My Thoughts Thus Far on Creative Ziio’ s PlayChinese Tablet


I blogged about our initial experience with Creative Ziio’s PlayChinese tablet about a month ago.  Since then, we have been playing with this tablet and experimenting with it as much as possible.  I know that there are so many more things this tablet can do and teach us, but for the moment, I feel that it is still underutilized, and you will see in a moment, why I think that way.


Initial Experience

My son is the main user of this tablet and he uses it to practise writing whatever characters he fancies.  I don’t come down hard on him and force him to write on the tablet at least 15 minutes a day.  I feel that at his age, learning should be fun, and should not be forced.  He seems to enjoy writing on the Shenbii application, especially when he rakes in the points.

What We Have Discovered and Learned


  • The Shenbii writing application is a great tool for users to learn the correct strokes and remember how to write them, through practice and repetition.  Learning Chinese is, after all, all about repetition and memorizing.
  • On top of the that, the Shenbii application is able to provide the meaning of words, simply by clicking on the Dictionary button.playchineserev4
  • The size of the tablet is a 7″ one, which I think is perfect especially for kids to hold and grasp.  Fits nicely onto the palm and also doesn’t take up much space if you want to tote it around in your bag.
  • The Shenbii writing application requires the user to write using the correct character strokes in the correct order, and then repeat after the voice pronouncing the word.  While erroneous strokes are detected very well, my son very quickly discovered that the error threshold for the pronunciation is way way below par.  The application will accept ANY verbal input: my kids actually had a good laugh because they found it hilarious that the application could not detect their mistakes.  I did speak to the sales representatives and they told me the threshold was lowered because initially, users got frustrated because they could not pronounce the word accurately.  So they have now opted for a lower verbal threshold in the hope that users would follow the voice and repetition would produce a correct sounding word.  I would have preferred a slightly higher threshold for the verbal pronunciation though, merely for accuracy’s sake.

  • I would have loved for the Shenbii application to have a function or button where I could type in an English word and have it translated to Chinese, because that is essentially what I would need, since I don’t understand Chinese.  Instead,  I now have to look up the Chinese word in a separate English-Chinese dictionary and then enter that Chinese word to get the strokes.  It’s an additional step and is rather troublesome if there are many characters to look up.
  • We also used the Ting Xie application, which is an application designed to provide Chinese spelling exercises to the users.  Unfortunately, there were a few shortcomings in this application:
    • Only 8 Chinese characters are allowed in each Ting Xie exercise
    • Only single characters are allowed to be chosen, not a phrase.
      We worked around these shortcomings by individually choosing the characters to be used, and leaving out those that are easier, or that my son had already learned before.


  • I am not sure if it’s the device’s fault, but I have encountered several instances where the stylus doesn’t work, and touching the screen with my fingertip doesn’t either.  This was resolved by leaving the device for a few minutes and trying it again.  I’ve also encountered the volume control not working.  As just a comparison though, I’ve never had this sort of problem with my iPhone and iPad before… 😛
  • I’m also having problems downloading apps on the tablet.  Could be an Android familiarity problem though…


  • The pre-installed Chinese applications are in Chinese mostly.  For someone like me who does not read Chinese, I have to try to tap and see what comes out.  It would certainly help if there were more comprehensive English instructions.  For example, the WawaYaya application, which is basically an app that reads stories to kids.  There are so many options to select, but because I don’t understand what they are, I am at a total loss.  Even when I clicked on a button to exit the application, there is no translation as to which button I ought to click to exit it.  Quite a shame, really…but hopefully eventually, through trial and error, we will find out what they all can do.playchineserev7
  • It also takes some getting accustomed to.  You will need to know which button to click to change the input method.  You may choose to use the Google Pinyin method (phonetic pronunciation of Chinese), or the Shenbi handwriting method.  I don’t know what Japanese IME and Shenbi PJS Handwriting are.  However, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy peasy lemon squeezy.playchineserev9
  • I have another bone to pick with the stylus though.  For some reason, the rubber grip on the stylus (which is supposed to make it ergonomically-friendly) always slips down after we use it for a while.  I have had to push it back over and over again.  It could be a design problem which definitely needs to be addressed.  The PlayChinese tablet comes with 4 different colored pens and all of them have the same problem…and at the point of writing, one of the plastic clips on one of the stylus pens just broke. 🙁


My Personal Recommendation

I would recommend getting a cover for the tablet if you intend to purchase it.  Initially I ordered the PVC cover from the manufacturer but it was out of stock.  I turned to eBay instead and ended up with the red cover you see in the picture above.  It’s supposed to be a leather cover, but it certainly did not smell like leather to me.  Anyways, it does do the job of protecting the tablet.

I would also recommend a screen protector.  It’s rather difficult to find it in the stores here, probably because the Creative ZiiO tablet is not that well-publicized, so again I ended up getting one from eBay.


On the whole, this is a good educational tool to have, simply because the kids love it.  Sure, there are several things that could be improved, but on the whole, it does its job by teaching Chinese through play and practice.  Not sure how effective this method is yet, but we’re still in the infancy stage of learning/playing! 😀

Bear in mind, though, that I am providing my inputs and thoughts based on my own perspective as someone who does not read/write Chinese (Mandarin).  The experience using this tablet could be a totally different one if you are proficient in the language.  But then again, this tablet is supposed to cater to those who do NOT yet know Chinese, right? 🙂

This entry was posted in Parenting & Motherhood, Thoughts & Scribblings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to My Thoughts Thus Far on Creative Ziio’ s PlayChinese Tablet

  1. ablogaway says:

    Great review. I am also desperately in need of a good apps for chinese-english translation. I heard the ipad/iphone has some good apps too, but I have not explored any yet.

    The Giddy Tigress says: If you find any good ones on iPhone or iPad, please do let me know too.

  2. Ann says:

    Hey….came over from Rachel’s blog concerning this gadget. I am like you and would like some FUN way to teach the kids chinese.

    Will be following your blog….keep up the posts!

    The Giddy Tigress says: Hi Ann, welcome to my blog. And hope to see you more often!

  3. zmm says:

    Is it worth spending the money on this? It’s almost the price of an iPad.

    I’m thinking of buying a Besta for my daughter.. and then I knew about this…

    The Giddy Tigress says: It’s quite a handy companion for us, but there are a few shortcomings too, as I don’t speak nor understand Chinese and most of the instructions are in Chinese. We bought it at a promotional price which is less than that of an iPad. I would say it’s useful for the child to practise writing Chinese, and it’s a good investment because it doesn’t go out of style! 😀 Not sure about Besta though, because I have not heard of it, sorry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *