Calculator Buying Guide – The Best Graphing Calculator

| July 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

If you’re considering buying a new graphing calculator, you should know that not all calculators are made equal. It’s important to find the best graphing calculator for your current needs so you can use it to its full potential while not overpaying for or getting boggled down by unnecessary functions. Keep in mind that your needs change as you evolve within your career. If you’re still in the early stages of your career, but fairly certain that your path is stable, you might want to consider investing in a good graphing calculator that is more sophisticated than what you need at the moment and leave some room for expansion. This way, you can become intimately familiar with its feel and interface while gradually learning its complexities. Otherwise, if your position is set, and you have a good grip on exactly what you need to be calculating on a daily basis, find a calculator with a smaller range of functions that cater to your needs and stick with it without worrying about navigating through extraneous features you’ll never use to get to what you need.

To get you started we have compiled a chart of the best graphing calculators for sale today.

Who should Buy
ACT/AP/SAT Approved
HP PrimeStudents and professionals who want a fast backlit color touch screen calculator with both RPN and algebraic capability.NoneYes$$4.2/5
Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS Graphing Calculator

Advanced Engineering, Math, and Science StudentsAP/SATYes$$4.5/5
Texas Instruments 84 Plus Silver Color

Students looking to upgrade from a TI-83 or TI-84 that want full color while still keeping the familiar layout and screen format found in most textbooks.AllYes$$4.7/5
Texas Instruments TI-Nspire Handheld Graphing Calculator with Touchpad

High School, Business, Liberal Arts StudentsAllNo$4.4/5
Texas Instruments Voyage 200 Calculator
Advanced Engineering, Math, and Science students who want a powerful graphing calculator with a full QWERTY keyboard.NoneNo$$$4.5/5
HP 50g Graphing Calculator

Three letters RPN. A chance to use a Reverse Polish Notation calculator. HP fans in High school or students taking college survey classes who want to try something other than a Texas Instruments calculator.AP/SATNo$4.5/5
Texas Instuments TI-89 Titanium

Math, Engineering, Science, Economics students looking for a powerhouse graphing calculator who do not want the distraction of color displays or keyboards. AP/SATNo$$4.5/5
Prizm FX-CG10 Color Graphing Calculator

Students on a budget who still want a color high definition LCD color screen but at a fraction of the price. AllYes$4.2/5
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator

This is the best choice for all but those taking highly advanced university courses. This is one of the most popular graphing calculators for a reason. It is very easy to use and customize and is the text book example in almost all school books.AllNo$4.5/5
Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator
Middle school or high school students looking to buy their first calculator. This entry model will last you for years to come.AllNo$4.2/5

So, which is the best graphing calculator for you? First consider whether you need – or prefer – a scientific or a graphing calculator. What will you be using it for? If the math involved in your class or job makes heavy use of fractions, equations and inequalities, financial calculations, etc. then you may want to stick to scientific calculators. If complex matrices, calculus and graphs are not in your daily repertoire of tasks or problem sets, then a graphing calculator will only add a clutter of functions to deal with. 

Graphing calculators are in a whole different category. These powerful calculating machines are for mathematician’s mathematician whose equations look extraterrestrial to the untrained eye. They’re for building bridges and birthing robots. They’re for matrix manipulations, vector calculations and graph visualizations. Just like scientific calculators, though, they come in a variety of capacity levels and designs. When learning trigonometry or calculus, you may be able to settle for a graphing calculator that lacks differential equation capabilities or linear algebra prowess. But, if you’re an established mechanical engineer, you can’t afford to go without these functions and will want to buy one of the best graphing calculator available today like the Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS.

In terms of aesthetics and usability, graphing calculators have been evolving alongside their scientific counterparts. Many of the newer models of graphing calculators are not only way more powerful and capable, but also way more friendly and aesthetically pleasing. Graphing calculators now come with color display and a touchpad! More of a calculating pocket computer than an old fashioned calculator, these machines are efficient, helpful and intelligent. They are dynamic and interactive allowing the user to manipulate graphs, link datasets, store notes and even upload pictures. If this all sounds just a bit too much to have in your pocket for a day of field calculations, don’t worry, there are more humble graphing calculators out there that carry just as much power and bang without the added glamor.

Whether your needs lead you to a graphing powerhouse, or a straight-forward scientific calculator, remember that choosing a calculator that meets your specific current or long-term needs will be the key to using it efficiently. Lack of capacity can leave a seasoned professional high and dry, while too much power might boggle down the newbie user who just needs to become intimately familiar with very specific functions. It’s all about finding a calculator with a good balance between potential power for the future and necessary functions for now.

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