Students and professionals alike depend on the best graphing calculators to make quick work of tough math. These calculators are durable, reliable, and easy to use. The best graphing calculators may all look similar, but there are key differences that make them each unique. In this review, we’ll look at how to pick the best graphing calculator for your needs.
Top 7 Best Graphing Calculator Comparison Guide
Things to Know About the Best Graphing Calculators
The most obvious function of graphing calculators is to plot graphs. They are useful in studies like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and other mathematical and scientific fields. Along with traditional 2D graphing, some of the best graphing calculator models can graph in 3D as well.
Some of the best graphing calculator models use a CAS, or computer algebra system. These allow you to perform mathematical functions on symbolic expressions. While useful, they’re not allowed for some classes and tests. Notably, you may not use a CAS calculator while taking the ACT. They are accepted during SAT and AP testing, however.
CAS calculators can solve for variables and perform other complex mathematics, so they are not recommended to students who haven’t learned the theories yet. Professionals, on the other hand, are highly encouraged to pick up a CAS calculator.
Importantly, many of the best graphing calculators have USB ports or micro SD card slots. From there you can install apps and updates, and even program your device. You may select from rechargeable calculators, or from those that use either AA or AAA batteries. Rechargeable calculators usually last weeks, while alkaline battery models last months.
Top 3 Best Graphing Calculator Reviews
Texas Instruments have long been the leaders in the best graphing calculators. Their TI-83, 84, and 89 are still widely accepted in all levels of academia. The Nspire CX series is available with or without a CAS and is a step above those old standbys. Intended for professionals and advanced students, this calculator can do everything but cook your dinner.
This calculator features a 3.2” color screen and an intuitive drop down menu system. It uses both alphabetical and numerical keyboards, along with a nicely textured directional pad. Overall, navigating the Nspire CX is a pleasure, but may take some getting used to if you’re coming from a TI-84 or 89.
One benefit of graphing calculators has always been their large screen and ability to save data. The Nspire takes it a step further by allowing you to save full “documents”. Graphs, spreadsheets, and other documents saved this way can be even multiple pages long. There is also the ability to upload photos in order to work off real life applications.
The Nspire CX uses a rechargeable battery that lasts about a month of regular use. It can be charged with a wall unit or by connecting it via USB to your laptop. The USB connection can also be used to download updates and apps. This means that over the years your software will stay up to date, and that you will be able to customize this calculator to your needs. For these reasons and more, the Texas Instruments Nspire CX is the best graphing calculator today, with or without CAS.
Not to be outdone, Casio also makes a contender for the best graphing calculator. It is by far the easiest to learn, as it features a 4.8” color touch screen and stylus. Many of the most important functions are found on screen and are engaged with the stylus. Holding and using this calculator can feel more like using a phone or tablet.
This CAS calculator will work well for anyone who uses exact rational numbers in their school or work. It looks nicer and is easier to learn than the Nspire CX, but the Casio is lacking the superb support that TI enjoys. Put simply, there are fewer online resources and less downloadable content for this calculator.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time, though. This is a highly functional graphing calculator with a quick processor. It uses 4 AAA batteries which are rated to last 100 full hours. If you are looking for a good mix of style and function, this is the perfect choice.
CAS calculators are usually more expensive than their non-CAS counterparts. The HP 50g makes this powerful technology affordable. For half the price of the competition, the 50g is still one of the best graphic calculators.
The 50g features a monochrome screen onto which you can plot polar, parametric plot, bar plot, and both 2D and 3D graphs. You’ll also enjoy a massive library of thousands of built-in functions. These functions make this an ideal calculator for professionals and students of all disciplines.
Interestingly, this calculator features an SD card slot for expandable storage up to 2GB. There’s also a USB port so you can connect to your computer for updates and apps. It’s a bit slower than the other two on our list, but this calculator is a true contender. It features the same mathematical functions and connectivity options of the others at an affordable price.