WinPro Entertainer. (multimedia personal computer) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Tim Victor
When the IBM-clone market erupted in the mid 1980s, Leading Edge was one of the first popular mass-market brands. Alas, it was also one of the first famous casualties, and when the company folded, the Leading Edge brand name became the property of Korea's Daewoo Electronics. Now, after several years' absence, Leading Edge PCs are once again available, including the WinPro Entertainer, or 486e, a high-performance multimedia PC from the reconstituted Leading Edge.
With its 66-MHz CPU, VESA local-bus graphics, and double-speed Sony CD-ROM drive, the WinPro is powerful enough to handle the most demanding multimedia applications. The 16-bit Creative Labs sound card delivers its sound through small but functional Labtec speakers or headphones, both included with the 486e. And now that memory is becoming more and more important as Windows programs keep getting larger, the WinPro Entertainer's 8MB of RAM and 260MB hard drive put it a notch above the baseline for budget PCs.
A selection of preinstalled software helps to sweeten the deal. In addition to the usual operating software - DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.1 - the WinPro Entertainer includes Microsoft Works, version 3.0; Microsoft Money; and the Windows Entertainment Pack game collection; plus four CD-ROMs: Grolier's New Multimedia Encyclopedia, the Time Almanac (unfortunately, a 1993 edition), Dr. T's Sing-A-Long, and the Multimedia Audio Collection.
This all adds up to a well-equipped system with above-average value, but there are a few loose ends and cut corners. My keyboard keys tended to rattle and didn't give any tactile feedback, and a sharp edge on the underside of the mouse tended to snag on my mouse pad. The local-bus video adapter worked well for multimedia software, but buyers looking to run a wider range of programs might wish the WinPro had an accelerated video board instead of the plain SVGA card. Applications that display complex, highly structured screens, such as desktop publishing and illustration software, will suffer most from the lack of graphics acceleration.
Like many new systems with preloaded software, the WinPro doesn't include floppy copies of the preinstalled programs - not even DOS or Windows. A Windows-based disk utility program can re-create the floppies, and it's worth using for safety's sake. But buyers will have to provide all the blank disks for this operation.
When it arrived for testing, the WinPro Entertainer also had a subtle configuration glitch. Windows wasn't loading an important multimedia device driver, which meant several popular CD-ROM programs couldn't access the audio tracks on their discs. I've become accustomed to dealing with problems like this - they're fairly common when you upgrade an existing PC with an add-on multimedia kit - and the fix to this one was fairly simple: I edited the SYSTEM.INI configuration file to load the drivers in a different order. But factory-integrated computer packages are supposed to spare you these hassles. When you buy a ready-to-run multimedia system, you have a right to expect the manufacturer to sort through this stuff for you ahead of time.
The WinPro Entertainer combines ample processing power, adequate storage, and name-brand multimedia components to easily handle the demands of CD-ROMs, games, and educational programs - reasonable value for the money. And while it's good to see Leading Edge computers back on the shelves, Daewoo might pay closer attention to the details if it hopes to regain Leading Edge's former status.