HP 50g or older HP48


I have used HP calculators for a long time, but just the RPN models. I've been thinking about going to an RPL model, but am unsure if I should splurge on the 50g especially since it's my understanding it comes with poor documentation. If I'm going to spend a lot of money, I want to learn the advanced functions. Instead of the 50g, I've been thinking about getting an old HP48s with manuals from ebay.

Is the documentation that comes with the 48s significantly better than the 50g? If you become proficient in using an older RPL model like the 48s, is it relatively easy to step up to the 50g?


The 48S/SX and G/GX came with fairly good documentation, but for the full details you had to purchase the Advanced User's Reference separately.

For the 49g+ and 50g, you would want the 49g+ Advanced User's Reference, which you can download as a PDF.

The 49g+ and 50g definitely have some advanced capabilities that aren't present in the 48. Some of those capabilities can be added to the 48 using third-party libraries. In fact, the 49g/49g+/50g actually have some of those libraries built in.


Hello Brian,

save your money and buy a 50G. HP 48s are expensive collectors items, the HP 50g is faster, has better display, etc. You can get numerous tutorials in the internet to supplement the poor 50g documents. one example is http://www.thiel.edu/Mathproject/CalculatorLessons/Default.htm


hpnut in Malaysia


Get the 50G. Although I have a 48sx and a 48gx as well as the 50g and I do like the 48 better but with the kind of used price on ebay I think you should get the 50g.


The 50G looks soooo much better...

(and has IR and USB and SD card slot!)

Edited: 10 Oct 2008, 2:17 a.m.


Get the 50G. As soon as you've seen the LCD of the 50G, the 48G is just disappointing. And turn to RPL to learn how easy RPN was (and still is), and to experience a new meaning of the expression "pocket calculator" (emphasis on both words) ;)

Ceterum censeo: HP, launch a 43S.

Edited: 10 Oct 2008, 3:45 a.m.


I have an HP-48sx, an HP-48g+, and an HP-50g. The first of these was woefully underpowered for what it set out to do - enormous delays on key presses, an unusable equation editor - and had a low-contrast display that was poor even for the time. The second (quite a recent version of the model) is faster and has a better display, but it is still necessary to look at the display to check that a key has registered before proceeding. (This is a speed problem, not a keyboard problem.) The HP-50g is by far the best to use: it has a bigger high-contrast display and although there are still slight delays when pressing keys, these aren't enough to matter. It is also far better at algebra.

It is true that the documentation for the HP-50g is very poor indeed; HP seem to assume that no-one who buys it really wants to use it. However, the electronic manuals are good enough; print them out if needed.

If you are only getting one, get the HP-50g!


The 49g+ and 50g definitely have some advanced capabilities that aren't present in the 48. Some of those capabilities can be added to the 48 using third-party libraries. In fact, the 49g/49g+/50g actually have some of those libraries built in.
If you want to add these capabilities to the 48, you really need a 48GX (which has expansion slots) and 48GX memory cards (to fill those expansion slots). HP48GX memory cards (unlike modern SD cards) are hard to find and very expensive; you will probably pay more for the cards than you would for a 48GX itself.

The libraries can be downloaded freely, but they still have to be installed, the documentation will be separate from the other 48GX documentation, and they aren't as well integrated as they are on the 50G.

I have an old 48GX upgraded with memory cards and libraries, but for regular use the 50G has replaced it. The 48GX does have better documentation, but you can download it from hpcalc.org to supplement the 50G documenation.


I'll go against the grain a little. It depends on what you want to do with it. If you want to program FFTs or do other Mathcad, MATLAB, or Mathematica-like functions, then go with teh 50g. If you want to crunch numbers, you might like hte 48 better. The Enter key is small and in the wrong place on the 50g. The keys are WAY harder and with longer travel on teh 50g also. I used my 50g for at least 2 months, if not 3 or 4, and was still making huge numbers of mistakes with the 50g due to the bad (to me) keyboard feel. The 48 is perfect in this regard, to me anyway. I now use my 48 and my new 35s instead and sold my 50g.

Edited: 11 Oct 2008, 11:52 a.m.


I don't have a 50g, but have a 49g+, which I suspect might be rather similar to a great degree, and a 48G and a 48G+.

And despite the 49g+ having something I coveted since college, namely expandable memory in the form of a SD card, and increased speed,

I find myself using both 48G's (the G+ at home and the G at work) almost exclusively over the 49G+ due to what I feel to be a decent compromise between being very good for numbercrunching and the ability to set up equations and programs... and yes, the 48G series' keyboards do seem to feel better.


I've used HP calcs since 1973. I found the HP48SX and HP48GX to be very marginal due to slow execution times, *very* poor display contrast, terrible (especially low visual contrast) color schemes, irrationally expensive memory expansion options, inability to update firmware, etc. I found the HP42S to be far more useful (but it has the ugly brown/orange cosmetics of the HP48SX).

A couple of years ago, I bought a used HP49g+ for $20. I quickly found that the faults listed above were much improved on the HP49g+, though keyboard quality was poor. The built-in CAS is great. SD card support is a master-stroke, especially for installing firmware updates. The LCD is bright and crystal clear. Even the HP49g+ color scheme that many here have criticized has better legibility than that of the HP48SX and HP48GX.

I bought a new HP50g last year, with even better color scheme and much improved keyboard, though slightly poorer LCD. I'd prefer the ENTER key to be near the HP traditional location, except on the right side above the DIVISION key, but that's a minor issue to me.

I'm happy with the HP50g. I never thought I'd find a calculator I like as much as the legendary HP42S (but for different reasons). I never use any of my three HP48 units since getting the HP49g+ and HP50g.



The display contrast of the HP42S is the worst among HP calcs; HP48G's (especially the black one) beats it hands down; also HP48's bigger system font makes it a lot better than the HP49+/HP50. Keyboard like the later is a joke and as far as I am concerned, next to useless both mechanically and as a layout/legend. I use HP48G series to do real work, all of it's successors are good only to play with. Power, speed and storage come second where reliable professional calculator is needed. This explains the popularity of the HP15C and HP42S - still in huge demand.




The display contrast of the HP42S is the worst among HP calcs;
Maybe. But to be fair, the 27s and 17b feature the same display.


Maybe. But to be fair, the 27s and 17b feature the same display

Maybe??? What do you mean by that? Pointing identical ones doesn't make sense, which one do you consider worse?

Edited: 11 Oct 2008, 10:51 p.m.


Took a look again this morning, and my impression is the 48sx is worse. After all, HP does not have many dot matrix LCDs at all, and far less to be regarded state-of-the-art today. OK, the LCD of the 50g is fine, but else? :-/


We agree on the virtues of the HP42S. Be advised that the display contrast of the HP42S varies with vintage. I own two 1993 models. Their display contrast and clarity, while not ideal, is better than my HP48SX and two HP48GX units. Of course, that's not saying much, given the very poor quality of HP48 series displays.

The HP48 series was innovative when the various models *first* appeared. I bought my SX in 1990, and my last GX in 1997. IMHO, they are far less capable than the HP50g in *every* particular except keyboard feel, location of the ENTER key, battery life, and the format of the LCD TIME/DATE header. The 1979 vintage HP-41C has the best keyboard feel and (adjustable) real time clock system of any HP calculator, but that doesn't make it superior overall to all successors. The belief that *overall* the HP-48 series is superior to the HP50g is religous in nature, not objective or scientific.

As far as professional use is concerned, I've used HP calcs professionally (outside the student/hobbiest environment) for 33 years.



As far as professional use is concerned, I strongly doubt HP49G+/50 get used that way at all. The reason being the importance of calculators as professional tools is reduced to minimum - they are more suitable for students (and I exclude hobbyists :) ) and that's why they are built the way they are - having the look and feel of toys. The HP41/HP48 story is completely different; times were different...


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