Review:  Alpha Egg Dictionary Pen T10

This post is a review of iFlyTek Alpha Egg Reading Pen T10 – a handheld multi-language dictionary and translating pen.  It can scan just about any printed text and give an explanation or translation.  The Alpha Egg T10 is designed to be kid-friendly and allows the user to accurately and quickly translate from/to different languages (Chinese, English, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Spanish). 

Previously on this blog I have reviewed the Alpha Egg Q3 and this T10 is the latest iFlyTek Alpha Egg model. It looks and feels quite different to its predecessors. In fact, it’s more similar in look and feel to the Youdao 3.0 pen, which I also reviewed several months back (but, oh, it’s so much better!).

The Alpha Egg T10 Dictionary pen was kindly lent to our family for month by a friend during the June school holidays. Very grateful for the opportunity to try it out. Regular readers would know that our family has a tonne of reading devices for teaching our three kids to read Chinese (since as parents we cannot even speak Chinese), and it was fun to see how the T10 compares to our other gadgets.

This post covers:

What is the iFlyTek Alpha Dictionary Pen T10?

The Alpha Egg Dictionary Pen T10 is a highly advanced dictionary and translating pen, which comes with added built-in educational functions.

The primary use for such a pen is indeed its dictionary function, this clever pen will scan any Chinese written text (from an individual character to a full paragraph, including Hanyu Pinyin and Traditional Chinese), and then have options to:

  • read it out in Chinese
  • read it out in English (in a very fluent and sensible translation)
  • show the pinyin, radicals, and stroke order
  • provide the dictionary definition of individual words in the sentence/paragraph.

If you’ve used Google Translate previously, you’ll know that Google can indeed translate, but often not well enough to be certain 100% of the nitty gritty details.  Using a dictionary pen like Alpha Egg is a much better way to do this.   It not only uses the Oxford Chinese & English Dictionaries (9th Edition) to scan seamlessly and accurately, but it combines this with neural network learning for fluency of translations.  The pen will recognise a range of bold and italic fonts, from newspapers, picture books, through to mobile tablets and devices.

As for the “extra educational functions” beyond just being a dictionary pen, the T10 can be used as a mini AI tutor.  It’s not quite as cute as Luka Reading Robot, but it does have some nice features such as:

  • oral pronunciation practice and grading
  • listening comprehension tools
  • stroke order for all characters
  •  20 key reference books

Key differences between Alpha Egg T10 and previous version (Alpha Egg Q3)

I would make the analogy that if these pens were handphones, it would be like comparing an iPhone Pro Max (the T10) with a Nokia brick (the Q3).   Both options have very different user groups. 

Physically, the T10 with its space-capsule-inspired design has a much bigger screen display (ie more fragile) and a slimmer design that accommodates a USB port.  This means the T10 is more appropriate for older children/adults  For an adult, the T10 is perhaps more comfortable to hold for longer period of time than the Q3, since the Q3 was specifically designed for small hands to grasp the sturdy crayola-like pen barrel.  The T10 has a cooling aluminum alloy outer shell, and the Q3 is plastic-y.

Software-wise, T10 is well advanced.  For basic function of translating, they’re both identical to each other.  But the T10 has a whole host of extra functions.  This is the biggest difference – that the T10 moves beyond basic dictionary functions and passive searching for words/translations, into active teaching (which you may or may not want in your pen!)

Language-wise, The T10 comes in two versions – the standard bilingual version is Chinese/English and the “Pro” version has an impressive 6 languages (Chinese/English/Japanese/Korean/Spanish/Russian).  This is a great features for multilingual families and adult learners too.  The previous Q3 only translates between Chinese and English. 

Pricewise, there’s no comparison.  One is 50% more than the other.  Guess which!

Key features summarised in table below.

Comparison of key features of different iFlyTek Alpha Egg models

What is the use for a Chinese Dictionary Pen?

Honestly, a good dictionary pen is among one of the best resources that your family can have for learning Chinese -it’s great for both parent and child, and for non-Chinese and Chinese speakers. That’s why we have so many in our house already. Dictionary Pens are great because they provide translation, assistance for unknown words, and opportunities to unlock other independent learning opportunities through individual reading and writing.

If you are a parent still trying to use Google Translate on your phone for translating what Chinese characters are, or your child is struggling when reading Chinese passages to understand certain characters/phrases, then this is the gadget is totally for you!  Yo

A dictionary pen is for exactly that…. looking up and translating words. Use cases can include:

  1. To assist my children to read independently:  when reading a book by themselves, the Dictionary Pen helps them to understand particular words or phrases they don’t know.  Rather than needing me to madly look it up for them on Pleco, this pen lets the child do it themselves instantly and effortlessly.  They simply need to scan the text using the pen and they get the pronunciation and explanation to appear (a great help for a busy parent, or a parent who doesn’t read the language). This really encourages the kids with their independent wider reading.   It works great for reading books where the child knows 90 – 95% of the words, and the dictionary pen can fill in the unknown characters (for Chinese, it’s much harder to guess the missing character than in English, when a word can often be deciphered phonetically given the surrounding context).

    For non-Chinese speaking adult to understand printed Chinese: the pen is a good tool for an anyone who doesn’t know the language, but needs to translate a document/word.   Doing this with Google Translate is time-consuming, and still produces a sub optimal result.  Dictionary pens such as iFlyTek Alpha Egg will scan instantly and give translations of whole paragraphs which actually do make sense. 
  2. Finding out more about a particular word / character: from definition, to related words and also stroke order, it’s possible with a few clicks to find out the etymology about a word of interest

How do scanning dictionary pens work?

If you’re reading this and trying to choose an e-dictionary which is Singapore MOE compliant, none of these scanning dictionary pens will fit the bill….. because they’re really just too smart. Their effortless and seamless ability to translate any written text is incomparable to any other e-dictionary.

They work using two main pieces of technology that sets them far and above the standard Chinese e-dictionaries because they contain:

  • Live neural networks for translation: this means they go beyond just a built-in dictionary, and base translations from millions of real-world examples which creates fluent and relevant translations
  • Optical Characters Recognition (OCR): some of you will be familiar with Pleco OCR or Google Photo translate. This gives the ability to scan printed text with high accuracy, and it’s built into the pen itself removing the need to type in text

Menu options on the Alpha Egg T10

The menu of the Alpha Egg T10 has many more options than the Alpha Egg Q3 (which has 3 menu options) and the Youdao 3.0 (which has 4 options). Downside is they’re only navigated in Chinese, so I’ll explain what we worked out here.

The ten functions to choose between are:

  • Word scan and translate: this is the main function – you can scan any text (single word or multiline) and it will read it out aloud and translate the text. If you click the words, on screen, you can explore further to get synonyms, definitions, stroke order, or save the word into your wordbank.
  • Language explanation: this contains a plethora of different reference books, dictionaries etc
  • Listening and speaking practice: this is actually for practicing English speaking primarily! You talk into the pen and get graded on your performance.
  • Composition correction: this is actually for English writing composition, a bit like grammar check on Ms Word. You can actually scan your own hand written composition and get real-time corrections.
  • Word Bank: you can add words/sentence in here for later review, and also download externally.
  • Dictation: Exercises are largely designed to align with Mainland China MOE syllabus.
  • Voice query: This is where you can ask the pen trivia question, or history etc, inlcuding meaning of idioms or ancient poems.
  • Voice translation: much like the word scan and translate, you can also do this with voice input
  • Glossary: Like a thesaurus.
  • Settings: lots if important things in here. Options to choose screen brightness, left or right handed settings, choice of language (English, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish), choice of male or female voice, choice of default dictionaries, downloading latest data etc.
The options under the setting menu of Alpha Egg Dictionary Pen T10

Pros of iFlyTek Alpha Egg Dictionary Pen T10

The really great features of the Alpha Egg pens are:

  1. One-swipe, fast translation: recognises words and sentences automatically, at a speed of about 15 characters per second
  2. User friendly design:  clear voice (both male & female) that are easy to understand, with adjustable volume, comfortable to hold, multidirectional scanning for left or right handers, and very portable.
  3. High quality translation:  the translation is miles better than Google Translate, and noticeably better than Youao too (especially better for idioms or colloquialisms)
  4. Many options on touch screen:  provides Chinese audio, English audio, written English, and Pinyin translations, and also option for voice recording, and translating spoken voice inputs too
  5. Works on nearly all written text less than 1.5cm wide:  Support standard fonts in textbooks, children’s Chinese picture books, newspapers and magazines, restaurant menus, etc. It can read from screens/tablets if set on very bright.  It will even read very neat handwriting(another incentive for a child to write neatly!).
  6. Includes stroke order: the screen will illustrate stroke order
  7. It can read Hanyu Pinyin and recognises Traditional Chinese characters also
  8. Reading speed can be adjusted:  when we first tried out this pen, my daughter’s comment was that is read too fast. Then, we realised there is a ‘slow down’ option, which is a thoughtful feature for a younger user to help them really understand the phrasing/intonation.
  9. Oxford dictionary: contains 9th Edition Oxford dictionary, Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary, and 20 key reference books, which can be used for looking up definitions of words and facts. Searching for any word explanation and translation is a cinch, either with a text scan or voice command. 
  10. Advanced AI voice command: it’s possible to ask the pen trivia questions (like “how many planets are in the solar system?”) and the pen will answer it, with a large library of facts from 20 reference books. This works in Chinese only.
  11. Both horizontal and vertical Chinese text layouts

Cons of iFlyTek Alpha Egg Dictionary Pen T10

There are a few considerations when deciding to buy the T10 pen rather than other translating pen models:

  1. More fragile than the Alpha Egg Q3: the screen is bigger and the barrel size thinner (it looks and feels much more like an oversized Youdao pen than the Alpha Egg Q3)
  2. The operating system language is Chinese:  Instructions and set up are fully in Chinese, as are all menus on the pen itself (it’s reasonably intuitive if you play around for a bit).  In comparison, it’s now possible to get the Youdao pen with English instructions and English operating system. 
  3. It will read only printed text which is less than 1.5 cm wide: this rules out some popular children’s books with oversized fonts, including Sage 500 Books or Elephant & Piggie.
  4. For the “Pro” version: it has 6 languages, but only translates between Chinese and the target language (English/Korean/Russian/Japanese/Spanish).  In comparison, the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3.0 can translate between English-Spanish and Spanish-English, which can be more helpful for non-native Chinese learners.

Technical Specifications

Model: TYP-AIT10 Alpha Egg (by iFlyTek)

Battery:  USB rechargeable; 8 hours of continuous use; charges in about 2 – 3 hours

Weight: 79g

Connectivity: 2.4gHz WiFi (supports offline use too)

Screen: 3.7-inch RGB LCD screen

Voice Mode: Real voice (British accent, Male & Female voices)

Orientation: Left & Right-handed

Languages: Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, English (for standard version).  Additional languages of Spanish, Korean, Japanese and Russian (for pro version).

User interface: Mandarin

Scanning speed: 80 words per minute

How does iFlytek Alpha Egg T10 compare and other Chinese reading pens?

Left: Alpha Egg T10, Middle: Alpha Egg Q3; Right: Youdao 2.0

Alpha Egg T10 takes the excellent translating features of the Alpha Egg Q3, and splices it with the sleek elegance and larger screen of the Youdao.   It feels more sci-fi than the Youdao by nature of its design, and you get a sense that you are holding serious technology in the palm of your hands.

In particular the Alpha Egg T10 improvements versus Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 are:

  • Screen size:  The iFlytek Alpha Egg T10 screen is larger than all its predecessors and competitors that we’ve ever come across (including the Youdao 3.0). 
  • Voice: The pen offers a variety of different voices and genders (sane as the Q3 also). In comparison, Youdao only has a female voice.
  • Translation accuracy:  Alpha Egg T10 and Alpha Egg Q3 perform the same, and this level is slightly better (eg faster and more accurate) than Youdao.  It’s hard for me to always know, as a non-Chinese speaker but this has been corroborated by Chinese speaking friends also.  The Alpha Egg’s translations – especially specific things like idioms or name of Emperors, dynasties, or biblical texts etc etc –  do make more sense than Youdao.
  • Pointing accuracy:  Alpha Egg is more likely to get it right the first time, versus Youdao, when requires multiple attempts to scan the same character. T10 is less fiddly, and easier to swipe at any angle, from either hand.
  • Languages:  the Alpha Egg T10 pro version can translate between Chinese and five languages, being English, Japanese, Korean, Russia and Spanish.  In contrast, the Youdao Dictionary Pen 3 only contains English, Chinese and Spanish.

The two biggest drawbacks of iFlytek Alpha Egg versus Youdao is that it doesn’t have any English operating system, and it is slightly larger to hold.  I have written a more detailed head-to-head comparison between features of the iFlytek Alpha Egg and Youdao in a comparison post here.

Left: Youdao 2.0; Middle: Alpha Egg Q3; Right: Alpha Egg T10

Where to buy?

Our friend who lent us their Alpha Egg T10 bought the pen in Singapore from Sagesaurus which is actually where our Alpha Egg Q3 came from. If buying through their website, you can get SGD$10 off for any of the Alpha Egg pens sold through their site (the Q3, the T10, and the T10 Pro) using promo code lahlah10off. I know they also ship internationally. [and no, no affiliation or commissions are being collected from this blog post ….. just trying to bring you the reader great things and help small businesses].

What would I buy?

Totally depends on budget and use. The pens are all very similar, so let price be your key guide. Then as a general rule, Alpha Egg translations are better/more accurate than Youdao, so if you can deal with the Chinese operating system, Alpha Egg is the better choice.

  • For a younger child wanting to read independently –> Alpha Egg Q3 (cheaper, easy to hold, less fragile, not many menu options). This is what we have.
  • For a non-Chinese speaking adult –> borrow whatever your child uses! Suggestion would be any Youdao International Version (has English operating system).
  • For an older child or adult with understanding of Chinese –> Alpha Egg T10 (larger screen, many more functions). This is what our friend lent us for this review.
  • For an older child or adult with understanding of Chinese interest in other languages (Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish) –> Alpha Egg T10 Pro (larger screen, many more functions and languages). This is what our friend lent us for this review.
  • For a child learning Chinese and Spanish –> Youdao Dictionary Pen 3.0 (contains both language). This is also what we have.

Enjoy the journey

I hope this review has help you. Most important in the Chinese learning journey is that you create a family and schooling situation where the child loves the language and wants to learn it! I hope that you can achieve that in your family. For us, it’s been a joyful experience.

If you have reached the end of this, and still wanting to read more, some other posts of mine which you may find relevant include:

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