Let's start on the outside and work our way in. The HP Prime is slightly wider than the TI calculators but a bit shorter too while staying just as thin as an Nspire CX. I'd say the plastic on the HP Prime is more grippy than the TI 84 Plus CE but maybe not as much as the TI Nspire CX. This makes the calculator easy to hold with one or two hands and makes it feel like you've just upgraded from a regular sized phone to the 'Plus' version. The rubber feet are miles better than the TI 84 Plus CE allowing it to stick on to very steep surfaces. Although I have not dropped my HP Prime, I can tell you that the plastic on the HP Prime does not feel as durable as the TI 84 Plus CE, personally, the plastic feels thin and I'm afraid it will crack after a few drops on a hard floor. My TI 84 Plus CE on the other hand has survived numerous drops and does have many chips but no cracks. That's not to say the same about the metal plate, it feels very durable and I kind of wish the whole calculator had been made out of it.
Let's go over what my HP Prime actually looks like after using it for a few months. Most noticeable are the scratches. The plastic back is not very scratch resistant. I've been keeping this calculator in my bag next to my glasses case. The case is like a capsule and has a glossy smooth finish. That's nothing compared to the zipper pocket I've been keeping my TI 84 Plus CE in for four years. The next thing I'd like to cover is the gunk that gets on the calculator. Fortunately it doesn't get in between the metal plate gaps. However, it does get on white keys and under the direction pad. It's simple to scratch it off the keys but it's not so easy to clean the direction pad. Lastly, fingerprints. They actually weren't an issue in the places I thought they would. The screen and the glossy bar on the slide case wipe off very easily. I did apply a tempered glass screen protector to my calculator so I don't know if the actual screen is this easy to clean. The place where finger prints are difficult to remove is the glossy bar under the screen where the buttons are. They don't come off easy and it's quite tedious to go in between each button. Therefor I highly suggest you get a fabric case to store the calculator in, people who have used a case report that their HP Prime still looks brand new.
Enough about the outside of the calculator, let's get to the best part: the internals. The HP Prime G2 has a 32 bit Cortex/ ARMv7 CPU clocked at 528 megahertz. For comparison, the Nspire CX 2 has a 32 bit ARM9/ARMv5 CPU clocked at 396 megahertz and the TI 84 Plus CE has an abysmal 8 bit ez-80 CPU clocked at only 48 megahertz! The Prime also has 256mb of RAM and 512mb of NAND FLASH while the Nspire CX 2 has 64mb of RAM and 128mb of FLASH and the TI 84 Plus CE has a mere 256kb of RAM and 4mb of FLASH.
The fantastic specifications of the HP Prime provides incredible speed allowing the HP Prime to do operations insanely quickly! Just watch me benchmark this summation equation on my HP Prime and my TI 84 Plus CE. As you can see the HP Prime was nearly instant while the CE took 10 seconds to calculate it. The only issue with this speed is now I have to wait for my teacher and classmates to catch up with my because they're still computing some complex integral! This speed, along with it's very accurate capacitive multi touch screen allows it to do things like scroll through the intuitive GUI, zoom in and out of your plotted graphs, or rotate 3D shapes without any lag! Unfortunately, this is where we get into the biggest pitfall of the HP Prime, the screen itself.
It's the only thing that's not improved over the Nspire or the TI 84 Plus CE. Particularly the screen resolution, it still has a 320 by 240 pixel LCD screen but the HP Prime has enlarged out the screen so it's much bigger than the TI calculators, but in doing so HP has reduces the pixel density to 114ppi while the Nspire has a slightly better 123ppi (an 8 percent increase) and the TI 84 Plus CE has much better 142ppi (almost a 25 percent increase). This causes fine text to be quite blurry on the HP Prime.
This is worsened by the fact that the viewing angles are not great when you're looking at it like you normally would from a desk. You need to be nearly right above the screen to see it clearly and make out any contrast. This is kind of confusing because the viewing angles from side to side are honestly quite good. I believe this issue has something to do with the display refreshing, TI's calculators have good viewing angles when looking at them normally but are pretty bad when looking at them from side to side. In the TI 84 Plus CE's case, this is because the LCD is actually refreshing from left to right rather than the way the HP Prime's screen refreshes which is from top to bottom. Speaking of refresh rates, the HP Prime's refresh rate is not its strong suit. In fact when you look for it, you can see the screen refreshing with just your plain eye. I'll admit though it's easier to see this refresh in certain colors than others and you'll really only see it if you're looking for it. What about something that's not so bad? The colors are fairly decent on the HP Prime, unfortunately I have not compared it to an Nspire yet, but the Blacks are more dark compared to my TI 84 Plus CE (but not as dark on my laptop monitor) and whites are a bit beige. Finally, this is the last gripe I have about the LCD, is the brightness. While it gets up to an acceptable brightness, it's much dimmer than the TI 84 Plus CE's top brightness (especially when I use my advanced brightness changer program). Perhaps this was a battery saving measure, by default the HP Prime dims the screen after 30 seconds then waits 5 minutes before auto powering down. However, you can easily change these times to whatever you want.
Speaking of the battery, boy is it big, by far the biggest rechargeable battery I've seen in any calculator. It comes preinstalled with a 2000mAh battery, for comparison the Nspire and the TI 84 Plus CE both come equipped with a 1,200mAh battery) that can last you over 24 hours with nonstop use. You can even order a slightly bigger 2,300mAh battery to upgrade it since it's compatible with Samsung Galaxy S3 batteries! If you're a normal human being, you probably don't use your calculator nonstop so HP integrated a coma feature that basically shuts down the calculator completely, this allows the battery to last for months on a single charge. This feature automatically activates after 3 days, but you can activate it yourself by pressing and holding shift then press on.
What about turning the calculator back on from coma mode? On the Nspire a cold boot up is very slow. On the TI 84 Plus CE, recovering from its coma mode takes about two seconds, on the HP Prime it takes between 1 to 2 seconds to boot up from coma mode. When it's just in standby, all the calculators turn on in under a second.
While we're on the subject of time, how about that internal clock? The clock on the TI 84 Plus CE honestly sucks, it drifts several minutes in the span of a few hours and consistently gets reset back to the default time. So I was pretty worried about the HP Prime being just as bad. I'm very happy to report that I haven't needed to update the time since last daylight savings! The clock is overall fantastic and I've been very pleased with it.
Let's backtrack, remember when I said the HP Prime has a lot of storage? Well HP decided to utilize a lot of that space for features such as storing the entire ASCII table in a menu, but more importantly it contains the help menu that appears when you press the [help] key. It's incredibly useful, much better than the help menu on the TI 84 Plus CE and Nspire. It explains in detail how a function, command, screen, or just about anything on the calculator works! It even contains examples if you want to try out a working example of that command and includes list of similar commands! Nice!
How about the keypad? Personally I think this is the best keypad I've felt on any calculator. It's more firm, clicky, and has less travel than a TI 84 Plus CE but isn't nearly as loud as the Nspire. The keymap layout takes a while to get use to, especially when you've strictly been using a TI 84 Plus CE for 4 years. After using this for a few months however, I've grown accustom to the layout and I can type in calculations fairly quickly. If you don't like the keymap, you can actually change it on the fly! Although I haven't used this feature yet, it's a unique feature I haven't seen anywhere else. The keyboard also contains the copy and paste functions which are very convenient to have. The clipboard can holds the last thing you copied along with the last 4 calculations you made! The only complaint I have is there's no undo key nor combination like on the Nspire. It's quite annoying that this has been a highly requested feature ever since the original HP Prime was released in 2013; 6 years ago!
Now we're getting into the software of the calculator and oh boy is it a roller coaster of pros and cons.
I know I bashed the LCD pretty hard but the software does give it one pro I have not seen on any other calculator. Dark mode. That's right, this calculator has a system wide dark theme! This is super nice for students who stay up late at night. Although I wish the dark mode could be configured to automatically turn on at night, it only takes a second to enter settings and toggle it manually.
Let's focus on the home screen where you do your calculations. It's a nice environment, it integrates the touch screen very nicely so you can double tap calculations in your history to bring them directly to the entry line. You can tap on a result in your history, then if you press the fraction/decimal toggle button you can change that individual result. A very neat feature is the 'show' button. If you have a long and complex calculation in your history, you just tap the soft key that says show and it will focus on just that entry. It'd be kind of nice if you could zoom in on a specific part of the equation without changing the system font size to large though. You can also scroll through your history and continue typing in your entry. The only thing I wish this could do is chained history edits. So if you edit one thing in your history, all calculations after it that utilized its output will be changed too. The Casio Classpad does this and it's very convenient.
There's a few other things HP did that just optimize your experience such as one button click to toggle decimal and fraction answers. If you tap the top right corner you can quickly change from degrees to radians and vice versa, and in one button there's a menu for all the most common math functions. If that function isn't there you can quickly find it by clicking the toolbox button and typing in the name of the function you want. That's not always necessary though; since the whole system is ASCII based rather than token based, you can just type out the command you want with the alpha keys!
Now how about the programming options? Well there are not nearly as many as I hoped there'd be. There's very limited support for Python but people don't recommend that you use Python yet. The best language on here is the Prime Programming Language or PPL for short. For those familiar with TI calculators, PPL is kind of like TI's built in language called TI BASIC however this is better in so many ways. I've just started using it but I've been able to create programs I could only dream of making in TI BASIC at incredible speed! Let's compare a program I made called JPL in three languages. First TI BASIC, next PPL, finally ez80 Assembly. You can see that my PPL and Assembly versions are both far better than my TI BASIC one. And while I programmed my Assembly version with better graphics, I have no doubt that PPL can handle much more complex graphics with better speed.
What about the stability of PPL? In TI BASIC if your program encounters an error it simply throws an error and stops the program. In ez 80 assembly if it encounters an error it either stops the program and resets the calculators memory deleting the program in the process or it will freeze requiring you to reset the calculator manually. In PPL it's kind of a mixed bag. Most of the time it will catch the error, stop the program tell you what's wrong. It also contains a fantastic debugger not seen on any TI calculator. Sometimes in complex programs however, PPL will seem to get ahead of itself and crash the calculator. Fortunately the calculator can recover from a crash quite well. The program that crashed is not deleted and all your history and settings are kept. Strangely, the apps section often gets mixed up and requires you to put all your apps back where they were which is slightly annoying. If anything does go majorly wrong, HP provides an on-calculator backup feature that allows you to save and restore your calculator's current state at any time. I'd like to add that HP has two ways for you to reset the calculator manually. One way is by pressing [on] and [symb] at the same time, the other is by pressing the button well hidden in the back of the calculator.
Having PPL is great, but what about learning it? The best place for that is on a site called HPmuseum.org It's got dozens and dozens of resources you can use to get familiar with PPL. Unfortunately, the HP community is much smaller than TI's community meaning there are fewer, well experienced members around to help.
On to a different topic: connectivity. The HP Prime comes with a single micro USB port unlike TI's calculators which have mini USB. Although it's a small complaint, for a calculator this advanced in 2019, I wish HP had decided to use USB type C since it's the standard connection type now. That's not to say the micro USB isn't quick enough for most of the calculators connection requirements. Files transfer very quickly between your computer and the calculator. To use the calculator with your computer you need to install the HP Connectivity kit just like TI requires you to install TI Connect CE to interact with their calculators. It would have been nice if HP had taken after Casio's approach where the calculator just acts like a mass storage device if you just want to look at the contents but with how simple the user interface is, it's not a big complaint. HP Connect doesn't look as fancy as TI Connect, but it has several key features that are missing from TI Connect. First there's a live update feed of the calculator's screen. Second, you can send a message to one or more connected calculators, third it can detect emulators running on your computer and treat them as if they were a physical calculator! More on that later. Due to the way the HP Prime stores files, HP Connect is a bit more organized than TI Connect. Instead of listing every file at once, it groups them into folders, this makes it much easier to find what you're looking for.
Enough about HP Connect, let's go back to the calculator's connection abilities. It can transfer data between calculators that are either wired together or with a wireless adapter, and it can utilize some scientific equipment. Sadly, unlike the TI 84 Plus CE, the HP Prime cannot be used with Human Interface Devices such as keyboards. and it cannot communicate with any other HP Devices such as Printers. Casio already has a feature that allows its calculators to connect to Casio projectors so it would've been a nice surprise to see the HP Prime communicating with other HP devices. The Nspire has similar poor support for external devices however it is at least compatible with the TI keyboard.
I'm sure many of you are waiting for the big catch, performance normally comes with a huge price right? In this case, price is not the catch! Unfortunately, the HP Prime G2 isn't available for sale in the US yet, but even after importing mine from the Netherlands and paying the shipping cost, the total price was only 10 dollars more than a full price TI 84 Plus CE, and 25 dollar less than a full price Nspire CX CAS coming in at 160 dollars! Even though that's still expensive, compared to the specs list I provided earlier, it's a much better value than the TI calculators.
What if you don't want to fork out 160 dollars to some overseas seller just to try out the calculator? Well remember that emulator I mentioned earlier? There's actually free, restricted, iOS app you can just get from the app store. There's also an unrestricted Pro version of the app that cost about 25 dollars for iOS and 20 dollars for Android. There's even a free unrestricted emulator for Windows and Mac. Compared to TI who only offers a computer emulator that costs at minimum 85 dollars, and Casio who only provides a computer emulator that costs 25 dollars; the HP Prime emulator doesn't sound like a bad deal.
Wow, ok so I've just gone over what this calculator has and what it can and can't do, but what's it like to actually use it? Under normal use it's very nice to use. As I've said numerous times before, it's extremely snappy. Inputting equations is easy and quick, using the Computer Algebra System is fine for all the calculations I've needed to perform so far in AB Calculus and Physics C. One issue is the calculator is picky about implied multiplication, an issue not seen on the Nspire or TI 84 Plus CE, and doesn't always throw accurate or helpful errors when you mess something up. For example I cannot do 5 e to the fourth because the calculator thinks that there's an invalid exponent when in fact that's not the issue at all. If I do 5 times e to the fourth it works perfectly fine. The implied multiplication stopped being an issue for me a while ago because I just started using the multiplication symbol all the time. However the errors need to be more accurate and descriptive to be much help.
Graphing is a breeze even if, for some reason you can't calculate an intersection with the x axis without two or more graphs plotted. You can calculate and edit all sorts of functions either from the symbol screen or directly from the graph screen. You can even sketch a rough graph with your finger then fine tune it with the transform function! Just like other calculators, the HP Prime can graph polar, parametric, sequential, and 3D equations. The only missing graphing feature is a parametric 3D grapher. I'll briefly mention the other built in apps, there are several solver apps and statistic apps. A Financial solver app, an in-depth spreadsheet app, and a very powerful geometry app which can graph dozens of functions, shapes, lines, and transformations. Some apps are easier to learn to use than others but it's all possible thanks to the amazing help button.
In summary: the HP Prime G2 is a great calculator with the potential to be the perfect alternative of an Nspire due to its unmatched hardware performance and reasonable value. However the software support is just far too lacking for it to take advantage of the superior specifications. To be fair, the Nspire lineup has a 6 year head start and Casio Classpad lineup has over a decade head start on software features than the HP prime. Hopefully the HP team can include some of the key features missing from the HP Prime soon. Until then, should you buy this calculator? I'd say if you're looking for the fastest, calculator on the market and you're not worried about the missing features I mentions, then you'll be very happy with this calculator. If you are worried about those missing features, then I think you'll be satisfied with either an Nspire CX CAS II or the Casio Classpad fx-cg500.
Thanks for reading, if you have any questions I'll be happy to answer them.
I regret a real filesystem with files and folders for storing notes, variables, programms on the fly... I'm not a big fan of dual parenthesis on one key...
I love the home with copy / paste, graphic is a pleasure and battery is great.
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