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Still not up to original HP standard
on 9 December 2011
There is admittedly an effort since the terrible HP-48gII, HP-49 and similar low-quality calculators made by HP.
Despite the small Enter key, a cheap overall aspect with a pervasive synthetic smell, the HP-50g seems to be a good product: the keyboard is fine and looks reliable so far, it is quite bug-free and powerful, features an extensive library, and even offers an algebraic alternative to people who are afraid of the RPN mode.
It is possible to search the Internet to configure the calculator so it behaves more like the HP-48S/G series, however you will find inconsistencies with some menus that persist to show as a pop-up instead of a soft menu. Also, help exists for a subset of the functions, but not all of them which is strange.
The calculator is accompanied with an USB cable, which is nice when you remember the HP-48 wasn't provided with an RS-232 cable and you had to buy it at an expensive price back then (or build it yourself). But on the other hand, this is not quite USB but a hack to pass RS-232 signals over USB that needs a specific software from HP on the PC side (and the appropriate settings on the HP-50g otherwise the communication will fail). There is also an SD card reader, I couldn't really test it yet since it doesn't like my 8 GB card and I haven't bought a smaller one for the occasion (note that the HP-50g will only use up to 1 GB even if your card is larger). So little improvements on that side, but not quite there yet.
The biggest complain I have with this product is the absolute lack of documentation. This high-end calculator is sold in a cheap plastic packaging (careful not to hurt yourself trying to remove it from its package!), and no documentation save a ridiculous quick start guide. The documentation is partly on the CD-ROM, though if you want the User Manual you will have to look for it on HP's website. So if you don't happen to have a computer with you, you can't access the documentation. And if you do happen to have a computer, well, you have to read it on a screen - not the most comfortable situation.
I am a long-time user of HP calculators: HP-41CX, HP-11C, HP-15C, HP-48SX... and they all were wonderful products, provided with extensive manuals and a quick reference, plus a nice case or pouch to protect the device. All that packaged in a box, in which you could store everything safely. All this quality experience is now gone and you have the overall impression of buying a low-cost product, that smells of low-quality plastic (literally!).
Come on, HP, everybody is telling you the same, don't you listen? Do you really want to climb down into the same low-end park as other TI, Sharp, ... compagnies?
That being said, this is still a very powerful tool, and I'm sure it will fulfill any student's or professional's requirements in that regard.