Playing with the HP Prime

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Playing with the HP Prime

As most of you know, HP will market the new HP Prime in late september 2013. I have been playing with one of the prototypes. The color on its back is textured white. We have been told that the final model will be textured black. It will make it more “professional” in aspect - on the back, since the front is perfect already. There is a plastic cover that is a departure from old leather-like calculator cases of yore. However, it protects well the calculator screen against direct hits and accidental drops.

This machine is thin! Much thinner than the 50g it supersedes. part of the reason is that it uses a cellular phone battery - itself much thinner than even AAA-type batteries. It is impressive in a professional desk, and it was the chat of all engineers in the office.


The unit has been designed to be upgradeable through firmware versions. It was a breeze to upgrade the firmware to the latest version, and I used the virtual Windows XP session in a Mac, so no need even for Vista to be able to upgrade. The newer version has better fonts and probably less bugs - not that I am able to find any significant bug with my scarce experience with it.

One of my main concerns about a calculator is the keyboard feel. HP units of yore always excelled in that. Lately, HP units have been a little bit of hit and miss: the HP35, HP15c and silver HP17bII+ are excellent, while the HP50g, 39gs, 40gs are barely enough. Prime is a little bit like the HP30b: small distance to get the click, but once gotten, the key press is clear and there are no missed or doubled keys. In this respect, it is even better than the HP17bII+.

Look to a pretty plot of a break even analysis for a company. x -> units; y -> unit margin; curves: different Ebit levels. It easily explains the concept to everyone. You can fix the cursor with your finger on a curve, and then move it with the arrow keys, reading the combinations of margin and volume that give a given profit level. Even the most volume-mad of sales managers is then able to understand you! I was not able to see the machine drawing - it was so instantaneous. 

Screen quality is good, but it is no "retina" device. I would say it is much simple to use for most things that the HP 50g; so simple that you could get results without reading the manual. During these three weeks I will try to do some programming and will post the results.

It is as well a discovery to be able to navigate around the menus with your finger - it gets you there much faster. Also, in some graphical apps, is nice to change scale by pinching in or out with your fingers, or moving upwards or sieways to the graph areas of interest. Remember the HP50g scale screen, and how many times you needed to go there to get a good view of what you were doing? No more!

Enough for today. Tomorrow, more! 

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