Acer’s updated Swift 7 Ultrabook is once again the ‘thinnest computer in the world’

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Generally, laptops at CES tend to range toward the middle of the pack, with companies saving their more unique or impressive models for less crowded times. And while Acer has shown up at CES this year with a trio of updated versions of older models, there is at least one high note: the updated Swift 7, which is even thinner than the previous version at just 8.98 millimeters thick. Acer claims it to be the thinnest laptop in the world.

Thinness aside, the rest of the Swift 7 clocks in at “pretty good.” There’s a seventh generation Core i7 processor, but it’d be nice if Acer had upgraded to the latest eighth-generation model. There’s 8GB of RAM and 256GB of PCIe SSD storage, both of which are fine, but higher capacities exist out there among competitors. And while Acer has upgraded the screen from a 13.3-inch panel to a 14-inch one, it’s still only at 1080p resolution. There is one big change in the Swift 7 that may be enough to get more users on board, though: it has integrated 4G LTE connectivity, which is still almost oddly rare in laptops.

But LTE aside, it’s hard to look at the starting price tag of $1,699, and not consider something like the Dell XPS 13 or Lenovo Yoga 920, both of which sacrifice the Swift 7’s thinness for newer Intel processors, more RAM and storage space, and higher resolution touchscreens at lower price points. The new Swift 7 will be available in March.


Image: Acer
Acer Nitro 5

Acer also announced an update to its casual gaming laptop, the Nitro 5, which is getting upgraded to an AMD Radeon RX560 graphics card and AMD’s latest Ryzen mobile processors. RAM and SSD storage are configurable up to 32GB and 512GB, respectively, with a 15.6-inch 1080p panel rounding out the computer.

The Nitro 5 certainly isn’t the best or fastest gaming laptop on the market, but at a starting price point of $799, it looks like a pretty good option for someone just looking to dip their toe in the PC gaming waters that wants to try out the latest indie platformer on Stream or try out competitive titles like Rocket League, PUBG, Overwatch, or Dota 2. The Nitro 5 launches in April.


Image: Acer
Acer Spin 3

Rounding up Acer’s updated CES 2018 lineup is the Spin 3, which (unlike the Swift 7) is getting eighth-generation Intel Core processors. Acer has also shrunk down the display from a 15.6-inch panel to a 14-inch 1080p display for a smaller overall form factor, although true to the “Spin” name, it still rotates around to convert into a tablet. Acer hasn’t released a full spec sheet yet, but prices will start at $599 when the Spin 3 launches in February.

Last, but not least, Acer has also announced US release dates for two of its computers that it had announced last year at IFA 2017 — the fanless 2-in-1 Switch 7 Black Edition, which will be available later this month starting at $1,699; and the ludicrously over-the-top Acer Predator Orion 9000 desktop tower (you know, the one with wheels), available in February starting at $1,999.

Acer launches a new Chromebook 11 with USB-C

Acer is releasing a new version of the Chromebook 11, which is a pretty standard low- to mid-range addition to its array of Chromebooks.

Acer claims the new Chromebook 11 CB311 gets up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge. It also has a fanless design aimed at making the laptop quieter so that you can finally visit peaceful locales like a “family room, library, or coffee shop.” There are two USB 3.0 ports and, for the first time, two USB 3.1 Type-C ports. There’s a touch display version of the Chromebook 11 and a non-touch display option. It can also run Android apps.

Unfortunately, the Chromebook 11 has a terrible resolution for a modern laptop — its 11.6-inch display only has a 1366 x 768 resolution, like its predecessor, the Chromebook 11 C771, which was launched last August and aimed at students. Still, the device is a slim 0.71 inches thin and only weighs 2.43 pounds, which makes it decent for lugging around to the library and coffee shop like Acer intends you to.

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The laptop is powered by Intel’s Celeron processor, as is the case with other Acer Chromebooks. It comes with either 2GB or 4GB of memory and 16GB or 32GB of storage. It also has an HDR webcam and dual stereo speakers with an integrated microphone.

After its CES debut, the Chromebook 11 line will be available in stores in March and prices start at $249 for the most basic options.


Image: Acer

Image: Acer

Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle astronaut John Young has died

Veteran astronaut John Young archived a number of milestones over the course of his 42 year career at NASA: a Navy pilot who served during the Korean War, he flew in space six time with some of the agency’s biggest programs, was the ninth person to walk on the moon, and the first to pilot the Space Shuttle. NASA announced earlier today that Young died at the age of 87 due to complications from pneumonia.

Born on September 24th, 1930, Young attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he earned his degree in aeronautical engineering in 1952. From there, he joined the US Navy, served aboard the USS LAWS during the Korean War, and went on to attend the Navy Test Pilot School. In 1962, NASA selected him as part of Astronaut Group 2, the second batch of pilots that included Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell, James McDivitt, Elliot See, Thomas Strafford, and Ed White.

At NASA, Young enjoyed a notable career. Along with fellow astronaut Gus Grissom, he was the pilot for Gemini 3 on March 23rd, 1965, the first crewed mission of the program. Together, they orbited Earth three times, testing thrusters that allowed the crew to maneuver in space, and was later reprimanded for smuggling a corn beef sandwich for the ride.


Image: NASA/MSFC archives

Young returned to space on July 18th 1966 as the Command Pilot for Gemini 10, along with future Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins. The two spent almost three days in space, completing 43 orbits of Earth. During that time, they performed rendezvous maneuvers with a pair of Agena target vehicles that were already in orbit.

From there, Young joined the Apollo program, where he was assigned to the Apollo 7 backup crew as the Command Module Pilot, along with astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan. That crew later became the prime crew for Apollo 10, which performed a “dress rehearsal” in May 1969 for the Apollo 11 mission later that summer. He also served as the backup commander for Apollo 13, and was involved in the efforts to bring the crew home after an explosion crippled the spacecraft.


Image: NASA, Charles M. Duke Jr.

In 1972, as Commander for the Apollo 16 mission, Young became the ninth person to walk. Along with Charlies Duke Jr., he landed in the Descartes Highlands on April 21st, where they spent three days on the lunar surface. There, they set up scientific equipment, collected 200 pounds of rocks, and used their lunar rover to drive over 16 miles. According to David Hitt and Heather R. Smith in Bold They Rise: The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986, Young learned that Congress had approved funds for the development of NASA’ next big project, the Space Shuttle.

After his return to Earth, the shuttle would become Young’s next focus. NASA promoted him to Chief of the Space Shuttle Branch of the Astronaut Office in 1973, and then the entire Astronaut Office, which oversees training and operations of the Astronaut corps. He helped develop the training protocols for the crews that would fly the space shuttle, and was named Command Pilot for the program’s maiden flight with Space Shuttle Columbia in April 1981, spending two days in space.

Astronauts in Spacecraft

His sixth and final flight came in November 1983, when he commanded Columbia on the STS-9 mission, which tested out a variety of scientific experiments with the Spacelab module. He was scheduled to fly for a seventh time to launch the Hubble Space Telescope in 1986, only to have that mission scrubbed following the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger. He later served as Special Assistant to the Director of Johnson Space Center for Engineering, Operations, and Safety.

While Young retired from NASA in 2004, he remained a constant figure at the agency, Young remained at NASA until 2004, when he retired at the age of 74. Over his 42 year career at the space agency, Young played key roles in some of NASA’s defining moments, and helped transition the agency from its focus on reaching the Moon with Gemini and Apollo to the Space Shuttle era.

In a statement, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said that Young was one of the “early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space,” who spent his entire life in the service to his country, and that he was “in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’”

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Google is gearing up for an Alexa fight at CES

We’re still a ways away from the official start of CES 2018, but the news is already starting to trickle out and everybody is setting up for the big show. And if the parking lot outside of the Las Vegas convention center is any indication, one of the biggest shows this year is coming from a company that has historically stayed quiet at CES: Google.

Last night we watched as Google began setting up a seriously massive installation, complete with the classic Google slide that you normally only see at its headquarters in Mountain View. The branding is all “Hey Google,” which is a pretty good indication of what’s getting pushed this year: the Google Assistant.

Our best guess is that this isn’t so much about pushing the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max. Instead, it’s an indication that Google wants to push back on the Amazon Alexa narrative at CES the past couple years. Alexa completely dominated CES last year, with integration announcements from all sorts of companies.


Photo by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

This year, we’ve already seen early Google Assistant integration announcements, and we fully expect more will be on the way. To push that story, Google not only has this huge booth, but has also thrown “Hey Google” on the Las Vegas Monorail and in various billboards across the city — and it also has what looks like a giant gumball machine at the main entrance of the convention center. The main booth in the parking lot is fronted by two gigantic video screens, as well.

Over the years, we’ve seen many CES announcements full of sound and fury, but they haven’t always signified as much as the companies making them have hoped. But Google is clearly hoping to buck that trend, and it has a fairly recent update for speaker makers to improve the quality of the Assistant when it’s included on third party devices.

Very thirsty pic.twitter.com/HMVr164BF6

— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) January 6, 2018

Mike Brooks’ Keiko trilogy is the perfect read for fans who miss Firefly and Dark Matter

If you’re a fan of TV shows about wayward starship crews taking on whatever job will keep them flying, you might be suffering though a dry spell right now, since shows like Firefly, Farscape, and Dark Matter are no longer running. But Mike Brooks’ Keiko novels could help fill the gap. They’re an addictive dive into a fantastic universe populated by an intriguing cast of characters, who are making their way through a future in which humanity has spread across the galaxy.

Some spoilers ahead for the entire trilogy.

The ongoing series began in 2015, and so far, it’s composed of Dark Run, Dark Sky, and Dark Deeds. The books follow the misadventures of Captain Ichabod Drift, a reformed pirate who now runs the freelance cargo ship Keiko. Humanity has spread out through space and has inhabited a number of solar systems, either creating habitable planets through terraforming, or burrowing under their surfaces. Breaking with his colorful past, Drift has turned to a life of cargo hauling and smuggling for anyone willing to pay the right price.

When we meet the Keiko’s crew in Dark Run, Nicolas Kelsier, a former minister from the European Commonwealth, has blackmailed them into transporting a mysterious package to Earth. The cargo turns out to be a bomb — part of a revenge scheme put together by Kelsier against his former employers. The crew averts disaster, then sets off to exact revenge on the man who put them all at risk.


Brooks adopts standard sci-fi conventions like cybernetic mercenaries, interstellar spies, and frontier mining planets, but he keeps the story humming along with vivid characters and a fully realized universe. Drift is a colorful, and not always competent character who has surrounded himself with an intriguing mix of mercenaries, hackers, and muscle. There’s the massive Māori fighter Apirana Wahawaha, and Chinese brother-and-sister team of Jia and Kuai Chang, who serve as the Keiko’s pilot and mechanic, respectively. Their misadventures feel like a tiny part of a much larger world, with each character playing some role in revealing its history and layout. Drift is appealing because of his flaws: he isn’t an omniscient figure for the crew: he’s just making his way through the universe to make a living in the way he knows best.

That living isn’t always easy. Like in Firefly, the Keiko’s crew mostly inhabits a criminal underworld. We stop through seedy bars, boxing arenas, and remote offices where the occupants would rather avoid official attention. With each installment, we’ve gotten to see a little more of the larger human space, and it’s a vibrant, chaotic mess that Drift and his crew must navigate.

After Dark Run, Brooks sticks to a comfortable formula: the crew accepts a mission, only to have it go sideways on them. In the follow-up Dark Sky, a crime boss named Sergei Orlov hires Drift and his crew to visit a mining world called Uragan to retrieve some information for him. However, things go south shortly after they arrive, as the local inhabitants start a revolution against their government. The crew is trapped beneath the planet’s surface, and they rush to complete their mission and escape.


Image: Saga Press

Dark Sky is probably the weakest entry in the series, but it’s still worth picking up. While the first novel is largely a standalone adventure, Brooks brings the second book to a rather abrupt end, which would be frustrating if you didn’t have the next book close at hand. Dark Sky also doesn’t engage deeply with its political narrative: the uprising is driven by poor treatment of the miners, but it simply runs in the background of the story, rather than impacting the crew in any meaningful way.

Brooks regains his footing with Dark Deeds, released last year. After the failure of a mission in the last book, Orlov holds Drift’s second-in-command Tamara Roarke hostage, while the crew races to repay their debt to him. As in the other two books, the crew comes up with a plan and executes it, but things go sideways in some unexpected ways.


Image: Saga Press

By the time I got to the end of Dark Deeds, I realized that while the individual entries in the series don’t vary too wildly, Brooks is laying out something a bit more interesting than a series of heists and hijinks of the crew of a starship. It’s an exciting portrait of that ship’s crew, and how they rely on one another when things don’t go the way as planned. Like any of the best science fiction television shows out there, Brooks puts his cast of characters front and center, and I hope that we’ll get to ride along with the crew of the Keiko before too long.

Epic Games blames Meltdown CPU performance issues for Fortnite downtime

As the technology industry continues to react to two major CPU bugs, we’re starting to see early signs of performance issues from security patches designed to fix the problems. Epic Games has released a chart of CPU usage after it patched its back-end services to address the Meltdown vulnerability. It shows a roughly 20 percent increase in CPU utilization, immediately after the patches were applied. The company released the chart to “provide a bit more context” around recent login issues and stability with its Fortnite game.

“All of our cloud services are affected by updates required to mitigate the Meltdown vulnerability,” says an Epic Games spokesperson in a forum post. “We heavily rely on cloud services to run our back-end and we may experience further service issues due to ongoing updates.” Epic Games warns that issues may continue next week as the company works with cloud providers to address the issues and prevent further problems arising.


Intel has been rolling out firmware updates to protect against the Meltdown and Spectre CPU vulnerabilities. The flaws affect nearly every device made in the past 20 years, and could allow attackers to use JavaScript code running in a browser to access memory in the attacker’s process. That memory content could contain key strokes, passwords, and other valuable information. Cloud platforms are the most at risk, as multiple customers typically share the same CPU hardware so any security issue could hit multiple businesses at the same time. Cloud providers have been patching fast, and Intel says it has made “significant progress” rolling out updates to protect against Meltdown and Spectre.

Intel has admitted that performance issues will be “highly workload-dependent,” and that further software updates should help. Some Linux admins are reporting performance impacts, and it’s clear we’re only just starting to understand how this could impact internet services.

New trailers: Slender Man, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and more

For lack of better judgement, I decided to watch Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals a couple months ago. The movie just looked so tense and downright gorgeous that I was willing to ignore the fact that I turned off Ford’s first movie halfway through. I should have done the same with this one.

I don’t like to be dismissive of movies in this weird little intro space here since I never write more than a few short paragraphs, but Nocturnal Animals is a whole other beast. The film’s hero is a guy who spends over a decade writing a book just so he can get revenge on his ex-wife for… breaking up with him? The conclusion is that the book makes her feel bad. It also equates abortion to a gruesome double rape/murder.

Obviously, movies are allowed to be about bad people. The problem with this one is that the film takes the bad guy’s side, as though his ex deserves to be punished for wanting to escape their unhealthy, loveless relationship. The film’s point of view is just so morally corrupt that I don’t know how everyone agreed to make it. There’s an argument to be made that creating this kind of repulsed feeling in the viewer is a type of art, but I don’t believe that was the intention here. Also, the movie contains numerous extended reaction shots of someone reading a book.

Last week was slow so there was no new trailers column, so check out seven trailers from this week and last week below.

Slender Man

The internet’s most famous meme villain / horror legend is getting an appropriately creepy movie adaptation, and this trailer is a first look that just never seems to end. On one hand, it may have only been a matter of time before a studio brought a legend with a built-in audience and minimal copyright to life; on the other, it feels extra weird since there are actual incidents in which 12- and 13-year-olds attacked people in the name of Slender Man, which makes me wonder if there’s a degree of sensitivity this movie needs to approach its evil lore with. The film comes out on May 18th.

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

Speaking of creepy internet stories, Channel Zero is a Syfy anthology series that’s based on a new myth each season. I’d missed this show until now — it’s two seasons in — but a trailer just came out for its third run, and it looks exceptionally creepy. It starts February 7th.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Netflix’s big, colorful, and super-stylized adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events is close to returning for a second season. The streaming service released a brief teaser this week, though you likely won’t have to wait too long to see more. The second season comes out on March 30th.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman

Netflix put out a very brief teaser for its new David Letterman-hosted talk show this week. But the real highlight isn’t Letterman, or the set, or anything unusual that’s going on: it’s the guests. For its first six-episode run, the show has landed President Obama, Jay Z, Malala Yousafzai, Tina Fey, George Clooney, and Howard Stern. In an usual move for Netflix, the season won’t premiere all at once: the first episode will go up January 12th, and new ones will roll out once every month after that.

Foxtrot

This is Israel’s entry for the foreign language Oscar this year. The trailer is not great from a ‘convey the tone of the film or what it’s about’ kind of standpoint, but it has so many great shots and so many perfectly strange moments throughout that it still caught my interest. The movie follows the parents of a solider after his death and also follows that solider’s depressing, but also apparently quite odd, experiences leading up to his death. It opens in the US with a limited release on March 2nd.

The End of the F**king World

This show actually came out yesterday, but Netflix did’t put out a trailer for it until early this week and it’s too weird not to include here. Be warned, the show looks exceptionally twee, but the dark twist could make it a lot of fun.

Mom and Dad

Once or twice a year, Nicolas Cage turns up in a completely bewildering role. This is one of those roles, and yet it is also the perfect role, one that finds him screaming the lyrics to “Hokey Pokey” while destroying his home with a sledgehammer. It opens January 19th.

Cassette tape sales had their best year since 2012

Nielsen Media Research released its annual Music Year-End Report for 2017. It found that audiences are increasingly turning to on-demand streaming to get their music, while sales in physical media is declining. But some formats are experiencing a boost: sales of cassette tapes have increased, hitting their best year since 2012.

Cassette Tapes are in the midst of a revival: Nielsen reported last year that sales rose 74 percent to 129,000 units sold. That uptick was led by albums such as the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, which featured the classic cassette tape prominently in the 2014 film. This year, those numbers rose further: Nielsen says that retailers sold 174,000 units, up 35 percent from last year’s numbers.

Nostalgia seems to be leading most of the charge: Billboard says that the three Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks led sales in 2017, which were followed by the Stranger Things, Volume 1 soundtrack, which hit stores last summer. Those projects were wildly popular with audiences, due in part to their reliance on nostalgia for the music and objects of the 1980s. Other popular albums include Eminem’s 2002 album The Eminem Show, Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind, and Kanye West’s 2013 album Yeezus.

Despite those gains, cassettes remain a niche format: consumers purchased 169.1 albums in 2017 (down 17.7 percent from 2016), while 14.3 million of those albums were vinyl.

Apple AirPods, Sonos speakers, and more of the week’s best tech deals

Two popular audio products are headlining this week’s tech deals: one that’s back after leaving us for a while, and another we featured last week that’s still on sale — the Apple AirPods and the Sonos Play:One, respectively. After being sold out for the bulk of the holiday season, AirPods are back at select retailers, like Target and Best Buy. They might not be on sale, and they’re already backordered at places like B&H, so get them while they last.

The Sonos Play:One is still on sale on Amazon and Best Buy for $139.99, down from $199.99. This deal was extremely popular with our readers last week, and we don’t know how long they’ll be available at this price, so take advantage while the deal is here.

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Looking for gaming deals? Check out Polygon’s gaming deals roundup here.

Good Deals is a weekly roundup of the best deals on the internet, curated by Vox Media’s commerce team, in collaboration with The Verge’s editorial team. You can submit deals to deals@theverge.com and find more Good Deals here. All prices are reflective

This speaker holds drill bits so please don’t trip

ION Audio has just announced Garage Rocker, a jobsite speaker that is wireless, water-resistant, a magnetic tool holder, and yes, a place to hold your drill bits upright.

Jobsite speakers are a niche category (kind of like party/karaoke speakers) that are meant to withstand environments where there is loud noise from tools being used and exposure to liquids and dust. Many of them come with similar features, like a rugged housing, compartments for storing tools, and a sizable Bluetooth range. They’re great not just for construction sites, but also for home use in the garage or backyard.

ION Audio’s Garage Rocker has a few notable points. It has a lot of integrated storage that’s also accessible — the top not only has an integrated ruler, protractor, drill bit holder, socket tray, and magnetized screw tray, but the sides are magnetic as well so tools can be within easy reach. The housing is IPX5 water-resistant, sports a metal grille to protect the speaker, and has large rubber buttons that can be used even while wearing work gloves.

As far as the sound goes, Garage Rocker boasts a 50-watt speaker (which means it should get pretty loud) and can stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth device. There’s also an 1/8-inch aux input for connecting other devices that don’t have Bluetooth and, because why not, it also comes with a “high quality” microphone and cable. The company says the speaker’s battery should last up to 50 hours on a full charge, and it also has the capability to power up your phone via a USB charge port. Lastly, it comes with a built-in digital AM/FM radio and internal antenna.

The Garage Rocker will be available this summer and will retail for $199.