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The Best Graphing Calculator on the Market?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the better-than-a-TI? dept.

Education 724

aaronbeekay asks: "I'm a sophomore in high school taking an honors chem course. I'm being forced to buy something handheld for a calculator (I've been using Qalculate! and GraphMonkey on my Thinkpad until now). I see people all around me with TIs and think 'there could be something so much better'. The low-res, monochrome display just isn't appealing to me for $100-150, and I'd like for it to last through college. Is there something I can use close to the same price range with better screen, more usable, and more powerful? Which high-tech calculators do you guys use?"

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PDA? (4, Insightful)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760544)

Do they make advanced graphing-calculator-like apps for them?

Re:PDA? (4, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760666)

Creative Creek [creativecreek.com] seems to have a nice set for various PDAs.

Re:PDA? (3, Informative)

malvidin (951569) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761486)

Yes, I currently use Spacetime http://www.spacetimemobile.com/ [spacetimemobile.com] and sometimes Pocket Excel.

IA32 + Matlab R13 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17761546)

seems to do the work well enough.

TI 89 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760550)

Even though the hardware might not be state of the art, its still the best: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ti_89 [wikipedia.org]

SR-40/TI-30 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760826)

The SR-40 is my favorite.

Re:TI 89 (2, Informative)

teklob (650327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760830)

I disagree. I paid about $300CAD for my Ti-89 and not only is not allowed on tests neither at the grade 12 level nor first year college, mine's already broken after only about 2 years of seldom use. I have to apply significant pressure to the panel above the screen to get any image at all, otherwise its just random lines. It's a good calculator if it works for you, it can do algebra, calculus, and 3d graphing, but I haven't had a good experience with mine.

Re:TI 89 (1)

linuxboredom (1054516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760892)

Over here (South Carolina, US), we are allowed to use them on tests and even the Advanced Placement exams (for college credit). If your school allows them, I'd recommend it. They graph rapidly, can symbolically derive and integrate, and even solve equations. My girlfriend's TI-89 lasted for 4 years until it broke from a 4-foot drop onto tile.

Re:TI 89 (4, Funny)

Rosyna (80334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760954)

I disagree. I paid about $300CAD for my Ti-89 and not only is not allowed on tests neither at the grade 12 level nor first year college

Maybe it's because you're in Canadia. In the US, the TI-89 is explicitly allowed on tests [wikipedia.org] administered by the college board (but not ACT). It's also the reason I bought it, the TI-92 isn't allowed on any tests.

mine's already broken after only about 2 years of seldom use.

How odd, I bought mine when it was first release (1998) and it's still going strong. Maybe it's the Canadian weather that caused yours to fail. Also, you're not supposed to use it while taking a shower.

Re:TI 89 (1)

Constantine Evans (969815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761360)

My TI-89 is also from around that time (probably circa 1999/2000), and has never had any problems. Could it be that newer models aren't as reliable? I know that this is the case with my HP graphing calculator (a 49g+ that a student left in my lab and never claimed), and would highly recommend against buying one unless you plan on buying an older model used. Recent HP calculators are no longer actually designed or made by HP, and have significant design and reliability issues. Wikipedia has a good description of the problems in its HP-49 article [wikipedia.org] . I've heard that older HP calculators are far better.

But my suggestion, especially if you plan on going into a scientific field, would be to either not use a calculator at all, or use any basic scientific calculator you can find. Graphing calculators in general are rather useless if one is competent in mathematics, and tend to just hinder work and learning. Arithmetic can be done on any scientific calculator, and most algebra and calculus is faster and easier to do on paper or in one's head. The graphing is generally so rudimentary as to not be very useful: one should be able to remember what graphs of basic functions will look like, and inputting data into graphing calculators is slow enough that using one for graphing measured data isn't very useful, especially since the graph won't be usable for presentations anyway. Learn how to use Matlab, Mathematica, Gnuplot, or some other serious program for graphing, and you will fare much better.

The only time I use a calculator these days is to do basic arithmetic when I need something better than an order of magnitude estimate, or, if Mathematica/Matlab can be called a calculator, when I need messy algebra/calculus/numerical computations done that are far beyond the abilities of a graphing calculator. I've scarcely used my TI-89 or HP-49g+ at all in the last 8 years or so - I don't even know quite where they are.

Re:TI 89 (1)

rhombic (140326) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761106)

Sucks about your Ti-89, but they're not all that bad. I bought my Ti-81 as a high-school student in 1990. Sixteen years later, in my professional job, I still use it every day.

TI 89 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760560)

I use a TI89. It's about as good as you're going to get without it not being allowed on tests, etc.

Re:TI 89 (1)

jpardey (569633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760650)

Actually, it probably won't be allowed on tests. Here in Canada, I had to use my 83+ for all tests, even into college now.

Re:TI 89 (1)

cdrdude (904978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760738)

I've used my TI-89 for all the tests in the US (except the no-calculator tests), and nobody has got on my case about it. The hitch is, all of my math classes in high/middle school taught things for TI-83. I had to figure out how to do most things on my own, going off the class instructions as a rough guideline. It helps to know a little bit of the programming language for TI.

Re:TI 89 (1)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761102)

Man, what degrees are you guys taking?

In my maths course, no calculators are allowed in *any exam*, full stop.

Re:TI 89 (1)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761210)

What degree are *you* taking? I got a BS in math, and I'm working on my ME in systems engineering and applying to the PhD program. No one cares about calculators. In fact, I make a habit out of using Mathematica, R and (gasp) Excel to automate calculations and such. Not only is this *allowed*, it's *expected* in higher-level courses. No professor wants to wait while you solve every problem by hand when the point of the class is something other than learning to manipulate numbers.

Math is about more than just calculating. In the higher levels, it becomes irrelevant. Good luck proving something in your abstract algebra using it. And even in calculation-intensive courses (like my numerous stats courses) the calculations themselves are hardly the point.

-stormin

Re:TI 89 (1)

cdrdude (904978) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761252)

Yes, calculus != calculators, but in chemistry, you can use calculators (at least in beginning chem)

Re:TI 89 (1)

jpardey (569633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761504)

Where I am now I am taking physics. I take standard math math courses in the program. We are allowed a specified calculator in most courses. This is a fairly major university, probably the second largest in my sub-country division. Back at my old college, I could take my 83+ into most tests, and I managed to bring an 89 into a first year calculus exam (just for the interface, I didn't do derivatives or anything on it).

HP (4, Informative)

pyite (140350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760562)

HP is the only option. Sure, no one will no what you are doing (especially if you use RPN), but that means no one can borrow it, either. Oh, and if you use RPN you'll probably be a lot quicker than most of your classmates, too.

I have an HP-48GX and it served me well through high school and four years of engineering school.

Re:HP (3, Informative)

honkycat (249849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760722)

I have to agree that HP is the way to go. I had a TI-85 in HS/college which was all right, but the HP options are hands down more durable and more capable.

Personally, I decided that I did not actually need the graphing features so now just use an HP-33s. It's pretty solid and does everything I need. For me, in the real world, I found that the graphing capabilities of the calcs were not useful -- if I needed to plot, I would do it on a computer. The graphing calc was just not a substitute. I suppose the programming might be more flexible on the bigger calculators as well, but I have not once found myself wishing for one since high school.

(for reference, I've worked as an electrical engineer/programmer and am now a graduate student in physics)

Re:HP (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760964)

Personally, I decided that I did not actually need the graphing features so now just use an HP-33s. It's pretty solid and does everything I need. For me, in the real world, I found that the graphing capabilities of the calcs were not useful -- if I needed to plot, I would do it on a computer. The graphing calc was just not a substitute. I suppose the programming might be more flexible on the bigger calculators as well, but I have not once found myself wishing for one since high school.

I must agree with you in many ways here. But to me (also a physicist) the HP-33 has too much clutter and is too slow. The TI-36X does 99.5% of all the calculations that I need and since I've used it so long I no longer need to look at the keypad while entering commands. It also has the benefit of only allowing you to only input one calculation at a time which will help prevent errors (like missing a parentheses or accidentally evaluating an exponent on only the numerator). For more complicated calculations using matrix transformations or graphs of non-linear systems the HP-48/49 and soon to be HP-50 series can't be beat.

For anyone who is planning to be a physical scientist or an engineer, a powerful calculator is a handicap and will hurt you in the long run. The ease of solving problems in low level math courses will come to haunt you when you take a course that includes something like Laplace transforms or complex analysis.

Re:HP (4, Insightful)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761432)

For anyone who is planning to be a physical scientist or an engineer, a powerful calculator is a handicap and will hurt you in the long run. The ease of solving problems in low level math courses will come to haunt you when you take a course that includes something like Laplace transforms or complex analysis.

Spoken like someone who doesn't know how calculators are intended to be used. As I have told many a math student in my classes, calculators are no substitute for understanding how to work a problem. They are labor saving devices ... period. As far as being haunted in higher level courses, try numerical analysis sometime. As a student in that class, I had to write programs to solve differential equations, do numerical differentiation/integration, calculate eigenvalues/eigenvectors, and so on.

Re:HP (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761266)

For me, in the real world, I found that the graphing capabilities of the calcs were not useful -- if I needed to plot, I would do it on a computer.

Personally, I'd still like my TI-89 even if I never graphed anything on it again. I just really like being able to see the whole expression I type in (not to mention that it's "pretty printed").

I don't think they sell it any more (2, Informative)

hc5duke (930493) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761010)

I too used an HP48GX in high school and college, but I don't think HP sells them any more. A quick check on amazon and google shows used ones $250 and up (one listed for $500 on Amazon). The much maligned (IIRC) 49G+ is listed for about $110, again, used. You're absolutely right that no one can borrow it. The easiest way to teach people was basically tell them to press the single quote ('), type in the equation, and press "eval". /me goes on the DMV website to see if RPN4EVA is taken ;)

Re:HP (2, Insightful)

cab15625 (710956) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761436)

Had an HP48SX for years. I used to use it in the lab for plotting data as I went (good way to see if you should keep going into the wee hours or scrap an experiment before it wastes too much time). It finally died about half way through my PhD (chemistry) when it had a bottle of THF spill on it.

They are rugged. My old one got dropped all over the place, crushed in a book bag on numerous occasions, you name it. It took some heavy duty organic solvents to finally kill it dead.

They have a truck load of built in libraries and functionality (from simple math, to symbolic calculus, and handling of units).

The replacement that I finally bought is a 48gII and it will even do fft's.

And don't let RPN scare you. Once you get the hang of it, RPN is great.

Now, if only I could get it to interface properly with my linux box ...

RPN Baby! (5, Funny)

billdar (595311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760588)

HP-48GX [wikipedia.org] , hands down for engineers.

There is just something fundamentally appealing to owning a powerful calculator 90% of the population can't even add two numbers on...

Re:RPN Baby! (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761048)

In all seriousness -- I understand why RPN was advantageous decades ago. But given that nowadays there's no problem carrying enough computer power to handle any problem you might realistically key in, using [whatever normal notation is called], is there any reason to use RPN besides masochism?

Re:RPN Baby! (4, Interesting)

Mr. Frilly (6570) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761242)

RPN is argueably faster, as you don't need to enter in parenthesis. But you end up having to press the enter key a lot, so the advantage quickly evaporates.

A friend of mine at MIT had an HP-48, and I had a TI-81, we used to do a lot of engineering problem sets together and would often race on entering calculations. Averaged over time the competition was a draw. Although the HP-48 definitely wins from a "cool" factor perspective (where cool=geek).

Speaking of the TI-81, I bought mine in 1991 for $82, and I'm still using it every day.

Re:RPN Baby! (1)

cab15625 (710956) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761604)

[whatever normal notation is called]

"infix notation" (putting the operator between the operands)

Compared to Reverse Polish Notation and Polish Notation. The name comes from the fact that the original Polish Notation was developed by a Polish mathematician.

RPN is actually easy to get used to. If your grade 1 teacher had told you to write equations that way, you'd be griping about infix and having to keep track of all those stupid brackets. Think of it like the difference between English grammar and German grammar. As far as memory/technology goes, I doubt there's much of a saving with RPN since all those numbers still have to be stored in a stack.

TI-85 (1)

damian cosmas (853143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760590)

You might be able to pick one up cheap on eBay or elsewhere, and spend the remaining $80-130 on something fun.

Re:TI-85 (1)

Fuyu (107589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760944)

While I used a TI-85 in high school and in college, the teachers and professors always had handouts for the TI-81. The TI-85 has since been replaced by the TI-86, if your teachers and/or professors have handouts or programs, you may need to modify them to run properly on a TI-85.

Re:TI-85 (1)

damian cosmas (853143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761092)

85 was the standard when I was in school, 83 seems to be "it" now, based on what my GenChem students have. Problem with the 83 is that it no longer has the built-in physical constants and unit conversions that made the 85 so great for chem. And the 85 has that nice, old-school rectangular shape.

TI89 (1)

cpearson (809811) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760598)

I would work without my trusty TI-89.

Members wanted at Vista Forum [vistahelpforum.com]

HP 48GX (2, Informative)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760610)

I loved my hp 48gx... you could use it as a remote control or to chat via IR a long time ago before phone SMS existed. It also has a lot of advanced features, and games if you can get used to RPN. I'm sure HP has a nicer version these days.

Ebay yourself up an old TI-82 or -86 (4, Informative)

Paltin (983254) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760616)

I just made it through single variable calculus and chemistry using an old TI-82 and a TI-86, which I had from high school ten years ago. Both were more then adequate for calc & chemistry, and you can get them for $10 / $30 respectively on ebay. They had most of the same functions as newer TI's, and served me well.

My only difficulty was an occasion scramble to find where some higher level functions were, as the rest of the class had newer calcs and they couldn't help me out.

Just do yourself a favor, get an older calc (with an instruction book), and spend the rest of the cash on ice cream.

Sliderulers.. what you realy need is a slide ruler (1)

PS3Penguin (1048518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760620)

Graphing calculators are **WAY** over-rated ... what you really need is nice slide ruler! Remember .. nothing goes better with a slide ruler .. than a nice pocket protector to put it in! (Ok .. I can now get my former boss of my back ... He was always pushing slide rulers on the other engineers).

Re:Sliderulers.. what you realy need is a slide ru (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761346)

Graphing calculators are **WAY** over-rated ... what you really need is nice slide ruler! Remember .. nothing goes better with a slide ruler .. than a nice pocket protector to put it in! (Ok .. I can now get my former boss of my back ... He was always pushing slide rulers on the other engineers).

Not only that, but they don't have batteries to run down, or need an AC adapter.

Very useful for when society collapses and needs to be rebuilt.

TI 89 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760634)

Might as well join in on the bandwagon of everyone posting their own thread with TI 89 (plus or minus a space) as the subject.

Dunno (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760636)

Frankly... People still use scientific calculators?

However, and far more importantly... I got a free solar powered calculator today and I'm unaccountably pleased with it.

 

Re:Dunno (1)

Jesterboy (106813) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761012)

I made it all the way through my CS degree without a graphing calculator. I had to think about what I was doing a little more, but it was fine.

Also, I got to keep it on a lot more tests than the graphing calculator people...^_^

hp50g (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760638)

hp50g, its amazing and will be useful for a long time, but first understand the math behind all the operations it can do.

Hard to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760644)

For me usually, the problem was not which calc to use. It was which one would the prof. let me use. TI-89

Ummm, HP 48G (3, Informative)

Gogl (125883) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760658)

No, it's not "high tech", by today's standards. Yes, it's low-res and monochrome. But you know what? It's the best damned calculator there is (well if you want to get a GX/GX+ or whatever for more memory that's fine too, though frankly not terribly necessary for most applications). It's got a steep learning curve (RPN and all that), but once you get over it you'll have the quickest and most useful device there is. It's built well (I've used mine for 12 years and it's doing just fine), feels good, and does the job right.

This is one realm where you want a tool, not a toy - if you want something flashy and shiny with a nice screen and pleasing UI, save your pennies for an iPhone or something. If you want something that does math, and does it damn well, buy an HP calculator.

PS - I guess this doesn't quite fit your answer as according to Wikipedia they stopped making them back in 2003, so it's not really "on the market" any more. They are currently selling HP-49 series, which is still better than TIs but just isn't built like the 48Gs (the tactile feel of the keys really does matter on a device where punching numbers is the main use). Still, I'm guessing that 30 seconds with eBay and you'll find 48G's...

Let the Flaming Begin (4, Insightful)

billdar (595311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760662)

Just like in HS and college, only the "Vi vs. Emacs" argument is more heated than "HP vs TI".

Especially when the HP48GX is the clear winner... /me ducks

Re:Let the Flaming Begin (1)

pyite (140350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760708)

What's funny is that 10 years ago there really wouldn't be a discussion, because you wouldn't find an engineer worth his weight in solder that didn't have a 48GX. At some point, a systematic sissification of generations of engineers occurred and they started using the crap that TI makes because it was slightly newer (albeit not really any more functional).

Re:Let the Flaming Begin (2, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761298)

At some point, a systematic sissification of generations of engineers occurred and they started using the crap that TI makes because...

...they had been forced to use TI calculators in high school, and that was what they were used to.

TI-86 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760664)

I've been using my TI-86 for a decade. It's fan-fucking-tastic.

TI-89 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760676)

Try the TI-89 [ti.com] . Hoever, I prefer my TI-58C.

TI-92? (1)

frieza79 (947618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760690)

Wasn't there a TI 92? I remember a classmate having one in college. It seemed really bulky and not many people were impressed.
I remember it not being any better than the TI 85, at least for that class.

Re:TI-92? (1)

Fuyu (107589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760850)

The TI Voyage 200 http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/p roductDetail/us_v200.html [ti.com] is the upgrade to the TI-92 Plus. Ten years ago, the local community college used both the HP48GX and the TI-92.

Re:TI-92? (1)

Fuyu (107589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760900)

Correction: the local community college used the HP48, not the HP48GX.

Re:TI-92? (1)

demeteloaf (865003) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761490)

For most standardized tests (In the untited states at least), such as AP exams and College board tests (SAT, SAT IIs, etc), The litmus test for "is a calculator allowed or not" is whether it has a QWERTY keyboard. The Ti-92 has a qwerty keyboard, and isn't allowed.

Realizing this, Texas Instruments essentially released the exact same software, only without the QWERTY keyboard on the -89. Basically, unless you need to have the QWERTY keyboard for some reason, I'd go with the -89, simply because you can use it on the standardized tests.

Dunno if it exists (1)

nbehary (140745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760692)

Granted, I'm in the military and can't afford anything uber-cool in a calculator anyway. Though, I could get the Gov to pay for one, maybe.....thing is, for what I do (mostly modeling of an aircraft tracking program.....) I get by, with, would you believe it, a TI-82. For what I use a calculator for, it works. For the rest, there are programs on the computer. Granted the latter isn't an option for what you're asking, but.....for a HS class. You can probably get by, and I really don't know of anything better than, as another poster pointed out, HP's offerings.

TI 89 (1)

Real World Stuff (561780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760694)

Used and abused since launch.

Are you kidding? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760724)

Dude, I'm a grad student in mechanical engineering, and I have been using a TI-86 since '97. For highschool your not going to need a high power calculator, I didn't even use the graphing function most of the time anyways. (Although the built in unit conversion probably saved me more times than I can count). Most of the time now I use MatLab for everything beyond arithmetic. Not to be a jerk or anything but it sounds to me like you just want a fancier toy than anyone else in the class.
First Post?

Why you should still consider a TI 89 (5, Informative)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760734)

The TI-89 is *mediocre* with drawing graphs, as you indicated. However, if you are going to study more science, it can do symbolic manipulation that you might only expect in a program like Maple or mathematica. If you are feeling dimwitted and can't work out an integral or maybe if you can't figure out if a particular algebraic equation has a solution then you can ask this device. It has more advanced features that I haven't used but if you tinker with it you'll get alot of use out of it. Also, as far as the graph drawing goes, I think they have a TI-92 that does better with those.

Re:Why you should still consider a TI 89 (1)

Constantine Evans (969815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761460)

The TI-89 is nowhere near the level of Mathematica or Maple in terms of symbolic manipulation. I'm rather certain that it can't calculate residues, integrate a variety of basic functions like gaussians, do decent discrete or continuous fourier transforms without external packages, and so on.

People who can't figure out how to solve equations that the TI-89 can solve probably need to be taking more math courses rather than relying on the calculator, which will only hurt them in the future.

TI-86 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17760736)

Simply the best calculator I've ever used!

Go with the flow... (1)

Roger Wilcox (776904) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760746)

I know those TI-83 calculators are monochrome, boring, and expensive, but buying a competing brand may make life more difficult than it has to be.

I used a tri-color Casio calculator in high school, and all of the examples in the textbook gave instructions for TI calculators only. I spent hours figuring out how to use my Casio every time I had to do a new type of problem. In the end, I don't think it was worth it.

When I got to college I bought a TI anyway - our textbook had the instructions for TI right in it, and I didn't want to risk falling behind because of my calculator.

Re:Go with the flow... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760894)

When I got to college I bought a TI anyway - our textbook had the instructions for TI right in it, and I didn't want to risk falling behind because of my calculator.

The first time I ran into a pre-calculus math book that required a graphing calculator, I couldn't afford to get one. I spent hours graphing each homework assignment on paper and turning in approximate answers. The instructor gave me a C but I had better understanding of graphing than all my classmates combined.

Re:Go with the flow... (1)

superiority (892798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761062)

Sucks. The calculator ratio is about the other way around where I live: TIs are virtually unheard of. I've looked for them in stores, but couldn't find a damn thing. Still, the textbooks give instructions for various models of both brands. Guess yours are just sub-standard :D

This is slashdot ... (1)

vogon jeltz (257131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760762)

... any self respecting nerd uses an HP-67. Get one while you still can. Those newfangled "graphic calculators" are for pussies ;-)

Save your money (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760768)

Consider one of the under-$50 TI-competitors that will get you through Freshman Calculus, then when you get to college see what's available.

Whatever it is, it will be better or cheaper than what's here today.

HP's 9g [hp.com] probably isn't enough but at $30 it's worth checking out.

Casio has the FX-7400GPlus [casio.com] for under $40.

Used TIs can be had for under $60.

The only reasons to spend more are if the time-savings are critical or if your school requires features these less expensive calculators don't handle.

As long as you are a student, don't do anything with a calculator you couldn't do in principle with pencil and paper.

Remember, the generation before yours survived high school and college without the benefit of graphing calculators, and the generation before that used pencil, paper, and tables. Most of them turned out okay.

Re:Save your money (3, Interesting)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761584)

Remember, the generation before yours survived high school and college without the benefit of graphing calculators, and the generation before that used pencil, paper, and tables. Most of them turned out okay.

And you never know when being able to do things by hand is going to save your ass.

I recall a physics exam my freshman year of college, fairly simple mechanics stuff: find how long something takes to slide down a ramp, that sort of thing. About 10 minutes into the hour long exam my calculator blew up. Something in the LCD burst, it was a paperweight.

This was the kind of tech school where the professors just don't give a shit about your issues, and where too many missed exams counted against you heavily; leaving in the middle of one without completing it was the same thing. I was fast enough to get everything but one problem finished with 40 minutes to spare even without the calculator. Only problem was that the answer involved multiplying by the sine of an angle.

I had a couple of sin and cos values memorized: 30 degrees, 60 degrees. Had memorized the square roots of 1 through 5 to a few places, and happened to know how to compute those by hand as well.

Ever come across these formulas?

sin(x/2) = ± sqrt([1 cos x] / 2)
cos(x/2) = ± sqrt([1 + cos x] / 2)
sin(a±b)=sin(a)*cos(b)±sin(b)*cos(a)

Well, if you know sin(30) and cos(30), from these you can compute the values at 15 degrees with a few mathematical operations, then 7.5, then 3.75, etc. Build that little table, and then you can add or subtract things together to reach other values, and maybe throw in a little linear interpolation. Eventually I build an estimate answer using this approach that was close enough to get most of the points for the problem. Got dinged for not using enough significant digits, as if I'd made a rounding error, but got most of the credit.

When time was called I was in the middle of trying to check my answer against the results of a Taylor Series computed with Horner's Rule [dattalo.com] . Converting degrees to radians by hand is a snap once you've memorized Pi to a thousand places [youtube.com] ...

TI's aren't that bad (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760784)

I've used the TI's extensively and been very happy with them especially the 89. They're also pretty much standard throughout academia and many textbooks even come with directions in them on how to perform certain functions on your TI calculators. If you want a calculator thats good and handheld (the 92 I think it was is the same as the 89 but basically a really bad laptop) get the 89 if you're going TI. It can handle algebraic calculation over integrals and such as well as 3d graphing and is relatively easy to write custom programs (including games, I lost many hours playing a version of pole position) to do damn near anything it doesn't have built in, which means you can use reverse polish on it.

HP makes some decent graphong calculators but iirc they run on reverse polish notation which while very nice can take some time to get used to.

You may also want to look into just getting a pda and putting a math program on it but unfortunately I have no experience using them in that regard.

Of course all this info could be worthless since it's at least 3 years old.

Legal for tests (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760886)

Ask around -- ask colleges you're interested in, ask your high school -- what you want is something that will be legal for tests.

Then, find the best TI that you can guarantee will be allowed pretty much everywhere -- or better, get your parents to buy it; it's for education, right?

This does not excuse you from having a laptop in college. The TI is for math -- the class and the tests. The laptop is for every class that isn't math. Put your calendar on it, put notes on it, and if at all possible, put your books on it -- I was often able to get away with just a Powerbook and one textbook, and by the time you're in college, you might not even need that textbook.

Oh, by the way, if you can get by without graphing features, do that for awhile. College rules could change, and this is a high school chem course -- consider if it'll be terribly inconvenient to buy a $5 non-graphing calculator, or even *gasp* consider not using one! I didn't need one in high school till I was pretty much doing calculus, and then, the class was small enough that we could just borrow a supply of the school's own calculators.

Don't take notes on a laptop (4, Insightful)

rpbird (304450) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761300)

You'll need it or a desktop for many things, but not for taking notes. A paper notebook and a pen or pencil are all you'll need for taking notes. Why? Note-taking isn't outlining, which is what most people think. Note-taking is a mnemonic system. It is not transcription. Someone good at note-taking will make small sketches, use arrows, circle items, use abbreviations, and skip items of little relevance. Properly used, note-taking can act like a filter, preserving the things you think you'll need to remember from the lecture, while skipping those irrelevancies every lecture has. There is one final, absolute advantage to note-taking over laptop transcription (or taping the lecture, another rookie mistake): your focus will be on what's said in class, not on fiddling with your laptop.

Re:Legal for tests (1)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761544)

Ask around -- ask colleges you're interested in, ask your high school -- what you want is something that will be legal for tests.

Then, find the best TI that you can guarantee will be allowed pretty much everywhere -- or better, get your parents to buy it; it's for education, right?


Yes! Agree 100%. The TI-83+ features are the most that were allowed in my calculus tests (3 years ago). The prof allowed older/less featureful calculators if you wanted to use them, but anything with more features wasn't allowed. And there was a lot of help provided specifically for using the TI-83+, which was often a big timesaver.

Depends.... (1)

Jazz-Masta (240659) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760790)

I know at the UofA there is a calculator policy that dictates what calculators can be used.

I have used an HP RPN and a TI-89 and I prefer the TI-89 because of the "pretty print" ... it allows you to see your equations as if written on paper, so you no longer need to double guess your brackets. RPN is fine and well for some engineers, but it is a steep learning curve, and realistically it is not THAT much quicker. Figure out exactly how much and what type of calculations you will be doing and see if RPN has an advantage. If you're doing integrals all the time, stick with the TI-89. If you're inputing 300 bracket a calculation, do RPN it will save you time.

But you should check to see if any of your current or future classes have restrictions. I know we can't use anything that has any wireless capability (no laptops, phones, newer calculators) and we have two classes: programmable and non-programmable. That is if calculators are allowed. We are never allowed calculators in math classes (would make it too easy otherwise), but they would allow a slide-ruler.

You're screwed at college... get used to it... (0)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760818)

The practical reality is that you will go to college and start taking math courses where each textbook will recommend a specific model of calculator. This specific model will be the only one that the textbook and the instructor will support in class. If you take a lot of math classes, don't be surprised if you end up owning three to five different calculators. Don't forget to drop your shorts and bend over when it comes to textbook prices. If buying a new calculator was bad, the textbook cost as much or more than the calculator.

I missed the days where you could get a $500 HP calculator to get you through four years of college and maybe graduate school while still being able to play Missile Command on it.

Re:You're screwed at college... get used to it... (1)

Paralizer (792155) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761320)

I have never taken a math class in college where the book said anything about a calculator other than maybe "using a calculator you can obtain the same result". If I ever had a class that gave instructions on how to solve a problem using a calculator I would feel uneasy about the course. Normally the professor will go into great depth on how to solve problems, usually including some bizarre proof that I never would have thought of, and you would be expected to regurgitate and apply it on exams. Often calculators are not allowed on exams, you need to do everything by hand. It would not make much sense to teach math using a calculator then require exams to be done without one.

The idea of taking a college level math course where you are not expected to solve problems manually is very strange.

HP 48 4-Life!!! (4, Interesting)

GreggBz (777373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760822)

It's 12 years old, it's a little slow and they don't make them anymore, but the HP 48 series is a magnificent calculator.

RPN is very nice for long equations. Once you get used to it, you'll be more accurate and efficient. You'll never want to go back to algebraic entry. It has a lot of features, and still stands up pretty well to modern offerings. Unless they've made calculus problems a lot harder, you won't need anything more functionality wise.

The built in equation library is very nice. There is a plethora of available programs to download. The IR sensor is just cool and the keys have the best tactile feel of any calculators ever, and the batteries last about 20 months. Oh, and you could probably dip it in motor oil, and it would still work. The screen while having good contrast, is very fragile however. That's one bad thing.

Expect to pay $250 on ebay for a 48GX unless you get lucky. (The 128K expandable model. Original MSRP was $159 I think) You can probably get a 48G (32KB non expandable model) in your price range though.

Re:HP 48 4-Life!!! (3, Funny)

vogon jeltz (257131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760990)

"Oh, and you could probably dip it in motor oil, and it would still work"
Don't know about your HP-48 (which I own too, by the way), but one day the tomcat puked right onto my old HP-32S, which it didn't appreciate at all. I had to disassemble it (try that with the tank-like construction of HPs, took me me 2 hours) in order to clean it and make it work again.

Ability to use? (1)

nickmue (905710) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760920)

You may want to check with some of your teachers about using anything more advanced than TI-83+. Higher calculators have factoring, differentiation and the like functions built in so they can be banned for use in classes where you learn these concepts. Just a thought.

A few options (1)

complexmath (449417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760930)

If you want a handheld graphing calculator, the TI-89 is about as good as it gets. With a broad selection of pre-loaded applications and the ability to load more from a PC, there's really nothing it can't do. If you want even more flash, the TI Voyage 200 has a full (small) keyboard, but basically the same hardware features as the TI-89. I have an HP RPN calculator also and I like it a lot, but the HPs don't do linear algebra which pretty much excludes them from use in a number of undergrad courses.

If you're interested in just anything that can do advanced maths, you might want to look into an academic license of MATLAB, which runs about $100. You get a limited number of reinstalls and the license may expire four years after purchasing it, but it's a tremendous deal nevertheless. If only commercial licenses were affordable...

Mathematica+UMPC? (1, Redundant)

HRbnjR (12398) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760938)

If you have the cash, why not install Mathematica on a handheld UMPC?

Special purpose hardware is dead.

You don't have much choice (1)

Mark Maughan (763986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760942)

Casio had some color screen models, but they were shit. It's always been HP or TI and the HP calculator division has been stagnant for a very long time. You're going to want a TI-89 or an actual computer running Mathematica. The last HP calculator I used was way behind the TI-92 many areas and I don't think there has been a new model since. If you have to graph a differential equation on an HP, be prepared to wait. The TI-89 has symbolic calculus, algebra, differential equations, ... It can solve up to second order in algebra and diff eq. It can solve most anything that doesn't require special functions like Erf or Ei. It's programmable in TI-BASIC, C, and assembly.

Just get the TI-83 (1, Informative)

Grey Ninja (739021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760960)

The higher level graphing calculators are REALLY nice, and are sometimes a boon in the private sector, when you have to do some really fancy math. However, they are completely impractical for school. In high school, you NEED a Ti-83. A laptop is too powerful, and they aren't going to allow you to bring it with you for a test.

But I am a recent University graduate. I think I had something like 1 or 2 classes that allowed me to bring a Ti-83 into the test with me. Most of my math based classes specifically disallowed graphing calculators for obvious reasons. They are just too powerful, and make cheating very very easy. I had to buy a $10 scientific calculator for University.

So my advice? Don't buy the best calculator on the market. It will just collect dust, and you will be angry for having spent triple what a TI-83 would cost, and get far less use.

But if you really do want a good calculator, then I might suggest a TI-92. My math teacher in high school had one, and they were so very very sexy. The big difference between a TI92 and a TI-83 in my books is that a TI-92 does integrals. Which is mighty handy. It even does Vectors.

HP-50G (2, Informative)

zizzo (86200) | more than 7 years ago | (#17760998)

Not sure why everyone's pimping the 48/GX. The 50G is actually the first good calculator from HP in a long time. The screen is sharp, the keys are good, it's fast, and takes SD cards. But if you aren't up for learning RPN, just buckle down and get a TI.

Solve and integral function on the TI-89 (1)

opwierde (639081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761014)

The TI-89 is real handy for solving definite integrals where the limits are variables themselves. Takes a minute or two for it to trial and error a solution but it beats doing it yourself... Mechanical engineers are better off with a HP though, more software available.

TI (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761034)

Adding to the holy war; the TI-83 is a tank. My high school physics teacher would litterally toss them across the classroom for kids to catch. About 1 in 5 were dropped or missed completely, bouncing off the tile. All teachers are familiar with the 83 (meaning: they can help you troubleshoot it when you can't figure out how to do something) and it's allowed on virtually all tests. It may do less, but it should get you through any non-engineering/hard science degree at a 4 year school. If you go with anything besides the 83, you're going to have to figure out how to do certian functions on your own, as the menu system changes from model to model.
 
I have a Ti-86, which I got in 8th grade 12 years ago. It still works flawlessly. Luckily there were a couple of kids in each of my classes that could walk me through the menu system to make my 86 do what everyone else's 83 did like the teacher's example (done on an 83).

Durability (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761058)

No question that the HP 48G is the one to get if you want something that will last. TI's or the Carly era HP's aren't as durable by a long shot. I have a small collection of HP's that has some models that date back to the 80's, and they all work quite well despite being 25 years old. One of the models I have is the 41cx which is distinguished for being carried on the early space shuttle missions for use to supplement the on-board computers.

If you do get a 48GX do be careful protecting the screen. The carrying case doesn't provide enough protection - I lost one because of that.

The ti89 is a magic wand (1)

chowdy (992689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761128)

Wave it over any math problem, and it is solved.

Save yourself the trouble (1)

moorcito (529567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761138)

Save yourself the trouble and get and HP. I'm finishing up a mathematics degree, and my trusty HP-49G+ saw plenty of use. Sure the buttons started to break after a few years, but that was a common problem on the 49G+. I've heard that the new 50G has that all taken care of though.

Boring? Maybe. Care? No. (1)

Paralizer (792155) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761144)

The low-res, monochrome display just isn't appealing to me for $100-150, and I'd like for it to last through college. Is there something I can use close to the same price range with better screen, more usable, and more powerful?
Better rethink why you are buying a calculator. I normally use my TI-89 for.. well.. calculating. I don't use it to play games (get a DS or PSP for that), listening to music (get an mp3 player), or doing complicated analysis that requires a large screen (Maple for the PC, or maybe some more specialized software).

The TI-89 is definitely recommended. Do not get a TI-83. The 83 may cost you $60 less, but it's generations behind when it comes to the features it offers. You don't need a 500MHz to calculate some equations or differentials, but you do need a calculator that is reasonably powerful (for that type of thing) and has the software to do what you need. For these reasons, I don't think you can beat the TI-89. There is a TI-93 (I think is the model number) but as I recall is just a TI-89 that has a small keyboard and a slightly larger screen.

Since you're in high school you may want to consider what is allowed on standardized exams. For the SAT calculating devices can not make noise or have a keypad. This excludes many top-tier calculators except the TI-89. You'll likely not need anything of this caliber for such exams, but it is still nice to have a calculator with you that you are comfortable with. You don't want to go into any exam where you are not familiar and comfortable with the device you are using as it may cost you valuable time trying to find the feature you need or the exponent button.

Last I checked the 89 is around $140, and it's definitely worth it. I think most people who have used it would agree that there is significant value there. I've used it throughout high school and college, going on 7 years now. It has never not been able to do what I wanted it to (I'm a computer science major with a math minor).

TI-89 is your best bet (1)

smthngcrprt726 (994828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761174)

If you want a calculator that will take you through high school and college, and is allowed on standardized tests (SAT), you want the TI-89 titanium. You cant use an 89 on the ACT, but you can use an 86, which is by far inferior to the 89. Check with your teachers/math department about calculator policies, as most algebra classes don't allow you to use an 89. There is no one uber calculator out there, I really wish someone would come out with a really nice one... you can't graph conics on an 86 or 89 and that really is a disadvantage. Also, most classes don't allow PDA like devices or ones that resemble a computer. Happy shopping!

TI59 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17761202)

My TI 59 seved me well through engineering school. For graphics, I used the PC100 printer. I could even use up to 100 memories or 900 program steps which I could save on magnetic cards. I have the EE pack and the standard pack, small ROMs for the device. The batteries last quite well, needing to be replaced every 3-4 months yet allowing for nearly 2 hours of continuious operation. For longer tests like thermo, I just found an outlet and brought an extension cord. Hope this helps....

P.S., my wife made me get rid of one of the TI59s I had plus printer. I still have one (not sure if it works, but I mostly use Octave).

Re:TI59 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17761368)

My son has a TI84 silver edition which has FAR more power than my TI59 and first computer (which I built from parts and loaded programs via an 8" open-reel mono tape player). Maybe the OLPC for less money than the TI84 or TI89 will change the calculator requirements. Will some good graphing software be included?

TI 83-86. Not the best, but the standard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17761260)

I have asked my professors that same question. At my university, you cannot use calculators more powerful than a TI86 until you are past Calculus. During lectures, the grad students also use TI calculators for demonstrating examples.

Another thing to consider is whether or not your chosen calclator is allowed on standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT. It would suck to get familiar with a calculator and not be allowed to use it on an important test.

I eventually chose a TI-84+ because it was the best calculator allowed by my Calculus class, and my instructors used them.

If you want to try out TI calculators, You can use an emulator, try VTI, I found it at ticalc.org. There are Windows and Pocket PC version available, although I would love to find one for my Zaurus.

My 2 cents

HP 48 (2, Insightful)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761334)

Any model from this series of calculator is an excellent tool. (Except the HP48II, which is apparently a dog.)

The bad news is that HP's calculator division ain't what it used to be. The good news is that almost all HP calculators are extremely durable. I have personally worn out multiple HP calculator keypads, but it took about two years of heavy use to wear out each one. And by heavy use I don't mean mere homework... I mean 8 to 10 hour days at my job, where 60% of my job was to crunch numbers. (Yes this job was better suited to other hardware, but I worked with what I could get.) If you can find a used one that works at all, it should prove very durable.

If you can find one, a 48G or 48GX would be excellent.

(I am less impressed with the newer HP49 and its derivatives. It seemed to be a step backwards in usability to me, mainly because of the keypad layout. The all-important "enter" key is in a bad spot, and not double-sized.)

WHy any? (2, Insightful)

sevenfactorial (996184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761340)

I'm a PhD student in math, and I have no idea why anyone would want to give a student a calculator. Much less a graphing calculator. It's fine as a means of removing tedium, but students need to do a lot of tedious things once or twice. In the calculus class I teach, I can't think of a single aspect of the class that would be improved by having a calculator.

This is very off topic, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17761344)

if anyone knows how to buy a brand new Casio fx-115s (never been opened from packaging), could you tell me? I've searched and searched, and since it's been discontinued, it's incredibly difficult to find a new one. I won't take used because of issues I've had with used ones before.

TI nspire (4, Informative)

zbowling (597617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761382)

Although, I'm a little partial being a developer for TI and working on the next generation of calculators, I would have to say the TI nspire is the next big thing. It should be out next quarter. More to come.... http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/n onProductMulti/nspire_cas.html [ti.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TI-Nspire_CAS [wikipedia.org]

Newer HP's also support standard entry (1)

monkeyengineered (1042116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761438)

if you don't like RPN (which is a far superior way to do operations) you can dumb down your HP to TI Standards I never used the monster sized TI but my Hp48g did everything my engineering degree required.

Qonos (1)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761442)

It's a shame that the Qonos [hydrix.com] hasn't really taken off... it looks like there hasn't been any development for 2 years.

It's amazing how much computing power there is now compared to my 4-bit processor hp48 (it still rocks). If only there was a nokia770-like device with a decent keyboard, it would make a great calculator platform.

TI-89 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17761466)

I'm a graduate student, working on a Ph.D. in math. While the TI-92 is nice, you won't need anything higher than a TI-89 in HS. I programmed the hell out of my '86 in HS and used it up through AP Calc with no regrets or problems. The '89 has the handy ability of performing more symbolic calculations than the '86, but since you're familiar with other programs on your ThinkPad that can accomplish this, why waste the money?

If you're wondering why I got the '92, it was a gift when I graduated from undergrad from the math department, not something I purchased because the '89 was insufficient. Also, as mentioned earlier by several folks, the '92 is not allowed on most standardized tests.

Screw calculators (1)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761554)

Get a slide rule. If they bitch about it tell them to suck it. A scientific calculator can't do anything a slide rule can't, and a graphing calculator can't do anything paper and pencil can't. 3D graphing would theoretically set them apart, but the 3D graphing on handheld calculators is pure shit.

Casio FX-7500g (1)

wanerious (712877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761558)

Any of you guys remember this one? I thought so fondly of it that I ordered two from EBay. One of the first graphing calculators from 1988, I still use it every day because of its small folding form factor. Why has no one else done a folding calculator? My favorite of all time.

TI-89 Platinum (1)

SaidinUnleashed (797936) | more than 7 years ago | (#17761574)

I recently got a TI-89 Platinum for use in several science (and calculus >_http://www.ticalcs.org/
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