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ClearStream Fusion OTA antenna review

Meet your new favorite black slab

ClearStream Fusion

The ClearStream Fusion indoor/outdoor antenna. ($99 at Amazon .)

A fun fact about over-the-air antennas: They're not magical. While antenna technology certainly has improved over the years, we're still talking about the same basic premise.

A station transmits a signal, and your antenna receives it.

So I'll be perfectly honest here — I wasn't expecting a huge improvement when I switched from the ClearStream 2MAX to the newer $99 ClearStream Fusion , which Antennas Direct sent over.

And you know what? I didn't see a huge improvement from a typical-user standpoint. All my same channels still worked — even the problem channels. So from that standpoint, I've got nothing but praise here. Job well done.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about here.

First, the basics. This is a fairly sizable indoor/outdoor antenna. It's about 17 inches wide and 12 inches deep, and about an inch and a half thick. It's going to stand out — maybe even more so than my old 2MAX — because what you see is just a solid slab of plastic. There's no hiding this thing in plain sight. Does it stick out more than the 2MAX? Maybe. On the other hand, it's not huge , and if you're not looking for it in the first place ...

Put it this way — it's still not like it's a giant clothesline of an antenna, right?

And now's a good time to mention what may be my only real worry here — wind. Is this thing going to become a sail if a good gust hits it? Only one way to find out. (And in the event of any serious storm here in Florida, I'll just take it down till things blow over.)

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Some other basics: We're looking at 3.7 dBi of gain on the UHF side, and 1.9 dBi on the VHF side. The ClearStream Fusion also comes with a slightly revamped 20 dB in-line amplifier. The only new thing there really is that it's now powered by microUSB instead of a barrel plug. That's a little more exciting than maybe it should be, because microUSB is ubiquitous these days, and you can plug it into your TV so it'll shut off when you're not actually watching television.

But I'm more excited because the microUSB plug should be less prone to come undone than that barrel connector was.

When it comes to mounting, the Fusion came with the same J-mount mast and hardware as I was previously using. Everything you need — save for a drill and a screwdriver — was in the box. Swapping out the antenna took about 5 minutes — it'll maybe take 15 if you need to mount the mast itself first. As is usually the case here, figuring out where to run your coax cable should be the only hard part. (And take your time with that — do it right the first time!)

The ClearStream Fusion is another antenna that's easy to install — and works as intended.

As for the nitty gritty. Like I mentioned, I'm not getting any additional channels via HDHomerun . Nor did I expect to. But I am seeing a slight improvement in reception on one of my must-have problem channels, which is now showing 100 percent reception quality, up from about 90 percent.

That's ultimately a good thing. The Fusion works as I'd expect it to. Slightly better than the (slightly) lesser 2MAX, with a new look to go along with it.

As is always the case, everyone's needs are different. The stations you watch will be in a different location — and surrounded by different terrain — than mine. This is part science, part art. Maybe you'll put your antenna outside — remember that outdoors and higher is always better — or maybe you'll leave it inside. Maybe you're closer to the towers than I am. There are a lot of variables that go into this sort of thing.

But for me? The Fusion is working out nicely.