We all dream of a future shown Star Trek where a tiny device called a universal translator helps alien species all communicate with one another. You speak in your language, they hear in their and vice versa. The T1 Mini isn’t quite that but a solid step in the right direction.
The T1 Mini Translator is a small, rectangular device that comes in white measuring 91 × 55 × 13 mm and weighing 86 grams. Powering the internals are a gigabyte of ram with 8GB of storage and a QuadCore ARM 1.28 Ghz chip. Around the back there’s a 5 megapixel camera used for translating text on things like menus, plus a few buttons for power, volume, and a single translate button. The hardware layout is simple and straightforward and while the software experience isn’t quite as smooth, it works well once you get past the short learning curve.
The specs aren’t anything that will blow you away but you’re not using this screen to watch videos and boot up time is almost painfully slow. Once it does fire up though the T1 Mini has a singular focus, and that is to translate.
Downloaded on to the device for offline use are 13 languages pairs, including English to Chinese, French, and Spanish. You can download a few more languages like Korean, Japanese, and German for additional offline use.
When the T1 mini is connected to WiFi however, that gives you access to 36 languages with 88 dialects, from Bulgarian to Turkish to Swedish. Embedded in the T1 mini is also a non-removable SIM card and when you buy one of these, you get a year’s worth of free mobile data to support translating, meaning across 84 countries, the T1 Mini will work with build-in cellular connection. When that connection period ends, you can top off for another year through Timekettle for about $45 dollars a year or simply use the device with WiFi only.
Push Of A Button
Setting your two languages, say, English and Spanish, the T1 Mini will automatically detect the language being spoken when you push the translate button. You speak in English and it will spit out Spanish. The other person speaks in Spanish and you get English. The T1 mini does a good job of translating too and from English, which is one of it’s “core” languages. I’m going to guess it’s good translating to and from Chinese as well, between French, Japanese, and German, one of these 13 language pairs it stores offline.
But when it comes to translating two non-core languages, like Swedish to Turkish, it falters fairly often. It seems to have trouble translating between Arabic and say, Korean, in my testing, so there is work to be done there.
When it comes to translating languages with the camera, it’s pretty good, even across less common fonts, the kind you’ll find on menus, and cafe signs. The translation is pretty quick, almost always less than a second, both with the visual and written text, so the experience is a smooth one, even if the translation isn’t always perfect.
Alternatives To The T1
You could use your phone and download languages offline using Google Translate or a similar app, but this translator is a lot less expensive than your phone which you might not want to take out everywhere. In a office setup where you’re traveling for business the T1 Mini could come in handy or if your in-laws are visiting from another country, for example. It’s a device you could leave in a room without having to commit your physical smartphone.
Overall, the T1 Mini is a useful tool if you’re traveling somewhere and don’t know the local lingo, so this device can help you bridge the language gap, in some languages better than others. It’s definitely a big jump forward in translating hardware and software which will only get better from here.