Let’s face it; standardized testing is difficult and requires a lot of studying to receive a passing grade. You need a graphing calculator to aid you on the quantitative sections where extensive calculations and quick computing is required.
That’s why we created this buying guide. You’ll want a calculator that has a fast processing system, a good memory, and can hold more than 28 functions that can be saved for further uses. Keep reading to see which of these calculators is more suited to your academic background and expertise.
*Notice: On mobile devices, scroll right to see entire table.
Best Graphing Calculator
Why Do You Need A Graphing Calculator
Some people say that you can complete your standardized exams without a calculator. However, you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. You need a graphing calculator so that you can perform calculations, evaluate expressions, and graph functions with ease.
Without a graphing calculator and you’ll run the risk of failing your exams. On average, standardized exams take at least 2 hours to complete. That’s why you need to invest in a good graphing calculator.
During this time, a graphing calculator will help you solve your problems faster. As a result, you’ll receive a higher score on your exams which will lead into you getting accepted by a higher education institution. We’ll help you find the right graphing calculator to ensure future success on math exams.
Functions To Consider When Choosing A Graphing Calculator
When considering which graphing calculator to purchase, there are few things you should know:
CAS Or Non CAS
In order to get a graphing calculator that’s useful, you need to decide if it’s a CAS or Non CAS calculator. CAS stands for a computer automated system. It’s a software that allows you to manipulate and calculate expressions in symbolic form similar to human computations.
When comparing a CAS and a Non CAS calculator, there’s one thing that sets them both apart. CAS calculators can deal with equations that require symbolic manipulation and prints out a symbolic result (equation). Non CAS calculators deal with the equations in numerical format and prints out a fraction or a decimal a s a result.
A CAS calculator can expand, simplify, and evaluate an equation. The main benefit is that a CAS calculator is able to work with exact forms. While some colleges suggest that students use a CAS calculator, they are better suited for professionals who encounter symbolic expressions often. Here are a few things that CAS calculators can do:
- Expand mathematical expressions
- Find and search for zeros in a function
- Solves multiple systems of equations
- Find the max and min of a function
- Compute the total and partial differentation and symbolic integration
Powerful and faster: It’s faster to find and check solutions to complicated math problems than with pencils and pens that would take longer than usual.
SAT Advantages: Students who are adept at using a CAS calculator tend to perform better on the SAT and saves them more time.
Easier Graphing and Illustration: The input and the calculator display looks similar to the equations you’ll see on paper.
Intuitive: Users with a CAS calculator feel more like a PC and not a assembly language. It takes less time getting used to and you can use it to solve your problems faster.
More likely to be banned: Some college exams don’t accept the use of a CAS calculator during exams. However, the U.S. College Board accepts the use of a CAS and Non CAS calculator for AP and SAT tests.
Can’t show work: If your teacher want your student to show your work, a Non CAS calculator would be more acceptable. CAS Calculators have features and capabilities where a student doesn’t have to show their work at all.
Expensive: With an advanced calculator software, it comes with more fees. Non CAS calculator are less expensive than CAS models.
Some calculators are able to deal with a dynamic range of data. Dynamic properties is defined as a method where users can assign temporary data to certain objects or give data that you want to correlate to an instance of a class but not the full class altogether.
While you might not see them on your exam, its important to find a calculator that can computer and solve dynamic property problems. Most CAS calculators will are useful in this situation as they can quickly assign temporary data and quickly compute the result.
Your graphing calculator should be one that’s easy to read and clearly displays your results. Natural display shows your mathematical computations in a way that they would appear manually.
Natural Display has an advantage when it comes to showing work. Not only does it solves the problem, but it displays the results in a way that appears as if it was done by hand. Thus, you need to invest in a natural display graphing calculator to receive the best results.
With a 3D Graphing calculator, you have more range of control over your graphs in comparison to 2D models. 3D calculators can graph their equations on an x-y-z axis. But, the 2D models are only able to graph on a x and y axis.
You should get a graphing calculator with a 3D Graphing feature. This allows you to show your graphs in a cleaner format and gives you the choice to computer some high end problems. While it will be more expensive, you’ll never have a problem solving graph equations ever again.
On every standardized exam, you’re going to come across a problem that requires you to calculate the slope. With a CAS graphing calculator you can simply place the equation in the window and compute it within seconds.
First find the y-intercept. This will help you find the missing x or y axis of the equation. Once you’ve found the intercept. Plug it in the Y = Mx + B formula. Once completed, your graphing calculator will display the line function on a neatly shaped graph.
Features To Consider When Getting Your First Graphing Calculator
Before you buy a graphing calculator, read what you should take a look on:
Your graphing calculator needs to display your results in a clear and readable format. Try to aim for a calculator with a display resolution of 240 x 240 pixels in order to see your answers without issue. Anything lower, and you run the risk of buying a low quality calculator.
Just like the display, the user interface must be accessible and easy to utilize. Higher end devices come with touchpad screens to allow you to manuever through the interface faster than cheaper models.
Luckily, the TI-NSpire CAS is a great example of a calculator that has a great interface and should be considered if you want something that’s easy for beginners to use.
During the exam, you’ll want a calculator that runs fast. The processing speed of your calculator is measured by RAM. We suggest that you get a calculator that has 2 MB of RAM or more to ensure that it responds instantly and can handle multiple math problems at once.
Without memory, you’re calculator is rendered useless. You need memory in order to store expressions, functions, and other mathematical equations in your calculator. Try to get a calculator with a memory of 15 MB or more. This ensures that you can continue your math projects and store your answers for a later problem.
Ease Of Use
You need to gauge if your calculator is easy to use or not. For this, you’ll need a calculator that has not only a smooth interface, but takes only a few minutes getting used to. We suggest getting the TI-84 because it provides not only simple controls, but has an easy learning curve which is useful when studying for your next math exam.
The battery life an important feature that most buyers tend to overlook. On average, a graphing calculator’s battery tends to run for 8 hours before needing to be recharged. We recommend that you find a graphing calculator that has either a Li-Ion battery or a USB connected port.
How come? Because both options are easily rechargeable and takes only a few hours to bring your calculator’s battery back to 100%. Taking battery life into consideration will not only help you pass your test, but also have a long lasting calculator that’s willing to assist you when taking it.
There are some occasions where your calculator will malfunction. But, some companies such as Texas Instruments provides at least a 2 year warranty to protect you in the event that this occurs. Before buying, make sure you see the warranty of the calculator is at least 1 year or higher.
Why do you need a warranty? Because graphing calculators aren’t cheap and paying an extra $100 or more for a new one sounds like a waste of time and money. Get a warranty to save money and to ensure your calculator won’t break during a standardized test.
Scientific Vs Graphing Calculator
The distinction between the two can be vague at first. Scientific calculators can perform complex mathematical computations but is unable to view it in a graph. Graphing calculators are designed with a modern appearance and has the ability to graph functions with no issue.
After students pass the 9th grade, then its time to use graphing calculators. Scientific calculators are less advanced and take less time getting used to. Once you’re more adept with your math skills get a graphing calculator to handle even more complex math problems.
The Best Graphing Calculator On The Market
We compiled a list of best graphing calculator on the market:
Winner - TI-Nspire CAS Graphing Calculator
The TI-NSpire Calculator is a innovative calculator that displays all of it’s results in a bright backlit screen. Users can display 3D images in full color and it highlights multiple factors in your equations. This graphing calculator is sold on Amazon at a price about $161.
Starting off, we like this calculator because of it’s touch pad navigation. Users can simply move their thumb on the touchpad and easily complete different equations. As a result, we believe that the TI-NSpire CAS Graphing Calculator is the best graphing calculator for engineers.
- Backlit Color
- Works on abstract concepts relating to science and math
- Enter steps, instructions, notes and others comments on the screen.
Another feature that’s worth mentioning is the it’s high durability. This calculator is resistant to shock, drops, blows, and a slight moisture, but you have to take care of it. Taking care of this calculator will reduce and prevent the screen from cracking.
When it comes to performance, the TI-NSpire Calculator is the best color graphing calculator in the world. Not only does the device contain the most updated software developed by Texas Instruments, but it also combines the use of a high resolution screen to demonstrate high quality features that aren’t found in lower level calculators.
As we stated earlier, this calculator has a great visualization method that allows students to see basic and complex mathematical concepts and ideas. It has a high processing power of 64 MB of RAM and 100 MB of ROM.
But beginner users were not able to easily get used to this device. On average, it would take them 3 weeks to fully master the calculator, which can be a challenge for younger students. Once you get used to this calculator, you’ll have a reliable tool in your hands.
The Texas Instruments Nspire Cx CAS Graphing Calculator is one of the best performing calculators in the world for a reason.
It combines a high processing power with an excellent UI that’s easy for users to read. It might have a learning curve but it’s a very powerful tool to have in school and in professional areas. Get this calculator today if you want to see an increase in your standardized SAT and AP test scores.
Runner-Up: Texas Instruments TI-89 Graphing Calculator
The Texas Instruments TI-89 Graphing Calculator is the best graphing calculator for high school, especially for students entering the 11th and 12th grade. It has also has a lot of memory with its 2.7MB of ROM. You can buy this on Amazon at a price around $147.
Like every Texas Instruments model, it comes with a color coded, an intuitive keyboard. It displays the functions in gray while showing the numbers in black. It works with a common algebraic notation that a lot of students are familiar with.
- Versatile and powerful graphing calculator
- 2.7 MB ROM
- 100 x 100 Pixel Screen
- Works for SAT, AP, Praxis, IB, and PSAT tests, but not for the ACT
Also, Texas Instruments has given this calculator a free patch update that includes:
- Solving inequalities
- Log to and input nth root to any base
- Solve equations that include vectors
- Gradian angle measurements
This calculator is already ranked high because of its ability to cover practical and complex levels of mathematics. It has a 188k of RAM and 2.7 MB of ROM. Due to this feature, the TI-89 Graphing Calculator is the fastest calculator in it’s price point.
In addition, the TI-89 is as sturdy as their predecessors. For instance, it has a reinforced plastic casing that also has stainless steel screws the secures the device altogether. The screen is also resilient and doesn’t lose its resolution or break its screen after long term usage.
But, you need to watch out for its hard learning curve. And the device doesn’t give you a warning once the battery runs low. This calculator is designed for advanced students and engineers who need to perform intermediate to advanced level of math analysis.
Overall, the TI-89 Graphing Calculator is the best texas instruments graphing calculator. It allows users to create complex graphs and solve college and post graduate problems that every student tends to face. It’s at a good price range, so you should get this calculator today.
Alternative: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE
The Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE is the best algebra graphing calculator for beginners. It comes with 3 MB of memory and over 154k bytes of RAM. As of now, it’s currently being sold on Amazon at a price about $125.
It’s defining feature lies within its battery. For example, you don’t have to replace it with AAA batteries if you don’t need to. You can simply plug the device inside a USB computer and it will continue to work for weeks without needing to be recharged.
- Rechargeable Batteries
- 30% Lighter than competing calculators
- Allowed on every standardized test and isn’t banned from the ACT
- Hibernate and Sleep Mode
- Stores up to 10 matrices at a time
And, we like some of its mechanical features that the TI-84 provides. Users are able to work all forms of power roots, complex numbers, logarithmic terms, and other special mathematical operations.
Shoppers liked this graphing calculator because of its visual clarity. The TI-84 shows the graphs in well lit screens and in a high resolution. It’s a great choice if you need a simple to use calculator to solve algebraic graph equations with ease.
The TI-84 is always ready to go when you need it. When not in use, the calculator goes into Sleep Mode to preserve its battery and instantly shut back on once you press one of its buttons. Buy this calculator if you want to experience a high quality tool for your next standardized exam.
Shoppers across the board had little praise for the calculator’s lack of longevity. Some users reported that their calculator would stop working after 1 year of usage. If this ever occurs to you, send the calculator back to Texas Instruments in order to get a replacement.
For the money, the graphing calculator TI-84 is worth every dollar. It has a nice interface, responsive controls, and programmable apps to help users solve complex equations. It’s a powerful device that helps you improve your exam scores while also being easy to use.
2nd Alternative: HP Prime Graphing Calculator
Compared to its competition such as Casio and Texas Instruments, the HP Prime Graphing Calculator definitely holds it own. The calculator features brush aluminum and a plastic covering that protects it from damage and increases its life span. Find it on Amazon for about $149.
The HP Prime Graphing Calculator is no stranger to versatility. It has over 2300 functions built into the calculator and is useful in a variety of mathematical subjects. It has a high contrast and bright display with a memory of 2.5MB.
- 320 x 240 Graphing Screen Pixels
- 3.5-inch multi touch screen
- 100+ Downloadable Math Applications
With such an extensive application list, you can’t go wrong with the HP Prime Graphing Calculator. It contains a myriad of applications such as:
- Trig Explorer, Quadratic Explorer
- Triangle Solver, and Finance. Both are great for geometrical applications, finding interest, and a lot more
- Spreadsheet and Geometry. Which helps users manipulate numbers and geometry for mathematical applications
You’ll also like this calculator because of its highly efficient processing speed. It runs at a speed of 400 mhz which gives users almost instantaneous results when they calculate their math equations. Because of this feature, users are able to complete their tests faster and receive a better score.
Everything on the calculator is displayed on a nice 3.5 inch touch screen. With the screen, you’ll be able to see graphs, linear functions, and create graphs that display the derivative if needed. Buying this calculator will help you see your answers in a clear and appealing format.
There were some issues that consumers couldn’t ignore. For some users, they felt that the keyboard’s commands were difficult to read. And it has to be plugged in so it can turn on. For users who need mobility, this might not be the calculator for you.
Despite its minor inconvenience, the HP Prime Graphing Calculator is a good calculator to bring for your text test. It has a responsive screen and can graph mathematical functions with ease. Check out this calculator today if you want to compute like a professional mathematician.
3rd Alternative: Casio Prizm Graphing Calculator
Last on our list is the Casio Prizm Graphing Calculator. The calculator features wide spread compatability to other products. It has a spreadsheet function that works similar to Microsoft Excel software. You can find this calculator on Amazon at a price about $125.
Because of its internet connectivity, it’s easy to store programs and applications due to its powerful memory rating. It can store up to 300 apps because of its 16 MB of ROM and RAM combined. Making this a great product for students needing ultimate control over their applications.
- USB Cable Included for high speed data transferring
- Creates Spreadsheets and tables
- Hi Res LCD Screen
- Creative “next gen” design
- High Performance at an affordable cost
Consumers state that the keys are responsive and large enough to record their every keystroke. Like other models of graphing calculators, the Casio Prizm Graphing calculator has Alpha and Shift keys to help a user access the calculator’s multiple functions.
We were surprised by the multiple modes that this calculator can store. Because of the multiple buttons, and entry modes, users stated that they rarely reported their data and you can go back to where you’ve left off if you’ve made a mistake or pressed the wrong button.
What makes the Casio Prizm Graphing Calculator interesting is its impressive display features. While it’s not the first graphing calculator, it is the first calculator to have a 65,000 colors, 216 x 384 pixel screen resolution and the device’s ability to upload and show photographs.
However, this device has gained a few low reviews because of its keyboard design. It’s small enough that users found themselves misclicking a key often. If you can deal with this flaw and if you’re handles can deal with the small annoyance then this graphing calculator is worth it.
If you’re looking for the best casio graphing calculator, then the Casio Prizm Graphing calculator will leave you satisfied. It turns on instantly, easily marks the functions in a color coded format, and has additional apps that help you solve complex problems. Purchase this calculator today to have a reliable device that works on every standardized test.
We’ve researched each of the graphing calculators thoroughly and came up with a valid decision. The TI-84 Graphing Calculator is the winner. Not only is it a standard graphing calculator that’s accepted on all exams, it has a long battery life, and over 100 apps to choose from.
Buying this calculator is guaranteed to increase your exam score. It’s fast processing speed will help users get through their problems without any gaps in quality. Purchase the TI-84 right now if you want the most control over your mathematical problems and solve them efficiently.