In the next part of my ‘searching for the perfect electronic Japanese dictionary’ tale I’ll describe the reasoning behind my purchase. As I was saying, it came down to Sharp and Canon. In particular, it was between the Sharp PW-9700 and the Canon Wordtank G50.
Branding, swish-design and overall ‘wow-factor’ can be important when buying any piece of electronics. In this category, the black Canon Wordtank G50 with chrome cover clearly wins hands-down. Physically speaking, the Sharp unit is bigger and it’s design looks a little awkward and ugly to me. The screen is nice and big displaying lots of information, but on the other hand it takes up more room in your bag.
The Sharp has so many dictionaries (overkill?) that the menus leading to each dictionary are teired on the screen; there are not enough buttons!. With the Canon, all the dicitonaries that I want to access quickly are only one button push away. It’s up to the buyer to decide how many and what type of dictionaries are required.
Speedwise, I’d have to say the Sharp felt faster to use. While waiting for search results the G50 was noticeably slower. However, I haven’t compared how large the dictionaries each unit searches are.
One really big plus point for the Sharp is kanji compounds. After searching in the kanji dictionary for a particular kanji there is a compound kanji button (jyukugo) which lists compound kanji words – words in which the kanji of interest is used in. The G50 also does this, but only where the kanji is the first kanji of the compound word. This was one of the main attractions of the Sharp for me.
One of the fantastic features for the G50 is the kanji kakijyun feature which shows you stroke by stroke, in order, how to write hundreds if not thousands of kanji. This is great for people learning to write kanji properly. It also looks very flash!
There is also an illustration dictionary with the G50. Basically it’s a small dictionary of pictures with links to other dictionary entries. This is not really an essential feature and it won’t have pictures for many things you search for in my experience.
Two of my friends own Wordtanks and I thought it might be an advantage if I had a Wordtank too. My friends could teach me any little tips and tricks should I not know how to use everything (if we ever start studying together!). That reminds me, older Wordtanks such as the Wordtank IDF-4100 and the Wordtank IDF-4600 are still great buys for foreigners learning Japanese. The one you would choose depends on how much you want to pay, what features you require and even which dictionaries you feel you need.
How about struggling with the Japanese manuals? I had heard from various sources that there are English manuals for the Canon Wordtanks. This is obviously a great bonus. I am not sure whether the Sharp’s have English manuals, but knowing for a fact that the Wordtank G50 would have an English manual put my mind at ease.
Finally, it’s perhaps worthy of note that people say the Wordtanks are easier to get to grips with for beginners. When I tested both dictionaries, however, I have to say that I found them both pretty easy to use after a bit of experimentation.
Taking all of these factors into consideration I plumped for the Canon G50. The cheapest place to buy it turned out to be my personal favourite, the one and only Yodobashi Camera. Luckily, as fortune would have it Yodobashi was running a ‘campaign’ offering free cases with every Wordtank! In case you are wondering, it cost approx. 26,000 yen. With the points added to my point card, this purchase effectively cost me about 20,000 yen (100 pounds)! Quite an investment, but hopefully a worthwhile one.
Lastly, I should say that I did not extensively test and discover every feature of both denshi-jisho before deciding on the Canon Wordtank G50. Therefore, there could be many important points missed by this post. However, if the things I found out before buying my denshi-jisho can help any other people make a decision then this post will have been worth the effort.