Electronic Dictionary Reader Reviews

Sharp PW-9300
Seiko T5120
Casio Ex-Word XD-470

Sharp PW-9300

The following is a comment from a reader in regards to the Sharp PW-9700 model compound list that displays kanji compounds with the searched kanji in positions other that the just the first kanji position.

Well, it does look like the multi-position listing is a thing of the past. I got a hold of a friend's PW-9600 and was happily able to get the versatile kanji lookup. However, it too [in addition to the PW-9700] is out of production. When I called Sharp they told me that the current-production units are all based on the PW-9300 model. Not having tried all the models hanging about on the racks in the stores, I am not really sure if it is really gone from all newer Sharp models.

Seiko T5120

I am a native English speaker and at the high intermediate level. My previous electronic dictionary was a Canon. Little by little, I came to realize that the Genius Jap->Eng dictionary is not that great! By exposure to many definitions over four years or so and getting the true essence of the word from context and the explanations of English speaking Japanese people, I began to see that the nuance was often different from the translation offered in the Genius dictionary. Alternatively, the nuance was simply missing from the Genius dictionary, e.g., the definition was incomplete.

So in these situations I started taking such words to the bookstore, where paper editions of all of the major dictionaries were for sale. I looked up the same word in many different dictionaries, and checked to see which dictionaries had captured the nuance of my word in the context in which I had found it. Over time, it became clear that the Kenkyusha New College Jap->Eng dictionary was superior.

Next I looked for an electronic dictionary that offered this Kenkyusha dictionary inside, and found the Seiko products. Finally, I tested the "jump" feature and found the Seiko to be the best. The Canons are definitely not as good at jumping, which is a critical feature.

It's extremely important to be able to look for an unknown kanji in a kanji compound by number of keystrokes, then jump from the screen where you find the kanji on the list of characters with that number of strokes. You need to jump to a screen that gives you the readings so you will know the pronunciations, and you need to be able to jump from that kanji to a list of compounds employing that kanji. Doing the latter jump efficiently makes it possible to find out the English meaning of your kanji compound efficiently. The Seiko SR-T5120 that I finally bought can do multiple jumps between every reference dictionary that it contains, and in my opinion contains the best dictionary content as well.

Casio Ex-Word XD-470

Provided by reader Zach

The Casio Ex-Word XD-470 Kanji dictionary is a touch-screen device that allows you to draw kanji and analyzes it with the 3000+ common kanji that are used in Japan. I know very little Japanese and wanted this item to help me get through the very difficult task of learning kanji. I can honestly say that from the standpoint of an English-speaker like myself, who has delved deeply into languages such as German, Latin, and Russian, Japanese would be easier to learn than any European language if it weren't for the kanji. The stroke order, the multiple different ways to pronounce a given character, and the sheer number of them can be overwhelming.

Ex-word was designed for Japanese-speakers. As a matter of fact, I came across more than one warning upon researching it that this is for advanced learners only. Despite this, I decided to go ahead and get it. It was three-hundred-something Australian dollars, which means that we're dealing with a pretty good amount of money.

The dictionary has a 6.5cm by 6.2cm screen with a panel of buttons on the right side. To search for a single Kanji, you have one square where you draw the kanji, press the button, and press another button. If the kanji is wrong, click on it for a list of guesses. Then you get a screen with some information on the radicals and list of different ways to say it. The first row is the ON readings in katakana, the second row is the KUN readings in hiragana. This is fine for people who already know the language pretty well, but what if you want the English translation? You have to click Japanese-English on the panel and type in the KUN reading because there is no "jumping" feature that I know of. This is very inconvenient.

The two dictionaries are pretty straight forward, I don't know how they compare to dictionaries dedicated to word translation, but don't expect much, considering this is mostly for kanji.

I don't have much to compare this to, considering it is my first electronic dictionary, let alone kanji dictionary, but buyer beware, this is not for beginners. I may be able to make more use of this after my vocabulary increases, when I will be able to read the kanji translations without having to go over to Japanese-English and get the English word. Recognition is good enough for my uses, but you can't get too sloppy.

In the end, I don't think the money is worth it. You could find a paper dictionary like Jack Halpern's NTC character dictionary that includes stroke order and is much cheaper although nothing can beat the speed of the XD-470.