HDTV antennas are supposed to save consumers money. So paying roughly $80 for an amplified model may seem downright profligate. But the ClearStream Flex from Antennas Direct is a solid performer that can stabilize more TV signals than much of the competition can, making it well worth the money.
Design: A sticky approach
A typical flat, plastic antenna, the ClearStream Flex measures 12 x 16 inches and can be installed on a wall or window. Its package also includes something atypical: a feature the company calls "Sure Grip." Essentially, it's a simple adhesive strip that works like double-sided tape. You stick the strip to the antenna (choosing to expose either the white or black side of the antenna), and then use the strip to stick the antenna to a wall or window. The company claims you can reposition the Flex as often as you like and the strip won't lose its adhesion. If it gets dirty and does lose its grip, just clean it with water and the adhesion will return. In the half-dozen times I moved the antenna around on a painted, plaster wall during testing, the Flex's strip didn't mar the finish and the antenna never fell.
The ClearStream Flex includes a detachable, 12-foot coaxial cable that attaches to the in-line amplifier. Another 3-foot coaxial cable then runs from the amp to the TV. The amp is powered via a USB cable that you can plug in to your TV or use with a supplied wall wart to plug into an outlet. Antennas Direct rates the amp as providing a 20-dB signal boost; most models, such as the Mohu Leaf 50, are rated for 10 or 15 dB.
Channels Received: 54
Range: 50 miles
1080p Reception: Yes
Cable Length: 15 feet (total)
Size: 12 x 16 inches
During testing, the ClearStream Flex turned in an award-worthy performance. In our metropolitan New York test location, an initial scan turned in over 60 channels. Further testing revealed that 54 of those stations were actually watchable — still an excellent result.
More importantly, the ClearStream Flex made even marginal stations look crisp and clear. Not only did it pull in all major local affiliates — including CBS, NBC and Fox — but it also made the usually difficult-to-tune-in ABC station look vibrant and sharp. Subchannels also benefitted from the Flex's amplifier. The Richard Dawson version of Family Feud looked fine on Buzzr, and even The Partridge Family looked acceptable in standard definition on the Antenna channel.
In general, I found that local-station reception benefited noticeably from the Flex antenna's amp, and that's not always the case with amplified models. While each location is unique in terms of signal reception — affected by local obstructions and the distance from broadcast towers — most viewers should perceive signal gains with this antenna.
The ClearStream Flex is a good, reliable amplified indoor antenna. Its performance compares well to other powered models, such as the Mohu Curve 50, and its straightforward design makes for an easy setup. However, if you don't need an amplified antenna, there are excellent basic models, such as the Mohu ReLeaf, available for half the price.