Login [Register]
Don't have an account? Register now to chat, post, use our tools, and much more.
Hands-On with the HP Prime: Full Review
Published by KermMartian on September 11, 2013 at 4:53:11 PM CST | Discuss this article (54)

It has been a busy year for color-screen graphing calculators. Two previous color-screen graphing calculators existed, the Casio Prizm from late 2010 and the TI-Nspire CX from February 2011. However, this year has brought us three new color-screen calculators: the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, the Casio fx-CP400, and the HP Prime. We learned of the HP Prime early this year, and in May, I had the pleasure of an interview with GT Springer, the Education Solutions Architect for HP's calculator division, about this new calculator. Today, I am proud to present a full, formal hands-on review with a real HP Prime.

Our HP contacts sent yours truly, Cemetech administrator Christopher Mitchell, a preview calculator, the sleek handheld pictured above. In the past three days, I have spent many hours learning to use the device's math, graphing, statistics, and even programming features. Although for my fourteen years of graphing calculator use, I have gained most of my experience with Texas Instruments' calculators, I have long been aware of the passionate, even fanatical devotion for HP's calculators that many of their users harbor. As an engineer, I know that HP's calculators have been heralded as aimed squarely at the skilled college and professional users, whereas many of TI's calculators appeal to a high school and standardized testing crowd. I think there's market demand for both types of devices, but the HP Prime appears to be something new from the company. As GT Springer discussed in our interview, he felt that the Prime will likely appeal to a larger cross-section of graphing calculator users than previous HP calculators. In my experiences with it, I think the device's capabilities measure up to that expectation. In this complete review, I'll show you the device's numeric (non-CAS) and symbolic (CAS) math features, powerful graphing features, and other applications. As the seasoned Cemetech member knows, we are particularly passionate about programming and hacking graphing calculators, so I'll look at the surprisingly fast and powerful programming language included on the Prime. Finally, I'll do a quick teardown of the device, so that you can see what makes it tick. The HP Prime is a fast, powerful, and sleek graphing calculator, and although I am of the cruelly realistic opinion that TI will continue to dominate the US market for high school and college graphing calculators, I think that HP has built a powerful, easy-to-use graphing calculator equally at home in the high school Algebra classroom or the college Electromagnetic Phenomena course.

Read the full review for all the details, along with more screenshots and photos!

Summary: The Big Picture
The HP Prime arguably aims to appeal to a broader audience than any other graphing calculator currently on the market. It is meant to provide all the tools that high school students need, students who normally turn to the TI-83+/TI-84+ family, or less frequently, the TI-Nspire CX, Casio Prizm, or Casio fx9860. It also tries to cover the needs of college and graduate students, who traditionally use the TI-89, TI-Nspire CX CAS, or HP's own calculators, and it even sees professionals, about whose calculator choices little is known, as a potential market. In using the Prime, I certainly agree that it has the potential to meet the needs of all three of those markets. It's a sleek, thin, powerful device, and its functionality is about 95% of the way to something I would be happy to use every day for academic and personal projects. The separation between CAS and non-CAS features is a nice touch, not to mention a great way to appeal to standardized testing boards and to teachers. The graphing features are intuitive and ground-breaking in their ability to handle almost any type of expression. In my testing, the screen was crisp and bright, the keys were satisfyingly clicky and responsive, and the battery life was admirable. The touchscreen was a great addition, and although it doesn't really feel like a complete game-changer, it does let you pan and scroll graphs and the Applications menu, and it will definitely be intuitive for younger student who expect every screen to be a touchscreen. I even enjoyed the fact that I could choose a custom color theme for the entire interface, switching from the default white-and-blue to a (in my opinion) classier black-and-maroon.

My criticisms are minor, and as a disclaimer, the calculator I used was an engineering sample with a mid-August build date, so some of the issues I ran into may already be fixed. Anyway, to get that final 5% of the way to a great calculator for me (and other students, teachers, and professionals), my biggest suggestions would be in the area of user-friendliness. Even as a seasoned calculator user well-accustomed to interpreting what my calculator expects, many of the error messages on the Prime fell somewhere between ambiguous and mud. When I was trying to use features, a yellow exclamation mark would occasionally pop up, often without me being clear what I had touched to make the device unhappy. Finally, as someone not accustomed to HP calculators, the use of Views was originally foreign to me, and it took me some experimenting to realize that every application had Symb, Plot, Num, Help, View, and Menu Views. While I now understand it and think it's as reasonable a way to arrange the interface as any other system, I didn't find it initially intuitive. Perhaps I should have just spent a few minutes reading the manual, or perhaps there should be a Quick Start application that teaches you to efficiently use the HP Prime.

If your teacher gives you an option to pick your calculator, or you're in college, graduate school, or the workforce, I recommend giving the HP Prime a look, and see if it is right for you. It certainly has a full complement of math and programming features, and your main obstacle to using it might be teachers and classmates accustomed to other companies' devices. My HP contacts tell me that the HP Prime will be available online on HP Shopping, Amazon.com, Newegg, Tiger Direct, and other online stores in October, and is expected to reach brick-and-mortar stores like Office Depot, Staples, or Office Max in early 2014. The calculator will premier at $150, and every physical calculator comes with the emulator included (and teachers can request the emulator for free).

Read the full review for all the details, along with more screenshots and photos!

2013 Articles
January 2013 January 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Introducing "Using the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus" published January 7, 2013 by KermMartian
» Update on TI 84+CSE Interface & Programming Capabilities published January 9, 2013 by elfprince13
» TokenIDE Featured On Ticalc.org published January 13, 2013 by tifreak8x
» Cemetech Contest #9 Ending Soon published January 15, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition: Official Press Release published January 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» jsTIfied Online Calculator Emulator Adds TI-83 Support published January 21, 2013 by KermMartian
» jsTIfied: TI-73, TI-76.fr, TI-81, TI-82, TI-82 Stats.fr published January 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-83 OS Author and TI Coder Shows First TI-84+CSE Game published January 30, 2013 by KermMartian

February 2013 February 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» TI-84 Plus C SE Seminar Reveals More Math Features published February 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI Introduces TI-Nspire Apps for iPad published February 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» jsTIfied and iOS6 published February 13, 2013 by Alex
» Calculator Reference Pages and 84color.com published February 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» KermM and critor Run First 3rd Party Code on TI-84+CSE published February 19, 2013 by DrDnar
» Hands-On with the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition: Full Review published February 19, 2013 by KermMartian
» Online TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition Emulator: jsTIfied published February 20, 2013 by KermMartian
» First Hands-On Week with the TI-84+CSE published February 23, 2013 by KermMartian

March 2013 March 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Cemetech Contest #9 Results published March 5, 2013 by KermMartian
» Orion TI 84+, A calculator for the visually impaired published March 5, 2013 by souvik1997
» Cemetech and Texas Instruments' 25th T^3 Conference published March 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech and T^3 International 2013: Day 1 published March 8, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Nspire Apps for iPad Panel at T^3 2013 published March 9, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech and T^3 International 2013: Days 2 & 3 published March 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» T^3 Postmortem published March 11, 2013 by merthsoft
» Touchscreen Calculators on the SAT Soon? published March 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» Happy Pi Day 2013 from Cemetech published March 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Freakware's Converter published March 15, 2013 by tifreak8x
» Overclocking the TI-83+SE / TI-84+/SE Family published March 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-84PCSE: Out in the community published March 19, 2013 by tifreak8x
» Win a TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published March 29, 2013 by KermMartian
» KermM to Step Down, comicIDIOT Now Dictator of Cemetech published March 31, 2013 by elfprince13

April 2013 April 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Announcing SourceCoder 3: Closed Alpha published April 2, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Connect 4.0 and 84C OS 4.0 released ! published April 10, 2013 by Lionel Debroux
» TI Releases Schedule for Annual Educators' Conference published April 16, 2013 by elfprince13
» Presenting Graph3D v4.1, a Color 3D Grapher published April 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» Editorial: On Choosing and Shelving Projects published April 24, 2013 by KermMartian
» More Details on the Casio fx-CP400 Touchscreen Calculator published April 27, 2013 by KermMartian

May 2013 May 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» HP Prime Multitouch Graphing Calculator: The Scoop published May 9, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Member Carves Intricate Wooden TI-83+ published May 22, 2013 by KermMartian
» HP Prime Datasheet and Screenshots published May 24, 2013 by KermMartian
» Planned Server Maintenance, May 27th-28th. published May 24, 2013 by Alex

June 2013 June 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Promotions: Comic to admin, Tari to server-admin published June 5, 2013 by elfprince13
» Sandpaper v0.95 Calculator FTP Client/Server published June 10, 2013 by KermMartian
» June Software Trifecta, Part 1: Doors CS 7.2 Beta 3 published June 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» June Software Trifecta, Part 2: gCnClient v2.0 published June 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» June Software Trifecta, Part 3: Sandpaper v1.0 published June 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» Announcing Cemetech Contest #10: Physics Programs + Prizes published June 19, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Contest #10: Rubric and Rules published June 24, 2013 by KermMartian

July 2013 July 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Happy US Independence Day; Community Digest published July 4, 2013 by KermMartian
» Doors CS 7.2 Released! published July 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» Calcuzap: PatrickD Starts TI-84+CSE Phoenix Game published July 19, 2013 by KermMartian
» Presenting Celtic 2 CSE published July 20, 2013 by KermMartian
» Orion TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator Released published July 26, 2013 by merthsoft
» Cemetech Contest #10: One Week Left! published July 31, 2013 by KermMartian

August 2013 August 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» TI-84+ C Silver Edition Back-to-School Sale published August 4, 2013 by Alex
» This Week in Ticalc Downloads published August 8, 2013 by merthsoft
» TI-Nspire Apps for iPad published August 4, 2013 by Alex
» Tetric A: Color Tetris for the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published August 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Contest #10 Results and Winners published August 15, 2013 by KermMartian
» Inspiring Students: "STEM Behind Hollywood" published August 18, 2013 by KermMartian
» TI-Planet Summer 2013 Contest: The Treasure of Knossos published August 16, 2013 by critor
» "Using the TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus" Published published August 22, 2013 by KermMartian
» Back-To-School Guide 2013: What Calculator Should I Buy? published August 24, 2013 by KermMartian

September 2013 September 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Eigenmath: At Last, a Casio Prizm CAS published September 6, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Returning to World Maker Faire 2013 published September 9, 2013 by KermMartian
» Hands-On with the HP Prime: Full Review published September 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» Announcing Doors CS for the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published September 17, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech at World Maker Faire 2013 Recap published September 29, 2013 by KermMartian

October 2013 October 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» HP Prime Archives Added published October 4, 2013 by KermMartian
» Doors CSE 8.0 Release Candidate 1 published October 14, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech Returning to T^3 2014 published October 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» Doors CSE 8.0 Release Candidate 2 published October 24, 2013 by KermMartian
» The World's Only TI-82 Plus published October 27, 2013 by KermMartian
» An Onslaught of Tetrises! published October 31, 2013 by tifreak8x

November 2013 November 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Doors CSE 8.0 Released published November 5, 2013 by KermMartian
» rom8x Modernized published November 8, 2013 by KermMartian
» Put Games on Your TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition published November 11, 2013 by KermMartian
» 3+ Years of Have Calc, Will Program (HCWP) published November 13, 2013 by KermMartian
» Hands-On with Guerrilla TI Calculator Accessories published November 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» Graphics Excellence: IkarugaX and SolidFRAME published November 25, 2013 by KermMartian
» Jezzball v1.0 Released, in Monochrome and Color published November 30, 2013 by KermMartian

December 2013 December 2013 [Back to News Archives Index]

» Cemetech's Lightning Contest #11 Starts Tomorrow published December 5, 2013 by KermMartian
» ticalc.org's 2013 POTY Competition Underway published December 8, 2013 by KermMartian
» Cemetech's Lightning Contest #11 Results published December 12, 2013 by KermMartian
» Omnimaga 2013 Coding Contest Results published December 15, 2013 by KermMartian
» Merry Christmas from Cemetech: Calc Books and SourceCoder 3 published December 23, 2013 by KermMartian
» DecBot Reaches 20,000 Points published December 29, 2013 by merthsoft
» Cemetech Minecraft Server 2.0 (MC 1.7+) published December 31, 2013 by KermMartian