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Innovation

DELL INSPIRON MINI 9 COMPUTER ($350): Tiny laptops, known as netbooks, have been cropping up like kudzu of late. Dell's latest addition to the tangle is the Inspiron Mini 9, a two-pound laptop that runs Windows XP or Linux.

The Mini 9 has a 9-inch display and 1.6-gigahertz Intel Atom processor, part of Intel's new line of low-power processors for mobile devices. It can hold up to 1 gigabyte of memory and comes with up to 16 gigabytes of solid-state storage.

Interestingly, Dell is not offering a traditional hard drive at all; instead it uses solid-state memory to store the operating system, programs and data. A $350 version of the laptop comes with 4 gigabytes of storage and runs Ubuntu, a popular version of the open-source operating system Linux. For $400 you gain Windows XP and 8 gigabytes of storage. The laptop is available at Dell.com.

The laptop has Wi-Fi but hackers have already opened the case and found the potential for built-in 3G wireless compatibility, although it may not be activated in the United States. It also has a larger keyboard than most other netbooks, a boon for users with even average-size fingers. John Biggs, New York Times

HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER DIGITAL CAMERA SWIM MASK ($100): Big LCD displays on digital cameras are easy to view with goggles on, which makes waterproof models great for underwater photography. But a waterproof camera can be inconvenient when you need your hands for something else – like, say, swimming.

Hammacher Schlemmer's digital camera swim mask is both a mask for snorkeling or backyard swimming and a camera, letting your hands be completely free except when you want to press the shutter button (crosshairs in the tempered-glass eye lenses help you line up shots). The camera mask, priced at about $100, shoots 5-megapixel stills and videos with VGA (640 by 480 pixels) resolution at 18 to 25 frames per second. An LED inside the mask shows whether the camera is in still or video mode. The built-in 16-megabyte memory can hold up to 45 stills or 53 seconds of video, but a slot for a Micro SD memory card lets you add up to 8 gigabytes of memory. The two AAA batteries required are not included, but a USB cable and both PC and Mac software are. The camera mask can be used at depths down to 15 feet. Any deeper, and you'll probably need more than just a swim mask, anyway. Ivan Berger, New York Times

TM506 PHONE ($79): With manufacturers falling over themselves to announce new smartphones, it is refreshing to see a standard, old-school clamshell handset. The TM506 fits that bill: Instead of keyboards and other bells and whistles, this compact device has a simple numeric keypad and a basic user interface for ordinary phone functions.

The phone runs on T-Mobile's GSM network and also works internationally. It comes in green and black and costs $79 after rebates. Interestingly, this is the first phone from T-Mobile that supports wireless 3G networks in some cities in the United States and overseas. The TM506 can send text and picture messages and supports AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo and MSN messaging. It is also compatible with T-Mobile's MyFaves calling plan.

A 2.2-megapixel camera is included; battery life is about 5 hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time on one charge. It has a 2.2-inch screen and supports Memory Stick Micro.

It is nice to know that someone is still thinking of people who don't want to read a 100-page manual just to make a call. John Biggs, New York Times

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