Best Scientific and Graphing Calculators
Which are the best scientific and graphing calculators? How do I decide which scientific calculator to buy? Which are the best graphing calculators on sale today?
This review has some of the best scientific and graphing calculators and a buying guide with all the "need to know" information to help you make your final decision.
Buying a Scientific Calculator
Scientific Calculator Displays
Check what size display suits you best. The simplest calculators offer a one or two lined display but the better ones offer much bigger, multi-line displays which can be useful when solving equations and necessary for visualizing graphs.
All scientific calculators have black and white ("monochrome") displays except the latest Texas model, the TI Inspire CX CAS, which has the best full-colour high-resolution display on the market and the newest Casio model, the Casio Prizm (the first scientific calculator to offer a color display), which displays 65,000 colors.
Memory Capacity in Scientific Calculators
A key difference between scientific calculators is how much memory is available to the user to store equations, applications, vectors and formulas. This is often referred to as ROM memory.
RAM memory, in contrast, is how much memory the calculator can use while performing calculations. A low RAM memory can mean slower processing times.
One of the calculators with most ROM memory is the Texas TI CX CAS with 100MB, as well as 64MB RAM memory.
Bear in mind that if the calculator comes with an SD port, you can also really boost your memory using that - many calculators, such as the HP 50g accept SD cards of up to 2 Gig.
Important! You'll have to buy the SD memory card separately.
Scientific Calculator Functions
The best scientific calculators come with many functions, basically the more you spend the more complete it is going to be. However, if you know for sure you won't be using even half of the functions the calculator offers, save some money and buy one with less!
Top-end calculators offer programming functions to solve very complex problems and automate procedures (many of these programs can be downloaded from the Internet) and graphing functions so that you can solve Maths problems using graphs.
Some advanced functions that might be offered are:
- Statistical and probability calculations
- Calculus operations
- Complex numbers
- Hexadecimal, binary, and octal calculations, including basic Boolean math
- Equation solving
- Unit conversion
- Graphing functions
- Programming functions
Basic scientific calculator functions include the following:
- Trigonometry functions
- Scientific notation
- Floating point arithmetic
- Logarithmic functions, using bases 10 and "e"
- Exponential functions and roots higher than just square root
- Rapid access to constants such as pi and "e"
If you are only going to use financial functions, do not buy a graphing calculator since many brands manufacture actual financial calculators, which will have more financial functions than a graphing calculator. Many would agree that the best financial calculator is the HP 12 Platinum.
Connectivity in Scientific Calculators
You'll be wanting to transfer files to and from your scientific calculator in order to use them on your computer or as a way of managing the memory left on your calculator.
The best calculators can be connected to your computer via a USB port, which is the most practical option and the USB cable is usually included with the calculator.
Another common connectivity option is through an SD port, which is a good way of boosting your memory at the same time. Check if the SD card is included or buy an SD card separately (especially if it is a gift!).
Many scientific calculators offer another port with which to connect two similar calculators together directly (without using a PC).
Some scientific calculators also offer an infra-red port but at the time of writing, wireless range was very short (10cm on the very best calculators)
Scientific Calculator Entry Modes
- Algebraic is the standard entry mode for scientific calculators.
- RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) is more complex but when learnt can save you keystrokes and thus time. Offered by HP models.
- Mathematical Display means that equations can be entered as written. Casio used to call this Natural Display or Natural Textbook Display but now uses Natural-VPAM; SHARP calls this WriteView or Equation Editor; for HP this translates as Equation Writer.
Battery Power in Scientific Calculators
The more basic scientific calculator models use a combination of a regular lithium cell and a solar cell, whereas the more powerful graphing calculators will use AAA or AA alkaline batteries (sometimes in combination with lithium battery cells) to power the larger screens, which either have to be constantly replaced or recharged.
The Texas TI CX CAS however has completely changed this with its internal battery that can be recharged just like a mobile phone - you just plug it into the wall with the battery adaptor included (or through the USB port to your computer) and it will re-charge itself and lasts up to 2 weeks on a single charge.
After-Sales Support for Scientific Calculators
All three major brands, Texas, Casio and HP, offer great support on their websites where you can take part in workshops, download programs and watch training videos to learn how to make the most of your scientific calculator.
The purpose of this poll is to see what the general public believes is the best scientific calculator brand. Vote in this scientific calculator survey if you have an opinion on the subject!