Electronic Dictionary Models

Canon Models

Canon Wordtank V80

Canon made some nice improvements over the V70. The main attraction of this dictionary is the ability to lookup kanji by writing them on the screen with a stylus. Japanese, 4 kanji character idiom, English, and English proverb dictionaries were added to the V80. The V80 still contains the Chinese dictionaries and a talking Chinese dictionary. The V80 has the English menus like the other Canon Worktank models. However, the price is way up there at the moment so users will need to decide how much the pen input is worth to them.

Internal Dictionaries*
Type Dictionary Entries
Eng->Jap Genius 3rd Edition 95,000
Jap->Eng Genius 2rd Edition 82,000
Kanji Revised New Kanji 13,112 characters
* This is not a complete list of internal dictionaries

Canon Wordtank G50

When release in 2004, this model was the new mother ship for the Wordtank series. It looks much like IDF-4600 which we all know and love. Overall, and not much of a surprise, the G50 is bigger and better than the previous Canon Wordtank models.

Internal Dictionaries*
Type Dictionary Entries
Eng->Jap Leaders 2nd 270,000
Eng->Jap Leaders Plus 190,000
Kanji Revised New Kanji 13,112 characters
Japanese Kojien 5th Edition 230,000
Katakana Concise Katakana 2nd Edition 52,500
* This is not a complete list of internal dictionaries

Canon Wordtank IDF-4100

Canon released this dictionary Nov. 2002. Basically the IDF-4100 seems to be a slimmed down version of the IDF-4500. Based on the model number, spec., and price, this dictionary seems to be a replacement for the IDF-4000 which is no longer listed on the Canon website. This dictionary does not have the illustration dictionary and the English handbook, neither of which adds much value to the dictionaries in my opinion. This makes this model cheaper than the 4500 and 4600 models.

This model has few cons and a number of pros over the 4500 and 4600 models. The IDF-4100 spec. reads "6,368 characters" in the kanji dictionary, which means actual kanji entries. This differs from the IDF-4500 spec. which states "approx. 410,000 words", meaning total kanji and compounds combined. This basically means that the 4100 model kanji dictionary does not contain compounds. There should be lots of compounds in the Jap/Jap dictionary. The compounds in the kanji dictionary of the 4500 do not have English explanations anyway. The reason it is useful is because when you search for a kanji char. it shows you all the compounds starting with that char. This makes finding a compound pronunciation faster. Without it you can still find the pronunciation in the Jap/Jap dictionary it just takes more effort. You need to look up the compound char. separately and guess at the combination of readings. See the Kanji tutorial for more on about the list of compounds.

The new Eng/Jap dictionary used has 3,000 more entries than the 4500 model. This model is cheaper than the 4500 and 4600 models and the extra cost is not justified by the two major feature differences which are the illustration dictionary and the English handbook. Another big bonus is that they have really improved the English manual over the incomplete manual I received with my IDF-3000. I didn't receive an English manual when I purchased the 4500 model locally in Kofu.

Canon Wordtank IDF-4600

Canon has released this dictionary March 2003. Basically the IDF-4600 seems to be almost the same dictionary as the IDF-4500. Based on the model number, spec., and price, this dictionary seems to be a replacement for the IDF-4500. Although it is still listed on the Canon website, I wonder if the 4500 model will be discontinued. The two models are the same price. I finally got the chance to check out the 4600 at Akihabara. The only difference besides the new logo seems to be that the Eng/Jap dictionary has 3,000 more entries. This, I believe, is only due to the fact that Canon seems to have changed to this dictionary with the release of the 4100 model.

Internal Dictionaries*
Type Dictionary Entries
Eng->Jap Genius 3rd Edition 95,000
Jap->Eng Genius 80,000
Kanji New Kanji 6,368 characters
Katakana Shingo 5th Edition 16,000
* This is not a complete list of internal dictionaries

Canon Wordtank IDF-4500

Canon IDF-4500  Canon IDF-4500 keyboard
Canon IDF-4500 and keyboard

This was my second dictionary. After two straight years of daily abuse including dropping it a few times, my Canon IDF-3000 has started to show some signs of wear and tear. The dictionary works fine but the casing started to crack and currently held together with scotch tape. This gave me an opportunity to buy a new toy. So in June 2002, I returned to Akihabara to check out the new models. Canon had released the IDF-4500 in March of 2002. I was considering the Seiko SR950 also, but decided on the Canon mainly because I was already familiar with the Canon models. The 4500 model has a similar look and feel as the 3000 model. The main advantage over the 3000 model being the addition of the English dictionary and the thinner and slightly lighter design. If these are not important features to you the 3000 model is still a great dictionary at a great price.

Canon Wordtank IDF-4000

In 2001, I returned to Akihabara to check out any new models. Canon had released the IDF-4000, the model after the IDF-3000. They have added a few features and changed a few dictionaries. The look and feel is similar to the IDF-3000 but the IDF-4000 is noticeably thinner and lighter. The IDF-4000 adds an illustration dictionary. This alone does not justify the extra cost in my opinion. There is no option for horizontal text display like the IDF-3000, so the kanji dictionaries displayed vertically. They also added an English thesaurus. This dictionary is no longer listed on the Canon web page and I suspect it has been discontinued and been replaced by the 4100 model. This dictionary is still a good dictionary. However, if you are going to buy a dictionary, I would consider one of the other models first unless you can get a screaming price.

Canon Wordtank IDF-3000

Canon IDF-3000  Canon IDF-3000 keyboard
Canon IDF-3000 and keyboard

Released in March 2000, the Canon Wordtank IDF-3000 is the dictionary I have used for two years every day since I bought it in June of 2000. And I am not disappointed with it. It is a great dictionary and truly a pioneer! It can be purchased very cheap compared the other Canon models.

Canon Wordtank IDF-2200

Canon released this dictionary March 2003. I have virtually no information on this dictionary yet. This model too seems to be missing a kanji dictionary. If you really do not need a kanji dictionary, this dictionary could be an option.

Internal Dictionaries*
Type Dictionary Entries
Eng->Jap Genius 3rd Edition 95,000
Jap->Eng Genius 80,000
* This is not a complete list of internal dictionaries

Canon Wordtank V70

The V70 is a new dictionary as of late 2003. This dictionary looks cool because the photo on the Canon website shows it with pen input and earphones. But the V70 contains two Chinese dictionaries and a talking Chinese dictionary. The Japanese dictionaries are limited to a Jap->Eng and a Eng->Jap only. These are the same two dictionaries in the IDF-4600. For the English speaking students of Japanese, there are better suited dictionaries out there not to mention at a much better price.

Sharp Models

For more information the Sharp PW-9700 please download my PW series manual. To download right click the link and select "Save Target As..." This unofficial manual was written for the PW-9700 but will apply to many other models.

The unofficial Sharp PW series manual (423 KB)

Sharp PW-9700

Sharp PW-9700 screen  Sharp PW-9700 keyboard
Sharp PW-9700 screen and keyboard

All these Sharp models have Eng->Jap, Jap->Eng, Japanese, and a kanji dictionary. All the dictionaries contain examples, parts of speech, and the Japanese dictionary contains indications for ichidan and godan verbs. Wildcard include both '?' and '~'. The '~' wildcard is slightly different to the Canon '*' wildcard. '*' matches zero or more patterns where as '~' seems to match one or more patterns and cannot occur at the end of a word. I think the Canon wildcards are more natural and are easier to use. However, there is an "aimai" (vague) search which can be used to make up this limitation of the wildcards to some extent.

There is a history and a word save feature. Unlike the Canon models words can be deleted from the history as well as the word memo. And unlike the Canon IDF 4500/4600 models all word are stored in the same word memo, one for each internal dictionary. The Sharp models have 4 different sized fonts of which the smallest and largest are shown below.

Sharp PW-9700 small font  Sharp PW-9700 large font
Sharp PW-9700 smallest font and largest font

A note on kanji compounds. These models have a feature that many of the others don't including the Canon IDF series. You can jump to a kanji's compound list. On the Canon models, the compound list is a bit of a hassle to get to. On the Sharp models it is much easier to jump to a kanji's compound list which means this dictionary may be better suited for students doing a lot of reading. Compounds of a kanji are not just limited to compound which the kanji in the first position like the Canon IDF-4600 for example. If you display the compound list for the kanji "yama", the entry "sanchou" (peak) which "yama" in the first position is displayed as well as "tozan" (mountain climbing) which "yama" in the second position. This is an advantage over the Canon if you are doing a lot of reading as opposed to conversation.

There was something strange I discovered on the PW-9x00 models. From the Jap->Eng dictionary entry of "tomaru" (to stay in a hotel), I jumped to the kanji for "tomaru". I wanted to jump into the Japanese dictionary to see if the verb was an ichidan or godan. I was not able to select which dictionary to jump into and instead was returned to the same entry ("tomaru") in the Jap->Eng dictionary. I tried jumping by selecting the text and directly pressing the Japanese dictionary button and the message "not found" was displayed. I was able to select and Japanese dictionary and search for "tomaru" manually so I know the entry exists. There might be a limitation against jumping from the Jap->Eng dictionary to the Japanese dictionary.

Sharp PW-M800

The M800 is a super-charged M310 which already has all the key features. This dictionary too comes in the same small package as the M310 but contains more dictionaries for the extra cost. Some of the additional dictionaries are proverb dictionary, katakana dictionary, plus some other mainly not too useful to non-Japanese natives. The English conversation Make it! is also included which can be useful. It is not really intended for foreigners but I think it is really helpful. There are mini-sketches written in English and Japanese. You can practice reading the English and translating or reading the Japanese. There are tons of these sketches so don't let them go to waste! There are also a number of foreign travel dictionaries including English, Italian/English, French/English, Korean/English, Spanish/English, and German/English.

Sharp PW-M310

Sharp PW-M310
Sharp PW-M310

This is exciting, finally a dictionary that meets all the requirements, in a small package. I tested this new little Sharp in Akihabara in Nov. 2004. The size closed is 1157415 mm. It contains Eng->Jap, Jap->Eng, Japanese, and Kanji dictionaries, plus an English Thesaurus. Of'course jump on English and Japanese words in all of these dictionaries is supported. There is also a word memo feature, and wildcards are supported. Kanji dictionary can be searched by ON/KUN, radical, stroke count, and by kanji components. There are some other Sharp goodies like spell check, etc. The screen is a little smaller because of the compact size but still displays plenty of information. 10 lines for the smallest font. The retail price listed on Sharp's website is 32,000 yen. However something seems wrong because I have seen this dictionary in Akihabara for 8,290 yen and at a Japanese online store for 9,980 yen. I have not seen this sold on any English websites to date. But don't give up, search for yourself, it may be worth the effort!

Sharp PW-9900

According to the specifications on the Sharp website, there are a number of new dictionaries included in the 9900 compared to the 9700. However, all are for Japanese users. For example, a home medical dictionary, and travel conversation dictionaries in French, German, Italian, Korean, Chinese, and Spanish. There is an Encyclopedia, an international cookbook, legal counsel Q&A, and a seemingly very useful (sarcastic) baking soda usage guide. All in Japanese no doubt. If you need any of these dictionaries for your Japanese studies they it may be worth the extra money this dictionary will cost over the PW-9700 for example. Here are some comments from a reader.

Sharp PW-9300

All the companies seem to tweak the existing models, changing the internal dictionaries, adding more dictionaries to keep up with the market or at least the perceived market. Compared with the PW-9700, the Japanese dictionary is the same. The kanji dictionary has changed. I have used many dictionaries with many different internal kanji dictionaries and I have found that these are for the most part all the same in regards to the entries themselves. However this new dictionary only displays compounds with the searched kanji in the first position which could be a step backwards. The five specialized Japanese dictionary are still here although these are not all that convenient for the foreign user. There is a separate katakana dictionary with 28,000 words that the PW-9700 does not have. There is a 4-character idiom dictionary with 1,450 entries. There is a separate proverb dictionary. There is an English dictionary but the English thesaurus seems to be gone from the PW-9300. The Eng->Jap. dictionary in the PW-9700 is replaced by two dictionaries in the PW-9300. There are a few more testing features that look like they can be used by foreigners to study Japanese. I do this with "Make It!" on the PW-9700.

Reader Review

Sharp PW-9700

This Sharp model has 15 dictionaries. There is no no katakana dictionary. The missing katakana dictionary is a little disappointing. I looked up "sekuhara" on another model and got the English definition of "sexual harassment". The PW-6700 only had an entry in the Japanese dictionary. There is no kanji dictionary button and so the kanji dictionary is only accessible through the menu. This too is a little disapointing. This model also has special application dictionaries like a names dictionary, geography dictionary to name a few. But again, these dictionaries are really geared toward the Japanese and have extremely limited value if any to foreign students. There a calculator, a number of conversion functions like metric to/from US, year to/from Japanese year (emperor name), and Japanese currency to/from other currencies. I have been told that the PW-9700 has been discontinued. It seems like Sharp changed kanji dictionaries on newer models like the PW-9300, and that the new kanji dictionary only displays compounds with the searched kanji in the first position. If you can still get your hands on a PW-9700 somewhere consider yourself lucky.

Sharp PW-9800

This Sharp model is similar to the PW-9700 but includes Italian, French, German, and Spanish dictionaries. I do not know how extensive they are but you can bet these are Italian/Japanese, etc. so of little or no value to the native English speaker. If you are a native English speaker the expensive price tag on this model does not seem give you anything more than the PW-9700. However, because the PW-9700 is discontinued, if you can get a PW-9800 you will still get the benefits of the PW-9700.

Sharp PWA8x00 Series Models

The "PWA" series are similar to the "PW" series except that there is a port for a SD media card. This can be used to access other dictionaries while the card is in place. As expected this jacks up the price of the dictionaries. The PWA8000 model is closest to the PW-9700 model in feature set. The PWA8500 model is closest to the PW-9800 model. This model also has additional language dictionaries like a Chinese dictionary, and so brings no extra value to the native English speaker of Japanese. The PWA8700 model is closest to the PW-9700 model. This model has a number of English dictionaries like the Genius in the other models plus "Leaders" dictionary which increases the total entries dramatically.

Seiko Models

Initially Canon then Sharp were the only games in town. Seiko has caught up with Canon and Sharp regarding much needed features.

Seiko SR950

This dictionary supports jumping on kanji compounds. Has Eng->Jap, Jap->Eng, Japanese, Kanji, and English phrase dictionaries. It seems very easy to use. To jump to a compound, like the other Sharp dictionaries, press "super jump", select the first kanji in the compound, select "Enter", and then select the remainder of the compound. The big attraction here is the size. This dictionary is about half the size of the Canon IDF-3000. This dictionary boasts a test/quiz feature although I have not tried it.

Seiko SRM-5000

This model has all the necessary features. There is a slight limitation I have noticed which may not be an issue for some people. The search for kanji by ON/KUN readings are split into two separate entries. That means you need to know if a particular reading is ON (Chinese origin) or KUN (Japanese origin) in order to search for the kanji. This is something foreigners may have a problem with. With some kanji I feel lucky if I know one of more readings, but I often cannot remember if the reading was ON or KUN. On the Canon and Sharp models this ON/KUN reading search criteria is combined to a single entry. Having said this, if you do know your ON and KUN readings this feature may work to your advantage by reducing the number of matches for a given search.

Seiko SRM-6000

This model has all the necessary features. There is a slight limitation I have noticed which may not be an issue for some people. The search for kanji by ON/KUN readings are split into two separate entries. That means you need to know if a particular reading is ON (Chinese origin) or KUN (Japanese origin) in order to search for the kanji. This is something foreigners may have a problem with. With some kanji I feel lucky if I know one of more readings, but I often cannot remember if the reading was ON or KUN. On the Canon and Sharp models this ON/KUN reading search criteria is combined to a single entry. Having said this, if you do know your ON and KUN readings this feature may work to your advantage by reducing the number of matches for a given search.

Other Makes/Models

Wing Vocal

I noticed this dictionary in Akihabara in Nov. 2004 but did not have time to play with it much. It is a talking dictionary that can speak Japanese words as well as English. I listened to a few Japanese words only and the pronunciation was ok. Unlike other talking dictionaries I have seen, this one was a bit more compact. One reader who has used the dictionary called it "an expensive toy for the tourist crowd".

Ectaco Partner EJ400T

I have received a lot of questions about this dictionary. I have never used this dictionary myself and can't seem to get any good information on it. The specifications do not even mention if there is a kanji dictionary. According to the specifications from the Ectaco website, the vocabulary is 450K words. But the specifications do not indicated the English and Japanese vocabulary separately so it is difficult to compare to other dictionaries. Most top of the line dictionaries will specify the size of each dictionary. This is listed as a talking dictionary but the dictionary only speaks English.

Sony Models

As with most electronics, Sony makes some of the slickest looking, small electronic dictionaries. Unfortunately, as of September 2003, the jumping is limited to jumping on English words only. This makes all the Sony model impractical for non-Japanese users.