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Product: Encarta 2006 Premium DVD ROM
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: $49.99
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features

Once again I have been asked to review Encarta, this year we have reached the 2006 edition. Yet again we have a name change, this version is the fully fledged Encarta 2006 Premium DVD Edition. It comes on the single DVD or 6 CD's and contains a new Web Companion and a supposedly faster and easier to use interface. So here are some of the new features that have found their way into Encarta 2006:

Microsoft Encarta 2006 is the #1 best-selling encyclopedia brand*. Microsoft Encarta Premium 2006 helps families and lifelong learners explore a world of knowledge that's accurate and engaging. Encarta Premium offers more engaging multimedia and more carefully reviewed, age-appropriate information than ever before—with over 68,000 articles, over 25,000 photos and illustrations, over 300 videos and animations, over 2,500 sound and music clips, and an interactive atlas with over 1.8 million map locations. Encarta Premium also gives you the all-new Web Companion, which automatically pulls up information from Encarta alongside your Internet search results. Whether you’re searching online or offline, Encarta Premium is the trusted way for everyone in the family to easily find just about anything on just about any subject.

  • New! Faster, easier interface! Find more information, more quickly, with new options for searching and sorting.
  • New! Web Companion Streamline your Internet searches with relevant information from reliable sources—provides trusted content from Encarta Premium alongside your Internet search results.
  • Encarta Search Bar Get instant access to Encarta from the Windows Task pane—so Encarta doesn't even have to be open to be available.
  • Encarta Kids Engage learners as young as seven with pictures, games, and multimedia information in a colorful, easy-to-navigate environment designed just for them.
  • Videos from the Discovery Channel Bring a variety of subjects to life with 32 high-quality videos from the Discovery Channel—available only in Encarta Premium.
  • Continuous updates Keep content up to date with automatic downloads that add new information directly into articles.

Whether doing serious research or just satisfying your own curiosity, you can trust Microsoft Encarta Premium 2006. The information in Encarta comes from experts you can trust, all carefully reviewed and regularly updated to ensure accuracy, relevance, and age-appropriateness.

Stay current with frequent downloads on topics ranging from prehistoric artifacts to the latest political movements. Microsoft Encarta 2006 helps you learn about important historical events with engaging, lively articles—all contributed by experts from every field, from science and history to world cultures and geography.

Streamline your searches with Web Companion
Avoid the frustration of unfocused Web searches with new Web Companion. When you research online, Web Companion brings up accurate, trusted information from Encarta alongside your Internet search-engine results—right in your browser, without launching additional applications.

Whether you want to watch wildlife, explore Mars, or travel the globe with the Interactive World Atlas, Microsoft Encarta Premium 2006 has pictures, sounds, videos, and visual tools to help.

Dynamic presentations and 3D virtual tours give you front-row seats for historic events and places, and thirty-two captivating videos from the Discovery Channel let you view a range of topics in detail. Get a new perspective on history with the unique Dynamic Timeline offering key events from geologic time to the present day.


Installation and Settings

Once again Encarta ships on a Single DVD or on 6CD's - both versions came in the back and are thankfully in an easy to store DVD box too, so you can dump the overly large cardboard box that contains the DVD box after you have installed it as it's a waste of space. You can either do a full install of the program which takes up about 4 Gigs of drive space, or just go for the option of installing the main files, this takes up around 200mbs of space and seems the best option, well that is on the assumption that you don't mind the DVD-ROM being in the drive all the time. Loading times of files are improved if it installed on the hard drive, but not enough to warrant the large amount of space that gets used.

Encarta Itself

Review Quotes
"The main new section that has been added to Encarta 2005 above all others is "Encarta Kids" and it is just that, for Kids. It uses large colourful icons that children love, has loads of pictures in place of the large amounts of text the regular Encarta has and is generally a good application for young kids to use and explore."

While Encarta 2006 has improved the articles yet again, there is once more very little new video, sound or 3D views. This isn't such a bad thing but with the increasing resolutions that people are using, images are starting to look smaller and smaller on screen. This is still the best encyclopedia you can get on a PC, but it isn't improving as much as it once did do.

Well firstly we have the usual internet connected content, this has been improved with the web center increasing in size thanks to more sites being added, but as mentioned already the main first page of Encarta 2006 now lacks any internet related activity. You yet again get one year of access as well through your passport account, this also needs to be used to download the weekly updates that come out for improving articles, adding more content and just generally keeping Encarta up to date.

At the top of the Encarta layout are the main menus, they include the following:

  • File -- This allows you to print articles
  • Edit -- Find and Copy articles
  • View -- Change text sizes and captioning
  • Favorites -- Add articles to your favorites list
  • Explorer -- Access articles, maps, timelines etc
  • Tools -- Find, Voice Controls and settings can all be accessed from here.
  • Help -- Get easy access to help options.

After this you have a newer looking section where you can "Search Encarta". This area allows you go search all of encarta, just maps, dictionary, photos or web links. It is a good and easy to use area for people to use. The main area you access articles from has changed looks from the previous version quite drastically. I personally don't like the new look Encarta home page, it looks too barren and empty and no longer has any form of internet activity going on. On the left side of Encarta you have links to the following:

  • History

  • Geography

  • People & Society

  • Science & Nature

  • Arts & Literature

  • Sports and Recreation

  • Games & Fun Stuff

  • Dictionary

  • Encarta Kids

  • Article Updates

As with the previous editions of Encarta, this version had oodles of high quality, well written articles about everything you need to know from Entertainment to world issues, each article can be streamed off of the DVD or from the hard drive if you have installed the whole of the DVD onto your drive. I personally would recommend just running it from the DVD as there is little difference in speed from either, I sometimes even find that running it off of the hard disk is slower.

Updating Encarta & Web Stuff

Review Quotes
"Once again Encarta ships on a Single DVD, thankfully in an easy to store DVD box too, so you can dump the overly large cardboard box that contains the DVD box after you have installed it as it's a waste of space. You can either do a full install of the program which takes up about 4 Gigs of drive space, or just go for the option of installing the main files,"

Next we have the "Update Encarta" option. This means you can keep your version of Encarta up to date with the latest articles and web links regularly. There are about 3/4 updates per week which come as one single download, these update older articles and add new ones, while also adding a number of new "Web Center" links for you to go through. The Encarta web center has links from all over the world, these are all checked first by people in the know to make sure that all the information is valid and correct. As i mentioned earlier, the web center has had a number of new sites added to it, and I assume it will do each year.

Kids, Research & Homework Tools

In the new 2006 addition to the Encarta series, Microsoft has once again made some steady improvements to the already excellent homework and researcher side of Encarta. As usual there are some excellent pieces of information on how to write essays, poems, do research and more. With the dictionary and thesaurus still at hand, you can't go wrong with letting your child or yourself use Encarta for studying.

Encarta Researcher helps you to quickly find, collect, and organize information so you can write first-rate reports. With Encarta Researcher, you can:

  • Search to find the information you are looking for on the Web or within Encarta.
  • Collect information with a click from the Web or within Encarta.
  • Organize your research.
  • Write your report in an HTML or Microsoft Word file.
  • Use an Online Math Tutor for help

They are very useful tools for those who have children still at school or anyone studying at college. Or those who want to write articles for websites! What you do is if you find an article you like in Encarta you can either drag over the specific text you want to put into your work or add the whole page by clicking on "Add to Researcher". It adds all of the text you want and informs you what the source of the writing is. You can then later save your work as a document or a web page. With so many interactive parts to Encarta I won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about the world around us. Just a reminder that there is Microsoft Student 2006 that would appeal to students more than just Encarta, it includes everything you would need for your homework and studies.

Encarta Kids

Encarta Kids is a special area for younger learners, ages 7 to 12. Packed with age-appropriate articles and lively multimedia, Encarta Kids provides a safer place to explore all kinds of topics. Make learning fun and easy with a colorful, easy-to-navigate environment designed just for kids, with plenty of maps, photos, and interactive quizzes. It uses large colourful icons that children love, has loads of pictures in place of the large amounts of text the regular Encarta has and is generally a good application for young kids to use and explore.

Encarta Dictionary

The Encarta 2006 Premium Edition dictionary hasn't gone through any changes, it still has the translation tool which works works very well, and is a great tool for those wanting to know the most basic of terms, words and sayings for difference languages. The dictionary contains over 31,000 synonyms and antonyms. It's hard to say much more about the Encarta Dictionary each year, especially when there is little added to it, but overall it is a very useful tool, updated or not.

What else?

It is hard to go into all of the details that Encarta has to offer to you, it has excellent chart makers for students to use, live media, news and weather reports (which is spot on every time I check it here in the UK), it has the brilliant world Atlas which I never seem to go into detail with. The web center as I have mentioned in previous reviews contains lots of links to sites that have been reviewed by the Encarta editors. You also have the great 3-D and 2-D tours that have been with us over the last few years, but once again haven't had an overhaul like they really should do in this age of fantastic 3D graphics.

The only side to Encarta that annoys me a bit each time is the quality of the videos, we're using the DVD version of Encarta yet the videos are far too blocky which is a disappointment, if it is to save space then ok maybe that's a good thing, but I would still prefer improved video and audio than anything else as things have moved on in the video areas far more than anywhere else in the last couple of years thanks to the onset of DVD.

Final Comments

How It Grades
Ease Of Use: 85%
Articles: 93%
Design: 85%
Video: 78%
Online Access: 91%
Sound: 91%
Music: 91%
Manual: N/A
Interface: 82%
Overall: 85%

Once more Encarta 2006 remains the top encyclopedia for students, children and parents alike, but this version feels like more of a let down than usual. The new interface isn't appealing to me, the whole package also feels quite slow when compared to previous versions, whether this is due to the new interface I'm not sure, as it certainly isn't fancy looking. Encarta 2006 is still worth getting, but only if you have one of the editions released 2 or more years ago as I don't seen enough improvements other than updated articles here. If Microsoft can improve the package next time by adding better quality photos and high quality video (and more of it) then Encarta will still be a must buy, but right now its slowly losing the improvements that once made it great.

Specs & Package
Overall Score 85%
Version Reviewed 2006 - DVD Edition
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 DVD-ROM
The Good Points Massive Articles
Great Sound
Great Online Parts
Great 3D Tours
Research and learning tools
The Bad Points Video footage not as high quality as hoped
Doesn't have the easy UI of previous versions
Reviewers PC Setup AMD Athlon 64 3000+
MSI KT800 Neo Motherboard
1280 MB DDR PC2700
ATI X800 Pro 256mb Graphics Card
Creative Labs Audigy 2 Sound Card (OEM)
180 GB Western Digital Hard Drive 7200 RPM, 8mb Cache
Sony 16x DVD-RW
Sony CD-RW (40x12x48x)
Creative Inspire 5.1 5300 Speakers
Viewsonic VP171s LCD Monitor
PC Required Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
Pentium 233 MHz
32 MB Ram (64 MB For Windows 2000 - 128 MB For Windows XP)
CD-ROM Drive
Mouse and Keyboard
640*480 video card with 4mb ram
Windows compatible sound device
300 MB of free hard drive space


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