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A comparison between HP 17bII, HP 17bII+ gold and HP 17bII+ silver

I wanted to check how the new designs fare when compared with the old Pioneer series. Here you have my impressions:



Key feel:

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 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!!

Comentarios: 4
Más sobre: HP 17bII, calculator blog, calculator history

Comentarios: 4

Don Shepherd |
RE: A comparison between HP 17bII, HP 17bII+ gold and HP 17bII+ silver
Please re-check your speed timing for the HP 17bii+ gold unit. I get a figure that is identical to the HP 17bii+ silver unit, which is to be expected because they both use the same processor. My experience with many solver equations is that the original 17b and 17bii is about twice as fast as any of the 17bii+ units.

This is due to the fact that the solver on the + units is different than the solver on the original 17b and 17bii machines. In evaluating an equation, the solver on the newer machines does an extra pass to pre-calculate values that can be pre-calculated. This is usually invisible to the user (except for the longer execution time), but not in all cases. If an equation uses L() to modify one of the menu variables, incorrect results may be obtained. The prime factors and gcd/lcm solver equations listed in the Technical Applications Manual for the HP 27S and HP 19B, in fact, will not run on the 17bii+ machines but work just fine on the 17b and 17bii machines.

In short, the solver on the 17b and 17bii machines works correctly all the time; the solver on the + units does not.
Timo Labrenz |
RE: A comparison between HP 17bII, HP 17bII+ gold and HP 17bII+ silver
You've had the 19BII and you seem to really like the 17BII+. I have a 19BII, too, and am thinking about buying a 17BII+ because my 19BII is about to "give up the ghost" as we say in German. I'm certain the 17BII+ has everything I need apart from one thing: The 19BII shows up to 3 lines of the stack at once. The 17BII+ only shows one line, right? Isn't that a major disadvantage? Did you easily get used to that?
Timo Labrenz |
RE: A comparison between HP 17bII, HP 17bII+ gold and HP 17bII+ silver
I've just tried the solver on the 19BII and want to add:

HP 19BII original (grey, not black): 73 seconds

Not bad, huh? Do I really want to "upgrade" to a 17BII+?

However, I did the same on a Casio fx-991ES - a machine known for being a tad bit slow, especially compared to the newer models ES PLUS and DE - and it took only 38 seconds :(

How do the other HP calculators perform? How about the 35s?

Oh, and is there a way to solve "A=SIGMA(I:1:5000:1:1)" in UPN mode? I had to switch to ALG to use the solver with this function.
Martin Schayna |
RE: A comparison between HP 17bII, HP 17bII+ gold and HP 17bII+ silver
> How do the other HP calculators perform? How about the 35s?

Just for the records: HP 35s doesn't have built-in SIGMA or similar function, but I have tried to use a program from and it took about 470 seconds for 5000 iterations.

The speed wasn't a priority on newer HP models :(
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