By Don Lindich
Week 21, 2020
Q. We do not have cable and use a roof-mounted, medium-sized antenna to receive TV broadcasts. The picture on our 32-inch Insignia breaks up and freezes when it is windy. The TV has a few other issues so we are going to replace it. What TV has the best over-the-air tuner for receiving broadcasts? We would like a 43-inch screen and can spend up to $1,500 on the television. We plan to get an Apple TV box so the TV does not have to be “Smart.” What would be a good soundbar to go with it?
A. I do not know of any televisions that are known for outstanding tuners. Though the tuners in today’s televisions tend to have adequate signal reception, the feature set has definitely gone down. For example, with my older HDTVs I can connect an antenna then run the autotune function to locate and store stations in the memory. I can also pick up the remote, enter a station directly and adjust my antenna to try and receive it even if it was not strong enough for the tuner to locate via autotune. This provides some flexibility and allows you to receive a few extra stations that you might not be able to receive otherwise. Every modern television I know of only allows you to autotune the stations, and will not allow you to directly enter a station that is not stored in the memory. I have always been disappointed that the industry went in this direction and I feel it is a disservice to consumers, but it is what we are stuck with.
To make things even more complicated, ATSC 3.0 broadcasts are rolling out this year, which will allow TVs with ATSC 3.0 tuners to receive 4K broadcasts with Dolby Atmos sound. These ATSC 3.0 tuners will only be in the very highest-end TVs, all with sizes above 43 inches and several times your $1,500 budget. It is best not to worry about that for now and concentrate on finding the best solution to your antenna, TV and streaming needs. When ATSC 3.0 becomes commonplace you should be able to get an external tuner to receive the broadcasts.
The antenna is key when receiving any over-the-air broadcast, be it television or radio, and by having an outside antenna you are way ahead of the game. The television I am going to recommend is higher grade than your current Insignia and should do a better job pulling in signals. If you are still having reception problems then you should upgrade the antenna. The website antennaweb.org will help you find the idea antenna, and it would not be a bad idea to go a size or two bigger than they recommend just for good measure.
I commend you for your willingness to spend $1,500 on a 43-inch TV, but they do not make them that expensive these days. My favorite 43-inch TV is the Samsung Q60T, which is $529. Adding Samsung’s excellent HW-T650 soundbar will cost $349, with a $30 rebate when purchased with the TV. This puts the entire package at $848, barely half of your TV budget alone for visual and sonic performance sure to delight you.
Roku is still the best way to stream content and I recommend you take a look at their devices rather than Apple TV. You can get the Apple TV+ channel on Roku devices now, and there is much more free content available on Roku as well.