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Playing hard to break: Olympus is taking advantage of the delicate nature of modern cameras to craft a niche market. It has produced a range of compact cameras sold as much on their claims to toughness as their ability to create a pleasing image. The latest additions to the ranks are the μTough-8000 and its smaller sibling the μTough-6000. The former is a 12-megapixel snapper, which is waterproof up to 10 meters, can take the shock of a fall of up to 2 meters, is crushproof to a maximum of 100 kg and can handle temperatures down to -10 C. It has a 3.6× optical zoom, going from 28 mm to 102 mm, a 2.7-inch LCD, image stabilization and face detection. Moreover, navigating between menus can be done just by tapping on the camera’s body, which is meant to make the camera easier for somebody using gloves. It also has an LED to illuminate underwater photos.

The μTough-6000 is similar to the 8000, except that it has a 10-megapixel sensor, is only waterproof at depths of up to 3 meters and has 1.5-meter-fall shockproofing. The 6000 is out Jan. 29 and the 8000 goes on the market Feb. 5.

The physical demands placed on the cameras mean they are a tad clunky. Moreover, the cameras aren’t cheap, at ¥49,800 for the 8000 and ¥42,800 for the 6000. But if you are the outdoor type, this camera may be for you.μTough-8000 / μTough-6000

Pocket power: Sony doesn’t do bargain basement. So its new Vaio P series computer might look like a netbook, but it is in a different class. The P sticks to the netbook concept — a device smaller than a regular laptop with modest computing power, and a small screen size to maximize battery life and mobility. But Sony fleshes it out with exceptional style and design. Measuring 245×120×20 mm, it weighs 630 grams. Beyond the dimensions, the P series stands apart thanks to screen quality, as its 8-inch LCD packs in a resolution of 1600×768 pixels.

Unavoidably, the Vaio P series’ keyboard is small, but the keys are big enough to be functional. It also has a trackball mouse. The series runs on a 1.33-gigahertz Atom processor, used on netbooks the world over. These processors are not fast, but the payoff is reduced power consumption. Those wanting a faster computer can pay extra for a 1.6-gigahertz or 1.86-gigahertz Atom processor. The 2 gigabytes of memory should keep its performance punchy, but the series runs on Windows Vista, which may cause problems.

In regard to connectivity, the P series includes wireless and Bluetooth, but has no room for an optical drive. In its basic configuration, the P series comes with a 60-gigabyte hard disk, with options of a 64-gigabyte or 128-gigabyte solid-state disk instead. Rounding out the variations are color choices of red, white, green and two shades of black.

The basic P series will set you back some ¥100,000. Upping the specs to the 1.86-gigahertz processor and the 128-gigabyte SSD lifts the price to around ¥140,000 and you can easily top the ¥200,000 barrier with a few other extras. If you want a basic netbook, you can get one for half the cost of the standard P series. But comparing the P series with the average netbook is like comparing a BMW with a Volkswagen; Sony is cruising for the classy customer. www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/200901/09-0108/

No mere copycat: Epson is indulging in the highest form of flattery with its new Endeavor Pro7000 desktop computer, which is available now. The Pro7000 looks like a less-refined cousin of Apple’s Mac Pro model in its aluminum casing. The Epson product also uses Intel’s new heavy-duty quad Core i7 CPUs. The Pro7000 comes in a variety of configurations, starting out with an i7-920 processor, rated at 2.66-gigahertz and rising up through the 2.93-gigahertz i7-940 model to top out at 3.2-gigahertz with the i7-965 Extreme edition.

A smorgasbord of video-card options include the ATI Radeo HD3450 and HD4850 and the GeForce GTX 260 and 280, culminating in the dual ATI Radeon HD 4870×2 with 2 gigabytes of VRAM. Backing all of this is 3 gigabytes of memory, expandable to 12 gigabytes. The hard-disk selections start at 250 gigabytes and finish at 1 terabyte. The machine has a DVD SuperMulti drive but strangely no Blu-ray disc system. It uses Windows Vista as its operating system.

With a starting price of ¥179,970, a computer packing this sort of processing punch deserves close scrutiny. www.epson.jp/osirase/2009/090114.htm

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