Looking for graphing calculators to survive classes in school or play Pokemon? Either way we got you covered.
There are 2 big names and a small number of alternatives in the graphing calculator industry. Casio and Texas Instruments are considered the top dogs, but your choices are not limited to them. However, they are approved for many official exams and therefore might be your best bet.
A Texas Instruments calculator is what I used in my computer engineering classes years ago. It was easy to use, fast and intuitive. But maybe things have changed? Let’s talk about what’s currently available on the market. Surely, graphing calculators have evolved since then?
1. TI-83 Plus
The TI-83 is the best graphing calculator for the beginner. Perfect for simple math operations in classes like algebra, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, biology, business & finance, chemistry and finally also physics up to including AP. It doesn’t have a USB slot so some custom upgrades are out of the question.
Furthermore, it’s also limited by 160 kb ROM and 24 kb RAM. Whereas newer models like the TI-84 double the available ROM. The TI-83 Plus is a base model. Approved for the following exams: SAT®, ACT®, PSAT/NMSQT®, AP® and the IB® Diploma Programme.
If you’re looking for the best calculator for algebra, look no further. In fact it’s a bit more powerful than is suitable for algebra but it has room for growth into other subjects later on due to the graphing feature. One of the greatest features however is the rechargable battery. No need spend further money on extra batteries.
The TI-84 Plus CE is the best calculator for college. The-84 series is a huge advancement on the basic TI-83 model. It stands out first of all for the color display but also the extra functionality for classes like linear algbera, geometry and precalculus and college level math. Of course including the functionality of the TI-83.
The TI-84 features a built-in USB port and comes with a USB cable at purchase. The TI-84 can also link to other TI presentation tools via an adapter sold separately. TI-84 has twice the processing speed and size of the TI-83. This extra power and flexibility allows you to add optional apps.
Much like the previous model it’s rechargable but it’s also able to make use of images at a low resolution. Not amazing but could be handy occasionally.
The TI-84 Plus CE is also approved for use on the following exams that require a graphing calculator: PSAT®, SAT®, and ACT®, AP® and last but not least the IB® Diploma Programme exam.
Pokemon Blue clearly isn’t a default program on a graphing calculator but if you legally own a copy you may install it relatively easy on your calculator too.
The TI-89 Titanium is a great calculator for engineering, college or university level math. Appropriate for advanced users who really want to and have the curiosity to get the most out of their calculator.
Furthermore, it’s approved for SAT, AP, PSAT/NMSQT Exams. But unfortunately comes with 4 regular alkaline batteries (type AAA). These are not rechargable but luckily however they have a silver oxide battery back up to service RAM during a main battery switch. Which means you won’t lose your work if your main batteries run out of charge.
Minimal image processing capability due to the monochrome nature of the display but at least it comes with a cable so you can make custom adjustments to the software.
The Casio Prizm FX-CG50 is jack of all trades graphing scientific calculator. Easy and intuitive to use as it provides a high definition colorful image for visualising your math problems.
It does a lot of what any of the Texas Instruments does but this model stands out for the python programming software. If you are comfortable with python you can play around with the code and come up with your own mathematical solutions or even tiny games.
Suitable for calculus, geometry, graphing, statistics, programming, science and technology education (you can couple it with exterior hardware to collect data).
It’s great for math classes and personal thinkering but is on the allowed list for SAT exams.
The flagship graphing calculator from Texas Instruments is the TI-Nspire CX CAS. This calculator could land an Apollo rocket on the moon several times over but it is also rechargable, programmable and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
It’s suitable for every subject imaginable – Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 & 2, Trigonometry, Geometry, Precalculus, Calculus/AP* Calculus, Statistics/AP* Statistics, Business & Finance, College Math, Electrical Engineering, Mechancial Engineering, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science and Biology/AP* Biology.
The display has 320 x 240 pixels on a 3.2″ screen. 125 DPI (dots per inch) of 16-bit color.
Permitted on multiple exams SAT, AP, PSAT/NMSQT, ACT but not on the IB Diploma Programme. For the IB Diploma Programma you need the CX II graphing calculator.
The Casio FX-9860GII is the best calculator for calculus. The graphing display leaves room for your growth in mathematics. Furthermore, all of that functionality comes in a neat easy to use package while maintaing an affordable price.
This Casio calculator FX-9860 series is among the models approved for taking the SAT. It looks unique, aesthetically pleasing and easy to use. However, like other Casio calculators it comes with batteries that are non-rechargable.
7. HP Prime II
The HP Prime II is the flagship graphic calculator from Hewlett & Packard. Colorful images, coupled with near limitless functionality with a price that you can expect from both TI and Casio.
There is no doubt that this is one of the best calculators for engineers. It’s aesthetics are both modern and retro. Unlike other powerful models in this list it requires only 1 battery. Which is still 1 battery more than we would like in a perfect world. The display is 3.5″ making it the middle choice between TI-Nspire and Casio FX-CG500.
8. HP 50g
The HP 50g is crazy. It looks like a regular graphing calculator but a brand new model is not priced like one. Although it claims an impressive library of functions and you can expand it’s memory with an SD card I still don’t see where the impressive price hike comes from.
Maybe if you’re nostalgic and for some crazy reason think there’s something cute about owning an HP 50g graphing calculator. Hewlett and Packard is company with a long history but not exactly known for their great calculators.
The Casio FX-CG500 is the flagship model. The equivalent of the TI-Inspire CX CAS but a major difference is the inclusion of a touch sensitive screen and stylus. Diagonally the screen is also larger by 1.6″ than it’s competitor. Both platforms support python programming and boast the largest functionality available on a graphic calculator. You can do everything you could want to do. Well, almost.
One thing you cannot do is bring your stylus with you to the official SAT. It’s not on the allowed list. You can bring the calculator but not the stylus because the stylus is not permitted. Before deciding to bring it to your exam of choice make sure you can comfortably use it without the stylus and make sure it’s allowed for that specific exam. It may be allowed for the SAT but not for any of the others. Another significant downside is that it’s not rechargable. Batteries are included with the first purchase.
10. CATIGA CS121
The Catica CS121 looks a bit rustic. However, it’s really cost-effective, programmable and with a wide variety of predetermined functions that will help you through basic algebra and even up to the most complex physics and chemistry.
The price comes at a cost, however. Since it’s such an unknown brand further complications may arise. Such as they say it’s appropriate for various tests like PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, ACT and AP but since it’s not on the official approved list I would be wary of trusting them on this.
The Bottom Line
Well, turns out that graphic calculators have not changed. According to NPR there simply isn’t an incentive for reinventing the wheel. And although a bit overpriced they are unfortunately still an integral part of the modern education system.
If you have money to spend I’d go for a TI-Nspire CX II if you just need to have a basic graphing calculator then choose any of the bang for the buck options like like TI-83 or Casio FX-9750GII.
Trusted calculator brands for SAT exams are:
Casio, Texas Instruments, Radio Shack, Sharp, Datexx DS-883 Micronta, NumWorks and Smart2 but it seems only Casio and TI offer graphing calculators.
For a full list and to find your model visit their site.