ClearStream TV review

ClearStream TV is a digital TV tuner with a twist: It tunes in over-the-air television broadcasts (with the help of an antenna you purchase separately), but instead of sending the programming directly to your TV, it streams the video signal over your Wi-Fi network. Install the ClearStream TV companion app on your favorite streaming device, smartphone, or tablet, and you can watch, pause, and rewind live TV.

I’ve been using it for a week and discovered some of its quirks and advantages.

How it works

ClearStream TV looks like an oversized USB stick. It houses an ATSC TV tuner for North American over-the-air broadcasts, plus an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter. The tuner doesn’t support the QAM standard (neither encrypted or unencrypted) that the cable-TV industry uses, so you’ll need to provide a digital TV antenna to pull in your local broadcasters’ signals.

The ClearStream TV’s output can be accessed only on your home network, and you’ll need an app to watch it. ClearStream TV manufacturer Antennas Direct has a free one available for devices running Android 4.2 and above, iOS 8.4 and up, tvOS 10.2 and above, and Roku 7.5 and higher.

On first use, you must connect your client device to the tuner itself over Wi-Fi and use the app to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network. Once that’s done, you can reconnect via your Wi-Fi network and set it to scan for channels. This takes a while: up to 6 minutes on a scan in San Francisco.

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The ClearStream TV connects to to your digital TV antenna with a coax cable.

Experiences in use

I tested this out on the Android and iOS apps and found the iPhone app to be a bit more polished than the Android app, but they both had shortcomings. One of those areas is the initial channel scan. The channel list is local to your device, rather than the tuner, so you need to scan every time you install the app on a new streaming box, smartphone, or tablet. That’s a hassle but only one you’ll occasionally confront.

The app is simple to use. There are only three menu items: live television, a TV-programming guide, and the settings.

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The main menu of the ClearStream TV app on iOS.

To watch TV, you just click the “Live TV” menu button and a few seconds later the channel appears. Both apps show live TV above a program listing, but the iOS app allows you to scroll through the guide for all channels. On Android, you just get to see what’s on the channel you’re watching.


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