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The Year's Gadget Game Changers

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1. Dish Hopper With Sling
The groundbreaking DVR bowled over the crowd at CES in January and co-won Best in Show for its ability to transfer recorded shows to an iPad as well as zoom past commercials at a button-press. TV networks sued, but so far their legal efforts have been unsuccessful and consumers are continuing to get a glimpse at how cool the future of television looks. (dish.com; $234.99)

2. Kindle Fire HDX 7”
The latest generation of Amazon’s multi-media tablet is a real contender, with its iPad-rivaling display, scorching guts, and revamped Android- skin software. It’s not just a great device but a signal that Amazon is finally ready to compete with Apple and the Android hordes as a hardware maker. Can a smartphone or TV box be far behind? (amazon.com; $229)

3. Chromecast
Google’s tiny, bargain-priced plug-in dongle pumps Web video and audio — not only from Netflix and Hulu Plus but from most Web pages, too — directly to an HDTV from almost any computer or tablet. It’s a nifty, no-nonsense solution that’s hallmark Goog, and it has us wondering what other home-theater tricks they’re working on. (play.google.com; $35)

4. iPhone 5S
The sales figures (a record 9 million new units in a weekend) are as impressive as the specs (twice as fast as the iPhone 5, with advanced fingerprint security). Bonus: The iPad Air and next-gen Mini both have a new powerhouse A7 processor and Retina screen, making the iOS ecosystem the undisputed champ of mobile. (apple.com; $199-399)

5. Xbox One
Both the PS4 and the new Xbox offer cutting-edge graphics, improved multiplayer gaming, voice control, and a host of other refinements. But the extra hook is Xbox as the ultimate home-theater center, integrating everything from gaming to live TV through your cable box to streaming video and music. There are some early flaws, to be sure, but give it a few updates and your Xbox might really be the One. (microsoftstore.com; $499.99)


Honorable Mention
Google Glass
Whether you love or hate the idea of wearable devices, the beta release of Glass was a watershed moment in tech and culture. This year, 10,000 bespectacled testers used theirs to search, take hands-free pictures and video, and map routes. Next year, when Glass hits the market, we’ll all get a chance to decide if this truly is the new must-have accessory.

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