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Youdao Dictionary Pen: Comparison of 2.0 vs 3.0 vs Pro Version for Chinese-English

We have a wonderful gadget to support Chinese reading, which is our Netease 有道 Youdao Dictionary Pen 2.0 that I first reviewed in Spring 2020. 

This posts compares the differences between the four key models of this portable pen: ( 有道 Youdao Dictionary Pen 2.0 vs 3.0, vs Pro vs International Version) which can all translate from simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, and English, from individual words to entire sentences.

If you want to look at a specific review of the Youdao 3.0 version, please see this other post.

What are the key features of all 有道 Youdao Pens?

Refer to my earlier post for a detailed review of Youdao pen and how we used it. In short,   有道 Youdao Dictionary Pen enables my daughter to independently read books (in either Chinese and English, but mainly Chinese) and read unfamiliar words with the pen.  The pen also works as a great translation tool for me – as it will translate entire paragraphs from Chinese into English, with a much more accurate / fluent translation than Google Translate or Pleco has enabled.

Key features of Youdao Dictionary Reading Pen:

How do the different models of Youdao pen stack up?

The original Standard Version Youdao pen is a bestselling translation pen in China.  Keeping up with the versions is a bit like iPhone series ….. they’re each subtly different, and the latest models all get a high price tag.  It’s good to know what you need, and ensure you don’t overpay. 

Current versions are:

Note – when I wrote this post, there was no 3.0 International Version (aka English version), but soon after posting this, I’ve heard it may have just been released! These things keep changing faster than iPhone models!

Comparison of Chinese version and English version (you can tell our pen …. the Chinese one…. has been used a lot!!)

Key difference between 有道 Youdao versions:

“Pro” Youdao pen will translate into Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Comes at a significantly increased price tag.

“International Version” Youdao pen will have English instructions and English user interface

“Version 3”  Youdao pen comes with some more user-friendly features for kids (larger colour screen, and ability to narrate some specific books smoothly).  It also includes SPANISH along with Chinese and English.

Comparison of Youdao 2.0, 3.0, Pro and International Versions

Additional Benefits of 有道 Youdao 2.0 International Model

Changing the reading mode from right-handed to left-handed is simple with the English operating system

Additional features of 有道 Youdao 2.0 Pro Models

Key Benefits of additional features on Pro version

There’s soon to be a 有道 Youdao Dictionary Pen 3.0 Pro launched!

Additional features on 有道 Youdao 3.0

Cons of all 有道 Youdao Dictionary Pens

All the pens have the same cons as the original 有道 Youdao Dictionary Pen.  These include:

The Chinese test in Sage Books is just slightly too large for the pen to be useful easily, but anything smaller it works a dream
The pen struggles a bit with Biblical translations (… who doesn’t!!!). Some of the translations we’ve received has been too coarse to repeat to others, but suffice to say, it’s far from perfect

I’m still hopeful someone will come up with a pen which is *perfect* but Youdao is a nice second runner. [Post script May 2021: Yes, there is a new pen on the market which makes up for most of the downsides of the Youdao Pen. It’s called the iFlyTek Alpha Egg, and it’s currently the leading selling dictionary pen in China. Check out how we reviewed it! It’s certainly our preferred option for kids!]

Where do buy Youdao Dictionary Pen in Singapore?

in Singapore, these pens are now plentiful on Carousell, Lazada and Shopee, and most offer a 1 year local warranty. Find the best price, and go with that! Take note on the specific version you are buying though as some will have only a Chinese user interface, and others will offer English. Then some will come with written instructions in English, and others will not.

If you buy from @888flypig on Carousell, you can quote “lahlahbanana” for a further discount. There are many many authorised retailers in Singapore – one of which also includes Elite Linguistic Network (note – no affiliation, and my pen didn’t come from there either, but they dropped me a note after I made this blog post, again if you quote “LAHLAHBANANA” they will give you a 5% discount too.).

There are many authorised retailers in Singapore – one of which includes Elite Linguistic Network, who offer a local warranty of 1 year, during which a 1-1 exchange is offered for factory defects (note – no affiliation, and my pen didn’t come from there either, but they dropped me a note after I made this blog post).

Note, the cheapest options to get this pen will likely have all the interface and manual in Chinese, and it’s possible to get it all working as a non-Chinese speaker (because we certainly use ours effortlessly, without asking anyone how to get it working….. setting up the wifi and downloading the latest firmware was the toughest part).

For those OUTSIDE of Singapore, the pen can be bought from: Global: Taobao or Amazon

US: Jojo Learning

UK & Europe: Deziremi Bookstore, and special note that my blog readers in UK have a £12.00 discount if you use code YOUDAOLAH at checkout/

FAQs on 有道 Youdao Dictionary Pens

Which option do we prefer?
As we learn Spanish too, the 3.0 naturally is the best choice for our family as it contains both Chinese and Spanish.

Overall for just Chinese, the 2.0 and 3.0 are each great – I would go with the International Version for sure,  as having the English Instructions and the operating interface is a huge plus.

For the price point, I’m quite happy with our Model 2.0. We wouldn’t use any of the advanced features on the Pro or Version 3.0. Having the English Instructions in the International Version is a huge plus, so I’ve unashamedly photographed all the manuals from our friend. If I had a choice to buy again, I would choose the English Operating System, but we’re are very used to using the pen without it by now.

Does it do Traditional Chinese?
Yes, it will scan and translate from TC into English.   It will do vertically oriented text, and it will do right to left scanning.

However, it doesn’t do it in reverse, in that if you scan English, it will only convert it into SC (not TC).  Additionally, it won’t translate Zhuyin, and it gets a bit confused with vertical text if it has Zhuyin directly above it.  It’s really not compatible with this.

Will the software/dictionaries become outdated?
No, the pen connects to wifi to ensure latest system software updates, including new wods, voices, etc are included.  It’s as simple as clicking “Settings-Upgrade” and keeping the pen connected to the wifi during the upgrade (usually it doesn’t need wifi to function)

How long does the battery last?  How long does it take to charge fully?
For our Youdao 2.0 version, it lasts for about 8 full hours of continuous use (which is a really really long time, as likely a child will use it intermittently through reading …. for us, it lasts about 4 weeks!).  The battery fully charges in 3 hours.

For Youdao 3.0, it lasts for ~5 hours if used in on-line mode continuously (according to the manufacturer; we’ve not got this pen, so really unsure).

What are the options for pronunciation?
For English, it’s either British or American in a female voice.  You can choose this from  “Settings-Pronunciation” to set the default automatic pronunciation. For Chinese, it’s mainland Chinese in a female voice.

Will Youdao pen work for our family?

We’re a family where no parents speak any Chinese, and yes we use this pen daily – both my daughter, and my self, for different purposes. We read in Simplified Chinese, and generally have books with no pinyin.

I’ve read various reviews from others who use these pens in different family background. For example, Sunny from Spots of Sunshine is a fluent speaker, teaching her daughter in Traditional Chinese. Her review shows it’s less valuable in such a circumstance. Then again, Aime from Trilingual Texpats is a Taiwanese-American mother who teaches in Traditional Chinese and really likes the Youdao pen’s functionality. Chontelle from Bilingual Kidspot in Australia called it the “ultimate pen” for her children who being educated trilingually, despite not speaking any Chinese herself. I always love reading how others use the same device.

Which Chinese dictionaries and optical readers have you tried?

I would love to hear from you, especially if you have experience with other Chinese reading pens and dictionaries. It’s only through meeting other wonderful parents virtually, that this shared language journey becomes a more valuable one. All comments welcomed!

We own quite a few different reading pens (they are extremely helpful). The pen we have which is most similar to Youdao is the iFlyTek Dictionary Pen. Do refer to my previous posts for more information about other Chinese reading pens which are more suitable for younger children, especially preschoolers and encouraging early Chinese literacy – these include:

Note:   This is an authentic, honest, and unaffiliated review (as are all reviews on my blog). Our original pen came from Koala Mandarin in Novena. Refer to details in my original post… it retails at $179, although they said they’ll give you a $10 discount if you mention my blog post, I hope it works for you! 

I borrowed the other two Youdao pens from two friends to complete this post – they ordered the newer models from Youdao China, and Lazada respectively.   I have no affiliation with Youdao or any of the importers into Singapore, and neither do my friends.  This is a fully independent review, and I recommend talking to the distributer/importer/local retailer to be sure of what they’re offering, especially with regards to local warranties.

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