Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very powerful, but not as user-friendly as it could be, 24 Feb 2014
This review is from: HP Prime Graphing Calculator (Office Product)
I'm a long-time fan of HP's calculators - I have two 20-year old HP-48G models (one for home, one for work) which get used on a daily basis and are still going strong. (In those days, HP built calculators to last a lifetime!) HP have gone through many ups and downs since the days of the HP-48, but the Prime looked interesting enough to be worth a try.

First impressions are reasonable - the build quality is fine, if not up to the tank-like standards of the old days. The keys have a decent feel, although again, not quite as solid as on the classic HP calcs of old. The touchscreen is clear and readable, but the anti-aliasing on the fonts could do with some work - rather than looking smooth, they just look a bit blurry!

In terms of power, this vies with the TI Nspire CAS calculators for the crown - very similar in terms of functionality and speed. The integrated computer algebra system is incredibly powerful, doing the sort of operations that would have required a PC package like Mathematica 20 years ago. There's a wide range of graphing tools and solvers, and for us old-timers, the USP compared to the Nspire - yes, you can use RPN on the HP.

But... I have to say that usability is nowhere near as good as on HPs of old. First of all, there is the bewildering range of apps and modes. The algebra system is very poorly integrated - it's essentially a separate application that looks like the main screen, which supports a range of different functions (and, unlike the main screen, doesn't support RPN entry). The RPN support itself is rather half-hearted - yes, you can set RPN input as an option in the main screen, but not all functions actually work in RPN mode - some of the CAS functions are available as menu options within the main screen, but they produce errors if invoked in RPN entry mode.

Old HPs used soft-keys to access the huge range of functions - the top row of keys were unlabelled, and labels were shown on the screen to indicate their functions. The Prime does something similar, but misses out the actual hard keys - you tap on the labels on the touchscreen itself. This is another poor decision - particularly given the large gap at the bottom of the display where a row of hard keys could have been fitted. The touchscreen is a bit of a gimmick; as a user, I'd far rather be hitting a hard button with tactile feedback than dabbing at an area of the screen.

The Prime uses a system of nested menus to access most functions; you can use the numeric keys as shortcuts to the function you want, but this involves looking at the screen to see the number you need to press, and then looking down to the numeric keypad to press it; the old HP system of labelling the soft keys for access to functions was much quicker to use.

Finally, a word about the documentation - the calculator is supplied with a printed "quick start" guide, but the main manual (all 600 pages of it) is only on the supplied CD-ROM. Given this is the sort of calculator that you need to read the documentation to get the best of, the lack of a printed manual is a major oversight - I'd gladly have paid another 20 or so for a proper manual.

It's a shame - this is a very powerful calculator, and the CAS adds a lot of features that are very useful over those on my 20-year old HP-48s, but I suspect the 48 will still be the machine I reach for whenever I have number-crunching to do. A Prime 2 with a set of hard keys, full RPN support and a CAS integrated with the main screen would be a compelling replacement for an HP-48; this, I'm afraid, isn't.
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4.1 out of 5 stars (7 customer reviews)
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S. P. Long "Simon Long"
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Location: Cambridge

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