30 second review
Antop’s AT-500SBS’s 30-inch width pays off in strong signal pulls, while the free iOS/Android app helps find the best installation location in real time. Mounted horizontally in a window (vertical mounting didn’t prove as effective in our test location) it pulled almost as many stations as the old-fashioned VHF/UHF antenna in the attic above.
The Antop’s included signal booster has two outputs, so you can power a TV and an FM radio (or two TVs) – a nice plus. The antenna’s size makes it hard to hide (unless you have curtains or valences that are conveniently placed), but its attractive shape and availability in white, black or titanium finishes are pluses. If you need maximum pulling power from an indoor antenna, the 500SBS is about as good as it gets.
Antop makes a wide variety of sleek looking “housing” indoor antennas, the top model of which is the 500-SBS: a swoopy 30-inch bar that can be mounted horizontally on the wall or placed vertically on an included plastic base.
The included in-line amplifier drives two standard F-connector outputs for two TVs or a TV and an FM radio or receiver. The included 1.5m cables are too short in our opinion, although many indoor antennas come with fixed cables that are not long enough to reach your set from the optimal antenna location.
The amplifier’s gain control can lower the signal level, potentially useful in busy urban environments where the strongest adjacent signals can interfere, while Antop claims a 4G LTE filter reduces interference from nearby cell phone towers.
Antenna design is a pretty well understood art. Size and number of elements (the bars visible on old-fashioned roof antennas) are the important variables, so buyers should accept that performance variations will be small on models of similar size and format.
Also note that the RF amplifiers built into some antennas simply cannot recall more stations. What they do is help overcome losses in the “down-lead” between the antenna and the receiver (TV) and, in rare cases where the receiver is not sufficiently sensitive, raise very weak signals above the tuning threshold. Above all, though, shoppers should keep in mind that location, orientation, and most importantly, height are the most important factors when it comes to antenna performance.
I’m testing antennas in a semi-rural location with good elevation and a clear line of sight of nearly 360 degrees to TV channels ranging from about 15 to about 70 miles in all directions. Since all antennas are directional to some degree, I place them indoors in or over a south-facing window. The 500SBS is not an antenna that users are likely to reorient to optimize reception in a particular direction, so as always my evaluation reflects this single location and arrangement.
Antop’s 500SBS received 14 useful signals from six different directions around the compass. By that I mean 14 individual carriers: counting all subchannels (5.1, 5.2, etc.) it yielded 57 discrete channels. (It’s the main carriers that matter when it comes to antenna reception.)
Two more signals were tuned, but interrupted blocking and digital noise rendered them useless. Significantly, one of these was only about 40 miles away, but being about SSE of my location was almost exactly “off-axis,” that is, perpendicular to the direction of the Antop beam.
The other dubious signal, though coming almost due south, was a “channel share” (of possibly lower signal strength) from a tower about 75 miles away. (As an aside, vertical orientation in the same location has sacrificed three of the weakest signals. I suspect horizontal placement will almost always give the best performance.)
While I can’t test antennas in an urban environment with a lot of signals, I would predict that the “Boost” button on the Antop’s RF amplifier would serve to attenuate signals that are too strong to make the antenna usable in such a location. to make.
Here’s the takeaway: Antop’s SmartBar AT-500SBS is about as powerful an indoor antenna as you’re likely to find. It’s definitely the best indoor digital TV signal puller I’ve tested.
Should you buy the Antop SmartBar AT-500SBS?
Buy it if…
You want the most powerful indoor antenna
A good choice if you live in a suburb, fringe or rural/semi-rural location and can’t or won’t consider an outdoor antenna.
You have no problem with a large indoor antenna
The size of the Antop is considerable, so you have to take that into account.
Don’t buy it if…
You have to draw signals from much more than 65 miles
The AT-500SBS’s performance starts to slow down at the jagged edge of 70 miles, so if you want to tune stations outside that distance, consider an outdoor antenna.
You need an indoor antenna that is completely out of sight
The AT-500SBS is large for an indoor antenna, although it has an attractive design that most people will look at.