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Sharp  EL-W516x

A leading 4-line "textbook" scientific calculator.

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Sharp calculators are not approved for NCEES exams but the EL-W516 can be used on SAT, PSAT/NMQST and some AP exams.  This calculator has been  required  at Lambton College in Sarnia (Ontario, Canada) since the Fall of 2010.

CASIO fx-115ES  vs.  Sharp EL-W516  by  Jim Cullen   (2010-05-02)
Sharp EL-W516 Review  by  Eddie   (2011-09-13)

Wikipedia :   Calculators   |   Scientific calculators   |   Calculator input methods   |   Sharp Corporation

Video Tutorials :

 Sharp EL-W516x calculator

Sharp EL-W516x

Solar power & lithium battery (LR44)
Weight: 102 g  (136 g with cover)
Dimensions  (with cover) :
width: 80 mm  (86 mm)
length: 168 mm  (171 mm)
height: 16 mm  (18 mm)
[ EL-W516XBSL, pictured at left ]

47 + 4  keys
dot-matrix LCD  (96 by 31 pixels)
4 lines of 16 characters
(5 by 7 font)  or 2D layout
15-digit precision
(10 digits shown)
9 variables: x,y,m,a,b,c,d,e,f
4 formula memories: f1,f2,f3,f4
556 functions
4 user-definable keys
list price: $25
street price: $18

(2013-11-02)   Sharp's line of scientific calculators.  Model numbers.
An EL-W516XBSL is an EL-W516x and little more than an EL-W516.

In Sharp's product line, "EL-" denotes handheld calculators.

A "W" prefix before the model number indicates  WriteView  capabilities, which is Sharp's lingo for a dot-matrix screen capable of displaying up to 4 lines of text or a 2D layout for input and output of mathematical expressions.  This type of capability is heralded as  Natural Textbook Display  or  VPAM  (visually perfect algebraic method)  by  CasioMultiView  by  TI  and  SmartCalc  by  HP.  It's also described generically as "textbook" or simply  "4-line".

Sharp also sells 2-line models, like the EL-506X  (440 functions) or EL-546, which are otherwise similar to the model reviewed here.

Sharp's line of WriteView calculators  (i.e., dot-matrix screen)  includes a nice sturdy discontinued style previously sold either as EL-W506 or EL-W516 and a slimmer design sold as  EL-W516x (556 functions) used for this review, presenting little or no functional improvement over its predecessor.

Sharp may sell its calculators in different colors and designs identified by suffix letters like B (black), W (white) or BSL (black slimline) independent of the calculator's functionality.  For example, the above picture shows a calculator which can be ordered as  EL-W516XBSL  but it rightly shows  EL-W516X  on its faceplate to advertise its internals  (if you hold the calculator, you don't have to be told that it's black or what its shape is).

This naming scheme confuses some online purchasers.

(2013-10-31)   Basic keys and modifiers  (no  multi-taps )
Most keys have more than one use.

To restore the calculator to factory settings, gently shove the tip of a pen into the "reset" hole located in the back of the unit.

In the top-left corner of its keypad, the calculator has two modifier keys which change the meaning of whatever key is pressed after them.  One is labeled "2nd F", in orange, and the other is labeled "ALPHA", in blue.  Those colors are used on the faceplate above a key to indicate whatever function it corresponds to with the color-matched modifier key.

The "RCL", "STO" and "hyp" keys also function as modifiers or prefixer for just a few keys.  The last of these can itself be prefixed by the orange modifier to obtain the  inverse  of hyperbolic functions...

To turn on the calculator, you push the "ON/C" key which also serves to  cancel  the current action during normal operation of the calculator.  That same button turns the calculator off if used after the aforementioned orange modifier key.  All this is pretty standard.

Sharp also allows cancellation of input data on a character-by-character basis.  The standard way to do this is to erase the character before the input cursor  (which is usually the last character typed).  On the  EL-w516x, this is done by pushing the key marked "BS"  (for  back-space )  located below the top-right "ON/C" key, one spot down.  There's also the lesser-used possibility of erasing the character on which the cursor stands.  This is the secondary function of that same key, obtained by prefixing it with the orange modifier key.  Sharp call it  "DEL"  (for  delete )  which is the term often used by other manufacturers for the more common backspacing just described.

On my "black slimline" (BSL) machine  (purchased in October 2013)  Sharp uses a deep shade of blue for the labelling related to the second modifier key.  The primary labels of most keys are printed either in bright white  (for the 19 basic functions in the lower half of the keypad)  or in grey for a less agressive look on the upper part of the keypad.  If your eyes are more than fifty years old, you may not be impressed by the latter.  Sharp had the pedagological idea to use blue for the primary labels of two keys  (STO and RCL)  which are always used to prefix an "alphabetic" reference to a variable  (thus making the use of "ALPHA" optional).  Unfortunately, they spoiled that nice touch by using blue for the M+ key also  (which isn't a prefixer at all).

The calculator offers a total of  9  named variables  (x,y,M,A,B,C,D,E,F)  in which to store values (STO) to be recalled later (RCL).  One of these  (M)  can be modified be adding to it or subtracting from it in one step, using the M+ and M- keys, in a way familiar to users of non-scientific calculators...

The names of standard functions always precedes and opening parenthesis.  Unlike some other calculator manufacturers, Sharp doesn't provide this patenthesis "free of charge"...  The user always has to type both of the opening and closing parentheses.

User-definable Keys:  D1, D2, D3, D4

Any predefined function can be assigned to one of those four keys.  This is just a convenience to quickly access repeatedly a function which would otherwise require several key punches...

For example, the ANS function, which stands for the value of the last result returned. can be assigned to the D1 key  (it normally requires two keystrokes; the ALPHA prefix followed by the "=" key).  To do that, simply type the following, once and for all:

[STO]  [D1]  [ALPHA]  [=]

In the 1970's HP applied this basic idea of recording keystrokes and playing them back to turn its earlier RPN scientific calculators into programmable ones.  This was made possible by the fact that the RPN philosophy allows operations to be chained effortlessly...  The EL-W516 isn't an RPN calculator and it can't be made programmable this way.

Video tutorial:   How to use the definable buttons  D1,D2,D3,D4

(2013-11-02)   Entering and exiting specialized modes:

For better or for worse, the EL-W516 is a multimode calculator.  To go back to the normal mode of ordinary calculations with real numbers after venturing into any other mode, press the MODE key  (top-right, below the "ON/C" key)  followed by the  "0"  key  (a less powerfull escape alternative is the  cancel  operation, obtained by punching the orange key followed by MODE).

To enter a specialized mode, press [MODE] to view a screen showing 6 possible choices numbered from 0 to 5.  There's another screenful, accessible with the downward navigation key which gives a 7th choice  (numbered 6) corresponding to the equation solver.  You may select a number even if it's not displayed on the current screen.  (Sharp could have displayed all modes on a single screenful if they hadn't chosen to waste the top line on a useless title.  Small mistake there.)


(2013-11-02)   MODE 6:  Equation solver.
Cubic equations can be solved easily.

Unfortunately, the calculator doesn't properly handles multiple roots.  For example, try to solve this equation:

x3  +  x2  -  8 x  -  12   =   0

To do that, you punch in [MODE] [6] [3]  to bring up the screen for cubic equations and input the proper values of the a,b,c,d coefficients by typing:

[1]  [=]  [1]  [=]  [(-)]  [8]  [=]  [(-)]  [1]  [2]  [=]

Without the bug, that would give you the following screenful:

1:            3.
2:           -2.
3:           -2.

Instead,  the last line is omitted  by the calculator  (in a misguided effort to "simplify" things).  So, you've no way to tell which of the two roots  (3 or -2)  is a double one.  According to the fundamental theorem of algebra, a cubic polynomial always has three roots, real or complex, distinct or not.  It would be nice if an educational calculator stressed that point correctly.

Video tutorial:   Solving cubic equations with the EL-W516

(2013-11-02)   Gripes  &  Kudos
Complaints and congrats about the  EL-W516 / EL-W516x  calculator.

These lists may grow as this in-depth review of the calculator progresses...

Gripes :

  • MODE menu is split unnecessarily.
  • The GCD function is nowhere to be found.
  • No automatic opening parenthesis with regular functions.
  • Multiple roots of polynomial equations aren't properly handled.

Kudos :

  • The price is right.

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 (c) Copyright 2000-2015, Gerard P. Michon, Ph.D.