OT: New Version of TI-Nspire



#10

I just bought a TI-Nspire, but haven't received it yet. It's the first non-HP Scientific calculator I have ever bought. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it but I'm getting tired of waiting for HP to come out with a competing unit.

There was an earlier topic about a new Nspire coming out and in my research of the Nspire family, it now has four models; the TI-Nspire with Clickpad, the TI-Nspire CAS with Clickpad, the TI-Nspire with Touchpad, and the TI-Nspire CAS with Touchpad. The clickpad version is the original and the Touchpad is new but a little different and the screen is the same for all four units, 320 x 240 pixels, around 115 DPI and 16-level gray-scale with no touching the screen for input. The big hardware difference is the new keypad that separates alpha and numeric keys and owners of the original Nspire will be able to order the new keypads for $10. There is a major update to the OS to version 2.0 but I don't know if it's a big improvement or not.

I'm not sure if I'm going to like this unit, being so spoiled by HPs, but I've been curious about the Nspire ever since it came out. I almost bought one then but when I read the reviews, it turned me off so I waited, hoping HP would release a new generation unit to compete with the Nspire. Since HP has written off the school market and focuses on the Financial profession, I wonder if HP will ever release a new HP scientific to replace the 50g (that's NOT an update)?

I have had a 50g for several years and like it but it's basically a revamped 49g+ (which I also have), which is an update to the 49g (which I have), which is an update to the 48gx (I have several), which ...etc. After being at HHC 2009 and learning about just how small their calculator development division is and what they have to deal with, at present they can barely turn out one or two 'upgraded' calculators a year.

Sorry to be such a downer, but I am getting tired of reading and discussing HP's past successes. What is HP doing today to keep up with the scientific/engineering market? Are their products so good and ahead of the competition they can wait to come out with new products? Or are they just looking at where they can get the most bang for the buck? Where is the innovation and long-term view? That's what excited me about my first HP-45 and later sold it to buy to the HP-55 (which I still have). Something so unlike anything I had seen before that excited me just by looking at it and to hell with the price. When I saw it in the Base Exchange (I was in the Air Force at the time), I borrowed money from my girl friend to get enough cash to buy it. I didn't care who... opps, I mean what I had to sell to get it, I WANT IT, NOW! That's also how I felt about the HP-41 then and which I still collect and work on today. No wonder my wife thinks I'm crazy.

I also wanted an HP-97 back then but it was just too much money. I had to wait over 25 years and now I have two of them. I'm so glad to have them but I rarely use them. What's that all about?

Anyway, Feeling frustrated today,

Gerry

Edited: 10 Mar 2010, 1:46 p.m.


#11

Quote:
I'm so glad to have them but I rarely use them. What's that all about?

That's about owning something today that was built years ago to last decades, and has! I feel the same way about my HP-65 I got about 3 years ago; built like a tank and still works great after all those years. There is nothing like those flashing LEDs while your program is running. And there is something very satisfying about implementing an algorithm in a programming space that is limited to 100 lines and 9 registers.

HP's new 30b is primarily a financial calculator but it does have the trig functions, a keystroke programming capability (it could use a lot more program space, however), and a blazingly-fast ARM processor.

You will like the NSpire, I predict. As an educator who has had the CAS unit for the past 3 years, I can upgrade to the CAS TouchPad version for free. I sent my old unit off a couple of days ago and, hopefully, will receive the new one shortly. I had already downloaded the new OS2 onto my old unit to see how it worked, and I was satisfied with it. Here are the principal changes.

The home screen now includes something they call a "scratchpad" that lets you play around with calculations and graphs without worrying about saving them in documents (although you can if you change your mind). Personally, that's kind of nice, but I was always able to play around with calculations and graphs on the old unit without undue work.

I think the new OS will let you solve simultaneous equations and polynomial equations on the regular NSpire (non-CAS) unit, whereas you needed the CAS version to do that before. Since I had the CAS, that's not an advantage for me.

The touchpad looks interesting. It will make navigation between screens and windows and documents easier, I think, but a real touch-screen and stylus would have been a revolutionary improvement; maybe next time.

I'm anxious to see what the real screen looks like on the new units. One of my complaints during the last 3 years was that you really need a very strong light source to be able to see what's on the screen. I remember when I first got the old NSpire, in a TI training class in Nashville, they dimmed the room lights so we could see the overhead projector images, but dimming the lights made the NSpire screens almost invisible. A backlight would have worked wonders. Another poster said that the new screen really does look as good as the image in one of the other threads, and I hope so. You can choose between 3 font sizes, but even the largest is rather hard to read with my old eyes.

From the beginning, the NSpire was not a very good programming platform, which is one of my main interests. As originally issued, you could only code functions. They added programs almost immediately, but it was hard to edit them on the handheld unit itself. Then they gave you a program editor and user libraries, which were good improvements. But the biggest problem was, there was no INPUT command to get user input during the execution of the program. That crippled the BASIC-like language, in my estimation. I think what drove that was kids creating games and playing them in class when they are supposed to be doing interesting math things like studying box and whisker plots (I'm being facetious a bit, I hate box and whisker plots). But now there is the equivalent of the INPUT command (called Request) and a textbox command (called Text). Those do work, I've tried them out on my old unit.

The NSpire is really meant for students. I suspect that a real engineer will probably be disappointed in it, especially since the trig functions are accessible only via a menu. That's not a big deal to me, but I'm not an engineer.

When you get it, please post your reaction here. We'd all like to know how an engineer view it.

#12

Quote:
... are they just looking at where they can get the most bang for the buck? Where is the innovation and long-term view?

IMO it's partly corporate philosophy and partly just the realities of the present-day marketplace.

Certainly the corporate philosophy of HP has changed since the days of the Classics, or even the 48 series, for that matter. But everything electronic has such a short life-cycle these days because of constantly-changing technology. Why design something to last 25 years if it will only be used for, say, 5 years tops? At least I think that's the prevailing wisdom nowadays. We all lament it, but will any company have the courage (or stupidity, depending on how you look at it) to buck the tide? That is, produce a really quality scientific calculator, even if it's market life is short?

#13

Gerry,

After TI upgraded their NSpire software to Version 2 and having just acquired a Casio Classpad 330 (birthday calculator, LOL my birthday is 3/14), I am also itching to see if HP responds with a HP 51G. That would be so cool.

I have only upgrade the CAS; I will upgrade my blue "non-CAS" version tonight. Actually the way I found out about the new nSpire stuff was on this board, because I kind of forgot about it shortly after I purchased it.

Some thoughts on Version 2:

MAJOR improvement over Version 1. The scratchpad allows for everyday calculations and graphs. This is good for quick calculations or if you don't need to open an "official" document for calculations. Can't use programming commands (i.e. If, Then, etc..) on the scratchpad, but that's OK. Multiple commands, separated by a colon, are allowed though.

The home screen has improved as well and is a lot more organized.

The Graph and Geometry applications have been separated, which gives a better focus to each application.

The screen looks much better and crisp than it did in Version 1. To me the screen in Version 1 was always kind of blurry. The screen actually is readable now.

More programming commands in the input/output department: Request boxes, Output command (I have to look this command up), and Text Box (similar to HP 50G's message box). And the Disp command gets a nice upgrade being able to display more than one thing. In addition, you can display more than one line with Disp.

Some of the new commands are:

Derivative at Point "box": give the variable and number it returns the derivative form where you fill the remaining box with the function

Solve a system dialog box: same concept as the Derivative at Point; you give the variables and order and the TI Nsprie does the form; all that reamins to is to put in the equations.

On the Graph Applicaton: When something is graphed you can toggle the Table with Ctrl+T. Also graph analysis tools are now included (zeros, mins, maxes, etc)

The mouse movement is also better, more responsive. I have the "old" keyboard.

Version 2 makes the TI nSpire actually useable IMHO.

Eddie

To anyone with a TI nSpire - UDPATE to version 2! Highly recommend it.


Edited: 10 Mar 2010, 10:35 p.m.


#14

Quote:
More programming commands in the input/output department: Request boxes, Output command (I have to look this command up), and Text Box (similar to HP 50G's message box). And the Disp command gets a nice upgrade being able to display more than one thing. In addition, you can display more than one line with Disp.

Eddie, I haven't seen any documentation on a new "Output" command; let us know if you find it in there. The Disp command has been able to display more than one thing for some time, I think. Like Disp "the score is",s for example.

In my brief testing (before I sent my NSpire CAS clickpad back to TI to swap for a touchpad version), using crlf=char(13)&char(10) to get a new line, the Text command supports this structure (to get multiple lines in a dialog box in one command), but the Request command does not. I didn't test the RequestStr, but I imagine it doesn't either. Perhaps TI will fix this inconsistency.


#15

Quote:


Eddie, I haven't seen any documentation on a new "Output" command; let us know if you find it in there. The Disp command has been able to display more than one thing for some time, I think. Like Disp "the score is",s for example.

In my brief testing (before I sent my NSpire CAS clickpad back to TI to swap for a touchpad version), using crlf=char(13)&char(10) to get a new line, the Text command supports this structure (to get multiple lines in a dialog box in one command), but the Request command does not. I didn't test the RequestStr, but I imagine it doesn't either. Perhaps TI will fix this inconsistency.


You're right, Don, I didn't find the Output command now that I'm looking through the reference guide. Maybe Disp is the "Output" command given it has been enhanced.

I'll have check out the mulitline consistency.

#16

I have been teaching with TI's, and HP's and I have found that the nSpire to be the worst calculator for in-class use. It is great for doing presentations, but it is horrible as a calculator due to the fact that everything is drop-down-menu driven.

The notion of a graphical menu works well only if you have an equally responsive input device such as a mouse. Even with the new touchpad feature (where they big, square, "arrow keys" region is like a touchpad on a laptop), navigating all those menus with an arrow is tedious.

What makes a calculator a viable piece of electronics today is the fact that its input method involves a dedicated keyboard. There is a reason why those fancy hand-held devices with huge RAM and CPU power and colored screens will never replace a calculator (even something as "cool" as an iPhone with the HP48 emulator) -- it's the fact that there are not enough dedicated keys!

When comparing the HP50, TI89, and nSpire, the menus are easiest to navigate in that order: HP50, TI89, nSpire. The TI89 has way too many items nested within a single menu --- the "MATH" menu. The built-in Fn menus do help a bit, but it is still cumbersome to navigate. The HP on the other hand has several "main" menus categorized by topic. I should mention that the menu system "devolved" from the HP48 to the HP50 (a few menus and key assignments could have made the HP50 a better machine). The nSpire is just a horrible in terms of getting to the correct function. While they nicely categorize the functions, it takes me a lot longer on the nSpire to get to the "limit" operator vs on an HP50. I do like the inspire, however, in that once you have selected something like "limit," you are then shown the limit operator as seen in textbook format, and you merely fill in the blanks. To move around input fields, you can use the tab key or the touchpad/arrows (tab is just faster than moving that pointer around).

One other benefit to using the menu system on the HP50 is that the menus themselves do not cover up the main screen. Imagine finding a function whose location you accidentally forgot. I can hunt around on the HP50 without losing track of what I am doing since I can see the main screen. That is not the case with the 89 or nSpire. The TI85 was a good calculator in this respect.

Input methods aside, the nSpire has an extremely powerful software set. I just wish it had 3D graphing capabilities (I was unable to find it on the latest release of the nSpire; but I have only played with it a few days)

Edited: 10 Mar 2010, 11:15 p.m.


#17

Good point, Han. The soft key menus are my favorite.

While we are on the subject: I don't understand why the trig functions (SIN/COS/TAN/ASIN/ACOS/ATAN) have to be grouped into one key and further more, why the recirpocal, factorial (should be for all numbers in the complex plane IMHO), and rect/polar conversions aren't on the keyboard at all. Not a deal breaker but a minor thorne for me.


#18

I beleive SIN, COS, and TAN were on the keys in the original NSpire clickpad, but TI moved them to a trig menu now, probably because they aren't as necessary for students every day as they would be for engineers.


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