Pocketalk S Voice & Cam Translator – $249/£249/€299
For most travellers, a smartphone is all that’s needed to get by in a foreign country with a different language, but for some business and frequent travellers, these free to use features may not be enough.
I first trialled the Pocketalk S voice & camera translator last year, and it made my Xmas Gift Guide for Travellers, and now I’ve had my hands on a sample unit for a short while to do a full review see if it justifies the price tag.
And while many travellers, myself included, consider ourselves as Google Translate stalwarts, it’s worth noting the Pocketalk price tag consists of 2 years of Global Roaming!
Pocketalk S Features
The Pocketalk S is as small as a credit card and slightly thinner than a smartphone. Yet, it’s feature-rich, has an impressive battery and standby life and offers multiple ways to communicate in 82 different languages.
A simple press of the front action button activates the dual noise-cancelling microphones for speech to audio conversion. Alternatively, open up settings, select the 8MP camera and the Pocketalk S can read written/printed words and convert them into your chosen language.
For audio output, the Pocketalk S translator has two speakers delivering 1.5 Watts. These performed on par with most smartphones on loudspeaker.
Behind the 480×640 pixel, 2.8″ Touchpanel display is an eSim for global 4G/3G connectivity with two years of use bundled into the price and Wi-Fi. This is only for the device though, and not to act as a hotspot.
There’s a rechargeable (USB-C) internal 1,200mAh battery offering 2.5 days of standby time, but the Pocketalk S Translator outperformed this benchmark during this review.
Set-up & Connectivity
Thanks to the size and responsive touchscreen, firstly, selecting your languages is easy. I have big hands and often suffer from ‘fat fingers’ when using touchscreen keyboards, but I found navigating the Pocketalk S translator easy to master.
A small amount of set-up is required on your first use, including connecting to a wireless network, if needed. The cell connectivity will otherwise go and connect to a suitable 3G or 4G network in any of the 130+ countries it supports, without any prompting.
Pocketalk S doesn’t support offline translation, and I thought this would be an issue going into the review, but it wasn’t. Admittedly the review was only carried out in city centres rather than a rural setting, and the Pocketalk always had a strong 4G connection. If that were to fail, I travel with a personal Wi-Fi hotspot it could have connected with.
The only time connection became a problem was on public Wi-Fi networks that allow you to connect but need a browser to sign in instead of using a password.
All of the settings, including Wi-Fi configuration, are kept in the 4-square setting button in the top left-hand corner of the screen and is always accessible apart from when using the camera.
As travellers, we’ve all tried either a translation app or a ‘free to use’ voice translator at one time or another. And it is from these experiences that you will realise just how excellent the Pocketalk S is.
By default, your native language is already selected when you power on, and all I needed to do to become multi-lingual was tap the bottom half of the display and choose which of the 82 languages I wanted.
The two Noise Cancelling microphones at either end of the Pocketalk S translator performed exceptionally well in busy public places and managed to remove the background noise and recognise my voice.
Language translation in voice mode is almost instant. I also had more confidence in the result than Google Translate, which often jumbles the words up slightly. On the Pocketalk S, the SourceNext Custom Translation Operating System is very powerful, and it shows in the results.
To activate the translation, I just needed to press and hold the front button and talk normally. Pocketalk can capture and translate up to 30 seconds of speech, but I found the sweet spot to be around a sentence or two at a time.
At the top are dual 1.5W loudspeakers, which may be too loud in public when at full volume. I was comfortable using the Pocketalk S at around 70% volume during the review.
If you’d rather not have an artificial voice talk to you in public, fear not, as the Pocketalk S has Bluetooth support for headphones.
Sometimes you’ll need to translate written words, and this is where the 8MP camera comes into play. I just tapped on settings > camera from the home screen, and then it was as simple as taking a photo.
Press the home button once to take a photo of the text to be translated, and then the Pocketalk S will show you the image and ask you to confirm the area selected is correct. From here, I just tapped yes, and it overlays the translation on the image for me.
It felt the image text translation took a second longer than voice translation, but this is me trying to find faults! It’s still impressively fast.
But that’s only half of the text conversion!
Double-tap on the text translation overlay, and Pocketalk S converts it to audio. This is a great addition for translating a document or trying to order in a restaurant. I found this was particularly good with just a single earbud in and connected on Bluetooth.
Pocketalk S is relatively future-proof in terms of power thanks to the USB-C port on the base for charging. With most new smartphones now offering wireless powersharing, I’d have liked the translator to support QI-wireless charging so it could recharge when it’s in my pocket. Still, again, I’m just trying to find faults in an almost perfect travelling companion.
Inside is a 1,200mAh battery which I found delivered on the stated 2.5 days of standby time. While I was carrying out the review, the Pocketalk S translator was good for three days on standby, but it did deplete power when then used.
The box suggests around 4.5 hours of power when used continuously, and I was getting approximately 3-3.5 hours. So not too far off and under everyday use, the Pocketalk S will last you a full day and need a charge at night.
There’s a choice of four colours; Red, Gold, Black, White. For the review, I tried the Red and Black Pocketalk S translator and whilst I did like the finish of the Red colourway on the plastic casing, the Black option is a bit more discrete when you’re using it in public.
On the backplate are the camera lens and a small flash above the Pocketalk logo. To the right side is the power and volume controls and the left edge has the SIM tray.
The Pocketalk is easy to control for both left and right-handed users. The central button for voice translating on the front must be pressed and held to let the Pocketalk know when to start listening.
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One point the marketing team seem to have missed out on is just how good this translator is for teaching children a new language.
During the review, my kids probably gave the Pocketalk S translator more challenging translations than I did. Thanks to its ease of use and ability to pick up the spoken word, they quickly tested one another and tried phrases in different languages.
If you’re taking a gap year to travel the world, take Pocketalk S translator.
If you travel internationally for business and want to set a good impression, take Pocketalk S translator.
And, if you want your children to be well-travelled and learn new languages, let them borrow it!
Pocketalk S Voice & Cam Translator Specifications
|Dimensions||90 x 48 x 9mm|
|Colour Options||Black | Gold | Red | White|
|Display||2.76″ Touchscreen 480 x 640px|
|In the Box||Pocketalk S Translator|
2 Year cell plan for 130 countries
USB-A to USB-c Charger Cable
Where to Buy?
The Pocketalk S voice & cam translator is $249/£249 from your local Amazon store. There’s also a wide range of optional extras, including cases and screen protectors, that are an affordable way of protecting your investment.