TAIWANESE PC maker Acer has introduced the next generation of its computer systems for multimedia applications. Called the AcerPAC 450 (where the PAC stands for Personal Activity Centre), the system is based on Intel's 486 microprocessor. The AcerPAC 450 is an improvement on the AcerPAC, the company's first release of its multimedia PC. The AcerPAC, launched at Acer's annual distributors' meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last year, was based on 386SX microchip technology. The new version, while built around a more powerful microchip, still comes with some of the same technology that set the AcerPAC apart from other PCs available at the time. Incorporating a CD-ROM (compact disc read only memory) stereo system, the computer is designed to allow its users to perform a number of functions simultaneously. With a telephone, fax/modem and answering machine integrated - together with the stereo set-up - the system, with its personal computing hardware, is geared towards increasing the productivity of its users. Acer has by no means been the first computer maker to attempt to combine such functions as telephony, fax/modem, CD-ROM and sound technology with multimedia personal computing. The company must, however, be given credit for making an attempt to deliver what should be a highly complex piece of hardware at considerably user-friendly level. According to Mr Michael Mak, managing director of Acer Computer (Far East), the system ''offers more than just multimedia'' computing. ''Our systems offer users personal activity centres at the touch of their fingertips,'' Mr Mak said. ''You do not have to be a computer engineer to operate the AcerPAC's numerous functions. As long as you know how to click a mouse, you can get started.'' One of the features built into the new system is of particular interest in this regard. The machine comes with an icon-based on-line systems manual that is capable of walking the user through all its many intricacies and accentuates the user-friendlinessof the system. Acer likes to point out the many uses to which the AcerPAC 450 can be put to - in one go. The company visualises a user creating charts for presentation using Microsoft's Excel 4.0 spreadsheet, while listening to Vivaldi on the system's built-in CD player. (There are those who would dispute this as a productivity enhancing technique.) If a telephone call comes in, the system is capable of automatically turning down the music and presenting the user with an option box which will allow him to answer the phone. Using a similar option set-up, the user can receive a fax directly into the PC, or allow the system's built-in answering machine to handle any incoming telephone calls. All these actions can be carried out while the user continues to work on his Excel spreadsheet, according to Acer. As far as simple packaging goes, the AcerPAC 450's box is somewhat different from the housing of its predecessor. It comes with three expansion slots, and incorporates such features as front-panel volume control buttons. Its ability to use Acer's patented ChipUp upgrade technology allows users of the system to move up to a more powerful level of computing without investing in a new PC.