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ATSC 3.0 brings a boost to broadcast TV. Here’s how to prep for the switch

Antenna-based TV is about to change in a major way, thanks to the upcoming unveiling of ATSC 3.0.

Also known as NextGen TV, ATSC 3.0 can support up to 4K HDR resolution and upgraded sound formats to be broadcast to antenna TV. In other words, it has huge potential. Because of that, we’ve rounded up everything you’ll need to prepare for switching to ATSC 3.0.

Finding a compatible antenna

Mohu Releaf Lifestyle shot

The good news here is, all existing Digital HDTV OTA antennas already have the hardware to be able to receive ATSC 3.0 broadcasts. So if you’ve bought an antenna fairly recently, chances are you’re all good on this front.

If you’re still searching for a solid antenna, we’ve taken the liberty of finding the best ones for you. We’re big fans of the Mohu Releaf, but there’s plenty of great options that fit different needs.

Tuning in to your TV

Samsung Q800T 8K QLED TV

More good news – you likely won’t have to buy a new TV to be able to make the switch to ATSC 3.0. Instead of shelling out for a new display, you have the option of buying an ATSC 3.0 external converter box for TVs that don’t natively support the incoming standard.

This is where the news gets a bit less good. For the time being, these external converter boxes seem to be few and far between. We’ve only been able to find one so far, and it’s mainly designed for computers as opposed to TVs.

Companies like SiliconDust, makers of the HDHomeRun line of OTA tuners, are making strides towards creating ATSC 3.0 tuners, so most signs are pointing to this scarcity of tuners not lasting long. If you don’t want to wait for a viable option, however, you may have to go the new TV route.

Upgrading your display

There are a number of TVs available today that have ATSC 3.0 tuners built in. The caveat here is, none of them are going to be cheap.

LG has three OLED series that support ATSC 3.0, including the GX Series, WX Series, and the 8K ZX, LG’s top-tier model. The least expensive option among these is the $2,500, 55-inch GX OLED, while going all out for LG’s ZX 88-inch TV will run you a cool $30,000.

Samsung has ATSC 3.0-compatible screens too, though its options are even more pricey. Only Samsung’s 8K QLED TVs will support the new standard, with the cheapest of the seven model options being the $3,500, 65-inch Q800T.

Sony is coming to the rescue here, at least comparatively. If you don’t want to spend top dollar to prepare for ATSC 3.0, the X900H might be an intriguing pick. It’s the only Sony model confirmed to support ATSC 3.0, and the 55-inch version will cost $1200. By today’s standards, that’s teetering on the small side for screen size. But if you want a new TV that complies with NextGen TV, this is currently your most cost-effective option.

A few disclaimers

It’s important to note that, as exciting as this new standard is, ATSC 3.0 still has a few hurdles to overcome. It’s currently available in a limited number of markets, with it expected to expand to around 40 markets by the end of 2020.

When it does reach the masses, it doesn’t mean we’ll all immediately begin getting our content in high-quality 4K resolution. For instance, the programming in Portland, OR – one of the first markets to begin 3.0 broadcasting – will be limited to HD quality initially. There’s no cut-and-dry timetable for the first 4K HDR OTA broadcasts, though there is hope of ATSC 3.0 offering 1080p 60 HD with HDR later in the year.

It’s also important to note that the current broadcast standard, ATSC 1.0, isn’t going to disappear right away, so don’t feel as if you need to prep to pull the trigger right away.

Preparing for the next big innovation is still a good thing, and it keeps you both ahead of the curve and ready for when ATSC 3.0 starts to impact the quality of our content. You might just have to be patient as we wait for that impact to take effect.

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Caleb Denison
Digital Trends Editor at Large Caleb Denison is a sought-after writer, speaker, and television correspondent with unmatched…
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