TAMPA - The bold advertisement reads like a news headline: "Invention pulls in free TV with no bills."
With shipping and tax, we paid $60 for Clear Cast. According to the ad, it grabs up to 953 free TV shows with crystal clear picture and no monthly bills.
Local tech blogger Chris Pagan unplugged his cable to try out the small antenna for us for five days.
Pagan's first impression: "Other than the fact it is very compact, there is little I can see that is different from anything else out there right now."
Pagan attached the paper thin rectangle close to a window, but he says it picked up 18 stations.
We emailed Brilliant Built Technologies, the company behind Clear Cast, and asked about its advertised 953 shows. A spokesperson explained: "This is based on the number of new programming on the major broadcast networks."
We are not the only ones asking questions. The Better Business Bureau recently conducted an advertising review of Clear Cast's claims and says it's misleading. The BBB concluded: "A bulk of confusion stems from the channels vs. shows reference in which the committee feels is meant to confuse consumers into believing they will receive similar channeling as they would cable or satellite. "
So we asked the experts at Sound Technology, Inc. to weigh in on what the advertisement describes as a slick little $47 invention. Their take on it? It's nothing more than an expensive set of rabbit ears.
We also purchased two traditional antennas for $25 each to see how they compared. One of them, a GE model, only picked up 16 channels.
But the simple medal antenna we bought at Radio Shack beat out both the Clear Cast and GE models. The Radio Shack antenna delivered a clear picture on 32 channels.
We relayed our test results to Brilliant Built Technologies. They responded: "We have had independent testing done using our Clear Cast X1 digital antenna versus several antennas purchased at retail locations. The study showed we received more channels... and had a clearer picture."
Since June 12, 2009, full-power television stations nationwide have been broadcasting exclusively in a digital format. Consumers may find additional information about digital broadcast and their options at dtv.gov or by calling 1-888-callfcc.
Internet TV devices like Boxee Live TV and a Roku box offer free TV, movies and music. They will set you back $50 to $100, but allow you to stream your favorite shows to your television.
Anyone can go directly via the Internet to just about any network using the World Wide Web. As an Amazon Prime member, you get movies and TV shows like Netflix for free.