Believe it or not, this is the fifth installment of the old calculator roundup. After so long, I am sure that many people thought I would never finish it. These people were not far off the mark. I’ve been really unable to contribute to BerryReview, so much so that I thought about giving up many times. I am also sure a lot of people couldn’t care less if the calculator roundup would ever get completed or not. But a man’s gotta keep his word and this application really deserves a complete review. In fact, this could be the best calculator application for the Blackberry I have ever seen. That’s why I left it to be reviewed last in the queue.
Today I am going to tell you all about powerOne, probably the best of all calculators of this roundup. Summing up, if you’re lazy or not that interested, powerOne not only does every job it is supposed to do, but it also has quite a few good surprises.
As soon as I launched powerOne for the first time, I was disappointed. It displayed a long conversion table. I remember that I criticized the other calculators a lot for lack of conversion features, but this one was throwing conversions at me right off the bat. I soon discovered I could close that screen with the Escape key and find the calculator among other options in what is called “The Dashboard”. Take a look at these screenshots:
Hum. I closed the application and launched it again. And got the conversion screen again. That is lame. I like to have conversions in my calculator, but I don’t use them often enough to want this screen every single time I run the program. Will I have to close this nag screen and look for the calculator in the “Dashboard” every time I want to do a quick adding or multiplying operation?
The answer is NO! The darn thing is configurable. Just open the menu and select Options. The very first option is which screen/tool you want to be given at start-up. It can default to the dashboard or something else. And “something else” means any one of those options we see in the dashboard: Time Value of Money, Mortgage, Cash Flows, Percent Change, Tip, Convert: length, Calculator and Show All Options… Right? The answer is NO again! Of course, there is something else buried under “Show All Options”. Click it and there you go: Bond, Breakeven, Discount, Markup, Profit Margin, Sales Tax, Depreciation, Discount and another 6 conversion categories. Boy, this is going to be one tough review! Why do I always get the complex ones?
Let’s start with the main function: the calculator. Meh, I found it quite ugly. That was the main beef I had with the stock Blackberry calculator to begin with. But I have to say it works very well. No, you don’t have to press Alt or Shift to access the numbers and symbols. Only BKGcalc made that big mistake. So you just type the numbers and operators and chug along your calculations just fine. No secrets here. The calculator layout is ugly, but it creates “groups” of related keys that are identified by colors. That is somewhat clever. Not very clever since we don’t press the keys directly on the screen, so the colors don’t really help that much. Besides, the colors make the layout even uglier. But many people will like to have these “groups” of keys.
Every time you type an expression, hit the Enter key to get the result displayed below the expression input area. That is when I got disappointed, because ticker tape-like history is something I really like in my calculators, and powerOne sucks at that. There is a history of the previous expressions, but it is offered in an ugly dialog thingy that is not very useful. It lets you click an expression and send it right to the expression input area again. Meh. That doesn’t really help. What if I want to copy and save elsewhere my entire ticker tape? No dice.
Some of the other calculators have a very quick and convenient approach to using the last expression result in the next one. For example, in BizMathica you can type 5+5=10 then type @+5 to get 15. PowerOne‘s approach is not as convenient: the last result can only be recalled from the menu. But at least the functionality is there.
The next thing I wanted to test was operation precedence: 22*16+4*2 = 360. Then 4*2+22*16 = 360. Of course, (22*16)+(4*2) = 360. So powerOne passes the test.
PowerOne has preset functions. Note the red “math” button in the calculator layout. Press that button to access all functions. That might seem disappointing at first. There are only 10 functions and the screenshot shows 9 of them. But that’s because many other functions are available in the “dashboard”.
I know, these screenshots are too dark, I should have changed to another theme before taking these screenshots. NOW I realize that…
Let’s review the dashboard once again. It has Bond, Breakeven, Cash Flows, Depreciation, Discount, Markup, Mortgage, Percent Change, Profit Margin, Sales Tax, Time Value of Money, Tip and many Measurement Conversion functions. I am terrible at math and don’t know what most of these things mean. That is why I need so many calculators.
The one thing I really know and understand is measurement conversion so I picked “mass”. I was confused at first: ALL the mass units were shown in the same screen. So I picked the one I know, kilograms, and typed some value into it. Then I pressed Enter and voilà! I get that value instantly converted into all the other units. Beautiful!
While playing with these functions, I popped the menu open and saw that I could “Send results”. Oh, interesting. How is that? That option took me to a strange-looking screen with 5 empty slots. None of them seemed to do anything. Here, the menu would let me choose “Send via e-mail” or “Edit”. Sending didn’t work. Editing was very confusing, you can see my attempts in the screenshots.
I have no idea what “%%” means. Even after editing, sending didn’t work – of course I used an actual e-mail address in my tests. There is a “Help” option in the menu, but that just punted me into a Web page that promotes Infinity‘s products. Not helpful. I looked around and found a link to “Manuals and Product Guides”, which told me a lot of things I had no interest in reading whatsoever and finally offered me the download of a barrage of PDF documents that left me shaking my head out of sheer discouragement. I counted 32 PDF documents, no less. Take a look at that page yourself. Well, this version of PowerOne I have here does some financial calculation. So should I read “PowerOne Finance”? Which one of the FIVE manuals? Or maybe I just have the “Personal” PowerOne? Or should I read the “Scientific manual”? Maybe the “PowerOne General Manual”?
Very few things in life give me more pleasure than looking for very specific information in one PDF document, and one of these things is looking for very specific information in 32 PDF documents.
They’ve got to be kidding. Come on, make this feature obvious enough so that we don’t need to read manuals (a.k.a. “the right thing”) or put some help text right into the application so that we never have to access the Web or download anything.
Grumble. Anyway, it seems that you can send something somewhere somehow, but heck if I know what, where or how. Contact Infinity or download the 32 manuals if that kind of functionality is really important to you.
Measurement conversions deal with just one variable, but the other functions may support several variables at one time and they all get updated interactively. That certainly is one smart approach. Let’s see another example: tipping. You can type the tax amount, then subtotal and tip %. Hit Enter and the total bill is calculated. You can also change the number of people who are going to foot the bill, so the total is split and you get the exact amount per person. Just look at the screenshots.
Apart from the obscure “Send” feature, the whole conversion and math function mechanism is very well designed and extremely convenient. PowerOne really shines with this feature. The only drawback is that all available functions are somewhat scattered, making them a little difficult to find at first and also making them seem to be fewer than they really are. I quickly had the impression that powerOne didn’t have as many functions as those of BizMathica. But on closer inspection, it seems that they have about the same.
Another negative point to consider about powerOne is that it doesn’t seem to be programmable unless that functionality is hidden somewhere in one of those 32 manuals. Beware of that if the ability to program your functions is important to you. It also can’t plot any graphs/charts and seems to be a lot more directed to financial than to scientific calculations.
Finally, the worst piece of news I have to anyone who might be interested in buying powerOne: it costs $49.95. Ouch!
All in all, a very good calculator if not the best of all in this roundup. Personally, I still stick to BizMathica, probably because I really like that very spacious and useful tickertape. I also like to have all sorts of functions in one single place, although BizMathica‘s menus have a remarkably inadequate design. But that is a very personal choice. As an impartial reviewer, my judgment tells me that most people will appreciate powerOne a lot more than all the others. But my judgment also tells me that most people will run away from its price tag like the plague.
Pros: despite being ugly, it has simple and efficient design all over it; Outstanding conversion tools; very easy to use all around (except for one feature); enough functionality to at least 99% of users out there.
Cons: ugly; not programmable; no reusable ticker tape; everything that powerOne can do is somewhat scattered and that might be inconvenient to a few people; it costs $49.95.
|Look and feel:||8||(look is just OK, feel is very good)|
|Ease of use:||9||(clever design in most areas really help useability in this app)|
|Math functions:||9||(plenty of functions, but not many scientific ones; and it’s not programmable; but the interactive mechanism is top notch)|
|Data display:||8||(full expressions, but no reusable ticker tape)|
|Measurement conversion:||10||(certainly this calculator’s best feature)|
|Average:||(8+9+9+8+10=44) / 5 = 8.8|