Winegard’s new automatic amplified broadcast dome looks like a mini satellite dish but brings in crystal-clear local HDTV signals
“Free TV” has a nice ring to it. The idea of receiving local programming via over-the-air broadcasting is appealing to those who prefer not to incur a monthly service charge for watching TV. Many RV parks offer cable TV hookups, but the signal could be coming from a far-off location and be void of local programming, which is useful when in unfamiliar places. Once the feds mandated that all TV broadcasters convert to a digital signal in 2009, the paradigm changed for the better – a lot better.
High-definition programming is now the norm, and most owners rely on batwing antennas to pull in the signals. While that works OK, and a few other suppliers offer more sophisticated antennas, Winegard has taken this segment to the next level with its new Rayzar Automatic Amplified Broadcast HDTV Antenna.
The Rayzar Automatic looks like a mini satellite dish, and works using similar principles. It employs state-of-the-art electronics to bring in the most channels. For example, it’s easy to find a signal or two using just about any antenna, but the Rayzar computes the best antenna position to bring in highest number of signals, automatically. And it’s designed to bring in signals that are more distant. It has an ultra-low noise amplifier to boost signal strength resulting in minimal picture pixelation.
When a search is initiated, the antenna rotates automatically in a direction that allows for the most channel availability. It typically takes around two to three minutes to go through the search process, and when the optimum number of TV frequencies is found, a figure will show up on the display screen. From here, a scan is initiated in the TV, which will determine how many stations can actually be viewed. The sub channels affect this process and the frequency figure on the display screen will likely be different from channels that are watchable.
During our test, we positioned the RV in a location where we knew it was difficult to receive broadcast signals. The readout showed 20 frequencies, but only six channels were watchable. Those channels were crystal clear and the picture was HD-quality. One of the channels was pixelating a little, so the manual control was used to move the antenna slightly and fine-tune the signal. Pushing the Search button again returns the antenna to the Automatic Search Mode.
Once we relocated to a more populated area, the frequencies were vast, with dozens of channels to watch.
The control panel, which replaces an existing batwing antenna counterpart, is loaded with features to keep the user informed of available frequencies and antenna positioning. Red and green LEDs indicate antenna position and will blink when the antenna is rotating. The on/off button has the same function found on batwing antenna controls, activating the amplifier, which will lock out the cable signal when on.
Winegard specifically designed the aftermarket kit to retrofit existing batwing antennas. Included in the box is all the necessary hardware to plug any holes left by the batwing antenna; there’s even a ceiling plate to cover the hole vacated by the old antenna crank-up mechanism. The intention of the installation design is to remove the existing antenna and place the new dome in the same location. A roof plate handles the modifications up top. But that may not be possible, as we found out. There are very specific instructions for locating the dome and it must not be farther than 30 feet from the control panel (a 20-foot coaxial cable is included and recommended for optimum performance) and have the necessary clearance from the front and side of the motorhome roof. In our case, we needed to move the dome away from the original location to meet these requirements, which was easily accomplished, but left the roof plate exposed – not a big deal.
In the end, the dome sits nicely on the roof and has a low enough profile so it looks integrated into the design of the RV. Performance and ease of use are exceptional, and there’s no risk of leaving a batwing antenna up when on the road. The Rayzar is available at Camping World for $399 and comes in black or white.
Here’s how the installation went:
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