Many cord-cutters not only want to free themselves from their cable or satellite provider, they also don't want to be tethered to a TV. Now those people can go mobile with Antennas Direct's ClearStream Eclipse Wireless antenna package.
The package is a bundle of two products: the ClearStream TV tuner and the indoor ClearStream Eclipse antenna. When used with a free app, the combination allows owners to watch live TV broadcasts on a smartphone or a tablet. Furthermore, it includes DVR functions and even offers a way for people who have tunerless TVs (such as several Vizio models) to receive over-the-air broadcasts using a connected streaming device like a Roku box. In toto, the ClearStream Eclipse Wireless package offers a raft of features to justify what may at first seem like a high $99.99 price tag.
Design: A small O
The ClearStream Eclipse antenna has a flat, flexibile O-shaped design (hence the "Eclipse" moniker), and it's also reversible: To accommodate different interior decors, one side is white and the other is black.
The second component of the bundle is the ClearStream TV, a candy-bar-size TV tuner and DVR with built-in Wi-Fi. It plugs into the antenna at one end and into a power adapter at the other, and thus enables wireless connections to devices like smartphones.
The ClearStream TV app then allows you to perform DVR tricks, such as pausing and rewinding TV with a 1-hour buffer (it has 2GB of storage). The app also includes an electronic program guide and lets you set reminders to watch or record a TV show (it pings you 5 minutes beforehand).
Setup: More involved than most
The antenna includes a 12-foot coaxial cable, giving you plenty of flexibility to find the optimal reception spot. The ClearStream Eclipse also has a "Sure Grip" feature, which is a curved, sticky patch for the back of the antenna. The adhesive sticker can be reused so that you can reposition it as often as needed.
Users also have to install a free app, which is available for iOS, Android and Amazon Fire devices. (There's a Roku channel app, but it can't be used for the installation process.) On your device, you then go into Settings to select the ClearStream TV as your Wi-Fi device, connect to it, and then exit Settings and reopen the app. You can then connect the ClearStream TV to your home network. It takes several more minutes for the tuner to reboot. After that, you can instruct it to scan for available broadcast channels.
It's a more involved process than simply plugging an antenna into the back of your TV, but in the end, it offers greater functionality and flexibility.
Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Key Specs:
|Rated Range||35 miles|
|Cable Length||12 feet|
|Size||10 x 9 inches|
Performance: Respectable tuning
An initial scan of stations in our metropolitan New York location took several minutes when we used the ClearStream TV app on an iPad. It turned up 31 channels, but more than half of them proved to be unwatchable. In all, only 15 stations came in clearly and consistently.
Picture quality for those stations deemed watchable was good, but the overall image quality you will see on a portable device will depend partly on the reliability of your home Wi-Fi network. Antennas Direct recommends that the ClearStream TV be situated within 20 feet of your router — a suggestion we adhered to for our tests.
Watching TV broadcasts on the app worked well enough; swiping left allowed us to switch to the next available channel. And the ClearStream TV was able to capture the local Fox and ABC affiliates without trouble. It also pulled in PBS locals, but unfortunately, it could not reliably tune in stations in the upper dial, from the likes of Azteca and Telemundo.
To evaluate the DVR functions, we recorded, paused and otherwise tested each of its features. The included electronic program guide (EPG) uses a standard layout with channels listed in descending order along with one-sentence descriptions of the shows. Unfortunately, when we looked ahead, the guide was usually incomplete: It provided partial listings for the next day, but not much beyond that (versus the standard, two-week preview that cable and satellite EPGs offer). Otherwise, the DVR features worked well to pause and rewind live shows. It was also easy to record programs directly to smartphone or tablet.
The length of the recording depends on how much storage space is available on your device, such as the smartphone or tablet you’re using. Typically, two hours of recording at standard definition takes about 3GB of storage. The ClearStream TV DVR has only 2GB of storage, but the app warns you when you’re close to running out. I wanted to record the movie 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag, andthe program noted there was only 41 minutes of recording time left. The only other significant limitation of the DVR is that there's only one tuner, so you can't change channels while recording another.
To see how the ClearStream TV tuner was affecting reception, we also tested the antenna without the tuner/DVR by plugging it directly into our test TV, a Samsung KS9000 4K set. Using its built-in tuner, the antenna managed to acknowledge a total of 34 channels, of which we deemed 21 to be consistently watchable. It meant we were now able to watch channels the ClearStream TV missed, such as Azteca, Telemundo and HSN.
There's no question that the ClearStream Eclipse Wireless antenna solves a lot of problems for people looking to cut the cord, but who don't own a TV with a built-in tuner — or own a TV at all. We just wish the included ClearStream TV tuner/DVR device were sensitive enough to receive a wider array of stations.
Credits: Antennas Direct