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How to choose the best for you: HP 12C vs TI BA II+

Antonio Evans November 9, 2019

HP 12C vs TI BA II+Financial calculators help solve real-life business, accounting and statistical problems.

They come with preset fields and equations to make projections and calculations quick and easy.

Whether you are a student looking for something to use in class or a working professional who needs it on the job, you are going to want to want to choose the right one in order to make your work easier.

The right financial calculator will look different for different users. It is important to do your research before you invest in one so that you get all of the features that you will need.

Top Pick for financial use
HP 12C
HP 12C
Best choice for financial use!

  • 10-character, 1-line LCD Display
  • More than 120 Built-in Functions
  • Calculating APR, NPV & IRR
  • Register-Based Cash-Flow Analysis
  • Reverse Polish Notation (RPN)
  • Pocket Size

In a hurry? Top Pick is your choice!

HP 12C vs TI BA II+

Both the HP 12C and the TI BA II+ are excellent financial calculators. Either one makes a good, reliable choice for both students and professionals alike. The key difference between the two is the data entry method.

The HP 12C is a more traditional financial calculator; users are going to need to know (or learn) how to use Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) for the input.

On the flip side, the Texas Instrument, BA II+, stands as a leader of the modern financial calculators which use algebraic notation for equations and problem-solving.

When it comes to choosing the best one, it will come down to how comfortable you are with the RPN vs algebraic notation. For younger users, the best choice, based much on how fast the calculator can be mastered, will most likely be the BA II+.

For seasoned users looking to replace an older model, or for those students who dedicate their time to picking up the skill of RPN, the HP 12C is most certainly the better option.

Beyond notation differences, additional differences, and many similarities, are listed below.

Main Differences:

  • Entry method
  • Ability to display alphanumeric characters
  • Auto power down feature

Main Similarities:

  • Single line, LCD display
  • Space for 10 digits
  • Stored functions
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These two models dominate the financial calculator industry and that is no surprise. The HP 12C is an oldie, but a goodie; it uses its history to its advantage and doesn’t let age mess with how well it still calculates.

The TI BA II+ model leads the set of modern financial calculators, taking a technological advancement, but keeping the features of a more traditional model.

HP 12C vs TI BA II+

Choosing the better one of the two really begins and ends with how you are going to be most comfortable entering in the numbers as many other characteristics put both models on the same level.

Equation Compatibility

Both the HP 12C and the TI BA II+ have much of the same abilities when it comes to preset equations and the range of problems they are able to calculate.

Being financial calculators, they both come with a set of stock solutions such as the ability to perform cash flow analysis on things like APR, IRR and NPV. Additionally, they can also both calculate amortization.

There are some areas where the two models differ. While both calculate depreciation, the TI BA II+ can do it 4 ways, while the HP 12C can only calculate it one way, and it is quite manual.

Taking this into consideration, while both models can solve many of the same equations overall, the TI BA II+ tends to be a bit more automatic. The decrease in human error leads this one to be the better option of the two when it comes to solving equations.

User Experience

Being that these calculators both have different notation types, the user experience is unique to each calculator. The HP 12C relies on an old-school notation method, Reverse Polish Notation PRN).

For those that are looking to invest in a calculator, who are accepting that they need to learn how to use it regardless, this one is an excellent choice.

While the beginning may be a bit rough due to the learning curve, RPN can be quite helpful down the line when it comes to understanding and calculating financial equations.

HP 12C vs TI BA II+

Like most graphing calculators, the TI BA II+ relies on algebraic notation. While it is more commonly known, and requires less ‘familiarization’ time than RPN, it has its shortfalls when it comes to doing financial calculations.

From a user experience, algebraic notation may make the job faster, but it won’t always make the most sense. While it truly depends on the user, the HP 12C may have a slight advantage over the TI BA II+ in that, for the work it is used for, the notation method makes more sense.

Data Storage

A given feature of nearly all financial calculators is that they will store numbers for reference or other use. The HP 12C and the TI BA II+ are no different. However, when it comes to the way that they store numbers, there is a notable difference.

Both models store the same number of items, 24, but in different ways. The HP 12C has four different categories that hold the 24 ‘slots’. One of the categories store up to 20 slots that can store numbers of your choice, the other 4 slots then fall into one of the other three categories.

The TI BA II+ on the other hand, has 24 slots for strings up to 4 characters. It doesn’t categorize them, allowing a much more free-style save.

Based on storage flexibility, the TI BA II+ is the better option of the two, since it allows you to store any number from any equation, up to 4 characters. It is nice that the HP 12C stores numbers, but it is more limited when it comes to exactly what can be stored and where.

Overall Verdict

Both models stand on even grounds with each other in most ways. The calculations that can be done, as well as the overall power, are essentially identical, making it impossible to choose the ‘better’ one based on the math itself.

When it comes to working on equations and entering in the strings, the HP 12C wins out with its RPN methods. Users who have taken a little time to learn the entry method find that it is faster, more efficient and easier to pick up and use.

On the flip side, the TI BA II+ dominates when it comes to number-storing and will most likely be easier to learn and use within a short period of time as compared to its counterpart.

In the end, the HP 12C is what should be most recommended. While there will be some upfront commitment due to most users needing to learn RPN, once it has been used it only gets faster from there.

TI BA II+, while better to store numbers, requires more key strokes for most things and doesn’t lend itself to intuitive use over time.


Choosing the right financial calculator can be intimidating if you don’t know what you are looking for. Knowing the answers to some of the key questions can help keep you informed and guide you through the buying process.

The end result? A financial calculator that you love that does exactly what you need!

What is Reverse Polish Notation (RPN)?

Reverse Polish Notation is an alternative notation style for algebraic notation. The key difference is that RPN does not use parenthesis.

One of the best things to keep in mind when you want to learn this type of notation is to remember that the characters (+, -, etc.) come after the numbers themselves. In general, RPN tends to be a faster way to calculate and studies show that users make fewer mistakes.

What is the difference between even and uneven cash flow?

Cash flows monitor how can comes and goes. An even cash flow will have the same amount of money at certain consistencies (e.g. $100 every month).

An uneven cash flow will have different amounts of money come in at the same consistency (e.g. $100 for the first month, $300 the second, $275 the third, etc.).

Not all financial calculators can work with uneven cash flows due to the difference of integers that are needed. It is important to look for one that can handle both even and uneven flows if you are not going to be calculating a consistent amount each time.

Which calculator has a better battery life?

The HP 12C runs on batteries. While they are not rechargeable, they do last for years before giving out. Being that the design is thin, the batteries are generally watch-type batteries.

The TI BA II+ battery can run for years (some say over 10) and it can be easily changed out to a new one. The newer models have a slip-off back, while older models require a screwdriver to open.

Once opened, the battery – also a watch-type batter – can then be easily removed and replaced.

How do I clear saved data from my financial calculator?

For the HP 12C, you can reset the calculator by clicking and holding the (-) key. This will reset all of the saved numbers and allow you to start afresh. Additionally, there are 5 other ways to clear data, each one will work to clear something specific while leaving the other pieces still intact.

For the TI BA II+, you can clear the memory in 4 different places. One of the options will clear the memory as a whole, two others are for worksheets, and the final clear option will clear the display (but not the stored memory).

Can you use either of these for exams?

Both the HP 12C and the TI BA II+ are approved for use on the Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) exam.

HP 12C vs TI BA II Plus

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