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Zaurus Otaku Kurabu


- Zaurus PDA Dictionary Extension: The World in your Pocket -

Zaurus Models


These are the old black-and-white models. The technical bottleneck for use with our dictionaries is the size of the working memory.
MI-P1, P2, J1
These models cannot run all of our dictionaries. They do not have enough working memory to handle large dictionary files. EDICT runs fine on any model, Kojien runs on none of them. To my surprise, the P2 and J1 handle WadokuJT and even Eijiro just fine in their native state. I would suspect that particularly the J1 may soon start complaining if you start clogging its memory with addresses, schedules and other data - but I don't know.
The main difference between these models are the pre-installed dictionaries: The P2 has the good old Zaurus dictionary from 1994. This dictionary can be purchased for 1600 Yen at Family Mart, so you should be able to install it on the P1, which doesn't come with any dictionary. The J1 has a larger dictionary. I have heard both good and bad things about the J1's dictionary, so I can't recommend it.
is apparently the last black-and-white model of Sharp's PDA series. It is slightly smaller in size and has a longer battery life than the color models. It has no keyboard and no backlight for the display. It has sufficient memory to run my largest dictionary files. If all you want is a bookshelf of dictionaries for your shirt pocket, the P10 is the ideal device.
The P series models are obsolete, they are not produced any more. Vendors appear to be running out of P1 and P10 models quickly, it is time to shop for the discounted last device (and to check second hand shops). P2 and J1 seem to be in good supply still.
The problem with old models is that you may in the future have trouble to find spare parts. This may be most serious for the P10 which runs on a rechargable lithium battery. P1, P2 and J1 use standard disposable dry batteries, so if you don't smash or soak them, they might well outlive you.


These are the new models, all with color display (TFT) and with a physical keyboard, which may be useful if you often look up English words in the dictionary. ZPDVIEW runs on those machines in VERTICAL mode, while it runs horizontally on the P10 - lefthanded people should love that. The E1 family has an SD memory card slot in additon to the CF port, so you can use the CF port to plug in a camera, LAN card or wireless broadcast equimpment and still save data on the SD card. Sharp also sells a new SD card dictionary set for about 15 000 Yen with Kojien and Genius J-E-J. I have not seen the dictionary running. In line with its focus on multimedia, the E-family has faster processor than the P10
is the oldest member of the family. It comes with backlighting display, MP3 player and headphone jack as well as MPEG4 player software. The E1 does not have any dictionary, but you can purchase the old Zaurus dictionary at Family Mart for 1600 Yen.
is the follow-up model, actually a downgrade for people who don't want to play with multimedia. It has no MP3 player, head phone jack or MPEG software but has the old dictionary on CD so that you can install it from your PC. Note that the L1 has no display backlight, so if you are sitting in a Japanese presentation and the room is dark because of slide projection, you won't be able to see your dictionary.
is the top model. It is slightly slimmer, has more memory, is more user-friendly and has even better multimedia capabilities: For 10000 Yen you can get a CF gadget which will record sound or video straight from a microphone or TV outlet. The E21 has much fewer buttons and the keyboard has a better touch than the E1/L1. In my taste, is signifficantly more user-friendly.
The same thing with a digital camera. Because of the camera the machine is slightly thicker than the E21. The camera has twice the resolution of the actual Zaurus screen, so the pictures look pretty good on a PC screen, but it can't compete with a high-end digital camera, of course.

SL-Family (LINUX)

While Zaurus machines sell well in Japan, the global PDA market is dominated by operating systems of Palm and Microsoft. Sharp is taking on the fight by introducing PDAs operating under LINUX, an operating system of the UNIX family which has a worldwide community of enthusiastic supporters and programmers. Douglas Adams would say the SL series is the best idea people have come up with since the invention of digital watches (see: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, page 1).
This machine looks just like the E21 on the outside, but it's completely different inside. It has a different processor (Intel StrongArm) and a different operating system. So far, it is only sold overseas, so it comes without any Japanese input method. Japanese input methods can be installed, but there is none around that were superior to Sharp's Zaurus character recognition. There are rumors that Sharp may make its character recognition software open source, but it is unclear whether and when that will actually happen. While an exciting machine, the SL-5500 is not a good dictionary tool for our purpose. It gets rather warm during operation.
The first Japanese LINUX PDA.
This machine is tiny and very fast. It does have Sharp's character recognition, reportedly even improved over the old one. Keyboard and CF slot have been dropped in favor of small size, but an SD card slot is present and en extension jacket with a CF slot can be slit on to accomodate memory or peripherals such as a wireless modem or camera.
If you like to drive to church in a Ferrari, the SL-A300 is the way you'd want to keep your schedule and addresses. Yet, users have complained that the SL-A300 is slow compared to similar English machines. Apparently, that's because of Japanese language support, the underlying hardware and software are quite fast. It comes without dictionary software, you have to install it later.
People have managed to install English language on the SL-A300. It is the only way to my knowledge to get good Japanese handwriting recognition and dictionaries on an English language PDA. Check the FAQs!

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Updated July 2, 2002 by Armin Rump