After a number of years of disappointing the almost rabid fans of the HP-15C and the HP-41 calculators, it seems as though HP may either be listening to the fans or at least coming to their senses. Exhibit A is the new HP-35S which seems to have come out for the 35th anniversary of the original HP-35 (shown on right) which was their first pocket calculator and the world’s first scientific pocket calculator. Whatever the reason, I think HP has produced a fine product.
As good as the 15C? Nope, ‘fraid not. The only hope of that would be a remanufacture of that classic. Considering the amount even a beat up one can fetch on e-bay, HP could probably make a fortune if they did resume production (sign this petition if you agree). By the way, there are two great iPhone/iPod touch applications that emulate the 41 and the 11c.
Not perfect, no, but the 35s is still a great calculator with many of the features we love about HP calculators. First, of course is that it is RPN. Yes, there is an algebraic mode too, but I’ve never bothered to try that out. The RPN works as well as ever – I really don’t understand why anybody would want any other method.
The keyboard is almost as good as the old calculators but you can feel the difference with these new, Chinese pads. decent clicks and feedback, but just not as solid as the old ones. The calculator has all the functions you’d need, though there are some changes in placement that have created some complaints. Notable of these is the STO button which requires a shift button first. No big deal, to me, but the layout could be improved a little. Welcome new functions include conversions and a ready library of physical constants. Very handy.
The form and look of the calculator is somewhat retro but I think it is a handsome look and though it is a little big for a shirt pocket (it still fits); it fits the hand nicely. Sitting on the desk, however, creates a bit of glare in the display. Nothing too drastic, but it can be annoying under some soul-sucking office fluorescent lighting. The display is two-line which makes it a bit easier to remember what’s in the stack.
Actually, one of the common complaints about the case is that the sides aren’t quite straight. I guess people used to use the old cases as impromptu straight edges out in the field. I, for one, don’t mind the slight curve.
I can’t really comment on the programmability of the thing, but from other reviews it seems adequate, with both label and line number addressing (a problem with the 33s which only had the 26 labels to work with).
All in all, I think this is a really good attempt by HP to get back to the proper roots of their legendary calculator line. I just wonder how much longer RPN calculators will be around at all. For that reason I’m going to pick up another 35s as a spare, and keep looking for a cheap 15c.
See more reviews and pick one up (around $50 US) at Amazon.com (link).