Winegard FlatWave Amped indoor digital TV antenna review: Three model numbers, same antenna

This is a good antenna, just be careful not to pay too much.

Winegard FlatWave
Credit: Jason Cipriani
At a Glance
  • Winegard Company FlatWave Amped indoor digital TV Antenna

    TechHive Rating
    $49.99 MSRP $59.99
    View
    on Amazon

    Winegard's FlatWave Amped delivers reasonable—but not exceptional—performance for the money.

True to its name, Winegard’s FlatWave Amped antenna is paper thin. It’s also extremely light, weighing just 0.6 pounds. Despite its diminutive proportions, Winegard says the multi-directional antenna is capable of pulling in signals from broadcast towers as far away as 50 miles.

You can lay the antenna flat on a surface, mount it on a wall, or do as I did and install it inside in a window casing using the provided 3M Command strips. This is an amplified model, so keep in mind when you place it that you’ll need to plug either its AC power adapter into a nearby outlet or its three-foot USB power cable into one of your TV’s vacant USB ports. I tested using both power sources and found no obvious signs of change in reception quality or clarity.

The coax cable Winegard provides is a generously long 18.5 feet. For all the flexibility that cable length provides, the downside is what to do with the excess you might not need. The cable is hardwired to the antenna, so your only choice is to coil it up and hope you can hide it behind your TV.

As is typical after making your connections, you’ll need have your TV tuner scan for the channels it can pick up with the aid of the antenna. My scan found 25 of the 31 channels available at my location, according to Antenna Web. Broadcast towers in my area range from 10 miles away to 41 miles away, well within the FlatWave Amped’s advertised range. Nonetheless, two of those 25 channels suffered from poor picture quality.

Over-the-air programming from the likes of Fox, CBS, NBC, PBS, and ABC were all available in good quality. With some of the antennas I tested, I found PBS to be the most difficult channel to pick up. I often had to move and adjust the antenna to pull it in. That was never an issue with the FlatWave Amped—PBS was available immediately after running the auto-scan on my TV.

Caveat emptor

Take care when you shop for this antenna, as it’s available in three models that are—according to a FAQ on Winegard’s website—exactly the same but that come in different packaging. Winegard sells the FlatWave Amped FL5500A on its own website for $60. The same antenna is available at Amazon for $50. The FL5500Y we were sent for review a few months ago is no longer listed on Winegard’s site, but you’ll find it selling on Amazon for $80.

What’s up with that? We reached out to Winegard and got an explanation that revolved mostly around marketing. Bottom line: If you're going to buy this antenna, don’t buy the model FL5500Y that’s selling on Amazon for $80. The Amazon button on this page will take you instead to the model FL5500A that—it bears repeating—is the very same antenna selling for $30 less. If you prefer the brick-and-mortar experience, you’ll also find the FL5500A antenna at Best Buy and other electronics retailers.

Winegard FAQ

Three models, three sets of packaging, exact same antenna.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating
    $49.99 MSRP $59.99
    View
    on Amazon

    Winegard's FlatWave Amped delivers reasonable—but not exceptional—performance for the money.

    Pros

    • Strong reception, clear picture quality
    • Amplifier contributes to good range
    • Amplifier can be powered by a wall wart or your TV’s USB port

    Cons

    • Not the best-looking thing to have on your wall or window
    • Excess cable can get messy quick
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