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4.1 out of 5 stars
HP 12C Financial Calculator
Price:$56.99 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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127 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2000
Why would you buy a 1980's calculator? Because it provides the best combination of form and function.
While other calculators have gone high-end and become curiosities of mathematics and graphics, HP's customers do not want to let go of the 12-C, despite the fact that HP has more powerful calculators at a slightly larger price. Here's why I think:
Just the right set of features. The average Joe using a financial calculator needs no more than the HP-12C provides.
Sturdy and strong. The keys have a wonderful feel.
Fits in a shirt pocket.
Very reliable. They've had two decades to iron out any bugs.
Large user base. Most financial courses will use this as the calculator of choice
Buy this calculator, if you need a financial calculator. You will not regret it -- I daresay that it will still be around when your kids need their own calculators.
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88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2002
I've been using this calculator so long, over fifteen years, that I can't imagine working without it. When I bought this thing it was alone in the field of financial calculators and the 12C is still the standard by which other calculators are judged. It has become the standard "tool of the trade" for financial professional types. I have a senior position with a leading money management firm and I require all of my financial analysts to learn how to master this tool. Learning to master the functions is like taking a review course in finance. The calculator can be used for a variety of financial functions including calendar (day count), interest, cash flow, IRR, compounding, NPV, standard deviation, weighted average, simple programming and more. The calculator is nearly indestructible which can be very handy when a trade goes against you and the calculator is suddenly flying across a trading room. The calculator has a nice form factor, the buttons are easy to use, it fits in a shirt pocket, and it has an auto shut off for battery conservation.
There are other calculators available from HP such as the 10B for about a third the price and the 17B for about the same price. The 10B is inferior to the 12C and I see little reason to buy it. The 17B has greater functionality than the 12C, but I feel it is harder to master, harder to navigate, and it does not fit in a shirt pocket. However, the 17B does allow users to work in standard algebraic or RPN modes. The 12 works only in RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) which can be difficult to get used to. For example using RPN to add 1 and 2 you enter 1 <Enter key> 2 <Plus key>. In simple algebraic notation the key sequence is 1 <Plus key> 2 <= or enter key>. The difference is that with RPN you enter the operation (plus, minus, etc.) after you enter the values. With simple algebraic you enter the operation between the values.
Overall, this is the "industry standard" calculator for financial professionals and is recommended by AIMR for people taking the CFA exam. I would not recommend this calculator for casual home use as it does take some time to master, but once mastered it is a very powerful tool.
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88 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2000
I have used (and own) many of the available financial calculators on the market. I own and occasionally use a Hewlett-Packard 12C, but would "recommend" the HP-10B to my university finance students, both graduate and undergraduate, as well as to finance professionals. For non-professionals or for just run-of-the-mill arithmetic calculations there is no question, this is too much calculator.
HP makes the best products on the market for financial calculators; better than TI's and far superior to the Casio. The HP 12C is an older (ca. 1980's) model calculator which was a directly positioned competitor to the TI MBA, but HP's entry was far superior. The keys feel more solid, the machine itself "seems" better made, and the replaceable batteries were much better and lighter than the TI's rechargeable. So, TI gave up on this competition. Now, HP has cannibalized its own line with a superior product at a lower cost.
Having worn out more than one of each, my experience has been that the HP 10B offers everything needed for the serious finance student, at just over half the price.
The HP 10B, as well the 12C, have well written manual manuals, including examples on using the functions. HP has the manuals available on-line on their website for the inevitable time that the user needs it and has lost the original.
While there are cheaper financial calculators, it seems that the HP 10B level is the minimum I would recommend to professionals or students. Less expensive versions, while saving a few dollars, miss important features. As a general rule of thumb, if the calculator can perform the "IRR" function, as the the 12C and 10B can, it will be able to handle pretty much any calculation into which the finance student, professonal, or banker will run. Lesser machines do not have this function, which enables analysis of variable cash flows.
Ironically, the larger fancier calculators, such as the venerable HP-12C, are in my estimation inferior. The 12C uses RPN logic which, while saving keystrokes, is simply foreign to most students. More importantly, some functions, such as the Time Value of Money functions, on the 12C require interpretation. On the 12C, for example, solving for the number of periods in an annuity, the value gets rounded UP to the next integer.
While the 12C is a very powerful machine, and certainly deserves some points for "style," it is not the best value in financial calculators. It may be time, after almost 30 years, to relegate this one to the museum in favor of its more powerful and less expensive cousins.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2002
This is "the calculator that wouldn't die". There were several other excellent HP calculators in this same series, including the HP-11C and HP-15C (scientific calculators) and the HP-16C (the only Computer Science calculator ever made), all of which shared RPN functionality (think of RPN as an adding machine on steroids), programmability, extremely long battery life (measured in years, not months), a sturdy case and keypad, and the perfect size, weight and ergonomics. Unfortunately, the rest of this line was discontinued by the end of the 80's in favor of fancier models. (I own an HP-11C and an HP-16C as well as an HP-12C; they're all excellent calculators. Used HP-16C models often sell for more than the original list price, they're in such demand.)
So why is the HP-12C still around, virtually unchanged from its introduction in the 80's? Because Finance people are VERY conservative, and they just kept buying the 12C because that's what their mentors used, that's what classes were teaching with, and that's where the most help and information is available. They simply ignored newer, fancier models of financial calculators because the 12C already worked so well that nobody needed or wanted anything better! Sure, they're imported these days instead of being made in the USA as the original units were, but the design is unchanged. The packaging has changed, but the user manual has not.
This calculator is a classic, destined to remain with us for many years...
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2000
I've had my HP 12C since 1982. They cost($$) then. It spent 5years rattling around in my college bookbag. Now I use it daily at work and have dropped it many times. While some may say it is slow, you'll never notice a speed problem on regular arithmetic calculations. The RPN feature makes complex calculations easy to enter. Its easy to learn and you won't have to lend it to your co-workers in meetings because most of them don't know RPN!
I hope HP gives plenty of notice before discontinuing this calculator. I'll buy another just in case mine breaks in a decade or two. END
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2005
The HP 12C calculator is the perfect combination of techne and erte, both form and function. A timeless classic that I am sure my own children will use.

This is the world's longest in production, best selling, and best and most robust financial calculator, and there is a reason. Look past the retro cool look and design, and don't smirk when you see this on the desk of 40, 50, and even 60 year-old finance executives: the long enduring market for this calculator is not a market anomaly. The HP 12-C is successful because it is very very good at what it does.

The HP 12-C offers 120 built-in functions which are easy to use and well explained by the manual. You can enter your own functions (yes, the Black-Scholes equation will just fit into it). In addition, if you are a finance neophyte you can learn a lot about financial calculations just from using this calculator and reading the manual.

If you are a regular joe or jane looking for a calculator, I also recommend the HP 12C, since everyone is doing financial calculations all the time in real life (or you should learn!), we all borrow money or invest, or write checks, or charge something on a charge card. Learn to use the stack registers, and you need never balance your checkbook again.

The horizontal design (wider than long) is logical, fits your hand better, and is extremely comfortable. More calculators should be laid out this way.

But the absolute top feature is that this calculator was precisely engineered to give excellent tactile feedback when you enter data or functions. The keys have a firm resistance that gives just the right amount of signal so that you *k*n*o*w* you have entered the data. If you've ever used a calculator, you know that the worst thing is to miss a keystroke by pressing too lightly or not firmly enough. This error is nearly impossible with the HP 12C.

One caveat: the calculator is in RPN, Reverse Polish Notation, not the more familiar algebraic notation. RPN is logical and easy to use once you practice, but it can be a bit tricky to discard algebraic habits. There is a learning curve with this calculator.

The HP 12C is very rugged, for this is a highly engineered product. You can, quite literally, throw it against the wall, and pick it up and it still works. You cannot do that with the competing Texas Instruments model. Battery life is long, but I find it a bit hard some times to find the replacements (check the `hearing aid batteries' section in stores).
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2003
This device is a timeless classic, and for good reason. While you can find more powerful and feature-rich financial calculators, none can match the near flawless blend of form and function that this unit offers. Since its introduction in the early 80's, it has been the hands down favorite of practically all serious financial professionals. With a little know-how on your part, this unit can be used to tackle a nearly endless array of financial problems, from simple time-value-of-money calculations to more complex situations such as yield-to-call on putable bonds and so on.
Many of the more modern units use menu-driven interfaces to simplify some of the data entry, but frankly I like the 12C approach better because, in the end, you feel like you understand the results more clearly. In other words, it forces you to think about what you're doing just a bit more, but the slight extra effort pays dividends in the form of a more solid understanding of the results and the methods used to get those results.
As has been stated in numerous other reviews, you should be aware that this unit uses Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) as its sole data entry method. Once you get used to it, you will never want to go back to the algebraic method of entry. But it does take just a bit of effort to familiarize yourself with it if you've never used it before.
Rather than going on and on, basically just repeating what many have already said, let me just say that, after using many financial calculators, including the TI BA35II and HP's own 17BII, the 12C is my personal favorite, followed somewhat closely by the 17BII. Although the TI offers good value, to me it lacks the polish and professionalism that HP brings to the table. Nevertheless, I concede that the value-oriented consumer would do well with the TI. But I wholeheartedly endorse the HP 12C as my personal recommendation.
One last point regarding the calculation accuracy of this unit. The December 27, 2002 review by cairns73 (see below) claims that this unit makes mistakes when calculating the payment amount with a non-integer number of payment periods. With all due respect to the reviewer, that statement is simply not correct. By default, the 12C calculates the payment amount with simple interest accruing during the odd period. But this mode of operation can be changed in order to accrue the odd period interest using compound (as opposed to simple) interest. To do so, simply press STO then EEX. After doing so, a small "C" appears in the display to indicate that compound interest will be used for odd period calculations. This easily takes care of the "mistake."
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2011
Verified Purchase
This is my third HP 12C calculator and the only one that is more trouble than it is worth. The numbers duplicate and triplicate when being entered, the totals jump making the calculations unreliable. I frequently need to recalculate my computations to ensure they are accurate. I loved this calculator and have been using this model for over ten years. I've had this particular calculator for about six months and it is less reliable than the $5 basic models you can pick up at any Target or Walmart.

I read the reviews before purchasing this calculator and only made the purchase because the photo of the back showed it was made in Malaysia. It wasn't; it was made in China where the others with poor reviews were produced.

Does anyone know of a good, comparable replacement model?

I emailed HP tech support and was told to call in to get a replacement. When they couldnt fix my calculator over the phone with quick fixes, I was informed that I do not have a warranty as my Amazon purchase was actually a repurchase from another company. Now that HP support has assisted me, I get 0 for my calculation totals sometimes instead of a total. That's a new but still incorrect calculation!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2003
I guess most folk looking at this page are looking for calculators for the CFA in which case the 12C is an easy decision (because anything more advanced is disallowed). People will tell you the TI is easier to use but my HP 12C took me no more than a couple of hours to fully figure out. Your mileage may vary but I'd highly recommend it. If nothing else it will definitely impress your colleagues and seniors after the CFA when you use this workhorse instead of the TI contraption because the latter sounds like a cop out on to the easier path (I am serious).
You may want to take HP's RPN functionality for a ride, which may be overwhelming for the uninitiated at first. Try it on a few longish calculations. You will find it faster than the usual notation and less error prone (no brackets to keep track of, everything is linear, no storage). Once you get the hang of it, you will find it indispensible. I bet this is one of the top reasons why people who like HP 12C adhere to it for a long term.
If however you are looking at financial calculators in general for work or personal stuff, then I'd strongly recommend the HP 42s. This is because 28s was discontinued despite being the best that HP has ever produced, and the uber-powerful 48GX with the additional ROM card from springer/Holland is astounding but if you need that level of functionality then let's face it -- you need excel/mathematica/matlab on a powerful laptop :) ...so, in terms of immediate calculations, shape, portability, ease of use, simplicity and speed of getting, say, a Black/Scholes done, memorizing a smile, computing an implicit vol, memorizing an interest rate curve and a surface vol -- go with the 42s.
Oh, did I mention that HPs have the longevity of cockroaches? I've had mine for 10 years now. Buy a calculator you like and will use, otherwise it is an expensive coaster.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2000
I have been using the HP12C since 1998 when I enrolled for the CFA study program.
Although it is slower than other more powerful calculators, the HP12C gets the job done efficiently and without fuss. Most importantly, it is simple to operate. It has less bells and whistles than most other calculators but then again, you seldom need some of these extra functions. In truth, there are only a few basic functions that financial analysts use most of the time - and the HP12C does the job well. And I believe in 80/20-ing my life. 80% of the time, you would only use 20% of the functions. The size is also handy and fits into a shirt pocket easily.
The HP12C is one of the 2 financial calculators permitted by the Association for Investment Management & Research to be used in the Chartered Financial Analyst exams. The other calculator being Texas Instrument's BAII Plus. The HP12C is also recommended by CFA study notes publishers such as Stalla.
I have grown attached to my HP12C and would buy another set if I should hear that HP intends to discontinue this model.
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