Vasco Translator V4 review: perfect for frequent travelers

The travel gadget I didn’t know I needed

The Vasco Translator V4 being used to translate a large sign.
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Vasco Translator V4 offers reliable voice translation, speedy photo translation, and free lifetime global coverage in a pocket-sized package that’s perfect for your next holiday or business trip.

Pros

  • +

    Speedy and accurate translation

  • +

    Convenient form factor

  • +

    Lifetime global coverage included

Cons

  • -

    Expensive compared to a phone

  • -

    Camera could be better

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When I crammed the Vasco Translator V4 into the small pouch on the side of my rucksack a few days before the start of my holiday, I have to admit that I was quite skeptical as to whether I would actually ever need to use the gadget. The latest product from electronic manufacturer Vasco, I believed that this portable translator, which supports 108 languages, would simply pale in comparison to the translation capabilities of my far pricier iPhone 15 Plus.

After two weeks testing the device in the heart of Tokyo, however, I can report that it is a formidable device that is in many ways far superior to simply relying on your phone, and perhaps even better than some of the best translation software.

The Vasco Translator V4 being used to translate a store display.

(Image credit: Dashiell Wood / Future)

Vasco Translator V4: Two-minute review

So, what makes this translation device better? First, there’s the matter of the Vasco Translator V4’s more convenient form factor. It’s remarkably slim, with a candy bar shape that's easy to slot into even a cramped pocket. It has a slightly rubberised plastic back, which is pleasantly grippy and successfully endured being roughly tossed into various bags and even occasionally dropped throughout my trip.

On the left hand side of the device, there's a simple volume rocker while the right hand side features a power button and two speech recognition buttons which are used for voice translation. Each button denotes the language of one speaker, allowing you to intuitively switch between translating either to or from your desired language as you converse. In addition to plenty of chats with native Japanese speakers, I was also able to test the device’s translation capabilities in a handful of other languages.

Although far from a conclusive appraisal of all 76 languages that are currently supported by the voice translation, I found that it was quite fast and very accurate - with a few bilingual friends even remarking that the results were noticeably superior to both Google Translate and Apple's Translate app. Sure, the odd bit of nuance was inevitably lost here and there, but everything was good enough to have me navigating everyday interactions in shops and restaurants with ease.

The top of the device contains an array of microphones used for this purpose and I found that they did a good job of distinguishing voices from loud background noise like construction work or passing trains. The microphones are flanked by two small LED indicators that alternate between two colors to denote the current speaker which is a great touch. The bottom of the device features a USB-C port used for charging or attaching a pair of USB-C headphones. While a dedicated headphones jack would definitely be better, the ability to use some form of headphones is still welcome.

It’s not just good for voice translation, though, as the Vasco Translator V4 also offers fast photo translation. The 8-megapixel camera can be quite blurry and slow to focus, which makes it harder to use in motion, but I was still consistently impressed with the results. The translation of museum displays, signs, advertisement brochures, and restaurant menus was quick and, as far as I can tell, right on the money. Although the 5-inch touch-screen is quite small, you have the nifty ability to zoom into your translated text or even isolate it against an easy-to-read plain white background.

A close up shot of the Vasco Translator V4/

(Image credit: Future)

Elsewhere, the device supports text translation, though the tiny on-screen keyboard definitely hampers its capabilities in this regard. It also has a language learning tool, but this largely just boils down to basic electronic flashcards. There is also a group chat function, which lets you communicate with colleagues, friends or even family - provided that you can successfully convince them to download and set up the Vasco MultiTalk app on their phones.

It's a solid feature set, but the biggest selling point of the Vasco Translator V4 is comfortably its lifetime global cell coverage. Not having to scramble for a local SIM card the second you land is a welcome relief and it's hard to overstate the value proposition here. While most other pocket translators cost less up front, they then rely on some form of expensive recurring subscription fee. The Vasco Translator V4, in contrast, will simply work almost anywhere in the world at no additional cost.

Depending on the features or settings that you use, you’re also looking at roughly four days battery life with frequent use or about a week on standby mode - keeping you more focused on enjoying your trip than where to find the nearest power outlet.

It’s not a cheap device by any means, and those on a budget will certainly be able to make do with a comparably priced phone, but it’s a great gadget for those willing to spend a little more for a much smoother experience aboard.

A translated conversation on the Vasco Translator V4.

(Image credit: Future)

Vasco Translator V4: Price and availability

  • Priced at $389 / £389
  • Available now in the US and UK
  • Not readily available in Australia

The Vasco Translator V4 is available now from the Vasco Electronics website or third-party retailers like Amazon in the US and UK. At £389 / $389, it is pretty expensive up front, even compared to other similar devices. However, when you factor in the lifetime global cell coverage, which works in nearly 200 countries, the high cost of entry becomes a lot more palatable.

Although our sample was provided in the rather plain black colorway, the device is also available in grey, blue, red, and white.

Vasco Translator V4: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Dimensions149 x 55 x 10 mm
Weight134 grams
Screen5” 576x1440
Camera8-megapixel rear camera
ConnectivityLifetime free global data

Should you buy the Vasco Translator V4?

Buy it if...

You're a very frequent traveler
The Vasco V4 Translator works well for both conversation and photo translation and could be a very worthwhile investment if you frequently jet off to countries where you don't speak the native language.

You're sick of subscriptions
Some competing pocket translators come in cheaper up front, but rely on expensive subscription services or require you to source your own sim card. The Vasco V4 Translator is a great choice if you don't want to deal with that expense.

Don't buy it if...

You could make do with a phone
As good as the Vasco Translator V4 is, most of us could still just make do with our existing devices - especially when you consider that it costs about as much as some mobile phones.

Also consider

Not keen on the Vasco Translator V4? These two cheaper alternatives should be on your radar.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Vasco Translator V4Timekettle Fluentalk T1 Handheld TranslatorFluentalk T1 Mini Translator Device by Timekettle
Dimensions149 x 55 x 10 mm117 x 59 x 11 mm113 x 53 x 15 mm
Weight134 grams115 grams100 grams
Screen5” 576x14404” 540 x 10803” 480 x 640
Camera8-megapixel rear camera8-megapixel rear camera5-megapixel rear camera
ConnectivityLifetime free global data2 year free global data1 year free global data
Image

Timekettle Fluentalk T1 Handheld Translator
The Timekettle Fluentalk T1 Handheld Translator comes in a little cheaper than the Vasco Translator V4 and boasts useful features like clocks in multiple time zones. Just be aware that it supports fewer languages overall.

Read our full Timekettle Fluentalk T1 Handheld Translator review

Image

Fluentalk T1 Mini Translator Device by Timekettle
The Fluentalk T1 Mini Translator Device by Timekettle is the way to go if you want a capable pocket translator that is much more compact and significantly cheaper than the Vasco Translator V4.

Read our full Fluentalk T1 Mini Translator Device by Timekettle review

How I tested the Vasco Translator V4

  • Used for a month
  • Tested abroad and at home
  • Tested with multiple languages

I used the Vasco Translator V4 for just over a month, which included a two week trip to Japan and some testing at home and in the office. Some of the languages I tested included Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Romanian, German, and Italian. During my time with the device, I endeavored to use every available feature in order to assess its performance and usefulness.

In order to test the efficacy of the translation, I compared my results to competing software like Google Translate and Apple's Translate app and considered the opinion of a handful of multi-lingual friends, colleagues, and family members.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed June 2024

Dashiell Wood
Hardware Writer

Dash is a technology journalist who covers gaming hardware at TechRadar. Before joining the TechRadar team, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines such as PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.