PROS / This is the most powerful calculator with standard RPN input.
CONS / It is not as widely accepted as the Texas Instruments varieties.
VERDICT / The HP 50g is a great calculator if you're willing to overcome the learning curve yourself.
The second best graphing calculator in our lineup is the HP 50g. This powerful instrument, provided by respected computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard, is one of the most complete and feature-packed devices we reviewed. This TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winning calculator is a versatile machine, allowing for multiple input methods including the standard algebraic (or infix input) as well as the user-favorite Reverse Polish Notation input. Its feature set is solid, it is useful in a variety of different subjects, the support available for it is unmatched and it’s relatively easy to use.
What kept this model behind its TI 84 Plus competitor was its less familiar layout, its slightly lower longevity and much lower compatibility with classes and major tests. However, its superior customizability and extensive manufacturer support secured it a spot in our lineup just ahead of the TI 89 Titanium.
Some of the more impressive features offered by this model are its 2,300+ built-in functions and adjustable type size. The number of functions this calculator offers is substantial; few other devices that we reviewed were able to cover such a wide span of subjects. It will last you from algebra through advanced physics and calculus, effectively consolidating the needs of most high-school and college students into one device.
The processing power offered by this calculator is not as impressive as some of the other products we reviewed. With only 2MB of ROM (Read-Only Memory) and 512k of RAM, the HP 50g is just above average in its calculation speed. In practice, the speed of this calculator is more than sufficient. Graphs may not load as quickly as other, more powerful models, but the marginal disparity in performance isn’t frustrating.
The HP line of calculators is the only one we reviewed that allowed the use of SD cards. The added storage space afforded by this option greatly increases the value and programmability of this calculator.
This calculator feels a little less solid than its Texas Instruments contemporaries. This shouldn’t be a problem in most cases, however; on its own, it withstands quite a bit of abuse.
You are allowed to use the HP 50g on all major tests except the ACT. It is significantly less classroom friendly than the TI 84, since most instruction will be delivered with the latter in mind. The textbooks will likely not contain instructions on how to use this model of calculator and some teachers may not have experience with it, meaning that if you’re planning on using this for school, it will require more effort on your part to become familiar with the device.
Ease of Use
The lower compatibility mentioned above means that the calculator is more difficult to use in a classroom setting. For mathematical applications outside of education, it is intuitive and relatively simple. The impressive set of over 2,300 functions comes with the cost of a learning curve; it may take a while before the average user is able to quickly access all of the formulas and applications this graphing calculator offers.
The buttons are laid out in a familiar fashion that is strikingly similar to the Texas Instruments line of calculators. The physical buttons house basic functions like division, exponents and square roots. For more advanced options, a yellow “Alpha” button and two arrow buttons colored white and orange are located on the left side of the calculator. Pressing these buttons allows you to access the additional functions of the physical keys, printed on or just above the key in a corresponding color.
Hewlett-Packard provides a limited one-year warranty for their calculators. This warranty, like that of Texas Instruments, protects the calculator against defective materials and workmanship, but not damage inflicted by the user. HP also states in their warranty that in order to receive a refund, replacement or make a repair, the defective item must be returned to them.
HP received the highest score in the Support category for their unparalleled customer service in this market. They had all of the features we looked for in a manufacturer’s support system, including email and telephone support and a very helpful online chat feature. We were able to have all of our calculator-related questions answered quickly and painlessly by a friendly representative. Their FAQs page was very thorough and provided us with the answers we were looking for.
In addition to the standard support features and a few uncommon ones like online chat, HP allows users to post reviews of their products on their website.
The HP 50g is one of the more powerful and versatile calculators around. It is not as widely used and recognized as the TI 84, but it will still serve you well if you are looking for a graphing calculator. Hewlett-Packard’s customer support will never leave you wondering and the impressive feature set of this calculator will cover nearly every mathematical need you may have.