I thought the best of the three is the General Electric Optima TV Antenna. When I first tried the Optima antenna I was really blown away. So often you plug in an antenna and see little improvement, but this made a night and day difference compared to my old set top antenna. At least one UHF channel that was very marginal came in very strong. We also had difficulties with channel six that largely disappeared. In the flat disk they have what they call "Passive Microwave Circuitry" They say it is revolutionary. At any rate I was very impressed by the results.
I also tried the Optima out on a friends television. It was a newer set and on the second floor. The results very much impressed everyone. My friend who currently has a limited cable service that gets the local broadcast channels said she might cancel the cable. The cheapest cable connection that simply gets you better reception of the broadcast channels costs a little over ten dollars a month in our town. Over the course of a decade that is still more than a thousand dollars. Clearly a twenty dollar, or even a much more expensive indoor antenna has that beat on price.
One advantage of the Optima is that one does not have to adjust a fine tune control, it does not have one. One may have to adjust the position of the antenna when switching channels but there is less to adjust than the adjustable antennas and it seems to equal or improve on what those the best adjustable model I have tried can do.
More recently I tried the Radio Shack "Amplified Indoor Antenna with High/Low Gain" model number 15-1838. On the box it was called the "Amplified AM/FM Antenna." This model sells for about 30 dollars both on line and in the stores. It is a major item and the Radio Shack stores will probably have it in stock. It is an amplified antenna unlike the Optima so it does require a small electic current.
I was impressed by this product. It seemed to be roughly the equal of the Optima. I ran the program on my VCR that automatically finds all the television signals in the area. The Optima got one channel the Radio Shack amplified antenna did not, and vice versa. Neither of these channels was actually useable, this was just an objective test. Subjectively they both seemed about equal.
As mentioned above the Optima achieves this equality without adjusting a fine tuning nob. It is also ten dollars cheaper and does not require electricty. Not that ten dollars would mean much given that the average person watches over a thousand hours of television a year and an antenna will usually last many years. We are probably talking about something like a tenth of a penny per hour of use.
I also tried the Radio Shack "UHF Dual HDTV Indoor Antenna" model number 930-0998. This is the double bow-tie UHF antenna that has long been recommended as the best indoor UHF antenna. A review on the Internet may refer to an earlier model. The review WTIU calls the antenna a "two-bay bow tie with a reflector screen". They say this is the best indoor UHF antenna. Remember, as I said above, you will have to search for UHF reception on the WTIU site to find the page that discusses UHF reception and therefore this antenna.
It is not sold in the Radio Shack stores but can be ordered. The price is fifteen dollars but it came to nineteen with shipping and tax.
I found that it did not work nearly as well as the Optima and the Radio Shack amplified antenna discussed above. It is a little cheaper than the Optima, and like the Optima does not require either fine tuning adjustment or electricity. It is only for UHF so one might want to have another antenna for VHF. However I found that it did a reasonable job of pulling in VHF signals too. I just felt that it was not nearly as good as the other two antennas for either task.
Radio Shack also has a more expensive version of their antenna that looks interesting. The Radio Shack "VHF/UHF/FM Antenna with IR Learning Technology" remembers what the setting is for various channels and automatically adjusts to the proper setting. So it should be able to do what the other Radio Shack model does without the need to adjust the fine tuning nob. The model number for this antenna is 15-1870 and the price is about 40 dollars. All of this suggests it might be just as good as the unamplified Optima at just twice the price. Not that ten or twenty dollars matters that much over many years of TV watching if you really get a better signal. Once again we could easily be talking about ten thousand hours of viewing, so we are dealing with fractions of a penny per hour.
Note, if someone in your family is constantly surfing with the remote and this bothers you, you might want an antenna that required more adjustment when you change channels. That might discourage channel surfing.
Above I mentioned that the Optima antennas are manufactured by Jasco, not General Electric. Jasco is just one company that uses the GE brand. The theory is that they only give their brands to companies that produce superior products. The GE Superadio and the Optima antennas seem to fit in that category.
There are other indoor antennas, including some that are more expensive, but really cost almost nothing if you consider how many hours of use they are likely to get. Part of my problem, is that I really get the channels I want now, and have little incentive, other than the development of this page, to continue my research.
Still, it seems to me that something has been achieved. My testing has shown that Radio Shack's twin bow-tie UHF antenna that a couple of Internet sites said was the best indoor antenna has been clearly eclipsed and the Optima is much better for about the same price. Furthermore, Radio Shack's ampliphied antenna did a lot more than I expected to improve reception.
Obviously I do not know everything on this subject. I have been so thrilled by the Optima that I wanted to tell the world, but I also want to hear from others. If you have any wisdom on this you can leave a note in my guest book. I may quote you to improve this site.
While I am not that sophisticated on UHF reception. I am quite knowlegeable on AM radio recepiton. The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently used this web site as a source for an article on improving AM radio reception. I also have other radio pages which like this one are less sophisticated. The links are listed below.
Perhaps the largest collection of tips on the Internet for home AM radio reception.
Original tips and links for middle wave or AM Radio reception
Links for AM reception in cars, trucks, autos
A page of links and tips on FM radio reception tips
Answers to questions on AM radio reception