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Customer Review

329 of 340 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Significant improvement but..., August 30, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: HP 50g Graphing Calculator (Office Product)
It's 10/5/06 and I'm editing this review right up front with the first paragraph, because this little calc has a problem that I hadn't noticed initially. The new HP keys, as I describe below, are great. They have a solid click and a good rollover ability - meaning that you can push the number 1, then push the number 2 before letting go of the 1 entirely, and you'll still get "12" on the screen. That's perfect. Here's the downside: Rapidly enter the number "1100." Click-click-click-click. And yet my screen says "10." Why? Because a rapid double-click of a numeric key results in the calculator noticing only the first click. If a typewriter worked that way, I'd be attending metings every day instead of meetings.

**UPDATE - 10/14/06** One of the commands available, not documented in the 50g material, but documented for several earlier HP calculators, is a KEYTIME command. Quite simply, replacing the default keytime with "500" eliminates missed keystrokes. This corrects the problem I described above.

And now back to my original review:

First, the keypad issue has been addressed with this model, and each key has a feel that is similar to the HP41 - just about perfect for data entry without needing to look at the keypad. Now all that's necessary is for HP to return to the complex keys that allowed for print both on the top surface and the beveled edge; that would allow for some improvement in the user interface. But overall this is a major step forward from the HP49 line.

Next, the display is bright and legible with good contrast. These multiline displays still aren't quite as good as the single line displays from years past in terms of visibility at odd angles but we're coming close. There's plenty of information here with a seven line stack in the default mode.

The manual is where the calculator loses a star. While the new manual is an improvement over the HP48/49 series (though it has less information, it is more understandable), it is nowhere near as complete and useful as the HP41 series manuals were. HP needs to bring back a well-written manual series with use of color, high-end paper, and quality typesetting. For example, the calculator comes with a user's manual; on page 1-20, it says that additional references can be found in Chapter 1 and Appendix C of the calculator's user's guide. What user's guide? They don't mean the manual since that doesn't have any Appendices (or an index, for that matter). Where would I get the user's guide? Then I discover that it is included, and is on the CD-ROM in pdf form. Apparently it is a larger version of the user's manual, with additional information, including an index. Much of the information in the Guide is duplicated from the Manual - but we still don't have complete programming and functional command discussion. Don't get me wrong - everything you need for standard operations is here; but if you really want to get into the capabilities of the calculator (and that's why you're spending $129, right?), we want the full manual. Oh, and bring back the manuals that are spiral-bound so we don't have to weigh the book down with something each time we turn to the calculator to try something.

Here too is a connectivity kit of software, none of which runs on my Mac. I tried plugging it in to the Mac using the standard USB connecting cable (included) but nothing happened. Since I didn't buy the HP with any need to hook it up to my Mac, it's not a problem, but what good is connectivity if noone bothered with the Mac software?

There are a few little nits that still need to be picked. For example, the stack is right justified but data entry is left justified. It is much easier to quickly review an entered number and compare it to numbers on the stack if they are similarly justified. The enter key needs to return to double-width just above the numeric portion of the keypad, and HP should finally pick a standard numeric/operator layout and stick with it. The HP41 had the major operators on the left. The HP48 put them on the right and changed the sequence. The HP50 keeps them on the right but bumped them all up by one key. For those of us who essentially touch-type on calculators, this relearning is a pain.

I must admit that if HP simply rebuilt the HP41C series with more memory, they'd have a clear winner. And given the prices that those models sell for on eBay in new condition, HP could clearly do well with such a product.

The connectivity issue would have cost another star, but the overall build quality, computing capabilities, programming capabilities, and incorporation of RPN on the 50g make it clearly worth 4 stars.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 6, 2006 9:50:37 AM PST
I cried when my 41-CX died.

Posted on Nov 23, 2006 4:39:44 PM PST
The stack display can be toggled between left and right justified with system flag 74, also available under the Mode|Flags menu. The default is right justified. The stack level numbers unfortunately can't be disabled, as far as I know, but you can make them tiny by setting both the Small and Textbook checkboxes in the Mode|Display menu.

The display settings on the HP 50g are a bit obscure, underdocumented, and spread out over several menus, but there's a fair bit of customization possible.

My big gripe is that there's no way to set a maximum number of decimals to display in Standard mode (Fix mode is close, but it shows trailing zeroes even when not necessary). Also, the calculator is really bad about fitting numbers in text fields of limited size, so when using the various numeric solvers, if you get a result of e.g. .4276871823E-16, i.e. practically zero, the text field might show ".42768718..." which can be quite confusing.

I also wish there was an option to automatically display expressions on the stack in the mini font when they don't fit on the screen in the normal font. This problem is particularly annoying when doing complex math in floating point mode with Standard display mode; the imaginary portion keeps going off the screen unless you limit the number of digits displayed.

Fortunately switching between display modes is quick (with Choose Boxes disabled, which you definitely want to have, hold down left shift and hit Custom to bring up the relevant soft keys), and of course it's possible to bind just about any key to run any function you like if you want even faster access.

Posted on Jan 18, 2007 10:51:05 AM PST
Edom says:
Well, as a mac user you have to basically bite it, and admit that many hardware peripherals are pc only. Although considering how many schools use MacOS, I think it'd be wise for HP to support the OS.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 8, 2007 12:42:37 PM PST
There is a program to connect a HP49G+ (and hopefully all related HP USB calculators), it just isn't written or supported by HP:

Posted on Apr 29, 2007 10:25:30 PM PDT
I have loved my 50G. I cut my teeth on the 41CX and thought it was the best calculator I would ever use...until the 48G, which I lost somewhere. After going out and buying, and then returning, a 49G, I bought a 48G on ebay. But the new features of the 50G were just too enticing, so now I have one of these and it's close to what I want. If HP could just bite the bullet of pride, or whatever it is, re-adobt the keys from the 41CX, but keep the display of the 50G, and work a bit on the user-interface, HP would sell more than enough of these new calculators to make up the investment. We'll have to wait and see.

If anyone can post HOW to reset the KEYTIME on the HP 50G, I know I and others would greatly appreciate it. Right now, it seems to be sort of like a secret handshake sort of thing, but it would be really useful. And why HP does not document this in the HP 50G's manuals is beyond me.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2007 11:17:54 AM PDT
It's not hard. In RPN mode, enter the number of time ticks you want (500 seems to work best for most folks), open up CAT, find the [rightarrow]KEYTIME command (near the end of the list of 765 commands in CAT), and click OK.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2008 9:33:25 AM PDT
Just out of curiosity, does HP still fix HP41s? I have an HP41CX that is broken (I think it took a fall). I have a lot of the attachment stuff, too (the card reader, wand, memory and some modules). I've never had the heart toss it.

Posted on Sep 11, 2008 8:19:28 PM PDT
Check out the VERY HELPFUL manuals (two volumes) : "Science & Engineering Mathematics with the HP 49g" by Gilberto E. Urroz -- it is everything you could want in a guide to this magnificent family of HP calculators (49 & 50), and even serves well as a math refresher (or introduction to more complex math). The books were originally written for the 48, and then updated for the 49 -- I used them to make the transition from TI to HP back in 2000 with a first-generation 49 (the blue one) and found them most helpful. Expect about $25 each....(a bargain in comparison to the cost and quality of printing out .pdf files)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2008 9:48:20 PM PDT
HP doesn't fix HP41's anymore, but there are some folks out there who do. Many people swear by their HP41CX and I still use one regularly. Definitely don't toss it. Even broken it has some value for parts.

Posted on Oct 28, 2009 11:22:09 AM PDT
Edom says:
hp41c had a 4-level rpn stack, 50g has an infinite stack. After using hp48g-series for so long, I can't go back to this limitation. RPN and multiple line screen go so well together.

If you really want an hp41c experience, you should look into the new hp35s... It's a pretty dandy calculator.
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