Was there ever a time when there weren’t pocket calculators? There certainly was. The first solid-state electronic calculator arrived in the early 60s’. Pocket-sized versions only came in the 70s’, and by the mid-1980s’, calculators handled 41% of the world’s general-purpose computing information.
By 2007 that was down to 0.05% with the advent of laptops, phones, and tablets. That doesn’t mean calculators are redundant or obsolete. People now use very specialized calculators. We are going to look at one such machine as we try to find which are the best graphing calculators.
But what do they do?
Pretty much as the name suggests, it is more than a calculator. If we are honest, it is more like a computer. It will plot graphs, and some can even solve algebraic equations. We know one Scottish comedian who won’t like that!
So, let’s have a look at some of the most popular models and find the right one for you…
- 1 Best Graphing Calculators In 2020 Review
- 1.1 1 Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator – Best All Purpose Graphing Calculator
- 1.2 2 Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator – Best Entry Level Graphing Calculator
- 1.3 3 Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS Graphing Calculator
- 1.4 4 Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator – Best All Rouns Graphing Calculator
- 1.5 5 Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator – Best Mid Range Graphing Calculator
- 1.6 6 Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color Graphing Calculator with Student Software (PC/Mac)
- 1.7 7 HP Prime Graphing Calculator – Most Versatile Graphing Calculator
- 1.8 8 TI-Nspire CAS Graphing Calculator – Best Black and White Screen Graphing Calculator
- 1.9 9 Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphics Calculator
- 1.10 10 CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 Color Graphing Calculator – Best Value for the Money Graphing Calculator
- 2 Best Graphing Calculators Buying Guide
- 3 Stressed Out?
- 4 So, What Are The Best Graphing Calculators?
Best Graphing Calculators In 2020 Review
1 Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator – Best All Purpose Graphing Calculator
When you are talking about calculators, then Texas Instruments are a company that comes to mind. They manufacture a wide range of calculators in every discipline. This particular model is one of their graphing calculators.
Based on the TI-83…
This design is taken from the Texas Instruments TI-83, which is one of the most popular calculators. The TI-84 is compatible with its predecessor, but this model has some new extras. It has a faster processor and more memory. The TI-84 has 24KB of RAM and 480KB of ROM (read-only memory). For this model, they have improved the display screen by allowing 16 characters and 8 lines.
Over a dozen apps…
This is what might be described as an all-purpose calculator that is perfect for a variety of disciplines. These include maths and science, statistics, business, and financial modeling. It has over a dozen apps that help with data collection, functionality, and analytics.
The graphics apps include modeling, interactive geometry, and inequality graphing.
But, this is not what you might call a pocket calculator, measuring 10.75 by 7.55 by 1.9 inches and weighing 14 ounces, but it comes with a slide-on case for carrying.
No mains power…
It should be noted that this calculator only works using four AAA batteries and is not rechargeable. However, you can, at least, expect a reasonable length of use from one change of batteries. There is a USB port, but that is for a PC or other interfacing and is not for charging.
It is a useful calculator and a prevalent model. However, considering it is a technology that is about ten years old, it seems quite expensive.
- Carries most functions you will need.
- Improved screen.
- Now has a more significant memory.
- Comes with access to apps.
- Quite expensive.
2 Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator – Best Entry Level Graphing Calculator
This is probably the first name many people will think of when mentioning calculators. I am sure we have all had a Casio. Some may have even had their calculator watches. Founded in Tokyo in 1946, they have become an enormous success worldwide.
When asked what consumer electronics they make, it is easier to say what they don’t make. Their product range is often basic but always efficient and always at a very competitive price.
This graphing calculator is what might be described as an entry-level machine. But nevertheless, it still has all the standard features you would expect to see. The Casio fx-9750GII is designed for student use from middle school through to college.
It has a display that is quite large and has a 21 character and 8 line view. It has an icon style menu that makes it very easy to use and a series of soft menus to give easy access to most functions.
Casio has attempted to add a little extra with this calculator. There is an intuitive design of software that encourages the student to grasp the mathematical concept involved. That is in place of just memorizing keys.
Not a bad idea…
The graphing is what they will be expected to learn. You can graph x= relationships and conic sections, and there is an interactive equation solver. Polar and parametric functions and inequalities and the analysis of the graph are all built-in functions.
It will perform standard operations like creating plots and tables from data, and it will also calculate independent and dependent values.
Quick graph creation…
It is battery driven and is powered by four AAA batteries. Each change of batteries should give you about 200 hours of use. It has 62KB of RAM, so calculations and graph creation are quick.
It is quite a compact little unit and measures 6 by 4 by 1 inch and weighs just over 7 ounces. We think it’s an excellent calculator at a very cost-effective Casio price.
- Nice screen size.
- Compact easy-to-carry build.
- All the features you would expect.
- Very cost-effective price.
- At this price, nothing at all.
3 Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS Graphing Calculator
Back to Texas instruments for another calculator. This is also a calculator that tries to encourage and develop an understanding of some of the abstract ideas and concepts you confront in maths and science.
It will display the maths on the screen as it will appear in your textbooks as you enter. Then, as you proceed, you can also enter instructions, notes, and other comments besides what is going on. If you are having trouble with your maths, then this could be the calculator to help.
It has 100 MB of RAM and 64 MB of Flash ROM. There is a 3.2-inch color display that is backlit. It has a rechargeable battery and comes with a charging package, including a USB cable, and it will also recharge from a Computer’s USB port.
Battery life is quite good…
As with some other Texas Instruments calculators, it has a sliding plastic sliding cover. It is quite a heavyweight product measuring 11.75 by 8 by 2 inches and weighing just over one pound.
Quality comes at a cost…
This will handle all the features involved in graphing and associated mathematical activity. In some cases, it will supply you with answers to analysis and analytical problems.
For this reason, it is prohibited to be used at some exam levels. You should check to ensure that the exam you will be undertaking will accept you using this calculator before purchasing. Also, take note that compared to other calculators, it is set at a very high price point.
- Some impressive features.
- Note-taking and explanations.
- Expensive compared to other calculators.
4 Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator – Best All Rouns Graphing Calculator
Back we go to Casio for another calculator with an impressive list of functions at a competitive price. This has a large high-resolution display giving you some very crisp and clear visuals. There is a backlight feature that gives you excellent visibility in any lighting, and this can be turned off if it is not needed.
The display provides exceptionally sharp images of graphs, formulas, and other graphics. It also has a familiar icon-based menu that is functional but also easy to use.
The fx-9860GII has a wide range of potential uses in maths and the sciences. Its functions allow you to produce and display data in a variety of disciplines, so it is, therefore, also a useful tool for teachers. It works with pre-algebra and algebra through statistics, calculus, and trigonometry. Biology and most subjects requiring precise technical analysis are also covered. This also makes it a useful business analysis tool.
A powerful tool…
The 1500KB Flash ROM makes this a potent tool. But it also has a high-speed 64K CPU that allows the most complex of calculations and graphics to be produced quickly and with ease.
Connectivity is good and easily accessible. It comes with a USB cable and also the Program-Link software. This is a high-speed link between calculator and OC to transfer data, which also allows you to use a projector for necessary display purposes. It has other excellent features built-in that include spreadsheets and geometry applications, as well as conics applications.
This is an all-encompassing calculator that is very impressive and must be considered as one of the better graphing calculators.
It takes four AAA batteries, which should provide about 200 hours of use. It is quite a large calculator measuring 2.5 by 11 by 7.5 inches and weighing one pound. As with machines at this level of problem solving and analysis, it will be wise to check they are accepted for examinations if that’s your purpose for buying.
- Excellent calculator.
- Nice optional backlit display.
- Performs a wide range of functions.
- Very low price.
- The functions are quite tricky to learn initially.
5 Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator – Best Mid Range Graphing Calculator
Performing this review feels a little like a battle between Texas Instruments and Casio. Back we go again to the Texas Instruments HQ in Dallas. This, for Texas Instruments, is a modest calculator price-wise and also with the features it offers.
That’s no bad thing…
Not everyone wants to work for NASA, and it does handle calculus well and will work with engineering and trigonometric functions.
It has a useful split-screen effect, which allows you to show the graphs and tables from which they are derived on the same screen at the same time. The display is interactive, and you can also scroll through table values while in split-screen mode.
It has fourteen zoom features that can be applied to tables and other data, and if you need to store a number of matrices for future use, it will also handle that. Notably, it is capable of storing up to ten at one time before you will need to remove any.
There is an LCD screen with a 64x 96-pixel resolution that produces a clear display. Considering the size of the screen, it will display some lengthy formulae if needed. If you do need to save formulae, then you can do so and call it up later. This saves re-inputting every time which we appreciate. It takes four AAA batteries to operate and will give you decent use time.
The difference between this and the TI-84 is really only in some of the more advanced functions that this calculator doesn’t possess. But they are sometimes functions you don’t need. This is quite an outdated calculator these days but still serves up a good performance. The price point is also very competitive.
- Good display.
- Split-screen effect.
- Some basic but essential features.
- Very cost-effective price.
- Some will need functions this calculator does not possess.
6 Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color Graphing Calculator with Student Software (PC/Mac)
We stay in Texas for another model. And have to ask the question… is there anyone other than Texas Instruments and Casio making the best graphing calculators?
Anyway… this one has some very nice features…
The screen is impressive, with a resolution of 125 dpi. It is 3.5 inches on the diagonal and has a 16-bit color performance. It has a slimline design and measures 0.62 by 3.42 by 7.5 inches and weighs just 13 ounces. The TI-Nspire CX II is easy to operate with its touchpad styling for navigation, and you have the option of using Quick Alpha keys. Also, the rechargeable battery will give you up to two weeks of use on a single charge.
TI-Inspire CX Student Software…
It includes the TI-Inspire CX Student Software, which gives you excellent graphing options. These include creating great visuals using the 15 different colors in six different graph styles, which ensures you present an impressive display.
It handles some more complex functions, including an animated path plot and parametric and polar graphs, showing their creation in real-time. The links between dynamic coefficients that exist in graphs and equations can also be fully explored.
On the graphs, you can let the coordinates define dynamic points and label any of the scales to put tabulation into a visual context. You also have the ability to write basic programming code to create a visual representation of technical ideas.
Screen tabs and data can be color-coded to improve the visual effect but also to provide further understanding. It is a very well-designed calculator with a lot of useful features.
But there’s a catch…
The downside would be that when you input data, you have to type quite slowly as it will only keep pace with a slower typing input. Despite this, it is a great calculator, and we consider it one of the best graphing calculators around. It is also set at a very competitive price when you consider its functions and performance.
- Plenty of built-in visual features.
- Enhanced graphing experience.
- Very impressive price.
- You have to type in data quite slowly.
7 HP Prime Graphing Calculator – Most Versatile Graphing Calculator
We asked the question, are Texas Instruments and Casio, the only producers of a graphing calculator? As soon as we do, along comes HP.
And what a calculator this is…
There’s no need to say that this will be a likely winner in this review. This is a calculator that is in direct competition with the Texas Instruments models and especially the TI-Nspire. But it performs so many more functions than its competitors.
It has been cleverly designed so a range of students can use it. From beginners to college, its features are basic but advanced enough to satisfy the need of all levels.
One of the great things about this calculator is the icon-based screen. It is full color and gives the display an easy to read feel. It also adds some life and creativity to the visuals of what you produce. Plus, it has a touch screen design that makes it simple to use. It is very responsive, and you can even draw a graph using your finger.
To zoom in or out, the screen has the ‘pinch function.’ You don’t, therefore, have to create a new page just to change area sizes. It is designed initially for graphing in your maths classes, but it is also just as efficient in science-based disciplines.
Computer Algebra System…
But if you are looking for a feature to seal the deal, then the built-in Computer Algebra System could be the one. This will perform very complex maths calculations that include symbols. This a step up from calculators that only deal in numbers.
It is reasonably compact, measuring 7.18 by 3.38 by 0.55 inches and weighing just 8 ounces. The HP Prime has a lot going for it and operates at a fast pace. It doesn’t have built-in 3D graphing, which some may view as a negative, but a great calculator nonetheless at a very reasonable price point.
- Great features for graphing.
- Useful mathematical modeling features.
- Impressive color screen.
- Good operational options.
- Lack of 3D graphing might be a problem for some.
8 TI-Nspire CAS Graphing Calculator – Best Black and White Screen Graphing Calculator
Back in Texas, we go for one of the TI competitors to the HP calculator we just looked at. This calculator is also no slouch and has some powerful functions built-in. It can solve symbolic equations with its algebraic ability. It will locate antiderivatives and exact solutions to problems that may have irrational forms, and it is, therefore, suitable for both maths and science disciplines.
Using a calculator that allows you to enter expressions and formulae, equations, and other computations in maths notation, is essential, and this calculator can handle that. It will build geometric figures and also allow you to create animations.
Data analysis is a necessary function for graphing, and this allows you to make summaries and analyze data using a variety of methods. These include box plots, pie charts, and histograms.
Explain behavior patterns…
For efficient graphing, you need to be able to animate points on graphs to explain behavior patterns, and this calculator handles that with ease. Of course, you can enter comments and even instructions on this screen besides calculations and formulae.
Black and white screen, though…
It is not over-sized measuring 3.94 by 7.81 by 1.13 inches, but it does weigh in at a hefty 2 pounds. It runs on four AAA batteries. If there is a negative about this calculator, it is that it has a black and white screen. Having a color screen can be a significant advantage in visuals and presentations, as well as in understanding. It is also quite expensive.
- Many mathematical functions and features.
- Can handle algebraic computation.
- Black and white screen.
9 Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphics Calculator
Another Texas Instrument calculator, but this one with a price point set a bit lower than some of the other TI products. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t much to offer. It still has many of the functions needed to operate as a graphing calculator, but it does lack a few of the higher-level mathematical features.
It comes with some helpful software preloaded, including Cabri Jr, which is interactive software for geometric applications. It has a very functional screen with pull-down menus, and it has both horizontal and vertical split-screen options.
It has ten different graphing functions, which allow you to look at each graph using a different format. Each format can be saved to be called up later if you wish. It also has a port that will allow you to communicate with other TI products. It has the ability to enable the student to enter equations and fractions in real notation instead of abbreviated versions, which makes it easier to use.
A decent buy…
There is 480KB of ROM and 24kRAM, so it isn’t the most powerful of calculators. It measures 7.80 by 6.06 by 1.34 inches and weighs 14oz. The TI-84 Plus comes with a sliding case for protection when it is being carried around, and, at this price point, it represents a decent buy.
- Well-laid out screen.
- Good visual features.
- Reasonable price point.
- Does lack some of the features of the more expensive options.
10 CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 Color Graphing Calculator – Best Value for the Money Graphing Calculator
Our final Casio product to consider is the Casio Prizm FX-CG50. The first thing to get your attention with this calculator, other than its compact size, is the backlit color screen. Its high-resolution display has very impressive graphics, which makes it ideal, of course, for accurate, informative graphing.
3D graphing capability…
It has its share of exciting and necessary features and functions. Unlike some, it has the 3D graphing capability and also Picture Plot technology. It has built-in conic section functionality too.
The FX-CG50 can solve simultaneous equations and other algebra using complex numbers. It would, as an example, be able to calculate a complex numbers’ square root.
Extra software is available…
It is not loaded down with too much software, but it is surprising just what it does contain. Onboard options are at least the equal of calculators costing much more, and if you find you do need extra software, it is available at the Casio website.
This is an outstanding calculator for the money. However, in the eyes of some, there might be a couple of downsides. Firstly, it does not have a rechargeable battery. That is not a deal-breaker as most don’t, but it also doesn’t have a touch screen, which is a nice feature if this calculator had that it would be right at the top of our list.
It is quite a large product measuring 7.5 by 3.75 by 0.875 and weighing just over a pound. But, at its price point, it’s still an excellent buy.
- Good operational features.
- A very nice backlit color screen.
- Competitive price.
- No touch screen.
Best Graphing Calculators Buying Guide
“We have Graphs because we fail to understand the numbers.”
So said a mathematician whose name slips my memory. He has a point. As humans, we can understand pictures more than numbers. Some can, of course. But a tiny percentage of the population can interpret the numbers like us mere mortals can analyze a graph.
Graphs are, therefore, critical as not all of us are Stephen Hawking. And to be able to produce graphics on a calculator is a vital part of the mathematical development of any student.
But in what format…
Most of the calculators we have looked at can perform the same or similar functions. We are not going to go through all the possibilities here, and you will know what you need as the user.
But when considering your options…
The amount and type of software is essential, as is the screen. There are drop-down menus and touch screens. Then there are color screens and interactive screens.
What suits you best?
There is also the cost issue, as some are more expensive than others. If you don’t require all the functions, then you certainly don’t need to pay the price.
Finally, if you are taking it to an exam, make sure you’re allowed to. Some of these machines will be able to do the exam for you, and your adjudicator might not appreciate that.
There are a few great products that can vastly improve your comfort while studying and working. We, therefore, recommend checking out our reviews for the Best Ergonomic Computer Desks, the Most Comfortable Office Chairs, our Best Standing Desk Converters Review, our Best Ergonomic Keyboards Reviews, and our Best Ergonomic Mouse Reviews.
Back to graphing calculators…
So, What Are The Best Graphing Calculators?
We are going to pick a simple-to-use calculator with a color screen. We are also going to step out of the Texas Instruments and Casio apparent domination of the market. Both of those manufacturers are great, but we have decided to go with the…HP Prime Graphing Calculator
It has a beautiful icon-based screen that is easy to navigate, with some great functions at an excellent price. It’s our top choice for the best graphing calculator on this list.
Enjoy your chosen purchase.