Slingbox M1 review: A pricey streamer, but worth it for frequent travelers

It's been 10 years since Sling Media was founded, and here we stand with the fifth-generation Slingbox, the M1. Like all Slingboxes before it, the M1 can stream live and DVRed programs to your mobile devices, but this time, it's $150, making it the least expensive model yet. In particular, it's $30 cheaper than its predecessor and boasts the same feature set, but with the addition of built-in WiFi, so you don't need to park the box next to an Ethernet jack. So do the price cut and built-in WiFi make it a more worthwhile purchase? Let's find out.

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Here's the thing about Amazon: We can't figure the company out half the time. Few things embody that quite as well as the Fire TV. The company is adamant that the set-top box is not a gaming console, but it's invested heavily in original game development for it and even produced a shockingly good gamepad accessory. Still, video games are just a "bonus." One of the pillars of the streaming-media box is supposed to be openness, but there's no denying that other services like Netflix are treated like second-class citizens here. They're invited to the party; they just better not outshine the host.

The Fire TV may be the next step for Amazon as it tries to build its own ecosystem, but it's also yet another entry in the crowded streaming-media market. And the big question is: Do we need another? We've got TV set-tops for cable, satellite and fiber (at one time joined by a disc player for movies and maybe a game system or two). The next-gen game consoles do double duty as entertainment hubs, and there's no shortage of cheap boxes designed specifically to stream Netflix, HBO Go and Pandora. Add in smart TVs and the rise of pint-sized dongles, and the question of what to watch becomes how to watch. The Fire TV is trying to muscle out competitors with its $99 price and a strong focus on performance, search and openness. Now that we've spent a few days living with one, we can judge whether it's just another option among many, or truly a standout that finally fixes problems the others have so far ignored.

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Titanfall is strictly coiled around the player. You couldn't excise even one piece without slackening it like a ruined kidnapper's rope. The serpentine level design, the liberating sense of movement, the flawless controls and yes, the enormous bipedal tanks dropping from the sky, are equally indispensable in this arresting shooter.

Given the studio's splintered status as a former Call of Duty custodian, Respawn Entertainment has made a multiplayer game fit for those who have spent years peering through the eyes of a speedy killing machine – a seasoned six against six in battles for land or a higher kill count. A history with rapid-fire aim and fleet-footed 3D movement is not essential here, but recommended.

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Fun fact: Engadget reviewed 176 products in 2013, and that's not even counting the umpteen times we got hands-on with stuff at tradeshows and press events.

In general, we try to review just the top-tier gadgets, but even then, some of it ends up being forgettable. (Can you name-check everything we tested from memory? We can't.) So, as the year draws to a close, we're taking a look back at the last 12 months of reviews, and this time, we're including only the products you'd have no trouble remembering. Across every category, we've noted the flagships everyone coveted -- along with the duds that could've been so much better. Oh, and you might notice that we included some numbered scores throughout. That's right; Engadget is bringing back numerical ratings, and they'll follow the same format as the critic score gdgt has already been using for years. Which is to say, each rating takes into account various criteria for a given product category -- things like battery life and portability. Wanna see how your favorite gadgets did? Meet us after the break for a walk down memory lane.

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Your new running shoes have WiFi, but there are still -- still! -- no flying cars. We've got mini-supercomputers in our pockets, but where's the kitchen machine that materializes beef bourguignon? It's not quite the future we predicted, at least as far as Back to the Future 2 and The Jetsons informed us, but it's the future we've got. Something as basic as, say, turning on electronics using your voice is still novel. Microsoft's Xbox One is representative of just such a novelty, pairing old tech like IR and HDMI passthrough with brand-new 1080p video capture and voice control -- all to impressive effect. When you turn on your Xbox One and TV in one fell "Xbox: On!" grandpa's gonna be wowed, as will little Suzie. Guaranteed. The deeply integrated fantasy sports and ESPN apps will no doubt get pigskin-obsessed Aunt Linda interested.

But it's not the expensive camera and sports partnerships that makes Microsoft's proposition impressive to the hardcore gaming faithful. The Xbox One is a beast of a games console, capable of running beautiful games. But can it serve two masters? It's not quite the game box we would've predicted, but it's the one we've got.

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Sony PlayStation 4 review I still need a subhead TKTK DNP

Every day, a new phone. A new tablet. A new laptop that doubles as a blender -- and it has Android! Video game consoles, thankfully, aren't quite so prolific. In 18 years of PlayStation's existence, we're only just this week reaching number four -- a massive difference from the likes of Apple's iPhone or Nokia's (ridiculously populous) Lumia line. This Friday, the PlayStation brand enters the "next generation" once more with the PlayStation 4, and the world is significantly different than the last time around: HD is now standard, online multiplayer an expectation and multitasking a given.

Beyond interesting, great-looking game experiences, gamers in 2013 expect a multitalented, speedy game console that's as fast and powerful as the ever-surging wave of bleeding edge electronics that are standard in modern life. Let's find out if the PlayStation 4 lives up to our lofty expectations.

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Calling Grand Theft Auto V one of 2013's most anticipated video game releases would be a massive understatement, but if you wanted some sort of monetary proof of the claim, Take-Two interactive has it. According to a press release issued today, GTA V has cleared over $1 billion in sales in its first three days on the market; crunch the numbers, and that adds up to more than 16.5 million units sold. Take-Two says that it believes this makes it the fastest selling entertainment property in history -- the last major release to make that claim, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, took 15 days to reach the milestone. It's an impressive accomplishment, but it's potentially only the tip of the iceberg: GTA V is rumored to be ported to PC and next generation consoles, and has a literal product lifetime to hold down its sales record.

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Grand Theft Auto V arrives tomorrow, read Joystiq's review right now!

Despite some early leaks, the vast majority of humans can't pick up Grand Theft Auto V until tomorrow, September 17th. Fortunately for our friends at Joystiq, though, they got to do a dive deep on the latest Rockstar Games flagship in an early review. In traditional GTA fashion, "You can run the streets of a fully-realized world, steal cars, cause chaos and attempt to flee from an extraordinarily irritable police force," Joystiq's Xav de Matos writes. New to the series this time around is heist missions, which task the game's three main characters (all playable) with, well, heisting valuables from a target (think: banks, jewelry stores, et cetera).

Though De Matos generally found the game worth his time, it sounds like the narrative beats are once again hampered by poor pacing and underdeveloped, over-the-top characters. "Since GTA V features three main characters with vastly different personalities, your time is split, and the narrative isn't given enough room to resonate," he says. There is of course much, much more to discuss, which you'll find in the Joystiq review, right here. We've also dropped five minutes of gameplay video after the break, should your fires not be stoked enough already.

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TiVo Roamio Plus review TiVo's new DVRs are the company's best yet

It's been three and a half years since the last major TiVo release and while the company has offered some new features since -- via hardware revisions, software updates and accessories -- we're very excited to tell you that TiVo is back. The three new TiVo Roamio DVRs range in price from $200 to $600 (plus service), all with at least four tuners and built-in WiFi. And the Pro and the Plus have integrated TiVo Stream functionality. The cool new trick is out-of-home streaming for both live and recorded shows, with the ability to download shows to your iOS devices while away from home. (Note: this feature isn't coming to the Roamio until this fall, so we tested it with a TiVo Stream instead). There's also a new remote that no longer relies on IR, as well as a refreshed user interface, which includes the What to Watch Now feature and new Netflix and YouTube apps -- that launch quickly now. We'll get into all the highs and the lows in just a moment, but we're pretty confident in saying these are TiVo's best boxes to date.

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Google Chromecast review: can you make your dumb TV a smart one for just $35?

Despite the best efforts of Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, LG and others, most of the televisions in people's homes these days are not of the smart variety. However, there are hundreds of millions of regular televisions packing HDMI ports, and Google's new Chromecast device offers a way to put some brains into those dumb TVs by giving them access to web-based content. Having a Chromecast dongle connected to your TV means you can stream videos straight from a Google Play, Netflix or YouTube app, or mirror the content in any open tab in Google's Chrome browser using a tab casting feature.

Sure, we've seen devices with almost identical functionality, like Plair, but Chromecast is backed by Google, whose relationships with content providers and developers mean that the Google Cast technology powering it will soon be popping up in even more apps. Not to mention, there's the price. At $35, it's almost a third of the cost of Plair and also Roku 3 and Apple TV, the current most popular devices that bring internet video to your TV. Even for such a paltry outlay, is it a worthy addition to your living room? And is it really "the easiest way to enjoy online video and music on your TV" as Google's marketing would have us believe? Read on to find out.

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Harmony Ultimate and Smart Hub review: Logitech outdoes itself with new remotes

Until now, Logitech's Harmony line has been the name in user programmable remotes. Now the company's back with three follow-up products, and they differ enough from earlier models to warrant an explanation. Instead of using a programmable IR remote, the Harmony Ultimate, Harmony Smart Control and Harmony Ultimate Hub each offload the IR-emitting duties to a networked device, allowing smartphones and tablets to act as remotes too. Additionally, the Hub uses Bluetooth to control your game console. Ranging in price from $99 to $349, the lineup covers almost every budget, with the Hub sold as a standalone accessory for smartphones and tablets. Meanwhile, the Smart Control includes a simple remote, and the high-end Ultimate Hub swaps a basic remote for the Harmony Touch. How exactly might these enhance your home theater enjoyment? Read on to find out.

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Seagate Central Review

We really enjoy the ability to consume content on any device from just about anywhere we may roam. The cloud has been a big part of making that happen, but there are still a few things the cloud can't do nearly as well as local storage -- namely, share large files and provide continuous full backups of large media libraries. Attempting to bridge that gap is the Seagate Central. Ranging in price from $189 to $259, depending on whether you get it with 2TB, 3TB or 4TB of space, the Central connects to your home network and gives you a single place to store or back up your content, making it accessible both at home and on the go. That's the idea, anyway. But what about the reality?

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ASUS Cube Google TV review

The past year has been a busy one for Google TV -- in fact, with the big I/O conference right around the corner, we're sitting down to review our fifth such device in the past 12 months. The ASUS Cube naturally does everything one would expect from a Google TV set-top box, but it also has a few tricks of its own, like a mic for voice search and a unique "Cube" main menu interface. At $139, it's priced just above the Vizio Co-Star and far below the Sony NSZ-G57. So how does it stack up? Let's see.

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Roku 3 review: our favorite media streamer, and the simplest to use, too

Roku's media streamers have carved out a notable niche for themselves, with what started out as a Netflix box, but quickly grew to include hundreds of other entertainment options. Whatever they've lacked in style, they've always made up for with an easy-to-navigate menu and remote, not to mention low prices. In fact, they've become our default recommendation in the media streamer category, and now the company is back with its third iteration.

Its approach hasn't changed: the Roku 3 is still a simple $99 box that brings internet content including video, some simple apps and even games to your TV. But this one is touted as the most powerful Roku ever, and the team behind it has even dared to tweak that boring, but simple menu system. There have always been some rough edges that needed polishing, along with holes in its offerings -- join us to see if it's good enough to be the best.

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Sonos Playbar review an excellent and expensive home theater addition

Sonos has found a sweet spot in the audio world. Its wireless technology and ability to stream music from almost any source -- be it from the cloud or local storage -- have given it considerable geek cred, yet its simple setup still offers mass appeal. Of course, none of that would matter if its systems didn't sound good, but fortunately, Sonos' Play:3, Play:5 and its Sub have all impressed with the quality of audio they produce. The $699 Playbar is the newest member of the family, and with this product, Sonos is setting its sights squarely on the home theater market. Is it fit for your living room? Read on to find out.

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