Cool Tools

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Flat Is Phat

Monsoon flat-panel speakers were an instant hit with PC users, who enjoyed the combination of great sound quality and space-saving design. Now the same technology is coming to home audio systems, in a big way. How big? The mid-sized Monsoon FPF-1000 flat-panel speakers shown here are about 4 1/2 feet tall. Planar (flat-panel) speakers have been around for decades, and are known among audiophiles for their sonic imaging and fidelity, and also for their high cost. They use a thin diaphragm, typically Mylar or some variant, suspended between very strong magnets. The diaphragm moves back and forth as voltage (the sound source) is applied, creating a wide and deep sound. These stylish new towers use a hybrid design, combining a tweeter and a pair of midrange planar speakers up on top with a pair of conventional woofer cones in the base, and the result is a breakthrough in performance and price. Although the top section is just a couple of inches thick, the heavy base section takes up as much space on the floor as a conventional speaker. But in the dark, hooked to a home theater sound system, the Monsoons sound even bigger than they are. When the lights go on, they make great room sculpture. Sonigistix, the company that makes the Monsoons, plans a matching line of surround, center, and powered subwoofer speakers. Crank up the volume and watch the fur fly.

Body by Porsche

Looking for the Porsche of digital cameras? Fujifilm's gorgeous new FinePix 6800 Zoom was designed by the same folks who sculpted the Porsche 911 sports car. As with the car, you'll pay a pretty price for the mixture of good looks and top performance. Inside its rugged, brushed-metal body is Fuji's 3.3-megapixel "SuperCCD" sensor, which, with software interpolation, can crank out a top resolution of 2,832 by 2,128 pixels; yes, that's a 6-megapixel picture. The 3x zoom lens is the equivalent of a 36mm-to-108mm zoom on a 35mm film camera. On the back is a sharp, 2-inch LCD that is bright enough to allow picture editing even outdoors, but if used too frequently can sap the camera's modest battery life. Like many high-end digital cameras today, the 6800Z does more than merely capture still images. The 16MB memory card can hold 160 seconds of video with sound, or an hour of dictation. As if you needed an excuse to leave it out on the table, it also works as a videoconferencing camera.

Split-Second Accuracy

Does anybody really know what time of day it is? Sure, if they're wearing the Atomix Analog/Digital Atomic Watch. The wristwatch contains a miniature antenna and receiver and automatically sets itself to the time-signal broadcast by the U.S. Government's WWV radio station in Colorado. Of course, first you have to figure out how to set your local time zone, and that will cost you some time if you don't read the manual carefully. The watch regularly calibrates its own quartz oscillator, meaning it is more accurate than a regular quartz watch even when it is worn outside North America. It has an alarm and a stopwatch too.