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May 10, 2023

Fluentalk T1 Translator review

by John_A

I was excited to get my hands on Timekettle’s Fluentalk T1 Handheld translator device. As someone who took five years of French (four in high school, two semesters in college), three years of high school German, and having grown up in a bi-lingual family (Vietnamese and English); it felt like I could have saved a lot of time with the power of translation in my literal back pocket.  With a retail price of $299, does it offer enough to warrant its relatively high cost when compared against smartphone competitors such as Google and Apple Translation apps? Design The Fluentalk T1 is a beautiful device. Measuring 4.59×2.3x.01in (116.8*58.6*11.2mm); it is roughly 25% smaller than Apple’s iPhone mini range of smart phones. It weighs just over 4oz at 115g; also 25% lighter than the iPhone mini. The device features a 4″ screen with 540×1080 resolution. The Fluentalk T1 runs on a 2.0Ghz quad-core ARM chip with 3GB of ROM and 32GB of RAM. It runs on Android 10 operating system.  It packs multiple microphones and dual speaker configurations which allow it to be the “middleman” when multiple parties are conversing. It also features an 8MP camera allowing photo translation. The device includes 2 years of 2G/3G/4G LTE wireless connectivity but also connects via WiFi. Features Google translate supports 133 languages while Apple’s native translation app does 17. This puts the Fluentalk T1 right in the middle of Google’s and Apple’s offerings with support for 40 different languages and 93 accents. Both Google and Apple translation apps are available for free in their respective app stores with Google Translate available to both Android and iOS users.  The first question I asked myself was, “is there enough that the Fluentalk T1 offers that warrants carrying multiple devices?” It’s 2023, most, if not all, of the target market for this type of device is already carrying a smartphone. The second question answers the first, “how well does this translate compared to the free apps?” I’ll focus my attention on the Fluentalk T1 and only make reference to the smartphone apps where there is significant deviation in experience. I am not able to fully verify the quality of the translation based on dialect or regionality so I am going to assume that it is 95% accurate as stated. Home Page Once I turned on the device and allowed it to download and install system and language updates, I ran the device through its paces asking for Vietnamese translations of common English phrases. Although I am essentially illiterate in my native tongue, I understand it fluently. First you set the native (blue) and translation (red) language on the home screen for One-Click Translation. From here, you only have to push and hold the blue or red button while speaking the respective language in order initiate both a spoken and text translation. Also on the home page, you can do photo translations using the 8MP digital camera. Snapping a photo allows you to translate from the current selected native language to any of the supported languages so you only need one photo to translate multiple times. However, you must save each photo translation separately if you are going to translate to more than one language. Scroll Right To the right of the homepage, you will find configurable world time clock and currency conversion tools. Your translation history is also found on the lower portion of this screen. Scroll Left These additional apps/features are located by scrolling left from the homepage. Ask For Directions – Allows you to create a custom message that could be used to engage with a foreign speaker. The default message is announced in English from Spanish. When you select this app, it automatically goes to the default message you have selected. You add more and select your default by using the hamburger icon in the top right side of the screen. When entering this app, the default view changes to landscape mode.  Chat Translation – Allows you to position the device between those talking with the respective microphones pointed towards the language of the speaker. I did not have the opportunity to try this feature in real life. Listen Mode – Allows you to record audio and  Voice Memo – Voice memos that also offer transcription. User Guide – Instructions on how to use the device and the various apps/features. Common Expressions – Scenario based translations such as “Urgency, Restaurant, Hotel, Bank, etc.” The language is independent of what is selected for One-Click translation and is selectable at the top of the Common Expressions main screen. SOS – Provides telephone emergency services information for the country you may be traveling in. It does NOT provide connectivity to those emergency services. Settings – Self explanatory Performance Unfortunately, I wasn’t given the opportunity to try the Fluentalk T1 in a foreign land. I had the idea of using it at a local Mexican restaurant but I felt that it might be awkward or even insulting to try it with strangers. I’m wondering if I would feel the same while doing actual travel. That said, I tried using One-Click Translation as I though I were at a Mexican restaurant. Despite being in a quiet bedroom setting, the device had a difficult time transcribing and hence translating my statement. “I would like a pitcher of margarita.” would be transcribed as, “I would like a picture of margarita.” Hilarious and a little frustrating while in the comfort of my own home. It could be deadly if I were in Mexico asking the server for that picture if his wife’s name just happened to be Margarita.  To be fair, Google and Apple Translate also had difficulties transcribing that statement. However, those applications allow you to type the correct statement while the Fluentalk T1 does not. It’s unfortunate that the onscreen keyboard is not available in this mode as it seems it’s the primary feature you would use. I also tried the listening mode while watching “Stranger Things” trying to translate conversations of the Russian prison guards to English with very little success. This would not be the device to watch foreign films and expect to gain more understanding beyond visual context. From an audio translation perspective, I found Spanish, French, and Vietnamese to all be high quality. Inflection was good and the voices were all pleasant. English on-the-other-hand was very mechanical or robotic. This is the area that I personally find most disappointing. A couple times I wanted to bring the Fluentalk T1 along with me but having sat 2-3 days idle, it was completely dead. If you intend to travel with this device, I would definitely recommend that you plug it in nightly. I’m guessing that it would last approximately a day with heavy use. This might not be a deal breaker but I was quite surprised how much battery life drained while not in use. Wrap-Up Timekettle’s Fluentalk T1 Handheld translator device is solid and compact translator. It offers a nice screen and essential features that you would want if you were to travel to a foreign country. Offering both online (Wi-Fi and two years of free cellular) and offline translations (limited and must be downloaded in language pairs); it would be a valuable accessory while traveling IF you didn’t already carry a smartphone. I am not sure the retail $299 price tag is justified when you consider prepaid Android phones are available for less than $50. You could simply purchase a phone and download Google Translator. In doing research, I did find one reviewer who thought the Fluentalk T1’s niche application could be while traveling to countries where cell phone theft is common. That way you are not left stranded by presenting a device that may be stolen by the person you are asking for help. If that use case is fits your needs, you can purchase it at retail on Amazon.

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