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Casio Chinese-English Dictionary Review


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Casio has recently entered the Chinese electronic dictionary market, with two dictionaries that are based on the Japanese market Casio Exword models.

Information can be found here: http://www.casio.com.cn/dic/

There are two models, Chinese/English and Chinese/English/Japanese respectively. They're meant for Chinese students of course, as all electronic dictionaries on the market here. I've been playing around with the two models in various electronics shops around here in Shanghai, and I'm in general quite impressed, so I thought I'd post a short review. I'll be comparing it with PlecoDict (www.pleco.com), as that's the only real competitor in my eyes.

The main attraction is that the bundled dictionaries are very comprehensive. Most impressive is the Xiandai Hanyu Cidian in two volumes included (this is easily the biggest problem with PlecoDict at the moment, that there's no Chinese-Chinese). The Chi-Eng is almost equally impressive, albeit one-volume only. I don't know exactly how these dictionaries measure up to the ABC dictionary, but in terms of how comprehensive they are, the difference should be slight.

The English-Chinese selection is not as good, though. The Longman dictionary included is basically an English-English with Chinese translation. I still find it better than the NWP dictionary that comes with PlecoDict, but a more comprehensive alternative would have been nice. A separate E-C Business English dictionary is also included, but I haven't really had time to check it out.

The rest of the dictionaries/references are mostly for learners of English, but the Longman English dictionary included is a useful reference for English speakers too.

The dictionary's interface is similar to most electronic dictionaries on the Japanese market, so anyone familiar with any of those will feel right at home. I find the general interface much better than the somewhat cluttered look of PlecoDict. Pinyin input is also the same, in that you enter full words, with tones optional. E.g, to look up 中国, you enter zhongguo, rather than choosing character by character as is the norm with all other Chinese market dictionaries.

There is also radical and/or stroke count lookup. There is no pen input, which is one place where PlecoDict really is a lot better.

Jumping around between different dictionaries is very well executed. It's very easy to look up unknown words in a definition and words with a specific character in them. Also, the dictionary will remember several levels of jumps, so its very easy to skip backward again. In short, jumping is much better than in PlecoDict (PlecoDict only has a flat lookup history).

Wildcards can be used for searching, as is possible in PlecoDict. Mixed character/pinyin search is only possible in PlecoDict. You can also store words in your own wordlist, but there's no flashcard feature.

I've also checked out the version with Japanese. It has a lot of features for looking up pronounciation for Japanese words generally missing from dictionaries meant for the Japanese market. Strangely, the Jap-Chi dictionary includes English for about half its entires. There's no Eng-Jap though. So for people studying Japanese, it's a supplement only. Still, because of the ease of looking up pronounciation for unknown Japanese words, I'd say it's well worth considering for people studying both Chinese and Japanese (whose Chinese is better than their Japanese, of course).

Bottom line: If you don't have a Palm, or really need a Chi-Chi dictionary, the Casio is the better and cheaper option. If you already have a Palm, I'd say go for PlecoDict. However, PlecoDict does have quite a few useful unique features that makes it worth considering for people who don't have a Palm as well. Buying both a Palm and then the dictionary will be expensive though, so I'm not sure if PlecoDict will be worth the extra cost.

A note on price though. The list price is 1700 rmb for the English/Chinese and 2400 for the English/Chinese/Japanese. I helped my friend haggle for the E/C/J one though, and got it for 1800, so be careful where you buy.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I bought the C-E-J model for 1800 RMB at Xujiahui. The biggest computer center there, down in the basement. I just walked around and tried the different booths until I found somebody in bargaining mood. The whole place is being refurbished now, so I don't know if the same booth is still there. Anyways, most places wanted about 2000 for it...

As for not buying now unless you are desperate, I'm not so sure. There will surely be improved models out in the future, but while these are the first two models for the Chinese market, Casio isn't exactly new to the game, they have a large product line in Japan which is very similar in terms of features. (exword)

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