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Fast...But Very Bad Keys, Unreliable
on September 17, 2013
The model being reviewed is the latest version (as of Sep. 2013). There have been, if I remember correctly, three versions of this calculator:
1. Original design, which utilizes three, small, button-size batteries. These were made in USA, Brazil, Singapore, etc. and have the quality which made HP legendary.
2. Second generation design, which uses a single CR2032 cell battery, made in China. Feels cheap compared with the older units; the keys are "loose" and will rattle if you shake the calculator.
3. Third generation design, which uses two CR2032 batteries, also made in China, but with a much faster processor and a revised keyboard design. The new keys have a firmer, bouncier (in a good way), more "solid" feel, reminiscent of the quality of the calculators manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s.
(Note: The HP 12C Platinum is a completely different calculator.)
I've been using the HP-12C since 1987. My first 12C, made in USA, has held up well over the years and still works fine despite having been dropped many times, scratched up, etc.
I purchased a second generation unit (single CR2032 battery) c. 2005, and although the quality is clearly inferior to that the HP's calculators from 20+ years ago--the keys do not have a good, solid feel which the older 12Cs have--it has not given me any problems.
This review is to specifically address the newest design, which uses two CR2032 batteries. It is very, very fast, returning computations almost instantaneously, whereas the older designs will take several seconds before displaying an answer. The keys have a nice, improved feel to them, almost as good as--or perhaps better than--the first generation HP-12C.
However, the new keyboards have been very problematic. Three out of four that I have purchased over the last year have had issues with keys being pressed but the number or function not registering with the calculator. My most recent 12C has a flaky "0" (zero) key, which makes the calculator unreliable for adding up numbers. You press the zero key three times, thinking you've entered a number in the thousands (e.g. 3,000), but what you get in the display is only 300; one of the zeros did not register, despite the press being firm and the tactile feedback the calculator gives you indicating that the digit had been entered. This makes the calculator useless for what I primarily use it for these days, which is just adding up checks.
Hewlett-Packard once delivered the very best that money could buy when it came to calculators and scientific equipment. It is disappointing to see that this is no longer the case.