Friday, April 27, 2018

Creative HansVision Chinese Exam E-Dictionary PX2131 Review

Last Thursday we bought the Creative HansVision PX2131 Chinese electronic dictionary for Lil Pumpkin. Apparently students in Primary, Secondary and JCs are now allowed to use e-dictionaries during the compo paper for PSLE, GCE N(T), N(A), O and A-Level Examinations so schools allow them for use during class and school exams too.

However, exactly when they can start using them in class and during school exams will depend on the school. Some schools only allow kids to use them from P4/P5 onwards, while others, like Lil Pumpkin's school, lets them use them from P3 onwards.

It is not a necessity. Students are still allowed to use the traditional paper dictionaries to help them write compositions like before, but given this time and age where kids nowadays are more geared towards technology like mobile-phones, tablets and computers, they would probably be more comfortable using e-dictionaries compared to paper dictionaries {which I still personally prefer!} where it is quicker and more convenient to bring around.

However, for paper dictionaries, you have to be precise in knowing the number of strokes or exact hanyu pinyin for each Chinese character. There is no "auto-correct" or any intuitive help that an electronic dictionary provides.

I guess that can be the reason why you would or wouldn't start your child on an electronic dictionary. It doesn't "force" them to count the number of strokes or know the hanyu pinyin before they need to check the meaning of the words. So, it is thus useful for a child who struggles in this area, and yet it provides no motivation for them to improve on them either.

Anyway, I'm not going to discuss whether to get a paper or e-dictionary in this post. Maybe another time.

But since I posted  on my Facebook page & Instagram that we got Lil Pumpkin the PX2131, a few parents requested for a review on this particular model so I'd focus more on that here instead.

Background of Chinese e-dictionaries in Singapore for use in exams
Since 2007, the Ministry of Education {MOE} allowed the use of electronic CL-CL dictionaries during examinations for all levels from PSLE to pre-University starting 2007.

There's a list of approved Chinese e-dictionaries compiled by Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board {SEAB} for PSLE. Approval for use in national examinations is valid only for 5 years for a specific edition/version starting from the examination year following the year of application. Vendors need to apply for an extension of the validity period of the approved dictionaries, which they do so don't be afraid to get one now even if your child's PSLE is after the current approved period.

From this list, you can see that there's only 3 major players in the market - Besta, Creative and ZZ. A quick check online shows that Besta and Creative are the more established brands, while ZZ is a new company and their dictionaries were only added into this list from this year. All 3 are local, Singapore companies {but ZZ originated from China}.

The first approved Chinese e-dictionary {HansVision PX2051} was a collaboration between Creative and Ministry of Education for our students. Then Besta started their All Pass series targeted for students to bring into exam halls and ZZ was established in 2016 and started selling their versions last year.

Why did we get Creative HansVision Chinese E-Dictionary PX2131?
We bought Lil Pumpkin her Chinese e-dictionary the night we found out that she could use it for her P3 compo exam paper, which was a week later. We wanted to get it fast so that she'd have time to get used to the e-dictionary in time for her exams.

Just so you know, we didn't really have much time to do a comprehensive comparison of all the available models out there. I assume that the internal software {Chinese dictionary, vocabulary bank, Chinese idioms list, hanyu pinyin search functions etc.} is about the same across the board. However, I asked around, read some reviews and we narrowed down to the model we wanted to get her based on some factors that were important to us.

Firstly, the e-dictionary had to have a handwriting input function as that's the main way Lil Pumpkin searches for words in the dictionary app she uses at home. At the moment, she rarely searches for words with hanyu pinyin mainly because 1) most of the times she already doesn't know how to read the characters, that's why she needs to search haha, and 2) it is just quicker to write it out then to type out the hanyu pinyin.

Basically with this factor, it eliminated almost all of the Creative HansVision models except for PX2131 as that's the only one that has a handwriting input function. Even the latest PX2181 model that was released this year does not have a stylus / handwriting input function {see comparison table at end of post}!!

Besta All Pass 3 {the older versions are out of production and not in sale anymore} and ZZ models were still in the game though.

Secondly, we wanted something compact and light for her to bring to and fro school. Creative HansVision PX2181 and Besta All Pass 3 fit this criteria. ZZ e-dictionaries are apparently modified car navigation devices. They are newer, touchscreen, coloured, have bigger writing surfaces, use built-in batteries but are also heavier, bulkier and require frequent charging {and they also didn't have the Wildcard Search function - see below for details}.

Thirdly, we wanted to buy from an established brand because it's for use during exams. I mean, I don't want her to bring it to exams then suddenly it conks out and won't work!

Although I like that ZZ e-dictionaries are touchscreen, coloured & have a bigger writing surface, there is not much track record on how long they can last without charging, how they heat up, how they will hold up against kids bringing them around in their school bags or kids inevitably dropping them from their desk every now and then {fyi, their screens are made of glass, compared to plastic for Creative & Besta} and whether their resolutions will distort or become pixelated over time... like how quite a number of parents complain about Besta All Pass e-dictionaries, even up to recent months for All Pass 3.

{image from a parenting forum}
{image from Besta Facebook page}

Yup, even with the clam-shell case design, some parents complain that their kids' Besta e-dictionary screens crack or have black lines across. And the stylus doesn't have a slot in All Pass 3 e-dictionary itself {it's stored in the provided case} plus the handwriting input function isn't as sensitive as Creative HansVision PX2131...

So with all these in mind, we chose Creative HansVision PX2131 as Lil Pumpkin's first Chinese e-dictionary!! *throws confetti*

I say "first" because I expect to have to buy a few times in the course of her studies haha since parents say these e-dictionaries don't last thaaaaaat long {2 years tops?}, she might lose it and better versions will be out by the time she takes her PSLE. But still, I hope that this e-dictionary will last her a couple of years.

Quick Review
You can see the full specifications in the table above or from Creative HansVision's website. The English and Chinese manual is available here. See comparison between PX2131 and PX2181 {2018 model} below.

1. Box set & accessories
One unit comes with Creative HansVision PX2131 e-dictionary, a retractable stylus, black earphones, a mini paper cleaner, 1-year warranty card and 2x AAA batteries. Cost is S$59.

Hard cover case {black only} can be purchased from Popular bookstore at $6.90 or Creative HansVision at S$5. Additional stylus can be purchased from Creative HansVision at S$3. For purchase from Creative HansVision, you may call to order & have it delivered to you, or buy direct from their service centre: A Genuine Technology, 1 Rochor Canal Road #05-67 Sim Lim Square.

2. Design
I was surprised that Creative HansVision PX2131 e-dictionary is so small haha... like a mini calculator? Some say like a BlackBerry phone. But good that it's light and compact for Lil Pumpkin to bring around.

Buttons are pretty small for adults, or those with fat fingers hehe, but for kids like Lil Pumpkin they are reasonably easy to press. For the screen, I would prefer it to be bigger as sometimes the complicated characters seem too cramped and she is not able to distinguish the different strokes properly. However, it is big enough for her to write her characters and read most of the time. Back-light is a hit too.
Unfortunately, it does not come with a cover. You have to purchase a hard protective case separately. However, the PX2131 seems pretty hardy and unless the kid is going to sit on it or drop it face down, it doesn't really need the cover for protection. The on/off button is also not protruding like the rest of the buttons so it's not likely to get switched on accidentally too.

There is a stylus slot for the accompanying stylus at the back, and a headphone jack at the side. It's a very simple, no-frills design which I actually like so that Lil Pumpkin won't get distracted when using it to study. With her phone dictionary app, it's easy for her to lose focus and start fiddling around with other apps or games. 

3. User-friendliness
Lil Pumpkin {currently P3 student} spent less than half an hour to learn how to operate the basic functions from her daddy.  She would need more time to practice using it efficiently though.

This is a Chinese-to-Chinese dictionary so there's no English meanings given and even the buttons are labeled in Chinese. It is daunting {even for me!}, but in a way I'm glad as it "forces" Lil Pumpkin to recognise and widen her vocabulary. Basic knowledge of Chinese words like 开关 {on/off}, 目录 {menu}, 说明 {help}, 输入法 {input method} etc. required. There's English help if you press 【说明】.

4. Pronunciation Function
You can check the pronunciations of just the character{s} searched, but the full reading of the meaning{s} or examples of use is not given. It would definitely be useful to have the latter.

The voice is clear, and only works when listened to with earphones though.

5. Search functions
Press 【电子词典】->【输入法】->【拼音】or【部首】or【手写】
a. Hanyu Pinyin Search - Type in hanyu pinyin of the character{s}
b. Initial Consonant Input - Type in first letter for each character e.g. mmhh and 马马虎虎 pops up.
c. Wildcard Search - Type in * for unknown characters e.g. 不*不* and 不慌不忙,etc. pops up
d. Cross-referencing Search - Highlight & search within explanation
e. 部首 {bushou} Search - Use Chinese radicals or strokes to search
f. Polyphonic Character Search *new* - Find all pronunciations & corresponding explanations
g. Handwriting Input Search *new* - Using a stylus to write on the screen surface

Very handy to have so many different ways to search for the Chinese words meanings and readings, for single and multiple characters. However, at her current Chinese language level, Lil Pumpkin will not likely use all now. The Wildcard Search is extremely helpful, but I suspect 部首 Search will be used the least. If it lasts {and hopefully it does!}, this e-dictionary will be even more useful at higher levels and is acceptable for use at O' & A' Levels too. 

6. Special Handwriting Input Feature
The screen is relatively sensitive i.e. you don't need to press too hard for it to pick up your writing & you can write without a stylus. However, Lil Pumpkin still writes her Chinese characters quite big and slow and sometimes she needs to do it a few times to get the correct words because after she finishes writing the radical, pause to check, then write the second part of the word, the dictionary suggestions would have already popped up and may not contain the word she was looking for.

Do note that this e-dictionary does not have a "true touchscreen". It's useful only for writing the characters, but you cannot choose options or navigate by touching the screen. I hope they improve on this for later models though. 

7. Battery Life
Hard to say since we got it just a week ago but since it has just a black & white screen and simple blue back-light, I don't expect it to eat a lot of battery power. The screen will stay lit when it is powered on, and the e-dictionary will automatically power off if there's no activity for 20 mins. 

Anyway,  2 x AAA batteries can be easily changed from the back.

8. Value-for-Money
We paid S$65.21 {S$59 + S$6.90 less 10% for Popular members, no discount on PX2131 as it is NETT price}. It is not terribly expensive as an electronic teaching aid, and with the functions it comes with, plus I expect Lil Pumpkin to use it for at least 2 years, I reckon it is value-for-money.

If you buy in school, or during their roadshows it might be even cheaper. 

Initially, I was surprised that the PX2131 was so low-tech, even though it's one of their latest models #firstworldproblems But then again, the exam e-dictionaries are meant to be low cost, most likely to make them accessible to all students from all family income levels. You can see that all of them are around S$50-100 each and at this price range, so I can't expect a whole lot of applications or functions like how I might be used to with a smartphone.

9. Does the child like it??
As you can see from the video above, Lil Pumpkin likes her new e-dictionary because she finds it helpful, and also because I think it's a novel study toy for her haha.. Yesterday, Lil Pumpkin had her P3 Chinese compo exam and she said that she used it, mainly for checking how to write words using hanyu pinyin input.

Her classmate has the Besta All Pass 3 which she played around with and liked that design too because "it can open and close", and "has a small box at the bottom to write in".

That "small box" is actually smaller than PX2131's writing surface and not as sensitive though, according to some users. I told her that if they improve on their technology & flaws, we can consider getting it next time as I prefer their clam-shell case design too. My old JP-EL e-dictionaries from Casio were like that too.

For more of  Lil Pumpkin's Primary School journey:

For tips on P1 preparation:

P.S.  I heard from some parents that there are no display models at Popular bookstores for Creative HansVision e-dictionaries. Only for Besta e-dictionaries which has their own counters {promoters only work 1pm - 9pm though} in Popular. 

However, we bought ours from Marine Parade Central's Popular and they had display models for customers to play around with for PX2131 and the latest PX2181. From what I gather, main difference is PX2131 has the handwriting input, while PX2181 doesn't but has the newest function of inputting the four tones of classical Chinese phonetics (四声) and non-stress voice (轻声) for a faster search. E.g. cheng2jiu4 will get the result 成就

If you wish to try out all Creative HansVision models, then go to their main office at 63 Hillview Avenue #03-09 Lam Soon Industrial Building. I called their office a few times to ask questions about the products and they seem quite friendly.

*Note: This is not a sponsored post or advertorial. All opinions are my own.


Stacy said...

Looks really good! Wonder if they sell this here. I only know of Besta models which are big and pricey.

An Apel a Day said...

That looks so handy! I could use something like that for even English.

My husband said I spelled, "Waist" when it was supposed to be, "waste". Our language is so odd sometimes!

mail4rosey said...

So much is going electronic. It's amazing considering how fast it's actually happened. School today is very different even between my oldest and youngest children's experiences.

KarMie's blog said...

Impressive that kids nowadays have technology to aid them in learning. Definitely useful especially for "banana" parents like me! Lols ... Parents need to be on track, up to date n learn new technologies too. Hard work for all of us but definitely worth while seeing our kids communicate in Chinese!!!

Jamie Chaw

SengkangBabies said...

That's a very detailed Review of e-Dictionary!
(Otherwise I would have assumed that most "dictionaries" would be more or less the same)

cheers, Andy

Chicken Rice said...

Exactly the review I'm looking for. Funnily HansVision does not have a comparison between PX2131 and PX2181. Imagine having to come to you to get that answer instead. Haha. Anyway, good review. Thanks.