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Do (Smart) TVs Still Need Antennas?

Do (Smart) TVs Still Need Antennas?

You may have heard that some smart TVs have optional or required antennas to work. But aren’t TV antennas just for CRT televisions — a thing of the past?

Well, not exactly.

It’s true that TV antennas are associated with older, analog sets. But they’re far from useless, even today!

Let’s explore what antennas can still be used for and whether they’re required for smart TVs.

What Are TV Antennas For?

a TV antenna on rooftop

Before the advent of digital televisions and cable, signals had to be transmitted via radio waves.

Signals were cast long-distance by radio towers, which literally broadcast them, and were subsequently picked up by the TV’s antenna.

The same idea holds for smart TVs, albeit with a different goal in mind. Here, we’ll look at what each type of TV uses an antenna for.

What Did Antennas Do on Analog TVs?

A broadcasted signal is only useful if it can be picked up. But every home having a large enough satellite dish for low-power radio would be impractical.

The solution to this problem? Antennas!

Rabbit Ear Antennas

Most analog TV sets had “rabbit ear” antennas. They consisted of two metal rods which would be extended to about one-fourth the length of the signal’s wavelength — typically 3.3 feet (1 meter).

old TV with the antenna and remote

You could get away with the length being slightly off, but the closer you got, the better.

Why? Signal interference.

Antenna Length and Signal Interference

Although any length could’ve picked up the signal, the specific length ensured that the desired wavelength was the strongest.

Likewise, any other length would pick up another wavelength not meant for TV, and yield a noisy/staticky picture.

What Do Smart TVs Use Antennas For?

Smart TVs make use of two kinds of antennas: built-in antennas and digital antennas.

Although they are functionally similar, they both have distinct uses.

What Do Smart TVs Use Built-in Antennas For?

Virtually every smart TV comes equipped with a built-in antenna.

These antennas allow you to connect other devices to the TV via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Without one, you wouldn’t be able to cast a computer display to it or wirelessly control it with your phone.

man using a smartphone connected to TV

What Do Smart TVs Use Digital Antennas For?

Digital antennas serve the same purpose as old, analog antennas: receiving radio signals.

The name itself, however, is a bit of a misnomer.

Digital antennas are built with the same kind of metal antennas that analog antennas use. The difference is that they output a digital signal to the TV, rather than an analog one.

If your TV is equipped with one, you can use it to receive any of the free, local channels being broadcasted in your area.

Can I Use a Smart TV Without an Antenna?

Yes, though it will depend on the type of antenna you’re using. The TV will function differently, though.

Can Smart TVs Work Without a Built-in Antenna?

Your smart TV will almost certainly come with a built-in antenna, but it’s not strictly necessary, and the TV will still work without it.

If the TV doesn’t come with one, or if it has had it removed, the only thing you’ll lose is its ability to connect to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

phone cannot connect to TV using wifi

That said, because modern TVs are primarily used for online streaming services or gaming, you’ll have a much better experience with a built-in antenna.

Can Smart TVs Work Without a Digital Antenna?

Although it is useful to have a digital antenna, it isn’t required, and your TV will function as normal without one.

The only difference is that, while you can receive local channels from different apps on your smart TV, the quality won’t be as good as from an antenna.


Smart TVs are becoming more and more common, quickly replacing older flat screens and standard definition TVs.

Virtually all of them will come with built-in antennas, which allow them to connect to Bluetooth or your home Wi-Fi network. Still, they can also be fitted with an external, digital antenna.

Having a digital antenna attached to your smart TV lets it receive locally broadcasted TV channels. They work in the same way that old, analog antennas do, except they give a digital output to the TV instead of an analog one.

Because most people use smart TVs to watch shows on online streaming services and play games, a built-in antenna is extremely useful. Likewise, having a digital antenna greatly expands the TV’s capabilities.

But, despite their usefulness, neither of these features are strictly necessary for the functionality of the smart TV.



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