For students and some professionals, it is inevitable to encounter complex mathematical tasks that a regular calculator cannot handle. A graphing calculator, on the other hand, can produce fast and accurate results.  Thus, it is recommended that you always have a graphing calculator on hand if your job or field of study would require its frequent use.

However, there are so many graphing calculator models available on the market that makes it difficult to choose the one best suited for your specific needs. To save you valuable time that would otherwise be used to research on the best models to buy, here is a complete guide to help you reach a sound graphing calculator buying decision.

To sum it all up, a graphing calculator can be used for complex math tasks. While a lot of models available on the market today are easy to use and priced affordably, the sheer number of calculators to choose from makes the selection process difficult. However, if you know what specific functions and features you need, you can quickly narrow down your choices to the most suitable models. Regardless of the model you finally decide to buy, you are guaranteed to save on time and effort in whatever mathematical task you need to perform.

Best Graphing Calculator Complete Guide

PictureNamePriceRating
PictureNamePriceRating
1.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphics Calculator
$$$9.9
2.
HP 50g Graphing Calculator
$9.7
3.
Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator
$$$$9.7
4.
Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator
$9.6
5.
Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS Graphing Calculator
$$$$9.5
6.
Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX Graphing Calculator
$$$$9.4
7.
Casio FX-CG10 PRIZM Color Graphing Calculator
$$$9.2
8.
Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator
$$9.0
9.
Casio CLASSPAD 330 Graphic Calculator CLASSPAD330
$$$$$9.0
10.
Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator
$$8.9

What is a Graphing Calculator?

First, the basics. A graphing calculator is designed to have features not normally found in regular calculators. It can quickly perform complex computations efficiently. Graphing calculators are technically not a type of calculator, but rather, a classification. Basically, this class of calculators are able to do advanced scientific and mathematical tasks. At the same time, it allows you to draw, plot graphs, as well as make complex programs.

The device is typically small and easily fits your palm, lightweight at only about 4 oz., and can be used with other devices such as light meters, pH gauges, and certain communication equipment. With the right input, a graphing calculator can immediately provide visual results, complete with charts. This device is also indispensable if you are into advanced math like geometry, algebra, and calculus.

Brief History of Graphing Calculators

The graphing calculator traces its roots back to as early as the 1600s. Over the centuries, calculators have transformed from a device that is solely used for scientific purposes to a household device that anyone can use. The earliest calculator models were expensive, not to mention bulky and cumbersome to use, a far cry from the affordable and lightweight devices that we see today.

Before the 1960s, mathematicians basically relied on the slide rule for their complex work. In 1985, Casio rocked the very foundations of the calculator industry when it launched the first graphing calculator model. Graphing calculators have since become faster and more convenient to use. The tasks that they can perform quickly also became more complex. In no time, these class of calculators became a fixture in workplaces and classrooms.

Features of Highly-Rated Graphing Calculators

Some of the best-selling models on the market are affordable, durable, lightweight, portable, and user-friendly, even as they are equipped with advanced technology and innovations. If you are looking to buy, then any of these models popular would be good to consider; just make sure to look for the specific features that you need.

Some people make the mistake of buying the first affordable model they find, only to realize later that it does not have the functions that they really need. By finding the right device, you are guaranteed to have your mathematical tasks done fast and in an accurate manner.

Standard Specifications

Most graphing calculator models run on batteries and come with at least 500 built-in functions, although some models can offer a lot more than that. Font size options are also usually available. Memory ranges from 24KB to more than 200 KB RAM; and some models are even upgradable.

Most graphing calculators today are equipped with the following:

  • Conventional Display – Also referred to as natural display, it shows mathematical expressions exactly the way they would appear when manually written.
  • USB Capabilities – This feature allows the graphing calculator to adapt to other devices. It also lets you maintain programs and updates.
  • 3D Graphing Capabilities – 3D graphing offers a range of functions in the XYZ area. While some graphing calculators are only equipped with 2D capabilities, 3D is fast becoming the standard.

Kinds of Graphing Calculators

Basically, there are two graphing calculator types:

  • Computer Algebra System (CAS) – The CAS is engineered specifically for manipulating symbolic expressions. By simply pressing a button, the user can factor, evaluate, integrate, and solve roots and simplify equations. It is ideal for scientists and advanced math students who work with symbolic expressions and other variables. This type of computing device has become the standard in today’s technologically advanced world.
  • Non-CAS – This is a numerical calculator used primarily for computing basic numerical equations. A simple device that can perform basic functions, you can find this in most homes and offices today.

The only common thing between the two types of graphing calculators is the graphic display screen.

Advanced Graphing Calculator Features to Consider

How advanced your graphing calculator should be depends on your particular needs. Calculus students, for example, may not find much use in a model suited for a scientific professional who makes use of the device on a more regular basis. You have to identify the key functions that you need, and which ones you can do without. The functions must not be obsolete as well.  If you need the calculator for your school work, a good idea is to ask your instructor which particular features you need your device to have and if possible, which specific models they can recommend.

Most professors know about the advanced capabilities of modern graphing calculators. Some of the more advanced calculators may include custom programs, charts, definitions, or tutorials that your professor may restrict the use of, therefore your calculator may not be allowed on certain exams or in other situations. For example, some calculators come equipped with the full periodic table, others may allow you to download the periodic table after purchase, and are banned from use in many college level chemistry and physics courses. Be sure to check the guidelines of your course and any restrictions assigned by your professor.

On the other hand, if you’re a professional, check out which models your colleagues use. Especially if you are in a similar field of work, the devices they use will most likely be suitable for you as well. Simply put, the idea is to find a graphing calculator model that fully addresses your particular needs, and everything else that you want the calculator to do.

Other Things To Take Note Of

With the advancement in technology, the demand for more complex calculating devices has continued to rise. Thus, you need to carefully study the various features of the specific models you are considering to purchase. If you intend to use the calculator for your tests and other schoolwork, find out which types are allowed by your school. If you’re a professional, determine if the calculator has all the capabilities that you need for your tasks.

Regardless of the model you go with, you will enjoy the benefits of quickly solving math problems. It will help you shorten the time spent for completing specific tasks. If you need to upload additional programs and updates, make sure that the device has USB connectivity. While a standard model is generally durable, you may want to invest more for models of the highest quality to guarantee efficient use for a long time. These models may be a bit more expensive, but they offer more functions.

Speaking of durability, for students and people on the go, a good unit to have must be sturdy enough to withstand the abuse of being confined in a purse or backpack for entire school years.

Go for a graphing calculator that is ergonomically-designed, and equipped with a user-friendly and convenient-to-use button layout. The commonly-used functions must be easy to access. The math formulas must not be hidden under tons of lists and endless menus. You should be able to get the desired symbol or formula quickly and intuitively. Button markings must be easily readable, and the display should provide a high-contrast, clear readout. Following this guide is a review of some of the best graphing calculators that you can check out to help you make a sound buying decision.

Best Graphing Calculators Reviews

1. TI 84 Plus Review

Coming from a well-established manufacturer like Texas Instruments, the TI 84 Plus is generally considered as the benchmark upon which all other models are weighed. The durable and sleek device has been “unofficially” adopted by universities and high schools all around the world as the calculator of choice for Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphics Calculator, Black | Best graphing calculator | PricenFeesstudents. It is compatible with most tests administered in schools. TI 84, together with its sister model, the TI 83, has been included in many math textbooks, specifically in sections covering calculator inputs for various equations.

It is safe to have this calculator especially if you’re attending a class where the instructor and textbook both assume that students are using this particular model. TI is currently the world’s largest maker of calculators with a reputation for being innovative. Thus, it comes as no surprise if they are the leaders in many calculator markets, including graphing calculators.

Basically, the TI 84 is an improved iteration of the TI 83. Both models are feature-packed, and covers a wide range of subjects – from Algebra to Pre-Calculus. Basic math functions including multiplication and exponents can be found in the buttons. Using the same keys, more operations can be done by pressing the “Alpha” or “2nd” buttons before pressing the desired keys. Function details are displayed in a format that is color coded.

The model runs on 480kb of ROM and 24kb of RAM. Compared to standard computers, these numbers may be considered small. However, you have to understand that calculators need much less processor speed and storage space than a laptop or desktop. All TI calculators use the infix or algebraic input method that most average users are familiar to.

The display is 160×120 pixels which is a bit bigger than most calculators on the market today. The bigger display area is further enhanced by a high-contrast monochrome display that offers a vibrant readout of equations and corresponding solutions.

Because the TI 84 is durably built and is compatible to a wide range of courses, this TI headliner is probably the only calculator you will need for basic college and high school math subjects. Long-time users of the product claim that they never found the need to buy an upgraded model for the entire duration of their school years. The ability to download apps after purchase is another reason the TI-84 is ahead of the competition. Taking chemistry? – no problem, download the periodic table for your calculator here.

Longevity and durability: these are the distinguishing traits of this particular TI model. Its use is so widespread that it has outsold all other competing brands and models on the market. Textbooks and instructors have in fact tailored their instructions to the model’s configuration.

Other than being widely-accepted among manuals and teachers, the TI 84 is compatible with major examinations such as the ACT, SAT, and AP tests. The fact that the model is recommended even by exam proctors is a testament to the product’s high quality performance and versatility. As if having instructions on its proper use printed in virtually every math textbook and being discussed by math teachers are not enough, the device comes with a comprehensive user’s manual for users to get acquainted with the calculator.

Simply put, the TI 84 Plus epitomizes the ideal graphing calculator of today – complex and powerful, but straightforward and very easy to use. Just after scanning the manual a bit, you can already find your way around the symbols and specific functions you need to use. The button layout is clear and intuitive. Lesser-used functions are housed in lists and menus that are easily accessible. More functions can be accessed through the “Alpha” and “2nd” keys that are easy to find and labelled clearly. This is worthy to mention since common complaints on other models include difficult to read labels.

The product comes with a one-year limited warranty (industry standard) that covers materials and manufacturing defects. User-inflicted damages, however, are not covered by the warranty. Most users don’t find the need to use the warranty as the product is very durable that its useful life usually extends way beyond the warranty period.

If you need more product information or to contact customer support, just visit the official website of Texas Instruments. An extensive FAQ section that covers even technical issues and questions is available as well. The manufacturer provides an impressive amount of online product documentation. This includes tutorials and informational articles on the proper product use and care. You can also find a “User Groups” feature on the website which is comprised of professors and teachers who share valuable information about the use of TI technology in their respective institutions.

2. HP 50g Review

While it may not be as widely-used as the TI 84, the HP 50g from Hewlett-Packard is still among the more versatile and powerful calculators available today. As a graphing calculator, it delivers a solid performance as it can handle practically every mathematical task you need done. Plus, HP’s customer support team is alwaysHP 50g Graphing Calculator | Best cheap graphing calculator | PricenFees around to provide assistance.

The unit is packed with impressive features including the adjustable type size feature, and more than 2,300 built-in functions which is substantial by any standard. In addition, it covers a wider range of subjects than most other brands. From Algebra to Calculus and Advanced Physics, this machine has got your back covered. It effectively packs the requirements of most college and high school students in one neat device.

With only 512k RAM and 2MB ROM, this calculator pales in comparison with other models in terms of processing power as it only offers a decent calculation speed, a little above average at best. In reality, however, the processing speed it offers should satisfy most users. While graphs may not be loaded as quickly as other models can, the difference in performance can be considered negligible and will not necessarily induce hair-pulling frustration.

One of the advantages of this model is its provision for SD cards.  The extra space offered significantly increases the device’s programmability and value.

Except for the ACT, all major tests allow the use of the HP 50g. Because most classroom instructions are delivered with the TI 84 in mind, the HP 50g can be considered as less friendly to users than the TI model. Even if your school allows its use, getting well-acquainted with using the device may be a tad more difficult for you since instructions on its use are less likely to be discussed in textbooks, and a lot of teachers may not be familiar with the device. To put it simply, using the HP 50g in a classroom setting will not be easy.

For math applications outside of the classroom, however, the device can be simple to use. It is likewise intuitive, but it may take a while before the average calculator user can master accessing the applications and formulas built in to the device.  After all, with 2,300+ functions, it may take a while for you to learn everything, or at least those that you will frequently use.

The buttons have a similar layout to the TI models. Basic functions like exponents, square roots, and division are housed in the physical buttons. For the more advanced options, you can use the “Alpha” button (yellow) and two colored arrow buttons (orange and white) located to the left of the device.

The HP 50g comes with a limited 1-year warranty that covers defective workmanship and materials. Like the warranty offered by TI, HP also does not include user-inflicted damages in the warranty. To be entitled to a refund, repair, or replacement, the user must return the defective item to the manufacturer.

In terms of customer support, no one does it better than HP. Their support system covers all possible features a user would need including telephone and email support, as well as friendly online chat agents. Whatever your calculator-related concern may be, it will be addressed by a trained agent in a friendly manner. The website’s FAQ section is likewise extensive. HP also allows product users to post reviews on their site.

3. TI 89 Titanium Review

A very versatile and powerful device, the TI 89 should be able to address any basic math concern you may have. While it may lack in terms of RAM and test compatibility, it more than makes up for the deficiency with storage capacity, course application, and familiarity. It is likewise durable and has a long useful life, qualities Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator | PricenFeesthat can help you in your school needs.

Coming from TI, it is a given that the device is packed with functional and helpful features including support for virtually every college and high school subject. In terms of graphical interface, this model deviates from the standards adopted by TI 83 and 84 as it uses icons to guide users in finding specific functions, instead of multiple menus and buttons.

TI 89 may not have as many features as other models and the customer support that HP offers, but the fact that it is from Texas Instruments is enough for the model to be considered as a high-quality calculator. After all, TI devices are known for their wide application in the field of education.

As far as RAM and storage space are concerned, this device can be considered more than adequate. It may not have the humongous RAM capacity that other models boast of, and it may be limited to just algebraic input, but it still outperforms most other models on the market today. In fact, for many years, before the advent of more advanced models like the Casio ClassPad 300 and TI Nspire, the TI 89 was considered as the top honcho in terms of graphing calculator specifications.

The display is not as large as that of the other TI models, but it is sufficient for most users. Likewise, the display is somewhat difficult to read as it does not have the strong contrast of other models in the TI line. One advantage that the TI 89 has over its sister models is that specific calculator functions are much easier to navigate, although it may require a little bit of time to get used to.

Like other TI models, TI 89 covers a wide array of subjects. Its power can best be experienced in many subjects – from Trigonometry and Algebra to Physics and Calculus. This versatile machine can be used for virtually all academic needs.

It is common knowledge that Texas Instruments has a good hold on a big chunk of the graphing calculator market. However, TI 89’s contribution to the company coffers is not as big as those of other models like TI 84 and TI 83, but it is still significant and not something to crow about. It is also relatively popular in educational institutions.

It is easy to transition from using an earlier TI model to TI 89 as it will not require a lot of study hours trying to figure out how to adopt instructions on using the TI 84 that you learned from your instructor into using the newer model.

While this calculator undoubtedly possesses a great deal of computing power, its added formulas and function editors prompted specific tests like the ACT to disqualify it for use during examinations. It is also not allowed for use in some classroom settings. While your proctors, instructors, and teachers may allow you to use the TI 89 for class work, you may be required to switch to using the TI 84 when taking tests. While most schools can provide TI 84 units for takers who do not have them, the ACT and other major tests require the test takers to bring their own.

As previously mentioned, the graphics-based user interface offers a fresh look for the TI 89, the user needs to spend a little time to get used to the unfamiliar interface. While the button layout may be similar to older TI versions, the colors are not the same.

Texas Instruments offers comprehensive support for each device in its calculator line, including the TI 89. Customer service is easily accessible via email or telephone. Guides and information on practically all calculator functions can be found in the FAQ database. To help users get better acquainted with their graphing calculator, the TI website provides various tutorial materials.

Because TI models are widely used worldwide, the user’s manual for the TI 89 is made available in 11 different languages. Other than Standard English, the manual has French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, and Chinese translations, among others. If you need to download the guidebook, you must allot at least 6MB of storage space to accommodate the PDF file.

Lewis Drakken

Lewis Drakken

Lewis is a part-time patent attorney, and is self-taught and proficient in SQL, Javascript and Java. In his free time he enjoys taking photos, messing with Photoshop, and researching and writing about the latest electronics and gadgets.
Lewis Drakken