After the poor quality of the previous calculator, the new HP50g arrives to the market. It might seem that this calculator is a mere clone of the HP49g , however a lots of fixes make this new model a pretty compelling alternative when choosing a new graphing calculator.
At the end of July, HP stopped the HP49g production and began to market a new model, the HP50g. Similarly, a new version of the HP48gII appeared, which includes double the memory (now comes with 256 kb):
I think that the main purpose of these new models is to try to forget the really bad taste that the HP49g impregnated in every user, with remarkably low quality keyboard and the atrocious golden paint. In the last generation, the material used in the keyboard was too stiff, so the keys floated free inside the case after a couple presses and after couple weeks, it seemed like if the user sanded his calculator due to loss of golden paint.
I lived with these design problems (not to mention that in earlier versions of the operating system the battery consumption was excessive and the bottom menu was constantly blinking) and although the HP support is excellent, they could not continue selling a product with such poor hardware for a long time.
The differences of the HP49g with the HP50g
If you have a HP49g or you think buy one I think it is important that you read this point.
The HP50g case is identical the HP49g , although the colors changed a bit, but everything else is the same:
The package contains a leather case, USB cable, quick guide, applications and digital manuals disc, a set of AAA batteries, and of course the calculator. There is a missing cable for a serial connector shown below:
From left to right, you can see the USB port, the infrared (in the centre, not clearly visible) and the serial port. The serial port connector is very similar to the connector in some brandless chinese mp3 players, I created a small diagram with its pins:
I am gonna start with the less relevant changes of the device, such as the new case. Unlike the previous case, the new has the HP logo to the Center, has a lot more padding inside, and also (because internal plastic sheets) it is very rigid, which provides a very nice protection to the calculator.
The screen is the same, but the black edge makes the graphics looks slightly different (better contrast), but it is exactly the same.
The HP49g Golden painting was replaced by a traditional glossy black, much better in my opinion. Also now the plastic is black (no paint).
An additional battery was added to this model, so it now needs four AAA to operate. Maybe this change is not relevant, but apparently it was important to avoid premature failure of electronic components. This allows the calculator to show display the low battery indicator with the batteries at a much lower voltage, using the power more efficiently.
Another point is that the additional battery gives you a few grams of weight giving a different feeling when holding the calculator.
Besides from the additional battery, the calculator can be powered directly by the USB port, allowing you to save battery or simply work without any battery while the device is plugged to the computer.
The serial port may not have greater importance for the majority of users, but gives a great versatility to the device having three different inputs, additionally, serial is much simpler compared to USB, from the point of view of the hardware developers.
A worrisome point for all users was the keyboard. Now the keyboard is superior, very soft and quiet. They replaced the plastic by a kind of resin which is soft and flexible. Also, I think there is some extra padding in the keys, like a layer of rubber or so.
Last but not least, the expansion SD card port was slightly modified:
As the image shows, there is a small piece of plastic over the sd slot. This plastic sheet appears also in the latest versions of the HP49g . I do not know the reason for this minor modification.
Troubleshooting and known issues
There are a number of problems related with this calculator, here are some of them:
-The Calculator restarts when USB port power is interrupted while it was connected, for example by turning off equipment while the calculator is being supplied through the USB cable.
-Some functions of CAS is not working properly, as LINSOLVE. This problem was fixed in version 2.09 of the calculator, the update is available on the HP site or also here.
-This problem is not peculiar to the HP50g, but relates to and affects the HP49g . Upgrade the operating system of the HP49g with the update available for both models, the libraries of equations stops working. To solve the problem is to delete port flash libraries and replace them by the following that were extracted from the HP50g.
Most of the features are the same as the the HP49g , including the memory capacity and the mathematical characteristics, the only change in these specifications is connectivity via the serial port.
Integrated flash memory capacity: 2.5 MB
Capacity expansion: 1024 MB or more (card Secure Digital)
Processor speed: 75 Mhz S3C2410X-ARM9 (ARM920T) Samsung 32 bit RISC (lift to maximum 200 Mhz, 120 Mhz stable)
Screen resolution: 131 by 80 pixels
Connectivity: USB (X-Modem, Kermit), infrared (IrDA) and serial port
Programming and debugging on the device capabilities: HP-Basic, UserRPL, SystemRPL, ML
Data input methods: Algebraic command line and reverse polish notation (RPN), integrated slate, Editor of lists and matrices
International support: Minimum support of languages (some messages)
Disarming the calculator
The incredible thing is that HP finally thought of a fairly simple method to disassemble the calculator, on old models of HP (48 original series) was impossible to disassemble the calculator without leaving evident marks in it. The HP49g and the HP48gII of a few years ago the method was less invasive, but also had to cut some plastic rivets that left marks in the process.
Now, the HP50g has screws under the translucent screen cover, allowing you to take it apart without leaving any mark on the device. The only care that should be taken is not to damage the screen cover to remove it, as shown in the following video:
Please note that the adhesive on the cover allows to replace it again without problems. The keyboard and the motherboard go with screws and plastic rivets, like that in other versions, so it can not remove easily.
In this video I will show you how to remove plate base and keyboard in a HP49g , the process is identical to that should be followed in a HP50g. This procedure however leave marks on the calculators and is not recommended to perform it if even the appliance is equipped with the manufacturer's warranty:
In the video, I used a small drill bit, a knife and a screwdriver. Returning to assemble the calculator the original screws and the foam blocks that are stuck are sufficient to keep the entire firm plate.
You must be careful when you open the calculator not to cut the cables that exist between the two covers or may damage the calculator.
When I received my HP49g in September of 2003, I instantly felt a rare keyboard sensation as I noticed other problems like flicker in the area of "soft menu" of the calculator. Problems with the logic of devices can mostly be repaired, however a poor overall quality of the physical device, not. On this occasion the sensation that produces the new HP50g is very different, is how to get more for the same value.
Overall, this is a highly recommended product, high quality hardware and software. It is my hope that with time and use keyboard not wear in a manner similar to the old HP49g .