I recently bought the Oxford Chinese dictionary (2003 edition) and although I've only had it for a few days, it has already annoyed me sufficiently that I felt impelled to write a review here.
Printed Dictionary Comprehensiveness:
Having searched the Chinese-English section exhaustively for yi4qi3 (meaning `together') I had to admit defeat. It's in the English-Chinese section but I haven't been able to find it in the Chinese-English section. I read every entry under `yi' but didn't locate it. Considering that this was the first Chinese word I attempted to look up, my confidence in this dictionary was shaky from the beginning. I might have a fourth try later on to make sure I didn't miss it.
CDROM Sound Quality:
The CDROM application has a facility whereby Chinese words are spoken for you, which would be useful if you were unsure as to the sound of a word. However, the sound quality is terrible. It's like trying to make out what someone is saying at the other end of a telephone, instead of the clarity you would expect (and for a beginner, need). It should not have been difficult to supply accurate, CD-quality sound, and I have no idea why the authors didn't do this.
CDROM dictionary comprehensiveness:
Don't expect much from the CDROM in general. Again, I couldn't find "yi4qi3" (I used an asterisk in place of tone marks, instructing the dictionary to return all matches regardless of tone). I also tried entering the simplified Chinese characters but again, it did not show "together" under any of its definitions. The CDROM application itself is written in Java and don't expect the polished look-and-feel that you might from other Windows programs. When I attempted to look up "together" (using the English word), again yi4qi3 was nowhere to be found.
Most examples of the uses of words in the printed dictionary are written only in simplified Chinese, and not in pinyin. This is particularly true of the Chinese-English section. This makes the dictionary far less useful for someone beginning to learn the language, as you will most likely have to look up each word in the Chinese examples, making them next to useless unless you're the masochistic type. The claim at the back of the dictionary that "Pinyin romanization and Mandarin pronunciation [are] shown throughout" is only a half-truth at best. The number of examples given is far smaller than those given in Oxford's Starter Chinese Dictionary, although I can understand the need for this as this dictionary has so many more definitions.
A minor point of note is the radical index, given at the beginning of the Chinese-English section. The only English you will find in this section is the words "Radical Index." Stroke counts are given using Chinese characters, and while this is not a huge inconvenience for someone who is aware of these characters, it does present a problem to newcomers to the language. As far as I'm concerned, it makes no sense for the dictionary to be formatted in this way. After all, many people will be consulting the Chinese-English section because they do not _know_ what the Chinese character means. Using Chinese characters to "help" you find other Chinese characters is a bit stupid in my opinion.
Anyone who expects this dictionary to have the clear, two-colour entries, typefaces, and examples that made Oxford's Starter Chinese dictionary so pleasant to use will be sorely disappointed in this dictionary. Although it may have been too much to expect this dictionary to include measure words for relevant nouns, it would not have been difficult to implement devices such as clear typefaces, different colours, and bold print to distinguish between different definitions. The choice of typeface the authors have used for pinyin characters is awful and could easily have been made clearer.
Although this is a large dictionary (over 1,000 pages), the paper is easily seen-through and the print can be made out on the other side of the paper.
The CDROM dictionary does have some good points however; it shows pinyin under each simplified character, and right-clicking on any character allows you to look that character up directly.
In short, I would not recommend this dictionary to any beginner of Chinese. It does not seem to have been designed with them in mind. I cannot offer a comparative review of comprehensive Chinese dictionaries because I only have this one, but if I had the choice again I would not opt to buy this dictionary.
Although the Oxford Starter Chinese Dictionary may have far fewer definitions, it is at least legible, approachable, easy to understand, and supplies all of its many examples in pinyin as well as simplified Chinese. There is no contest for those beginning to learn Chinese, in my opinion.