ASUS Chromebook Flip review: small, solidly built, well-priced

I'm sick of reviewing Chromebooks. What was once the source of fierce debates about the future of computing is now a commodity: Most models have the same specs, the same internals and more or less perform the same. There are a lot of them, and most aren't particularly good or particularly bad. They're forgettable; unremarkable. That cranky preamble aside, I did want to test the Chromebook Flip. This machine, made by ASUS, is notable on a few counts. With a 10-inch screen, it's one of the smallest around, even if it does hearken back to the days of the netbook. It's one of the few with a 360-degree rotating touchscreen. The build quality is better than most, thanks to an all-metal chassis. The battery life is longer too, at 10.5 hours. Lastly, it's cheap for what it is: just $249. Yes, there's a catch -- several, even -- but all told, I recommend it anyway.

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The Sony CMT-SX7 HiFi was supposed to be a compact, high-end sound system with multi-room capabilities and a full suite of wireless streaming standards (including AirPlay and Google Cast). Instead, it's a recalled safety hazard that doesn't play music right, makes your dog bark and threatens to catch on fire. Sony has issued an impassioned plea to stop using the stereo immediately. You probably don't have one (it's brand-new, and only available in Japan right now), but if you do, you should listen.

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what's on?

Apple has reportedly applied for a patent that incorporates a biometric scanner into the Apple TV remote control. This fingerprint reader could serve a variety of functions such as adjusting the volume and display based on each household member's personal preferences or automatically logging users into their personal streaming accounts. It could also serve as a means for authorizing iTunes downloads. Plus, if Apple begins pushing Apple TV as a hub for future home automation systems, as has been speculated, the biometric remote could act as a universal controller for those features as well.

[Image Credit: Robert S. Donovan/Flickr]

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The past few months haven't been easy for Makerbot. But it doesn't seem like the restructuring and sizable layoffs are affecting the company's progress. Today it announced the opening of a new, 170,000-square-foot manufacturing center in New York City. For Makerbot, it means being able to double the production capacity of 3D printers, as well as offer better quality assurance for these machines -- and, considering a recent lawsuit, the timing couldn't be better. This doesn't only signal a commitment from Makerbot to keep growing its own operations, but also shows it doesn't plan to give up on a 3D-printing industry that's been struggling. The huge, upgraded space is located in Brooklyn's Industrial City, so you can expect Makerbot's 3D printers to keep the "Designed & Built in Brooklyn" branding for at least the next ten years.

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When Square Enix announced Rise of the Tomb Raider at Gamescom last year, it dropped a bomb: The game would be exclusive to Xbox platforms, meaning PlayStation 4 and PC players wouldn't get to touch it. At least, not for a certain amount of time. Square Enix today confirmed that Rise of the Tomb Raider will indeed hit PC and PS4 after a period of Xbox exclusivity: It will launch on Windows 10 and Steam in early 2016, and PS4 in late 2016. Rise of the Tomb Raider is slated to hit Xbox One and Xbox 360 this year on November 10th.

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Life is Strange is about to get dark. Well, darker than all of the surreal time travel, stormy nightmares, missing-person mysteries and straight-up death contained in the first three episodes. Episode four, Dark Room, hits Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Steam next Tuesday, July 28th. Life is Strange is partly a cinematic coming-of-age tale featuring Max -- a young girl who returns to her hometown to find her best friend vastly changed -- and partly a sci-fi mystery as Max realizes she can control time. She uses her power to get out of increasingly dangerous jams and in the search for a missing girl, Rachel Amber. According to the trailer for Dark Room, this one is going to be tense (spoiler warning for all three previous episodes).

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Talk about plucking a needle from a cosmic haystack. NASA just announced that its planet-hunting Kepler telescope has discovered Kepler 452b, an exoplanet that exists inside the habitable zone around a G-type star (that is, a star that's awfully similar to our own sun). The planet is about 60 percent more massive than Earth, and that's a pretty good sign -- researchers obviously aren't sure whether the Kepler 452b can support life, but the chances of it having a solid, rocky surface are "better than even."

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The price of making sure that the feds aren't reading your emails is download speeds that can be measured in weeks rather than seconds. A group of academics are hoping to change that, however, by taking the basic idea of the Tor anonymity network and slapping on more than a few go-faster-stripe decals. Hornet has been crafted by a team from universities in Zurich and London and promises to keep your information safe from prying eyes while reaching speeds of up to 93 GB/s. Phowar.

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Susanne Daniels

Susanne Daniels is exiting her post as programming chief at MTV to join YouTube in a newly created position leading the platform's budding original content efforts.

As vice president of YouTube originals, Daniels will oversee development and production of content for the world's highest-trafficked video source. The move isn't expected to be a major shift in programming strategy for Google-owned YouTube, which is already pretty far along in its plan to expand its originals.

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Apparently, the secret to better, more eco-friendly rice plant is another type of grain: barley. A team of scientists has created genetically modified rice that borrows a single gene from barley and found that the altered organism can generate up to 43 percent more grains per plant. Plus, its methane emission is down to 0.3 percent, a lot lower than regular rice's 10 percent emission observed during the scientists' experiments. Methane, as you might know, is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and is the second most prevalent in the US after carbon dioxide.

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"DNA origami" is nothing new -- in fact, IBM once considered it as a way to make microchips. However, Scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have become ridiculously good at folding the building blocks of life, and built a bunny to prove it. The point was not to do a party trick, of course, though rabbit-shaped DNA is delightful. Rather, the team wanted to develop a fully-automated, 3D-printing-like method for folding DNA. Researchers could one day use the technique to create structures that don't break down in the human body in order to precisely deliver drugs.

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Apple is believed to be ready to let third parties build magnetic charging cables for the Apple Watch in the same way as it does for the iPhone and iPad. A report by 9to5Mac claims that the company is gearing up to launch a Made for Apple Watch licensing program that'll enable other firms to build their own. Currently, watch stands have to have a groove cut out of them into which you can cram your bundled charging cable. Unfortunately, that's not a very elegant solution for your nightstand, especially if you've dropped $100 on a custom dock. If the report is to believed, then we should start seeing integrated chargers all over the place by early 2016.

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More and more smartphones, TVs and wearables like Apple's Watch now use OLED displays, but only two companies mass produce them -- Samsung and LG. LG is trying to stay on top of demand by building a new 1.05 trillion won ($900 million) flexible OLED plant in Korea. Starting in 2017, the 6th-gen line will spit out four times as many screens as the current-gen plant thanks to a larger "substrate" sheet size. The plastic-based displays are aimed at smaller next-gen devices that can benefit from the bendability like automotive displays, cellphones and wearables.

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Today on In Case You Missed It: Forever 21 just unveiled (or unwound) a new kind of billboard that uses mechanical spools of thread to rapidly display Instagram photos. A bionic eye was implanted in a patient for new use with an old disease: Age-related macular degeneration. And your next kiddy birthday party will be the perfect place to unveil your mastery of common household ingredients to make a rainbow flamethrower display. Don't say I didn't warn you if you blow up your house, though.

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Call of Duty European Championships Final At The Royal Opera House

The Electronic Sports League has announced that it will soon begin testing players for performance enhancing substances at future competitive events. The organization told Motherboard that it won't share details just yet, but will institute measures to police, educate and prevent drug taking on its watch. The news comes in the wake of the revelations made by professional Counter-Strike player Cory Friesen about he and his team, Cloud 9. Friesen told an interviewer that they had all taken the psychostimulant Adderall to boost performance during a recent tournament in Poland.

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There's nothing the European Commission likes more than a good ol' antitrust case, and today it's set its sights on Sky UK and six of the broadcaster's US film studio partners: Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. In a "Statement of Objections" sent to the parties, the commission has formally accused Sky and the studios of engaging in anti-competitive behavior, by drawing up contracts that prevent Europeans from accessing Sky's pay-TV services outside of the UK and Ireland. While it's implied Sky is partly to blame, the commission's main issue with the agreements is they stop Sky from coming to its own decision on whether to offer pay-TV access in other EU countries.

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Lyft users might get free Starbucks coffee, but certain Uber users can get a high-end Xiaomi smartphone delivered to their door, at least for a day. If you're in Singapore and Malaysia, you can order the 5.7-inch QuadHD Xiaomi Mi Note directly from the Uber app and get it delivered like some kind of high-tech pizza. Your Uber credit card will be charged for the phone and you'll be able to follow the special orange-colored vehicle as it heads your way. The deal is only good for one day, July 27th, but that's a day ahead of the official launch, briefly giving you bragging rights.

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Dear parents who can't wait for their kids to be over the Minion craze: Hollywood's already planning for the yellow critters' replacement in your children's lives. And, if you're unlucky, these new characters might even be more obnoxious than Gru's banana-loving henchmen*. Sony Pictures Animation has won an auction for a story pitch starring those yellow ideograms or smileys we all know as "emojis." Yep, there's going to be an emoji movie, according to Deadline, which also reported that two other studios competed against Sony at the auction for the right to turn the story into a full-fledged film.

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