We evaluate a collection of media players to find the best one
If we strip away everything else, your choice of car doesn't matter so long as it gets you from Point A to Point B. However, there are all kinds of factors that separate a hot rod from jalopy on wheels, including price, performance, amenities, maintenance, and more. So it goes with media players, which are vehicles for your music and movies.
Like cars, not all media players are created equal. Some are big and bulky, others are lightweight and nimble. If you all you care about is the ability to play your favorite song over and over, just about any media player will do, but why short change yourself? Of course, going through the process of testing them all is a daunting task, so it's understandable if you want to roll the dice with a random selection.
Better yet, get your click (or tap) finger ready and digest our evaluation of some the most popular (and not so popular) media players around. As we go from one selection to the next, we'll tell you what we like and despise about each one, and then pick a winner.
Media streamers like the Western Digital WD TV Live and Netgear NeoTV make just a little less sense than they did a couple of years ago. In those days, they were the perfect alternative to stuffing a home theater PC into your entertainment center. These days, you can get nearly all the same functionality from a new Blu-ray player or a Smart TV.
On the other hand, the latest incarnations of these two products cost less than a new Blu-ray player, and they’re several orders of magnitude cheaper than a new HDTV (or a home theater PC, for that matter). And while they do have some features in common, the NeoTV delivers far fewer features than the WD TV Live and is priced accordingly, so we’re not making a direct head-to-head comparison between the two here.
Phones with cameras are ubiquitous, and point-and-shoot cameras have become practically throwaway purchases. It’s the golden age of citizen photography, but as you become more serious about your images, pocketable cameras become more frustrating, and you run into the limits of physics. The tiny sensors and low-speed lenses in camera phones and point-and-shoots can’t do justice to fast-action or low-light photography. Sometimes when you need that really long shot of, say, a hawk soaring above the trees, the wide-angle lens common to compact cameras reduces the graceful lines of the regal bird to a tiny dot.
Enter digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, which take your photography to the next level.
While trying to keep you afloat in all things PC gaming related at E3, we sometimes lose sight of some of the other awesome announcements outside of our department. Luckily, our sister publication GamesRadar.com has been blowing out E3 with some killer coverage. We know PC users like to be in the know about anything electronic, including video games, so we thought we'd show you some of more memorable posts from today.
Nintendo Wii-U: Possibly the biggest announcement so far, Nintendo's questionably titled "Wii-U" sports a crazy looking controller and new, updated, HD graphics. Check it out here.
It has long been considered common wisdom that the smaller the size of a PC, the greater its compromises. Notebooks, no matter how fat, for example, will never touch the power of a desktop machine.
The same held true for small form factor rigs. But is that still the case? To find out how today’s SFF rigs compare with their full-size desktop brethren, we tasked five top PC makers with sending us their best and brightest, and, well, smallest machines.
Don’t think you’ve got it good with that dinky cam built into your laptop. Whether you’re exploiting that five-second window of opportunity on ChatRoulette, posting your latest Polka performance to YouTube, or catching up with your folks over Skype, a good webcam can make all the difference. An external cam doesn’t just offer vastly superior video and audio quality. The flexibility of being able to freely maneuver and position the device opens up lots of possibilities, letting you take photos and video of more than what happens to be right in front of your laptop screen.
In some ways, visiting cyberspace is kind of like entering a crowded subway car during the peak of flu season. You’re surrounded by all sorts of germs—in the form of trojans, spyware, viruses, rootkits, etc.—just looking for a vulnerable host to invade and feed on. Once you’re infected, these pests can wreak havoc on your system, swiping your personal information and passwords, annihilating your credit rating, and stealing your identity. To avoid a potentially virulent attack, you need to take precautions.
What are you thankful for? It’s such a cliché statement, especially given that we’re barely past the brief period of time where we’re all allowed to indulge ourselves in vast quantities of food—leftover or otherwise.
Of course, the Thanksgiving break—if you had one—provides for a perfect time to get some home cleaning done. But I’m not just talking about dusting off your action figure collection. No, of course, all fingers point to your PC. That poor, neglected piece of equipment does nothing but provide for you, day in and day out. It’s become bloated to excess and you, realizing that there’s no time like the present, have decided to wipe it clean and start anew.
So what, pray tell, do you install first? It’s a simple question and, indeed, one with nearly a thousand answers. Look, as far as I’m concerned, you’re still on vacation. Allow me to do the work for you. For I present to you a five-course meal of applications that we should all be thankful for on some level—game-changers that, really, deserve to be installed on any system you touch, period.
If you’ve already heard of them, excellent. You’re just that ahead of the game. If not, consider this your chance to get caught up to all that is awesome in the world of freeware and open-source software.
Digg versus Reddit; Reddit versus Digg. Much could be written about the unfolding war for your attention that’s taking place on the battlegrounds of news aggregates come and gone. That was pretty poetic, wasn’t it? Look, here’s the raw deal: Whether you’re a Digg enthusiast, Reddit convert, or vice versa, there’s no reason why you should have to live your online life using the simple, raw tools that either site has provided for you.
No, there are plenty of unique tweaks and twists that you can build into your conventional Reddit/Digg experience—provided, of course, you’re rocking either Firefox or Chrome as your browser of choice. And if you’re using something else or, for that matter, using another site on the Internet for your daily news updates… well, you’re out of luck in this week’s Freeware Files.
So, for those that are left, get ready to see how you can kick your Reddit or Digg surfing to new levels of awesomeness (really, usability!) We’ve split the extensions/add-ons up by browser and by site, with a special little bonus in the end for anyone who sticks around that far.
You’ve been getting by with the cheapie router you bought two years ago, so why should you upgrade now? In a word: Performance. And features. Oh, sorry. That’s two words. We looked at a host of budget offerings in our last router roundup (February 2010) and didn’t find much to get excited about. This time, we asked seven manufacturers to send us the best consumer routers in their stables regardless of price tags.
In most cases, that meant a simultaneous dual-band router capable of running 802.11n wireless networks using the typical 2.4GHz frequency band and the less-crowded 5GHz band, plus a guest network that isolates its clients from your primary LAN. In all cases, it meant a router with an integrated four-port gigabit switch and at least one USB port for sharing a printer or a storage device over the network (some have two USB ports to support both functions). In an interesting twist, however, no one submitted a product using a three-stream wireless chipset promising raw throughput of 450Mb/s.