This Buyer’s Guide provides information on technical specifications, capabilities and potential pitfalls of some of the top brands of graphing calculators. Once you know the capabilities of a calculator, you will be able to determine if the calculator will perform essential functions that you need.
To avoid these problems, take a look at the graphing calculator specifications listed below and match them with your own requirements.
Best Graphing Calculators Of 2020
BEST ALL-AROUND CHOICE
|Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX|
Most Powerful Model
|Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium|
|CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50|
Best for High School
|Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus|
Best for Simple Capabilities
1. Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX – Top-Rated Multi-Functional Calculator
The Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX has capabilities appropriate for intermediate mathematics and engineering. Interestingly, the Nspire is the first of the Texas Instrument brand calculators to have a color display.
It also has updated spreadsheet viewing capabilities, which is an improvement that benefits the user by creating a working interface for large data sets.
Manufacturers took into account customer feedback regarding battery life, so the hardware of this particular calculator was intentionally made to provide a longer battery life. Hardware improvements accounted for lost battery life by increasing the efficiency of the machine. The battery of this calculator is also rechargeable and easy to install.
Computational Algebra System
A huge benefit of this graphing calculator is that it can download and store countless common applications used by engineering professionals. Electrical engineers will be able to utilize applications like FormulaPro, which provides them with an equations database at the touch of a button.
The keypad is set up to use for advanced capabilities, including complex engineering algorithms. The icons in the display menu are also primarily composed of advanced functionalities. These functionalities aid the user by providing clear direction on the exceptional engineering functions. The simple functionalities of elementary algebra are not easily discernible in the complicated keypad.
Information Sharing Tool
In the workplace, it can be difficult to communicate complex engineering ideas to your colleagues. The data sharing capability of this graphing calculator makes it an excellent choice for working professionals. The USB connectivity of this calculator provides easy access to the data produced by the user in an easy-to-download file format (compressed file). This file can be comprised of algorithms, formulas and visual files that can be accessed on your computer operating system.
Being able to share visual representations of data analytics is especially useful for electrical engineers attempting to resolve trigonometric identities. This graphing calculator would benefit those looking for a way to visualize and present their data in a precise way.
2. Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium – Great for Advanced Calculators
This calculator is intended for use by those who are in advanced mathematics and engineering fields. It contains a very precise black-and-white display that promotes user comprehension. A few key features of this calculator include sixteen pre-loaded software applications, a built-in USB port for data sharing capabilities, and the ability to solve equations symbolically.
The TI-89 Titanium is the successor of the TI-89, although there are very minimal differences. The Titanium edition does have much better hardware (including four times the memory) and has a more streamlined look, however both versions are great for any student or professional. Funnily enough, the TI-89 Titanium is a very sturdy calculator and will survive a fall from a desk without taking damage—It seems that Titanium is a very appropriate name for this model!
The TI-89 is a fully fledged graphing and programming calculator with CAS (Computational algebra system) capabilities which allows the user to perform symbolic algebra (solve symbolic equations, simplify expressions, perform integrals and derivatives etc.). It is essentially the same as the older TI-92 which has largely the same computational power, however it was much larger and had a full QWERTY keyboard which resulted in it being banned from use in many standardized exams. The TI-89 Titanium uses TI’s “pretty print” display which means that fractions, derivatives, integrals and other functions will appear exactly as they would be written on paper.
The TI-89 is a great all-round calculator for any student taking calculus or beyond and even for college students taking some more advanced classes. The plethora of features offered by the TI-89 are indispensible and will make performing complicated calculations so very much quicker and easier. One big advantage that many college students have found very useful is its ability to make 3D plots which, incidentally, the TI-Nspire cannot do.
Once a plot has been generated, it can be analyzed and navigated with easy zooming and rotating.
The TI-89 Titanium comes with 16 preloaded applications such as CellSheet (a spreadsheet program), polynomial root finder, financial math capabilities and a simultaneous equation solver. The TI-89 also has an extensive user-base who have published many thousands of applications which can be downloaded online and installed on the calculator.
The bottom line is: if you want one of the most powerful graphing calculators on the market which has been allowed for student use in many of the standardized exams, have a serious look at the TI-89 Titanium!
The calculator’s built-in USB port also has the capability to collect real-world data through the CBL 2 system. By data sharing with this monitoring system, a user can analyze motion, temperature, light, sound and force. Visualizing the real-world impacts of engineering equations is a huge benefit of this product.
3. CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 – Advanced Calculator
The CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 contains the advanced features of a next-generation of graphing calculators. Features include standard calculation input functions, complex number features, and matrix input capability. The color screen of this calculator makes it a fantastic tool for visualization. Complex equations and three dimensional figures will become clearer as a user views them on the screen.
The color screen capability is further enhanced by the natural textbook display. This display is meant to display functions in the most precise and readable way possible. The textbook display increases readability by displaying data in the simplest way possible.
When dealing with complex data sets, a simpler view will allow users to pinpoint the relevant aspects by removing distractions. This feature can be invaluable for an engineering professional in a time-sensitive line of work. Easily displaying and interpreting data can help increase a worker’s efficiency when performing common calculations.
This calculator might be a good choice for those looking for a balance between technology and usability. Experienced engineering professionals might benefit from the user-friendly aspects of this calculator. In addition, this brand of calculators also has positive reviews when it comes to battery life. The CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 graphing calculator might benefit those looking for maximum functionality for a long period of time. Working professionals may find this benefit worth the price!
One of the main drawbacks of this product is that it is fairly expensive. The color screen and new-age technologies probably contribute to this negative factor. This calculator would probably benefit those looking to seriously invest in furthering their education or work. Engineering professionals who are looking to advance their careers in later years would benefit from an investment in this product.
4. Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus – Best Calculator for High School
Texas Instruments TI-84 has a screen resolution of 140 DPI, contains 3 MB of memory for data archive and comes with the option for a rechargeable battery. This product has a clear LCD display that is capable of producing precise visual representations of intermediate functions. Because this graphing calculator is intended for use by a wide range of individuals, it is considered user-friendly in nature. This calculator is recommended for those who need to easily and quickly perform intermediate calculations on a day-to-day basis.
The TI-84 Plus has a USB port, which allows for connectivity with a computer. This means that even though it is an old calculator, the software can always be updated to a more recent version. It is often easier to do some things on a computer with a full sized keyboard (such as write programs), and the USB facility allows this to happen.
Although there is a whole world of applications on the Internet that can be loaded onto the TI-84, it does come with a set of standard preloaded applications, such as a conic graphing program, inequality graphing, probability simulations and a transformation graphing application.
In comparison to its predecessor, the TI-83, there are almost no differences in software, which will make the transition to the newer TI-84 very easy. However, there are some hardware improvements such as a greater speed and more memory which can come in handy (especially when performing complex calculations or drawing convoluted plots).
Unfortunately, this calculator doesn’t have many capabilities needed for higher-level mathematics. The simple X comparison feature of the TI-84 only allows for a limited range of functions. Another downside of this calculator is that it lacks a color display. The display, while very readable, lacks an element of contrast. Without contrast facilitated by colors, the display is limited in function as well.
The TI-84 Plus Silver Edition is almost identical to the original TI-84 Plus in terms of its mathematical power. The Silver edition does have more preloaded applications (30 as compared to the 13 on the TI-84 Plus, such as a periodic table and other science programs) and a greater amount of flash memory (1.5MB in comparison to 480 KB).
One other difference, although more about aesthetics, is the ability to change the cover plates of the silver edition to almost any other color. Ordinarily, the TI-84 Plus Silver edition comes with grey/silver colored covers, however these can be changed for a range of other colors such as pink, red etc. Whether these features are worth the extra expense is a matter of how important these additional features are to you.
If you are upgrading from a TI-83 Silver calculator, then the transition will be unbelievably easy. In fact, the two calculators are almost identical (with the exception of the 84’s additional features and improved hardware) so you will be able to begin using it almost instantly. The TI-84 Silver was actually designed as an upgrade to its predecessor, the TI-83 Silver, in 2004.
5. Casio fx-9750GII – For Graphing Straightforward Mathematics
The Casio fx-9750GII is designed to be easy to use for simple graphing capabilities. It is able to graph X relations, has built-in graphing of conic sections, streamlined solving for intersections, and an interactive equation solver. This calculator’s function is to easily calculate values for given dependent and independent variables. This might be a good graphing calculator choice if you need simple capabilities. This specific calculator with straightforward capabilities would benefit professionals looking for a way to quickly perform basic calculations.
The basic functionalities of this calculator means it can be used by those in the interdisciplinary engineering field. This is a calculator that would benefit many types of professionals, including mathematicians and electrical engineers. Due to the limited functionalities of this product, it is important to consider factors that affect visualization of the data. The Casio fx-9750GII has a very easy to read display screen with a visual, interactive and textbook-based display. The display is in a solid black color with low-glare glass that promotes eye health. A simple display that accurately depicts the data facilitates the understanding of professionals who need to make data-based decisions quickly and effectively.
When working as an engineer, visualizing data is instrumental to understanding mathematics principles. The Casio fx-9750GII is an excellent choice for data visualization because the user can easily create pie charts and bar graphs. The display is also a high-resolution display. These factors are enhanced by the user-friendly nature of the calculator. The Casio fx-9750GII might make a good calculator for experienced professionals looking for a straightforward device.
An invaluable benefit of this graphing calculator is that it can export data through a USB connection. Previously, the images on calculators had to be re-drawn or otherwise transferred to another medium. Many of the less expensive calculators on the market omit the data sharing capability.
This calculator is the best of both worlds because it is cost-efficient and allows data extraction! Professionals who purchase this calculator will be relieved by this capability. The USB connection allows for a graph, equation or image to be downloaded to a computer. On the computer, the user can further manipulate the image to fit their specific data-sharing needs. Then, it is easy for your team to process the accurate, precise images. In this way, this graphing calculator can actually improve efficiency of office operations.
TI Calculator Accessories
Texas Instruments is all about usability of their products and user experience. As well as producing a whole range of graphing calculators, they also have a market for accessories, which can be used with the calculators to improve usability.
Color Slide Cases
Although it will not necessarily make your calculator more powerful, it will help personalize it and make it your own! I highly recommend using a slide case to protect your calculators screen and keys, and now you can buy them in an assortment of colors, from black to yellow to red to green.
Another way to customize your calculator is by changing the actual faceplates to whatever color takes your fancy. At the current stage, custom faceplates can only be used with the TI-84 Plus Silver edition and come in a wide range of colors.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could use a full sized keyboard with your calculator? Well, you can! The TI keyboard is lightweight and so can be easily carried to classes and comes with a cradle to stand the calculator into an upright position. The keyboard can be used to aid in doing your calculations, or you could use it to convert your calculator into a full-blown word processor and spreadsheet device. The keyboard is compatible with most of the TI graphing calculator models:
TI-84 Plus Silver Edition
TI-83 Plus Silver Edition
Kickstand Slide Case
The Kickstand Slide Case is a great accessory for the TI-84 Plus family or the TI-89 Titanium. The stand will hold the calculator at an angle from the table surface, which can make using the calculator feel more natural.
Determining the required level of capabilities is the first step in picking the best graphing calculator. Graphing calculators have a wide range of specifications that are also important to take into consideration.
Capabilities and Specifications
The best graphing calculator for you will perform the functions you need it to. If you need a calculator for complex electrical engineering, a more advanced model would be recommended. Electrical engineering includes specific variables and equations that are essential to performing data analytics. To ensure you buy what you need, consider looking at the calculator’s manual. In the manual you’ll be able to find each and every capability for that product. Search for the capabilities that you need to match your desired task. Performing statistical analysis may require capabilities that include logical operations. By searching in the manual for these capabilities, you will be able to determine if and how your calculator can carry out these functions.
Common Graphing Calculator Features to Look For
Almost any student taking classes in higher level mathematics, physics or chemistry will find that there comes a point in time where it is almost essential that they own a graphing or programming calculator which can perform computations with much more power than basic scientific calculators. While teachers should be cautious to ensure that students still learn the conceptual ideas without having to rely on a calculator, there are times when use of a calculator is inevitable, especially in this day and age when industry is moving forward to more computerization.
Anybody who has researched different calculators will already know that there is a wide range of brands to choose from, each with a multitude of different model names. It can be somewhat overwhelming to decide on a single model, especially with so many features to look out for. This guide aims to introduce some of the common features available on modern graphing calculators.
Natural Math Display
This is probably one of the most searched for calculator features among students looking to purchase a new calculator. While different brands use different names (e.g. Texas Instruments refers to it as “pretty print”), natural math display just means that the calculator screen will show expressions exactly as you would write them on a blackboard or piece of paper—You can use full sized symbols for summation, differentiation and integration, fractions actually look like fractions and gone are the days of trying to define a 9×9 matrix with only one line of text. For any student taking mathematics classes, this feature can be very handy. Even for the advanced student, it is still quite a luxury to have natural math display as it makes checking over calculations much more efficient and there is less chance of making errors.
3D graphing ability is one of those features that may be essential to some people but not required for others, it really depends on which classes you plan on taking or what your research involves. A 3D graphing ability simply means that the graphing calculator can produce graphs of multivariable functions over the “x-y-z” space instead of only the Cartesian x-y plane. For anybody taking classes in multivariable calculus or linear algebra the ability to make 3D graphs could come in very handy, however for people taking elementary algebra or trigonometry it may be one of those “take it or leave it” features—nice to have but not essential.
A feature that students often overlook when purchasing their first graphing calculator is the ability to connect to computers and other calculators via an electrical cable (i.e. USB). As calculator technology advances, there is an increasing similarity between the software on a calculator and the software on a computer. Some of the higher end programmable calculators can actually run software programs and applications that have been developed for that model of calculator, and installing them generally requires transferring the program from a computer to the calculator. This is a great advancement in technology because it means that students can have programs that will make solving problems in calculus, physics, linear algebra, chemistry or any other subject much easier. For calculus you could install a program which has a list of common integrals and derivatives, a chemistry student may find it handy to have a periodic table and a physics student may find a program that has all of the equations of motion to be indispensable.
Computer Algebra System (CAS)
CAS is a relatively new feature on modern graphing calculators—it was not long ago that CAS capabilities were only available on complex computation software such as Mathematica or MATLAB. Basically, the CAS allows you to perform algebra on symbolic variables without having to give a numeric meaning to each variable. For example, if you wanted to find an expression for the derivative of log(x), a calculator with a CAS could easily tell you that the answer is 1/x, however any other ordinary calculator could only do it numerically and evaluate the derivative at a particular x value which may not be as useful. As another example, if you want to solve an equation, say “y = 6x + 2”, an ordinary calculator might be able to solve for one of the variables if you know the value of the other, but the CAS can re-arrange the equation with both variables unknown to give “x = (y-2)/6”. These two examples are relatively simple, however the CAS facility can become indispensable for more complex calculations!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best calculator for limited budgets?
The Casio FX-CG10 PRIZM is a fantastic low-cost option that combines functionality with ease-of-use. This graphing calculator is simple in design and can be used for all major high school exams. In addition, this low-cost option has a very detailed screen. The highly detailed display can work with 3D modeling designs, which increases understanding of complex graphs.
How do I know if I need USB connectivity?
Connecting to an external source is a common built-in functionality of graphing calculators. If you will need a calculator for advanced mathematics, science or engineering courses, then it is recommended that you obtain a graphing calculator with USB connectivity.
How will I know if I can download the application I need?
Graphing calculators with USB data sharing capabilities often have a hub of resources available to you. You can also consider downloading an application directly from the software’s website. When looking for the right graphing calculator, be sure to look for data sharing functionality and storage capabilities. Calculators with data sharing often have a larger amount of storage size included.
Does CPU (Computer Processing Unit) matter when looking for the right graphing calculator to buy?
CPU is a general term that represents the processing power of the calculator’s system. Because graphing calculators are used for many different fields, it is recommended that you determine the capabilities you need first. After determining capabilities, you will be able to scout for the best calculator for you. Generally speaking, the calculators that perform higher functions will have a higher CPU. However, if you chose the calculator based on the capabilities you need, you will be choosing the right CPU. In addition, if you need to know the CPU of your calculator, you can always refer to the user manual.
Can I use a ZIP file on my graphing calculator?
Since a ZIP file is a collection of other files in compressed form, it is a valuable data transfer file type. Recent computer operating systems have updated to include capabilities to run ZIP files. If your graphing calculator has download capabilities, then you will be able to access ZIP files! These files are easy to transfer via a desktop application to your graphing calculator. Always be sure to scan all files for viruses before transfer.
How do I access my calculator manual?
With the increase in paperless communications, many companies have decided to opt out of including user manuals with packaging. All calculator manuals are available for download from the manufacturer’s website.
For example, if you calculator is made by Texas Instruments, you can access the manual in three easy steps:
1. Go to Texas Instruments website
2. Select “Guidebooks/Manuals” from the drop-down box
3. Select your appropriate calculator
What is the advantage of a rechargeable battery?
The functionality of having a rechargeable battery indicates that the graphing calculator is meant for fairly advanced data analysis. People who commonly use this type of graphing calculators include health care professionals, pharmacists, nutritionists and engineers. These lines of work require that all technological equipment be functioning in order to perform essential job functions.
If you need a graphing calculator for an essential job function, the rechargeable battery is a huge advantage. Finding and replacing alkaline batteries in the middle of performing important work is a huge hindrance. The advantage of a rechargeable battery is that you will consistently have a high-performing tool available for use.
With this list of top-rated graphing calculators and their corresponding capabilities, we hope you can find the product you need. These graphing calculators vary widely in functionalities, making it important to do your homework before making a purchase decision. Most of these calculators are relatively expensive, as well. It would not be beneficial to buy a calculator that has functionalities you don’t need, in addition to being expensive. Mature professionals may prefer a simpler calculator, whereas ambitious professionals might want to invest in their future with an advanced calculator.
Out of this list, the best calculator for simple algebraic equations is the Casio fx-9750GII. The best calculator for intermediate functionalities might be the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX. This graphing calculator has amazing capabilities and an engaging color screen. The most valuable calculator for the engineering professional will depend on many factors, including ease-of-use and functionality. Hopefully you find the best graphing calculator for you with the help of this guide!