"High Priced" 12C
"Gold standard" financial calculator
Expensive, slow, some functions aren't intuitive
The Bottom Line:
This is *the* classic financial calculator, but it's also a dinosaur. You'd be better off buying a modern financial calculator like the HP17BII.
The 12C is HP's best-selling calculator, possibly the most successful calculator ever. It was first sold about two decades ago and the electronics have never been upgraded. The display uses 7 segment LEDs to show each digit, whereas the newer HPs use 35 segment LEDs. At least one upside of this is that the batteries last a very long time in the 12C. The display contrast is also very good. For what it's worth, the keys also have a very good tactile feel. This calculator appears to be more solidly built than most calculators.
The 12C is definitely quaint. It uses Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) rather than algebraic logic and it is rectangular widthwise rather than lengthwise. It looks and feels different from all other calculators.
Everyone involved in real estate and mortgages probably has a 12C -- it's the industry standard -- the calculator that wouldn't die. There are newer, faster calculators around, but it's a breeze to use the 12C for mortgage calculations. It can also undertake more complex calculations, but these are not intuitive. Fortunately the manual is excellent. Then there's the speed, or lack thereof. It seemingly takes forever (10 seconds or more) to crunch some calculations.
Some capabilities that are easily undertaken by the faster 17BII, e.g., the periodic principal and interest contributions of each payment, are also possible with the 12C but they aren't at all intuitive. No way could you guess that  [f] [amort] [x/y] gives you the portion of the first period's payment that is applied to the principal! I couldn't guess this. I didn't know the calculator was capable of this until I looked it up in the manual. Actually, however, now that I come to look at it, this calculation is also printed on the handy reference on the back of the calculator -- just for dummies like me. Successive periods take progressively longer to calculate (we're talking ten or more seconds) and it's not easy to keep track of where you're at. This is really horrible, yet on the 17BII this calculation is fast and it's also easy to keep track of where you're at.
I happen to like my 12C because I "think" in RPN and I find it fairly easy to use. I don't think this would be true for most people, however. My brain is wired differently. That's what my wife says too! So I really can't recommend the 12C for general consumption. I think that most people would be far better served by HP's 17BII calculator that is a lot easier to understand.
The first version of this review mysteriously disappeared from Epinions. This is a rewrite.