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Ectaco Electronic Pocket Dictionaries Reviews

Below is a review from an Amazon customer as well as my review of an Ectaco product. The one shown here is the P800 series which has much more to offer...


I found the review interesting and informative, because it points out some of the shortcomings of their handheld translators; yet, the customer still found it a useful tool, and called it the “best translator available”.

Other Useful Dictionaries:
New Electronic Russian Dictionary
Click to manufacturer of ECTACO products...
Some reviews and recommendations to consider:
I have an ER300T handheld dictionary, which I also find useful.
Some of the shortcomings are:  
1. An audible tone when a key is depressed, which can be distracting during meetings, etc.
2. No indication of where the accent is in the Russian word.
3. It pronounces the English word, but not the Russian translation.
Therefore, when selecting a product, make sure it has all the features that you want. Even if you need to buy a more expensive model, it could mean the difference between a product that sits on the shelf, and one that you use and benefit from regularly.

Dan Bauer
Below is a very detailed review from
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful: ER800 A useful tool, but not what you might expect., March 7, 2006 By

Melvin Hawes - Before vacationing in Russia, I wanted to purchase the best electronic translator available. Reading the product description for the Partner ER800, it sounded perfect. The company makes some impressive claims in the product description. After having purchased the ER-800, I believe the product marketers and the electronic engineers who designed this device are themselves suffering a language barrier.

Before I get into the point-by-point, claim-versus-reality portion of the review I'll tell you some of my first impressions of my ER-800 experience. I opened the box and removed the product. The physical dimensions are small, sleek and the construction looks sturdy.

I opened the device and touched the power switch. The monitor lit up and it started a "software loading" procedure. At one point and "error screen" popped up and then disappeared. I was then presented with a choice. Two choices, both written in Russian. I don't speak Russian, that's why I ordered a translator. I've since learned that this is the "language selection screen". If your language skill is such that you can recognize the word "English" written in Russian, than this probably won't hinder you. But I couldn't so I made choice (50/50 chance- right?) and scored a win.

Referring to the User Manual, I noticed it was in Russian. I flipped through it looking for an English section. No English section. I tore through the rest of the box looking for the English version of the User Manual. It does not come with an English User Manual. I found an English "Quick Start" leaflet in the box but it's not a like a User Manual.

I was able to locate an English User Manual for the ER-800 on the Ectaco website. But it is built in HTML, and not something you can easily print out and use.

A few other general problems I've experienced is with the touch screen and the keyboard buttons. The ER-800 comes with a handy stylus to use with the touch screen. When selecting text with the stylus, the text becomes unselected when the stylus tip leaves the touchscreen. This will drive you insane. I've tried different techniques to try to avoid the text from becoming unselected. But there is no way around it. You just have to keep trying until it works. Selecting individual words is easy, but selecting a large paragraph is almost impossible.

Several of the rubber keyboard buttons, when depressed, will get stuck under the metal and remain depressed until you can pry them out with your fingernail. This is not a huge problem, but still annoying.

Now we get to the actual functions of the ER-800:

The product description says: 

"Coherent full-text translation into English and Russian, instant reverse translation." 

Reality: Instant reverse translation only works with the dictionary. There is no "instant" way to reverse the translation of full text.

The product description says: "It employs the latest language learning technologies that use foreign language Speech Recognition modules...Test your pronunciation by trying to speak out a phrase in the foreign language and see if the Partner understands you."

Reality: So far as I have found, the voice recognition function only works as part of the pre-recorded phrasebook. The voice-recognition to locate the phrase you want. Using the phrasebook to test your pronunciation is a ridiculous notion. It only works about a third of the time, even when you pronounce the word perfectly. The other catch with the phrase book is that you must select a small section of phrases such as "At the restaurant: drinks" before you can use the voice-recognition function.

Honestly I had the mistaken notion that the you could speak (English or Russian)into the machine; it would recognize and record the words as text, and then you would be able to translate this into (English or Russian) - which you could then playback aloud using the voice synthesizer. Now that would be impressive! It doesn't do that, and sadly I don't believe there is any electronic translator available that can.

As far as fine-tuning the ER-800 to recognize your voice, you specify if you are male or female. That is the true extent of the calibration.

The Product Description says: "Type any text you want and it will translate and speak the translation out loud using its built-in Text-To-Speech processor."

Reality: No. It really won't do this in an automated way. It will translate into text, but will only speak the source text - not the translation. There is a round-about way to trick the machine into speaking the translation, but it is not easy because you have to highlight (see stylus problem) the translation, then click the "Dictionaries" button, then select Ectaco Text Translation software icon, to reopen the program with your translation in the source window. This is the only way I've found to get a reverse translation using the Text Translation program. Not what I would call "instant" or even easy.

The games: I thought the games and exercises would be useful. We all know "flashcards." There is aa question on one side and an answer on the back. A useful set of flashcards for learning a new language would have an (English or Russian) word on the front and it's translation on the back. The "flashcards" that you get with the ER-800 have a word on the front. When you "flip" the card you get to see a synonym of the word in the same language. How is this useful? I guess it might help you broaden your vocabulary (in your own language). Or use it as a random thesaurus. The other games are simply disappointing variations of this "game."

The SAT 200 and SAT 5000 are for Russians only, or English speakers who want to broaden their vocabularies.

Media Player? Don't know about this feature. I haven't tried to use it.

I almost returned the ER-800 to the manufacturer. But when researching alternatives, I discovered that even with it's flaws and glaring weaknesses, the ER-800 is, in fact, the best translator available. The fact that it can translate sentences is unique. When I took it to Russia, I used it several hundred times a day. It was useful. Persons who can speak both Russian and English will notice that the full-text translations are generally far from accurate. You cannot rely on these translations or use them to carry on a meaningful conversation. But they are useful as clues or hints as to what you are trying to say. The individuals I talked to found it most useful just to see the English spelled out on the display, and only refer to the translation if there was a certain word that was unknown to them.

Support is available through Ectaco via email. I was able to contact an employee through the website, but did not get useful information from him. His knowledge was limited to information found in the User Manual. I called once to get an RMA number so I could return the ER-800. I got a message machine (during working hours). They did not return my call. My trip to Russia was closing in, so I decided to keep it. It was useful. I only hope that they offer a software upgrade in the future to fix some of the issues I've described.
Click to manufacturer of ECTACO products...

This is a very serious group of tools and I hope these reviews give you a point of reference as to why you should give these electronic pocket dictionaries your consideration. My experience with this tool and using many of the other Russian-English electronic tools has proven to me that this is a most useful comprehensive and serious set of tools that could well be the best ones you could acquire!

Dan Bauer

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 See New Electronic Russian Dictionary...

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