HP 300s+ Scientific Calculator - Short Review

HP 300s+

HP 300s+

A few weeks ago I was searching for a new calculator which could do hexadecimal conversions as I often need them while programming and I find it more convenient to have a dedicated calculator on my desk instead of using a software calculator on the PC. In school I had a TI-36X solar from Texas Instruments, which could do this easily and now I wanted to have an additional calculator with similar features.

While searching for alternatives I found the HP 300s+ Scientific Calculator. We also used to have several calculators from HP which I also very liked. It looked like a decent entry-level calculator which is advertised with a "Perform decimal and hexadecimal conversions." feature. For 15€ including shipping directly from HP it looked like a bargain. It was delivered very quickly by UPS.

The first thing I wanted to try, of course, was the hexadecimal conversions as this was the main reason for buying the calculator. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to do this. Even the manual has no hints on it. So I asked the (german) HP support on Twitter for help, who referred me to the calculator support team. I called them, but the only help I could get there, after the support guy was asking his database or colleagues for several minutes, was that I should try to change the language (which the calculator does not seem to support) or to remove the batteries. After reexplaining that I'm searching for a promoted feature that isn't mentioned in the manual the support guy promised to do some research on my problem and call or write me back. I've heard nothing ever since. Next try was a post in the international support forum of HP, but after more than a week there haven't been a reply either. I'm not very pleased with this situation as this makes the calculator almost useless to me.

Nevertheless, the overall impression of the calculator is what you pay for. It handles all the standard functions like trigonometric, exponential and logarithmic functions and even offers some statistical functions. You can edit and correct your typed in expressions which is very handy. It looks like it can do even some analytical calculations as it e.g. evolves sin(π/4) to √2/2 (see picture), but this seems to be only possible for very few expressions. Never the less the 300s+ has a nice rendering of expressions and especially fractions. Sometimes the screen is little bit small and so you can not see both, the entered expression and the evaluated expression, at the same time (see picture as well).

The hardware itself is a little bit cheap. The buttons are the usual quality you expect from a 15€ calculator and cannot be compared with the very nice buttons on the classic HP calculators. A little bit confusing is the 'DEL' button as this more works like a backspace and therefor I would labeled it with the typical back arrow. Also the OFF is not on Shift+ON as I would expect but on Shift+AC which I had to search for. The viewing angle of the display is horrible. You can configure the contrast in the menu, but if you set it to be OK when looking straight on, you almost can not read anything when viewing at an angle of about 45 degrees. This is a real bummer and the second reason why I wouldn't buy this calculator a second time. Also the color of the display is more the traditional blueish on a green background than the black on white background as in the rendered promotional pictures. The 300s+ runs from both solar power and a battery. This looks like a good idea in the first place, but the display is hardly readable without background illumination when its dark so a solar power only version would suffice. The provided cover for the calculator is nice if you have to carry it around e.g. in your backpack. You can slide it under the calculator when using it, but then it acts like a seesaw which is really annoying.

So this calculator does not suite the excellent reputation which HP calculators used to have. If you need just a simple calculator for very occasional usage the 300s+ might fit you, but for anyone else who's searching for a more decent calculator it's not the perfect choice.

Update 2014/04/18: After more than 2 weeks I got a final answer on my hexidecimal conversion from the HP Calculator support by phone. After intensive research they found out that the calculator is not capable of doing this very complex calculation and I should buy a more advanced model if I'd like to use such a feature. After pointing out again, that the marketing brochures advertise this special feature on that calculator, they agreed that marketing materials must be wrong.

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About the author

My name is Tobias Müller. I'm interested in com­puters, physics, elec­tronics and photo­graphy. more …

18 thoughts on “HP 300s+ Scientific Calculator - Short Review

  1. Hi Tobias,

    The 300 is pretty much the bottom of the line and not like a real HP. The only current "cheap" HP that might work for hex conversions is the 35S which is about 60 USD.

    For 75 USD you can get an HP 50g which is almost like a real HP except for the price, build quality, and lack of a real E N T E R key. But it's pretty good.

    There is one company making clones of old HPs like the 16C. The electronics are supposed to be good but the keyboard is said to make it difficult to use.

    There is the WP 34S project which is open source and uses a cheap HP calculator for the guts, reflashing it with a new OS. The problem is it still uses a cheap calculator and you have to use sticky labels.

    Not a lot of hope for an HP solution. Many Casios seem to support hex math and they are all around 20 USD.

    • I bought another Texas Instruments TI 36X in mint condition on eBay which does the job quite well. I also got a used HP 27s which does the job as well.

      Nevertheless I was quite disappointed with HP in this concern. They advertised features which the calculated did not offer and it took them more than 2 weeks to find it out! Last but not least they just suggested to buy another (more expensive) HP calculator instead of offering a refund or a replacement.

      I don't get why HP is selling this calculator. It is so cheap that almost every advertising gift calculator is on par and they cannot make huge profit out of this. The only result will be bad reputation.

  2. Thanks for your review Tobias, I was actually about to click "buy", then decided to check some reviews... Getting Casio 911 now, it's even £2 cheaper... That HP thing is just a bad joke.

  3. Thanks Tobias, I better had read your report before... Now I have exactly the same problem like you. I also bought the calculator, because of the Hex conversion function. Interesting that the keys A to F on the calculators function keyboard are useless without Hex conversion. Obviously the implementation of this function has been planned and just remained on the keyboard without realizing it. Really a joke and bad for HPs reputation. Stands HP now for "Humble Performance" ?

  4. Why, oh why would you market a calculator that does not let you enter numbers in scientific notation and call it a scientific calculator. If someone knows how to do this on the HP300s+ please let me know.

    • there is a X10 to the X key on the fourth row, far right position to enter exponents in scientific numbers.

  5. My old HP 20S can do the "complex" calculation conversion hex - bin - dec - oct and it is of course 30 years old. Then I bought 300s+ which is a disappointment not hp like. I just wanted a good quality calculator with with 20s functions and an up to date display. HP 35s I don't like the display.

  6. I have the HP300s which does not have the E and F alpha numbers. A,B,C,D,X,Y,M are all storage memories, so I assume that E,F are also storage memories in the HP300S+. Needless to say without the ability to enter E or F in the HP300s you cannot do hexadecimal. However I have done hex to decimal on ordinary calculators by repeated multiplication of the base 16. E.G FB1D is (((15* 16)+11)*16+1)*16+13 = 64285. Once entered you can replay and edit the equation replacing the 15 (F), 11(B), 1, 13 (D) as needed for another calculation. You do need to know that A=10, B=11, C=12, D=13, E=14, F=15.

    • Of course you can do the conversion 'manually', but that is not feasible if you need this all day. Doing the back conversion is even more cumbersome.

      • This is true but the 'repeat facility and edit' on most modern algebraic calculators is often overlooked when you need to repeat any calculation with new data. I agree that converting to Hex from decimal by repeated divide by 16 and taking the integer is a painful and error prone method. If you can get a HP35S the base calculations are available but the "base" menu needs to be used all the time to get the 'h' at the end of any hex input. The HP prime has 'base' functions too. Better yet wait for the release of the HP42L from swiss micros in about 6 months.

  7. Hi! I have a little doubt. I just bought my HP 300s+ but I found a little weird that the ON button is deeper than the others. Is it ok or will I have to go back to the store ask for another one? Thanks in advance!

  8. The contrast is terrible! I cannot adjust it to see the numbers when laying on the desk unless I prop it up to look straight on. Any fix?

  9. Just got a cheap 300S, cannot figure out how to store a value in memory. I've been using
    an HP11C since 1986 so i'm not new to it. Also no ENTER key drives me nuts. I have multiple 35S calculators but oil mist in the machine shop kills them. Thought this would work but I can't even get past the memory storage function.

  10. I purchased one, it really is awful. When you push a button it may or may not enter and the display is very difficult to read. The button issue is critical in exams where multiple calculations are required quickly.

    Cheap and nasty date I say.

    Any suggestions for a solid and reliable alternative appreciated. My needs are basic engineering calculations. I am thinking the Sharp EL-W516TBSL.

  11. sin(π/4) is indeed √2/2, when the input is in radians instead of degrees.
    This aside, you just happened to learn the hard way, that everything that HP makes nowadays with regards to pocket calculators is crap.
    Ever since the HP-12C Special Edition and HP-15C Re-release (back in 2011, I guess), their build quality proved to be abysmal.
    HP doesn't actually design calculators anymore. HP 10s+ is clone of Casio fx-300MS so much so that menu has the word Casio in it. I'm sure HP 300s+ is also a clone of some other Casio.
    Go for Sharp or Casio and you can't go wrong. Heck, even a Genius from Kaufland, or the Olympia/United Office LCD-8310 (clone Casio FX-82MS) from LIDL are better than a HP. Unfortunately.

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