HP-12C or HP-17BII


My son has finally decide to go to college after working for the last two years. He will be taking business management classes. He got hooked on RPN at work (an auto parts store) of all places! My question, since I am only familiar with the scientifics, is which business calculator would you recommend? I think I have narrowed the choices to the 12C and the 17BII. I don't like the clam shell 19 series, unless some can make a case for it. I seem to be partial to the 17BII because it looks to be the brother to my beloved HP-42S. All input will be greatly appreciated.


This may not be the answer you want, but if you can, get both. I own both, use both, and love each of them. Swapping out one for the other on occasions can be fun. If you have to choose, though, I'd say go with the 12C. It's a little smaller and I feel faster with the keys (for me) due to their smaller size and close proximity to each other. I also love the 12C's layout. The two styles are so different that it will ultimately boil down to which layout he likes the most. Both are powerful calcs. There's a reason the 12C has outlasted the 17BII.



I also have one of each ('black case' HP17BII, HP17BII+) and some HP12C/12Cp units. Although the HP17BII+ belongs to the newer hybrid family, it is fast and has plenty of memory: 32KBytes against 8KBytes in the HP17BII. My HP17BII+ has a key wit bad contact, the HP17BII works flawlessly.

I am not sure about the reasons ('financial' appeal?), but the HP17BII has a lot more featurs than the HP12C/Cp, and if I have to choose only one, I'd leave the choice to the moment. Can't tell you now which one I'd choose.

Not much of a help... Sorry!


Luiz (Brazil)


Hi George. I would recommend that you consider the newest 12cp. It is faster and has some enhancements over the 12c and the original 12cp. Also, the keys on my new 12cp have a better feel than my Chinese made 12c. Time will tell if it can hold up to day to day use.




George --

I have both models, which are indeed the only business models with LCD readout and RPN.

The HP-17BII is a much faster and more capable calculator; its main disadvantages versus the HP-12C are its poorly legible dot-matrix display (shared with the HP-42S) and its extensive use of menus to
organize its functions. I definitely prefer its algebraic equation editor with solver over the HP-12C's inferior keystroke programming capabilities. The HP-17BII's clock and time-calculation functions are very user-friendly. You should be able to get one from eBay for less than US$100.

The HP-12C is an old standard that is annoyingly slow for computationally-intensive functions. Its main advantages include its very legible 7-segment LCD readout and easy accessiblity of functions. The horizontal arrangement is good if the calc is on a desktop, not in your hands. It has no clock; the time-calculation functions are limited and slow. Its TVM equations are implemented on a "per-period" basis, rather than with interest entered as an annual quantity and number of periods per year as a separate setting.

IMO, the enduring popularity of the classic HP-12C is its good looks and form factor: It says, "classy financial accessory", not "dime-a-dozen calculator". It's certainly better-looking than the algebraic-entry HP-10B, -14B, or -17B. The HP-17BII got a new gold bezel and trim along with RPN to compete with the traditional product in those respects.

I don't think that the latest HP-12C Platinum is much of an improvement over the traditional HP-12C except for computational speed. Its looks are definitely a step backward...


-- KS


I think the 12c is outdated, and the 12CP is a royally stupid design. The 17bii is much more powerful, has a real backspace key, more built-in functions than the 12c and a general purpose solver--not merely the financial solver. And it is faster. And you can buy the new 17bii+ and get the same basic feature set, though I am not sure it supports the Let and Get functions of the 17bii (these enable you to do much more sophisticated programming in the solver. These features are not listed in the manual, but are in the "advanced functions" handbook of the 19bii--which has the same solver.)

A lot of people will tell you that the 12c is a "standard" in finance. While this may be true, it is by no means a must. I have a friend, from high school (we are now 40) who has her own hedge fund. She held many good positions over the years at Deutche Bank, Credit Suisse, Chase Manhattan etc. She has always preferred a 17bii.

The "programmability" of the 12c is dubious at best. It is not like the 11c or 15c--it is crippled. On the other hand the 17bii has an algebraic solver--very powerful and versatile tool, and for many of those programming tasks that one encounters, this solver is superior.

Edited: 21 Feb 2006, 7:33 a.m.


17BII period, exclamation point. The BII+ is a cheap imposter, and the 12CP isn't in the same league. Tell your son not to look back, there's nothing he'll be missing from either of the others.

Your instincts are right about the 17BII and the 42S. You know a good thing when you see it, down to the nice 2-line pixelated display!

More opinion than input,



Thanks for input thus far. I'm not fond of the newer HPs, the 17BII+ and the 12CP. So I think I'll head to eBay to start looking for his 17BII.


I own both the 12C and 17BII. If he is going back to school I would recommend the 17BII. It is a lot faster in doing the calculations for TVM/NPV/IRR etc. This would especially be important on a timed exam. Also it is easier to see and edit uneven cash-flows and stat lists.

But if it's possible, I would get both. They both have their strengths. And in an academic situation, one could serve as a backup calc. In real life, I usually carry the 12C because of it's form factor. But the 17BII has the solver that can use the LET/GET statements to do some pretty amazing calculations.

Good luck! Let us know what you decide.


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