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GE Enlighten HD Antenna review

An attractive antenna offers more than cord-cutting

GE Enlighten HD Antenna review
(Image: © GE)

Our Verdict

With a unique design but inconsistent performance, the GE Enlighten HD Antenna aims to make indoor antennas a more attractive addition to your living room--while simultaneously reducing eye strain.

For

  • Snazzy design
  • Reasonable price
  • Pleasant lighting feature

Against

  • Below average reception

Tom's Guide Verdict

With a unique design but inconsistent performance, the GE Enlighten HD Antenna aims to make indoor antennas a more attractive addition to your living room--while simultaneously reducing eye strain.

Pros

  • + Snazzy design
  • + Reasonable price
  • + Pleasant lighting feature

Cons

  • - Below average reception
GE Enlighten HD Antenna: Specs

Range: 45 Miles
Channels Received: 24
Amplified: No
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 5.4 Feet
Size: 2.7 x 21.2 inches

Most TV antennas are strictly function over form, with little regard for how they look in your living room or next to your brand new big screen TV. So the GE Enlighten HD Antenna (made by Jasco) is an exception, with a trick you won't see on any of the best TV antennas. It's designed to sit flat along the top of a TV and to create a soft halo of light behind the set to mitigate eye strain.

The GE Enlighten antenna's $29.99 price is certainly right, and its design is more appealing than the usual flat antennas that have to be stuck to a wall or window. Moreover, despite our initial skepticism, we found the PureBias lighting effect was surprisingly relaxing. Unfortunately, the Enlighten antenna's reception performance failed to match that of other models, such as the RCA ANT3ME, that only cost a few dollars more.

GE Enlighten HD Antenna Review: Design

The Enlighten HD Antenna is designed to hook onto the top edge or bezel of a big screen TV with the antenna portion lying flat just above the top of the set. Part of the adjustable bracket that hangs down the back contains a LED backlight, the bias lighting referred to earlier. You can turn the light on or off via a wired switch.

GE Enlighten HD Antenna review

(Image credit: GE)

The LED light's 6500K (degrees Kelvin) color temperature was chosen because it's in the daylight temperature range, often referred to as "cool" white light because it tends more toward the blue rather than the yellow end of the spectrum.

(Image credit: GE)

The bias light is based on the theory that watching a big, bright TV in a darkened room, say, for movie night, can cause eye strain as the pupils of your eyes rapidly dilate and constrict in reaction to what's on the screen.

GE Enlighten HD Antenna review

(Image credit: GE)

Having a diffused light source directly behind the screen, creating a soft white halo, can mitigate some of the strain by normalizing the overall lighting in the room. Some movie purists may object to anything that takes the focus off the screen, but others may find that the bias lighting reduces eye fatigue.

GE Enlighten HD Antenna Review: Setup

Having the antenna sit directly on the TV is a design you'll either love–or hate. Most LCD TVs have a wide enough edge to make the arrangement work, and we became accustomed to the look of the antenna bar atop the screen and after a couple of days.

(Image credit: GE)

However, for the light to work, your set needs to be on a tabletop about 6-inches or more from the back wall or on tilting wall-mount; the antenna won't fit on sets that are mounted flush against a wall. And super thin OLEDs, prized for their narrow frames or bezels, will probably be compromised by the antenna's bracket that hangs over the top edge.

The other issue with such a design is that sitting on top of a TV may not be the ideal position for channel reception in your area. Indeed, in our New York City test location we put all the antennas in a more favorable position away from the test TV with a clearer view to local broadcast towers. Unfortunately, the GE Enlighten's relatively short fixed coaxial cable means you can't get farther than a few feet from the TV to improve reception (which would also negate the bias lighting effect should you want to use it).

GE Enlighten HD Antenna Review: Performance

We were able to test the non-amplified GE Enlighten HD antenna in both the intended set-top position, as well as in our standard test position for comparison purposes. Unfortunately, it didn't do particularly well in either spot.

GE Enlighten HD Antenna

(Image credit: GE)

On top of our test TV, we actually liked the bias lighting effect. Unfortunately, we can't say the same for its signal reception. It was an inconsistent performer, registering as many as 40 channels and as few as 26 but never managing to pull in more than 24 stations reliably. In one scan, for example, the GE Enlighten counted 39 stations, but a survey of the stations revealed that only two dozen were watchable. The antenna couldn't capture a tricky signal for the local CBS affiliate but had no trouble with ABC's 1080i broadcasts. It couldn't tune in any of the PBS affiliates in the area either, but had no difficulty getting mid-band retro channels like MeTV featuring programs like Adam-12.

To see if we could improve the picture, we also tested the GE Enlighten in our standard reception testing spot. By using a cable extension and completely forfeiting the bias lighting feature, we were able to register 47 channels. That meant better reception of more popular Spanish language stations at the top end of the dial, but many other stations were still distorted and impossible to watch.

Ultimately, we concluded that in this awkward and unintended installation setup, 30 stations were viewable. That's a more respectable reception number — and it tops our long-time budget favorite, the Mohu Leaf Metro (12 stations) — but few buyers will go to such lengths to improve the GE antenna’s reception and would be better off choosing an antenna intended for such an installation. For example, flat plastic indoor antennas, like the similarly priced RCA ANT3ME, generally pull in about 33 stations in our tests. Other recommended models include the Antop HD Smart Antenna SBS-301 and the Mohu Arc Pro, which received 33 and 34 stations, respectively, in our tests. And it's not uncommon for larger, more expensive models, like the Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro, to easily capture 42 or more channels.

GE Enlighten HD Antenna Review: Verdict

For less than $30, the GE Enlighten is a handsome antenna that should work with many big screens. And if you find eye strain or fatigue to be an issue, its bias lighting feature may offer some relief. 

Conversely, if you face challenges tuning in over-the-air broadcasts in your area, this model may not be for you. Instead, an amplified model like the Antop HD Smart Antenna SBS-301 or the Mohu Arc Pro would be a better choice.

John R. Quain

John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. For Tom's Guide, he has reviewed televisions, HDTV antennas, electric bikes, electric cars, as well as other outdoor equipment. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.