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An obsidian monolith of an antenna, Antennas Direct's ClearStream Fusion does its best work outside, capturing channels smaller indoor models will miss. However, it also means that to get the most out of this HD TV antenna, you'll have to go through the extra effort to mount it outside – and expect to pay more (about $100).
There are outdoor antennas that have delivered better reception than the Fusion in our tests. But those models, such as the Winegard Elite 7550, cost more, are more of an eyesore and cannot do double-duty as indoor antennas.
Design: Smooth and simple
Big and bodacious, the ClearStream Fusion is a thick, slightly convex rectangle of plastic.
It's substantial, at about 6 pounds, and relatively large (11.5 x 16.75 inches). However, the Fusion's smooth surfaces make it more aesthetically pleasing and less conspicuous, especially when it is mounted on the side or roof of a house.
To put it there, Antennas Direct includes a 20-inch J-shaped pole and mounting hardware for attaching it to a roof or exterior wall. Also part of the ClearStream Fusion is a 20-db inline amplifier with accompanying 5-foot USB power cable and adapter. About the size of a pack of gum, the amplifier can easily be tucked in behind your TV.
|11.5 x 16.75 x 1.5 inches
Setup: Some assembly required
The ClearStream Fusion comes with most of the necessary hardware for an outdoor installation but it does not include a stand for indoor setups – and it lacks the requisite coaxial cable to connect it. (A 30-foot roll of coaxial cable costs about $11 on Amazon.)
Antennas Direct includes instructions for assembling the J mount mast, the bracket for the back of the antenna, and the base that can be mounted to a roof with four screws. The adjustable brackets are simple enough to install with a Phillips screwdriver and an adjustable wrench. If you're permanently attaching the Fusion antenna to an exterior location, you'll also need a drill.
The mast and steel stand seem sturdy enough – certainly beefier than the plastic base included with the Winegard Elite 7550. But if you live in a region that experiences severe winters, we suggest mounting the Fusion under an eave or somewhere else where it might be protected from accumulating ice and snow.
You can experiment with different locations to see where you get the most stations. (Check with AntennaWeb.org. to see what's in your area.) But because the ClearStream Fusion is a multi-directional antenna, you don't have to aim the antenna at a particular broadcast tower.
Performance: Solid reception
Antennas Direct promises that the ClearStream Fusion will deliver fewer reception dropouts, and we found that was the case – as long as it's in an outdoor location.
As per our standard regimen, we tested the ClearStream Fusion using a Samsung KS9000 4K TV in New York City, where scores of stations are available. We started with our regular indoor placement to make a valid comparison with other antennas.
Inside with its in-line amplifier plugged in, the Fusion turned in a initial scan result of 26 channels. However, a careful viewing of each station revealed that only 17 channels came in consistently. Our favorite indoor/outdoor antenna, the ClearStream 2Max, more than doubled that, pulling in 44 watchable stations with no amplifier. You can even do one better with an amplified indoor antenna like the Mohu Curve, which pulled in a whopping 58 channels.
The Fusion captured the usual suspects, such as the local ABC affiliate, and it also tuned in stations, such as WPIX 11, that eluded lesser, bargain-priced models like the Antop AT-108 Paper Thin indoor antenna, which pulled in only 8 clear channels.
Outdoors, the ClearStream Fusion was obviously in its element. In our standard test position, it turned in an initial scan of 58 stations, and 52 of those came in cleanly. While that falls behind the Winegard Elite 7550, which brought in 73 stations clearly, it's a step up from the last indoor/outdoor antenna we reviewed, the ClearStream 2Max, which is a non-amplified model and missed some popular stations by receiving only 44 watchable channels.
It meant that the Fusion captured all the major local affiliates, including the recently tricky-to- receive CBS station. We were also able to watch all the major retro stations playing programs like The Patty Duke Show from the '60s. The ClearStream antenna also pulled in several stations for children, a raft of community-access channels and a host of shopping stations.
Boasting an attractive design – a rare feature in an outdoor model – the Fusion certainly does a better job than the inexpensive, garden-variety indoor models. However, compared with our top-performing outdoor antenna, the Winegard Elite 7550, the ClearStream Fusion wasn't as adept at pulling in stations. However, the Fusion is much less expensive than the Elite ($100 versus $160) and more attractive and solidly constructed. So if you want to get a variety of stations and can set up an outdoor antenna, the ClearStream Fusion is a good option.
Credit: Antennas Direct
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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.