only record from your broadcast TV antenna.  It won't record from its apps like Pluto TV.

The Remote

The remote control is intuitively and clearly laid out, with things generally where you expect them to be. The rubber buttons give a nice click when pressed.

Channel Master Stream+ Remote
Channel Master Stream+ Remote

It also controls your TV's power and volume. So, you turn on your TV and the Stream+ by pressing one button! The result is that you feel like you're just using a TV, not a TV plus a device attached to it.

The only thing I wish the remote had is a mute button. But, that's not a show-stopper for me.

Voice Search

Another cool feature of the Stream+ is voice search.  Hold the mic button down on the remote and you can speak into it and search for shows or movies. I found the accuracy of the speech recognition to be excellent. It did a great job of understanding what I was saying.

It searches through its Android apps for the show you've given it. That is fine, but it doesn't seem to search through the channel guide. For example, I know that Star Trek plays almost every day on broadcast TV in my area. When I tried to search for it, I got results from the Google Play store and YouTube for Star Trek, but no broadcast TV results. Kind of a bummer but still a very useful feature.

Other Features

The Stream+ offers Android TV functionality, so you can install other apps. It comes with YouTube (which I watch a lot). Some of the other apps that you can install include Sling TV, HBO Now and HBO Go, Pluto TV, Vimeo, and many of the networks' apps.

Stream+ Android apps
Stream+ Android apps

Glaringly absent are Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. For many, that will mean still having to use a Roku or other streamer (unless you side-load those apps; see the forums on how to do that - no promises on that working though).

Some people consider the lack of Netflix and Amazon to be showstoppers. But, you can easily get those with an inexpensive Roku.  The Stream+ is still worth the money for the recording capability alone!

The Stream+ also has Chromecast Built-In, so you can stream from some apps on your phone or from a Chrome browser in your computer to your TV. A nice touch!

The Bottom Line

The Channel Master Stream+ offers an integrated solution for viewing broadcast TV together with Internet-streamed TV from apps. The remote turns on your TV and controls its volume, and also has voice search.

The Stream+ has streaming apps but is missing Netflix and Hulu. You'll need a separate box like a Roku if you want those apps. Another downside is that you cannot watch a pre-programmed recorded show until the recording is done. That could be a bummer for sports fans who want to skip commercials. The way around that is to start the recording manually.

The Stream+ is a good solution if your household has one TV. You can get the Stream+ directly from Channel Master.


If you need a whole-home recording solution for multiple TVs, I recommend Tablo. It requires a Roku box for each TV, but you only need one Tablo for all the TVs in your home. As an added bonus, it's wireless, so no need to string up an antenna cable to your TVs!

I hope this article was helpful to you. Leave your questions or comments below! - Brian

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

Tablo: The Best Broadcast TV DVR When You Have More Than One TV

Many people have asked me how to record and play back broadcast TV shows when they have multiple TVs. The Channel Master Stream+ (which I also recommend) works great with one TV, but if you want to watch your recordings on a different TV, you have to unplug it and physically hook it up to that TV.

My recommendation for a "whole home" broadcast TV recording solution is the Tablo line of DVR's by Nuvyyo (Nu-vee-o). Note, these DVRs work with a TV antenna; they won't record cable TV. And, you'll need a Roku or other streaming player to watch your recordings.

What is Tablo?

Tablo is a small black box, kind of like an oversized Roku, that you plug your antenna into. The Tablo Dual Lite requires an external USB hard drive (which you have to supply) to store your recordings (unless you use their cloud recording feature, which will have a fee so I didn't review it). The regular Tablo Dual has 64GB of internal storage, so no external drive is necessary (but I'd still recommend one if you're doing a lot of recording).

Tablo Dual Lite rear panel
Connectors from left are antenna coax, USB, Ethernet (optional), and power.

Tablo connects to your home Wi-Fi or wired network.  If you have Internet access, you probably have a home network, and if you have Wi-Fi, you definitely do.  Tablo transmits live TV and your recordings to other devices on the network such as computers, tablets, smartphones, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and now, Xbox. With one Tablo, you can play live TV and your recordings back on any of these devices. Thus, you can use one Tablo to watch recordings on all of your Internet-connected TVs and devices.

Both Tablo Dual models have two tuners, so you can stream or record two channels at the same time, or record one while watching another. There is also the Tablo 4-Tuner model which can stream or record four shows at the same time.

Where's the Tablo Remote Control?

Many folks have asked me what kind of remote control the Tablo uses. The answer is, there is no Tablo remote control. You'd use the remote for whatever device you're using to control your Tablo.

To clarify, in order to make and view Tablo recordings, you have to control it through the Tablo app running on a streaming box or smart TV, or a browser on a computer.

So, if you're using a Roku to view your Tablo recordings, you'd be using the Roku's remote to control the Tablo app. If you're using a smart TV, you'd be using your TV's remote. If you're watching on a computer, you'd use your computer's keyboard and mouse.

Which Version Should You Get and Why?

The specific model I would recommend (and the one I test in this article) is the Tablo Dual Lite for $140. This is the lowest-cost Tablo model, but it requires an external USB hard drive sold separately. These are not hard to come by; you can purchase one at almost any computer/electronics store, or you might already have an old USB hard drive lying around (as I did).

If you want to get up and running without an external hard drive, there is a cloud recording option, but that has a fee, so I wouldn't use that personally.

Or, you can get the regular Tablo Dual (without the "Lite") for $170. This has 64GB of internal storage (approximately 40 hours of HD recording, according to the manufacturer). That might sound like a lot, but power users can easily exceed this, which is why I recommend the Lite version.  You can also attach a hard drive to the regular version though.

Benefits

The most obvious benefit is that you can make and play back recordings on any TV in your home that is attached to one of the compatible set-top boxes. It's a whole-home recording solution!

But, I was surprised to find that I also enjoyed watching TV on my computer's browser and on my iPad. That was something I did not expect! In effect, it turned my computer screen into another TV. This could be great if you have people fighting over TVs in your home. Very cool!

Another benefit is that if you have multiple TVs, you only need one antenna with Tablo, and you don't need to buy separate antennas or run coax cable all throughout your house to get broadcast TV. Tablo does it all wirelessly with one antenna!

Finally, you can put your Tablo and your antenna anywhere in your home, as long as it's in Wi-Fi range. It doesn't have to be next to your TV. You can put it in your attic, where it can get better reception, or in a closet, just as long as the antenna is somewhere with a good line-of-site to the stations.

Tablo Dual with hard drive
Because the Tablo does not physically connect to your TV, you can put it in a more hidden location, like a closet.

Setup

Tablo was easy to set up. I plugged in power, an antenna, and a hard drive and then started the Wi-Fi setup process. I used an iPad to connect to the Tablo's Wi-Fi network, then entered my home Wi-Fi name and password (note I had to use my non-5GHz network). I also had to do two firmware updates, but that wasn't difficult. After that, I let the Tablo scan for broadcast TV signals.

I used a ten-year-old USB hard drive I had lying around, and Tablo worked just fine with it. So for me, the hard drive was virtually "free". If you don't have a spare external USB hard drive though, you'll have to purchase one, which does add to the overall cost of ownership.

Tablo did a good job of finding TV signals, finding about the same number as my Channel Master DVR+. That was good news.

User Interface

Next, I checked out the Tablo user interface in a browser on my computer. From the get-go it was gorgeous, presenting TV shows, movies, and sporting events in a nice Netflix-style grid (if you have a subscription - more later). All of the movie and TV show artwork was there. I actually felt like I had Netflix at times!

Tablo Movies
Tablo movie guide on Windows browser ($4.99/month subscription)

Note, this is based on using the Tablo channel guide subscription which expires after a month and is $4.99/month. More on this later.

Live TV

To watch live TV, select that in the menu and you'll see a program guide. Simple select the channel you want to view.

Table Channel Guide
Tablo live TV channel guide ($4.99/month subscription)

You can adjust the quality based on your network speed. I used the recommended HD 720 5Mbps and I was happy with that. You can go up to HD 1080 10Mbps though. Picture quality won't be quite as good as raw broadcast TV, but the difference didn't bother me, and it's still better than satellite or cable TV picture quality.

You can pause and rewind live TV (back to the time you started watching that channel).  For live TV and in-progress recordings, you will not see the video while recording, so you have to kind of guess if you're trying to skip over a commercial.

However, on recorded programs, you will see a sped-up preview image as you fast forward.

In older versions of Tablo software, it took up to 17 seconds to change channels, which was a real bummer if you wanted to surf around. The new software tunes new channels in 9-12 seconds. Better, but still room for improvement.

The good news is that you have the channel guide. Most of the time, I don't channel surf by going from one channel to the next but rather I step through the guide and only watch things that look interesting.

Recording

Scheduling a recording is super easy. Just click on a show, movie, or sporting event in any of the grids, then choose which episodes (if there are several) to record.

If you are subscribing to their directory service, you can easily record the entire season of a show (also known as a "season pass" feature), so that you don't have to set up the recording every week.

Recording quality was great. No dropouts (other than due to reception problems) or crashes during playback. I like the fact that if you pause playback, watch other shows, and come back to your recording, it will remember where you left off. That is key!

If you want to download your recordings for viewing offline, there is an Android app called ota2GO. I have not tested it but it's pretty highly rated in the Android store.

Tablo on Roku 3
The Tablo app on Roku 3

The Subscription

One big caveat here is that my review is based on using the one-month free trial of the Tablo channel guide. This is what delivers the beautiful Netflix-style grid and cover art. After the first month, the subscription costs $4.99 per month, or you can pay $150 for a lifetime subscription.

If you don't want to pay, you can still get a "manual mode" which enables "access to basic recording and Live TV functionality".

After my 30-day free subscription expired, I tried out manual mode and boy did I miss the subscription!  In manual mode, you get a channel guide that only goes 24 hours into the future. It's easy to record one of those shows. If you want to record a show more than 24 hours out, you have to do it manually, which is a bit more work.

So, even though I hate paying monthly fees, I would seriously consider subscribing at five bucks a month or $150 lifetime. The grid is so nice that it makes me feel like I have Netflix even though I don't!

Customer Service

After owning my first (previous-generation) Tablo for over a month, I powered it down to do some tests and when I powered back up, I was unable to connect to it by Wi-Fi.

I emailed Tablo support and got a response within 24 hours, but still was not able to connect. They suggested that I call their support line, 1-844-TABLOTV (822-5688). After two rings, a support person picked up.  The call went right to someone who could help me - no menus, no waiting - amazing!!

He was able to walk me through the setup process on my iPad and I was up and running again in a few minutes!  A couple of tricks:

So, although I had a little hiccup in functionality, nothing was wrong with my Tablo, and I found out that their customer service is excellent!

Where to Get It

You can get your Tablo Dual on Amazon:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. This is an independent review site that receives compensation from the retailer or manufacturer (at no extra cost to you) when you purchase through the affiliate links on this site. I personally test and/or research each product or service before endorsing it.

Conclusions

I am a huge fan of Tablo. It's a great solution for recording broadcast TV when you have multiple TVs, or if you want to watch on multiple devices like computers and tablets. It's much more convenient to set up compared to running coax through your home (unless your home already has it). It's extremely easy to use and reliable.

My two major complaints have been vastly improved in the software.  Changing channels is much better now (but still could be improved). You can now see video while fast-forwarding recordings, but still not live TV.

I also am not crazy about paying monthly fees for the guide.  But, it's so nice that it just might be worth it if you watch a lot of TV, and there is a lifetime option which is a good deal.

These shortcomings are not show-stoppers. I love my Tablo!

Tablo Advantages:

Tablo Disadvantages:

Proof That Broadcast TV Picture Quality is Better Than Satellite

I was at a relative's home with the TV on in the background when I noticed something: their "HD" picture quality was terrible.

They had satellite dish TV - one of the big one services (I won't mention which, but you know it).

I have always said on my site that cable and satellite dish providers massively compress their TV signals, resulting in WORSE picture quality than you can get with free broadcast (Over-The-Air) TV. But now I had proof. I snapped a photo of the local ABC station's logo, then went home and did the same on my own TV (of similar size and type, and in the same city) which was using an antenna.

Here are the results.

Direct Comparison

First, check out the satellite TV image:

Image from satellite dish TV service
Image from satellite dish TV service (click to see larger version)

Notice how jagged the curves and letters are. The "abc7.com" text is especially crappy. The signal is coming from the satellite box's HDMI output to the TV.

Next, check out the same logo on my TV using an indoor Cable Cutter Aerowave antenna, which is one of many OTA (Over-The-Air) TV antennas available now:

Image from broadcast TV
Image from broadcast OTA TV (click to see larger version)

Not only are the edges and curves smoother, but there is also less "halo" effect in the broadcast TV image. The halos are a result of video compression.

Zooming In

It might be hard to see the difference if you're looking at this on your phone, so let's zoom in.  Check out the "abc" logo:

ABC logo comparison with satellite dish picture on left, broadcast TV on right
ABC logo comparison with satellite dish picture on left, broadcast TV on right

Noticed the jagged edges of the round logo and letters in the satellite dish image. Notice the blotchy appearance of the round logo highlights on the top and bottom.

Next, let's take a look at the "abc7.com" text, which is especially egregious on satellite:

abc7.com text with satellite dish image on top, broadcast TV image on bottom
abc7.com text with satellite dish image on top, broadcast TV image on bottom

Which one would you rather watch?  Can you believe the top one costs over $75 per month and the bottom on is free?

The satellite dish image shows lots of artifacts here, all the result of compression:

Problems with satellite dish image
Problems with satellite dish image

It looks like the satellite image has worse than half of the resolution of the broadcast TV image. So, if you have a fancy 4K TV, you're pretty much not getting any additional benefit out of it over a regular HD TV if you're watching TV from a satellite dish.

Note that all of the images are unretouched; I've not altered them in any way other than zooming in.

Now, I'm not saying satellite dish TV is bad for everyone, because not everyone lives in an area that has broadcast TV signals, and of course satellite offers more channels than broadcast TV. However, you should be aware of what you're paying for. You might be able to get better picture quality or less money by using an antenna along with cheaper services like Sling TV.

Let me know your thoughts below! I hope you found this comparison helpful. - Brian

Why Did My Broadcast TV Channels Disappear?

A very common question I get on DisableMyCable.com is "why did some of my broadcast TV channels disappear?" Usually, people think something is wrong with their antenna, but TV antennas are pretty simple devices, just a piece of metal basically (unless it is amplified). Usually, the antenna isn't broken and it's some other issue.

2020 UPDATE: The FCC and TV stations are in the midst of a "channel re-pack" where they are shifting the frequencies of many TV stations. During this period, you may lose channels due to the signal being temporarily weaker while the real antenna tower is upgraded, or due to the signal coming from a different direction. The re-pack is scheduled to continue through mid-2020. See below for more information.

1. The TV Station's Frequency Changed During the FCC "Re-Pack". Here's What to Do.

The most likely culprit for losing a channel during this FCC "re-pack" is that the channel's broadcast frequency changed.

If you suddenly lose a channel, the first thing to try is re-scan for channels on your TV. 

If that doesn't work, unplug your antenna, re-scan, then plug your antenna back in an scan again. Sometimes that helps clear your TV's memory so it can acquire the new channel.

If the channel is still not showing up, and you have an older TV (like my Sony Bravia from 2008), you might have to tune using the station's real RF channel. On modern TVs, you won't need to do this, but my old Sony doesn't support how to map displayed channels to real channels.

To find the station's real physical channel, go to the Station Finder and click the button to launch it. Enter your zip code. When you see the results, find your station's call sign. If you see an "R" next to it, it means the channel was "re-packed" and the frequency has changed.

FCC website showing repacked channel
The "R" next to the station means the frequency changed, and it may appear on a different channel on your TV.

Click the station's call letters so that it expands and you can find the real channel there:

Expanded channel info showing the actual RF channel

Once you've found your station's actual RF channel, try tuning to that channel instead of the station's regular channel. Note, you will have to add a decimal point and a digit to it, often .1 or .3. In my case, even though the website said channel 31, I had to tune to 31.1. And voila! I was able to get my local CBS channel!

If this works for you, you have a couple more options. Try tuning into the station's original channel number. Your TV might recognize it now as the new channel.

If that doesn't work, then check your TV manufacturer's website for a firmware upgrade for your TV. This might allow it to recognize virtual channels.

If these don't work, then you'll just have to use the new channel number instead of the original one. That is my situation with my 2008 Sony Bravia. Kind of a pain, but I'm happy that I've got that channel back!

2. The TV Transmitter Tower Changed Location

In the FCC re-pack, some stations might move temporarily to an auxiliary tower while the main tower is upgraded. So, try to orient your antenna in different directions to find it. Enter your zip code into the Station Finder and click your station's call letters to determine which direction the signal is coming from.

3. The TV Transmitter Power Was Reduced

During the FCC re-pack, your TV channel might have moved to a weaker auxiliary transmitter tower while the main broadcast tower is upgraded. To see if your TV station is temporarily transmitting on lower power, type in your TV's call letters below to see your station's FCC report, for example, "KCBS":

If you see the words, "Special Temporary Authority" in the report in red, it means your station is temporarily operating at reduced power. You can also email or call your station to confirm (usually their contact information is on their website).

If re-scanning doesn't solve the problem, try my tips to improve reception.

4. The TV Station Went Away

Sometimes TV stations go away completely. This happened to a few stations here in Los Angeles, where the FCC allowed TV stations to auction off their spectrum to wireless providers. Usually, these are higher-numbered not-as popular stations as opposed to the major networks. Google the station's call letters to see if you can find out what happened. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about this.

5. Your Antenna Moved - Try Re-Orienting It

From my testing, I've found that even a small change in antenna position or angle can have a big impact on your reception. Try moving your antenna around to see if that helps.

If your antenna is on your roof, you might have to go up there to make sure it hasn't fallen or shifted.

6. Your Antenna's Amplifier Went Bad - Try Bypassing It

An antenna is a dead-simple device, it's pretty much a piece of shaped metal. But, an antenna amplifier a much more complex device, and it's much more prone to failure.

If you have an amplified antenna (i.e, your antenna requires power), such as the Mohu Leaf 50, try removing the amplifier from your antenna and plugging your antenna directly into your TV. This worked for reader Faith G!

7. Your Cables are Loose - Reconnect and Tighten Them

Make sure your coax cable connections are tight, both at your TV and at your antenna. I was advising one reader offline, and this turned out to be his problem! He was losing signal at the same time every day. He disconnected all of his cables to his attic amplifiers, then re-connected them. Problem solved!

8. Electronic Interference - Turn off Other Devices

It is possible that a new electronic device in your home or neighborhood is wreaking havoc on your TV signal. I've heard all kinds of stories about this from my readers.

First, turn off all electronic appliances in your home and see if your reception gets better. This includes fluorescent lights, computers, Wi-Fi routers, cable modems, Bluetooth devices, cell phones, and so on. If your reception improves, turn on each device one-by-one until you find the culprit.

Some users have reported TV interference when their Amazon Fire TV Stick is plugged in. Try unplugging it. If the signal improves, use the HDMI extender cable that came with your Stick and move it around until it goes away. One user wrapped the Stick in aluminum foil to get rid of the interference.

If you live in a condo or apartment complex, it's possible that a neighbor's device is causing the problem. Not much you can do about that, but you can try my tips to improve your antenna's reception.

9. Weather / Atmospheric Conditions

The weather and time of day can adversely affect your TV reception. Clouds, fog, rain, etc. can adversely affect your signal. Some people report worse reception at night while others report the opposite.

Try these tips to improve your reception.

10. Your TV's Tuner is Going Bad

This is less likely than the other items on this list, but it's possible that your TV's tuner circuitry is degrading. I have heard of this from a couple of my readers. If you have another TV, try tuning the missing stations on that one as an experiment.

If your TV's tuner is going bad, you can purchase an external tuner, or even better, a DVR. But, I wouldn't purchase anything until I confirmed for sure that my tuner was bad.

11. There Is a New Physical Obstacle

If they just built a high rise between your home and the TV transmitter, it could be blocking the TV signal. This could happen, especially in big cities like New York. Try playing with your antenna position.

Conclusion

These are some of the reasons why your favorite station might have gone away. Let me know if any of these tips have helped or if you found any other causes for the loss of TV stations. - Brian

My Free Broadcast TV Channels in Santa Monica, CA

These are the free broadcast channels that I receive and watch in Santa Monica, CA using my indoor antenna.  I'm not including foreign language channels, duplicate channels, home shopping channels, and other stations I'm not interested in.

ChannelCall SignHDDescription
2.1CBSYesCBS network
2.2DecadesOldies like "Lost in Space"
4.1NBCYesNBC network
4.2COZIOldies like "Miami Vice"
5.1KTLAYesCW network
5.2Antenna TVOldies like The Tonight Show
5.3ThisOld movies
7.1ABCYesABC network
7.2LiveWellYesFood and lifestyle
7.3LAFFOld comedies
9.1KCALYesLocal station owned by CBS
11.1KTTVYesFox network
11.3Light TVOldies
13.1KCOPYesLocal
13.3Movies!Old movies
13.4HeroesOld TV shows like "Star Trek"
28.1KCETYesPBS
28.2KCET LinkYesPBS music
28.3KCET Link+YesPBS music
28.4NHK WorldYesNew from Japan
30.1IonYesRe-runs of "Law & Order"
30.3Ion LifeLifestyle
34.4JusticeTrue crime
40.2HillsongChristian
40.3Juice TVChristian
40.5SalsaChristian
46.2GetTVOldies
46.3ESCAPETrue crime
50.1PBSPBS network
50.2PBS 2YesPBS network
50.3DaystarYesPBS network
50.4PBS WorldPBS network
56.1KDOCYesLocal, reruns of "Seinfeld"
56.3MeTVOldies
56.4CometOld movies
56.8CHARGEOld movies
58.1KLCSLocal
58.2KLCS2Kids
58.3KLCS3 CreateCooking and crafts
58.4KLCS4Local
Broadcast TV stations in Santa Monica (near Los Angeles, CA)

For more details on my personal indoor TV antenna setup (which antennas I use, and where I put them), see this article.

How many channels can you get in your area? Please comment below - Brian