I wanted to check how the new designs fare when compared with the old Pioneer series. Here you have my impressions:
The original HP 17bII wins, hands down. Second, and not too far from it, the HP 17bII+ silver. The slanted keys of the latter are more comfortable to put the finger on, but the rounded keys of the original model are not too bad. (In the current line, I still prefer the ARM 12c but not by much)
The gold HP 17bII+ is a very distant third. There is a plastic, hollow feel to the keys that is not so agreeable as with the rest. However, there is still a healthy keystroke feedback.
I have lost a couple of keystrokes with the gold model. Not enough experience with the silver. Never with the original one.
Of course, for those of us for whom the double sized ENTER key is fundamental, the gold is again in the last position.
The rounded lower edges of the newer silver model make it more comfortable to handle it with a single hand. The fingers can better reach farther keys. The original's more square body makes it a little bit uncomfortable, but the thinness helps - while the gold is awkward to handle.
Here the ranking is: 1st silver, 2nd gold, distant 3rd the original one.
The contrast in the original is in another (lower) league.
It is worth noticing that the screen in the newer ones has provision for trigonometric modes (GRAD) and the upwards and downwards triangles - it is HP 42s- ready!!!
I started to use this calculator around 1990, when I betrayed the engineering profession and started an MBA. It was my work calculator for the best part of 10 years, so I am quite familiar with it. At the moment, and coming from the scientific line, the fact that there were many f-keys left empty made one feel that it was an inferior product. But then we realised that the solver tool was very powerful, and that with a little ingenuity you could program most anything you needed.
This is still the case with the new models, but seemingly in the latter models some functions have been left out compared with the original (the Let and Get ones). In any case, these functions were not referenced in any manuals that I know, and were discovered by using HP 19bII programming in the 17BII.
The new models include an additional menu for currency conversion. I have 2 units of the old model (one bought in Europe and the other in America), and one has the currency exchange menu (the European one) while the other does not. However, even the European one does not handle the Euro - they could not predict it at the time!
Having the 19BII+ with RPN, it was understandable at the time to handicap the 17BII with respect to the upper model, by taking out the trigonometrics and other functions; however, now the HP 17BII is THE upper model in the range - a little effort could have been done to complete the function range of the HP 17BII with the rest of the functionality of the 19BII.
(The latter was an excellent calculator - seeing three lines of the stack was a great help to plan you calculations, but the ugly and uncomfortable layout made it difficult to be used in real life. The reliability of the battery door made it a nightmare as well - most of my friends got theirs broken, and fixed with electrical tape.)
The memory is 8 kb in the first model, 32 kb in the newer ones.
We put the following function in the solver:
HP 17bII original: 81 seconds
HP 17bII+ gold: 78 seconds
HP 17bII silver:172 seconds
The 17bII original was based on the Saturn processor, while the silver is based on the 8502 processor. It is amazing that an architecture designed in the early 80 can compete with a current production processor - until you realize that the 8502 was used...in the Commodore 128 !!!.
There is nothing new under the sun...until the ARM based machines came in!!
A final comment: For utilisation in the real world, any of them beats any other calculator in the line up. The menu logic is better than the 30b (despite its extended functionality and programmability.And you can do a lot of things more than the 12c/cp (while the latter portability makes it better for the jacket pocket)
If you can at all afford it, even after so many years, this is still the one to have!!