I tested this $700 AI device that can translate 40 languages ​​in real-time — here's my buying advice

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

ZDNET Highlights

  • gave Time Kettle X1 Interpreter Hub A translation tool is available for $700.
  • The X1 Interpreter Hub has a screen and earbuds that charge when stored inside the device. Thanks to AI, it's very efficient at translating and has different modes for one or two wearers per device.
  • Although generally effective, the Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub requires users to speak clearly close to the device and is not very accurate when people speak too fast. We can't even look past the $700 price tag.

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As a fan and advocate of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, I jump at the chance to test new, innovative applications of the technology.

So I decided to give it a try. Time Kettle X1 Interpreter Hub — especially as a bilingual person.

The Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub looks sleek and feels futuristic. It's beautifully packaged: the Time Kettle (which translates for you) in the box, two earbuds that store and charge inside the Time Kettle, ear hooks and tips for the earbuds, a USB-C charging cable, and instructions.

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After a good charge, I turned on the time kettle for initial testing. It's a standalone device, meaning you can translate sounds around you, like another person talking or a movie on TV, provided it's loud enough. However, it can also handle two-way translation when each person wears the earbuds. This allows you to speak to a person in one language and let them hear the translation in their preferred language in their earbuds and vice versa.

Additionally, multiple Time Kettle users can hold multilingual meetings and have up to 20 people speak five languages ​​in one place, provided each person has their own device.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Time Kettle also allows remote voice calls between two devices, as long as each is connected to Wi-Fi at the time. During these calls, each user can speak their own language and translate devices for listeners.

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I tested these features and found that Time Kettle was equally effective in each instance. That is to say, it was mostly correct, but mistakes still occurred, regardless of the method of communication.

As a member of a bilingual family, I tested the Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub with my husband. We used English and Spanish one-on-one, each of us wearing earbuds. I also tested listening and playing modes in different languages, where a user wears both earbuds, and the device listens. Finally, I tested the ask-and-go mode, which lets you talk into Time Kettle, and it shows the translation.

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My intermediate skills in French helped me test Time Kettle in that language. Still, I used the listen-and-play mode with Netflix media in Korean, German, French, Spanish, and Russian, usually using the subtitles to confirm the accuracy of what was meant.

The Timekettle X1 was accurate when using deliberately clear speech, but accuracy dropped when people spoke too fast or used a regional language. When online, the device can understand 93 accents in 40 languages ​​in its repertoire. Offline, X1 offers 13 language pairs. Mistranslations were still generally intelligible most of the time — though not always.

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I like that the Time Kettle has a clear LCD screen that displays translated text for visual confirmation, available in different modes. The display makes it easy to navigate and select a preferred translation mode and lets you keep track of the conversation. Visual clarity also helps with language practice, which brings me to my next point.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

In addition to being a great tool for conference rooms, business conversations, international travel, and remote calls, the Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub can also be extremely useful for learning pronunciation in different languages. If you are interested in learning a new language, a tool like this can be of great help in learning how to pronounce a sentence correctly or how to pronounce a word.

ZDNET's shopping advice

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Is Time Kettle X1 Interpreter Hub Is it worth $700? While it is a standalone device that can be a great tool for translation, in my opinion, the price of the X1 is too high for the functionality it offers. I think it makes too many mistakes to justify such a hefty price tag. It features earbuds and packs high-end technology powered by AI, so it's a definite step up from other $100-150 price options on the market.

Although earbuds are included, this device is not compatible with any other earbuds or headphones. You can't use the Time Kettle with your AirPods or over-the-ear headphones, so at least it's good that the included earbuds are comfortable. But that also means you're out of luck if you lose the Timekettle earbuds.

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The Timekettle X1 Interpreter Hub works very well, with only minor errors, and is useful for translating in business and personal settings. It's too expensive for my comfort, especially when other options, like Google Translate, are available for free. However, I can see a professional translator appreciating having this tool in their arsenal — or a well-heeled world traveler looking for a portable yet reliable translation solution.

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