After several hours of research, I finally made my selection of the 5 best graphing calculators among more than 15 models available at the moment. My favorite is the Casio FX CG50, which offers very nice features and a quality/price ratio that seems to me to be very good.
Texas Instruments TI-30 XS Multiview
This entry-level calculator is much less functional than its competitors in this comparison. Nevertheless, it is a graphic calculator that does its job, without embellishment. First of all its display, only four lines, which is enough for most problems, but still less than its direct competitors. On the other hand, a strong point of this device is that you can enter almost everything exactly as you would write it down in a notebook. In addition, it gives exact results for trigonometric functions. Another interesting feature of this device is the ability to enter more than one calculation, so that you can compare the results on the same screen. You can also copy and paste old calculations to new lines. Finally, you can explore a table of x, y values for a given function automatically or enter specific x values. This calculator is mostly suitable for use at the Lycée, however, but I have my doubts as to whether it will be efficient enough for use at a university in scientific fields.
Texas Instruments TI-83 Premium
This new full-colour graphing calculator is perfect for math and science. It has been designed with French teachers to meet the needs of high school students (both general and technological) and higher education students. It has a high-resolution color screen of 320 * 240 pixels. Its Mathematics editor gives you the possibility to make intuitive entries of expressions. You can also benefit from an exact display of the results. Other useful features include the ability to switch between exact and approximate values, as well as the resolution of polynomial equations and systems of equations. Budding graphic designers can also have fun inserting images! Unlike the graphing calculators of yesteryear, you also get a rechargeable battery, which is handy to avoid running out of power at a crucial moment. But let's get back to the screen of this graphic calculator. Not only does it have a high-resolution display, but it is also backlit, which allows you to visualize concepts in all circumstances and to make quicker connections between equations, data and also color graphs.
This graphing calculator is of course in accordance with the new examination mode regulations on the use of graphing calculators for superior exams. In addition, the cable supplied with the unit makes it easier to exit the examination mode. You can also connect your calculator to your computer with its free connection software, which can be downloaded from the Texas Instruments website. This allows you to transfer files, images and other programs from the calculator to the computer and vice versa. The device is easy to use, even though you may be somewhat overwhelmed by all these functions at first glance. It should also be noted that some very interesting content can be downloaded via the internet. It is a calculator that can be recommended to both high school and university students.
This graphing calculator has all the features we would expect from such a device: REF/RREF functions, unit conversions, GOF functions, 9 new probability functions, pie chart, bar and X=f(Y) graphs... We are also far from the graphical calculators of yesteryear with its 1500 KB of Flash ROM. Among other interesting things, we should note the presence of spreadsheet and eActivity applications. The device's menu has been thought a little bit like Windows with its icon-based menus, which allows a more intuitive navigation than on some other graphing calculator models. It is possible to connect this device directly to Casio projectors. In terms of data transfer, you'll also be pleased to know that it is possible to transfer your data from one calculator to another as well as from your calculator to a computer. How I wish I had this feature when I was still in high school! Of course, the display of the device is backlit as is the norm today. It is also large and has a high-resolution display to make the display of this device clear and perfectly readable.
It is interesting to note that the backlighting can be activated manually if required. A new management software is also available for download. As for data sharing, the unit comes with a USB cable and a cable that can connect two calculators to facilitate program and data sharing. This calculator is designed to help you in the following courses: Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and finally Business and Finance. The CPU of this calculator is very fast and goes about three to five times faster than traditional models. You can enter complex calculations in the blink of an eye and the display of graphs is fast, with fewer manipulations and steps.
The intuitive software of this device is designed to provide a better understanding of important mathematical concepts. They are designed to encourage engagement and further exploration of mathematics rather than simply memorizing key points to verify an answer. The battery has a life of 200 hours, which should give you plenty of time not to be caught off guard during an exam or other important type of event where you will need all the help your graphing calculator can give you. Despite its icon-based menu system, the handling of this device is not necessarily very intuitive. Fortunately, there are many videos on Youtube that explain how to use this device, so you won't be caught off guard no matter what happens.
Casio FX CG50
Armed with a high-resolution colour display with over 65,000 colours, this device displays ... the colour ... Sorry for the unnecessary pun, it won't happen again, I promise. This calculator is an update of the popular 2011 Casio Prizm. The keyboard has been redesigned for improved readability. Indeed, in the previous version of this calculator, the number keys were large, but the function keys were much too small. To give an idea of the speed of this graphing calculator, a simple program takes 60% less time to execute than its big sister. In terms of the general functionality of this device, there are intelligently prepared modes to deal with a variety of different areas. For example, you have a function specially designed for finance, which calculates everything related to money and other stock market values etc.
Of course, you can also create different types of graphs: functions, polar graph, inequalities, cones etc. Many possibilities are present. There are also other modes, such as function resolution or polynomial resolution mode. This one allows you to go up to the 6th degree, which should be more than enough for the needs of students and high school students. Equations can also be solved and this includes equations with complex numbers (phew. Equations were one of my Achilles heels at school. But I'm getting lost). You can also process up to 12 statistical regressions.
This graphing calculator also includes text entry, calculus and complex number management (and this includes exponentials, logarithms and other trigonometric functions of complex numbers). Basic calculations include binary, octal, decimal and also hexadecimal. For students of physics, there is also a periodic table, which may be much more practical than one might think at first glance, and also a plethora of physical formulas such as the speed of light for example. In other words, there's plenty to do with this graphing calculator!
This graphing calculator is designed for high school science classes and higher, so the manufacturer displays the color with this device as an input. But does this one live up to its promises? That's what we're going to find out. First of all, the now indispensable exam mode is present, according to the memo of March 17, 2015 of the Ministry of Education. This calculator benefits from a multi-touch color screen with of course a high-resolution display (320 x 240 pixels) like all its competitors in this comparison. It offers a display of 10 lines x 33 characters + menus and headings. The display can be used like a smartphone and contains a very practical zoom function!
This calculator has a really stylish design with a brushed aluminium front and a bright backlit touch screen. In addition, it is very thin (only 14 mm) and light (only 228 g). It is equipped with 2 home screens: a CAS screen that manages the objects as well as a traditional screen. The device has an ARM9 400 MHz processor, which is fast enough for a high-end graphic calculator. A lot of functionalities are of course available: mathematical spreadsheet, formal calculation, dynamic geometry system, advanced graphic representation software, probabilities, statistics....
At the software level, it also features HP exclusives such as HP Solve and HP Equation Writer. At the data entry level, we have here of course access to an algebraic mode, an RPN (reverse Polish notation) mode as well as an alphanumeric mode (Textbook). As far as the ram and Flash memory are concerned, there is no doubt that we are dealing with a top-of-the-range device! Indeed the Ram is 32 MB and the Flash memory is 256 MB which is much more than many competitors. This graphing calculator also has points that may seem like details, but can be very practical: first of all, a system to protect the memory when it is turned off and also a system of automatic power off after 5 minutes of non-use, enough to save the battery!
The unit is delivered with a sliding protective cover, a manual in English and a unit-to-unit and unit-to-USB PC cable. Finally, it also comes with a CD containing connectivity software and an emulator. Practical! One also appreciates how complete this machine is for all scientific applications. One can note the formal calculation accessible in most applications, as well as the matrix calculation which can be very practical. The interface is very intuitive with a very well thought-out icon and data management system, a bit like a computer (coming from HP, this is not very surprising, computers being their flagship products). The only downside is that the functions accessible via the SHIFT key are printed in pastel green on......white. One wonders what the engineers were thinking about when designing this device. Finally, the calculator is guaranteed for 2 years, which is very good and very welcome for a device of this range.
How to choose your graphing calculator?
The world of graphing calculators is vast and it is important not to make a mistake when making your choice, especially given the price of these devices. So what are the points to consider?
Most graphing calculators use alkaline batteries. If you intend to use it daily for long periods of time, it's best to switch to a calculator with a rechargeable battery to save money in the long run. Fortunately, most of the calculators in this comparison have a rechargeable battery!
High-end graphing calculators have larger colour screens that make navigation and menus easier to read. Some models are even touch-sensitive, as we've seen in this comparison. A quality screen is especially important if you specialize in math. Otherwise, a more standard model will suffice, but these days you can get devices with a correct screen for a fairly reasonable price. Another point that can be taken into account is the way the equations and formulas are displayed. Indeed, some of them display your operations as you would write them in a notebook, which can be extremely practical for someone who is not used to having his fractions displayed with decimals rather than clear symbols.
Two types of memory are integrated in a graphing calculator. ROM and RAM. The more ROM you have, the more versatile your graphing calculator will be The more RAM you have, the longer the calculator will be able to store your data.
Your graphic calculator's processor determines how fast you can perform your calculations. Speed is measured in MHz (megahertz). Professionals and exam takers will want a faster calculator to complete important calculations quickly.
Graphing calculators vary greatly from model to model in terms of functionality. Calculators for high school students are bound to be more limited than calculators for university students. The most advanced products can offer thousands of features such as graphs, lines, parabolas, cubic functions etc. In addition, the best devices will offer specific keys such as the fraction key to make entry easier and faster. Many graphing calculators will list in their specifications for which types of prices they are best suited for.
Ease of use
These calculators can take a long time to learn how to use them properly. Most of these products - even the cheapest - can take hours of use before you fully understand their features, tools and interface. Some products take a long time to learn. Unfortunately, sometimes these are the ones that are required by your high school or university. Usually, the teacher will take the time to explain how to use the calculator in question, but in my opinion this is a waste of time. And beware, user manuals can be from ten to a hundred pages long depending on the model you choose!
This is a point that is often forgotten and yet how important it is! Indeed, a longer warranty usually means a greater confidence of the manufacturer in his product. In my opinion, a one-year warranty should be the bare minimum for devices of this price. In this comparison, some machines offer a two-year warranty, which is respectable.