Graphing calculators are indispensable tools when it comes to succeeding in any mathematical course or project. Not only math, but some science and social science courses take advantage of the many features found on a graphing calculator.
Yet, not all graphing calculators are created equally. In this article, we discuss one of the best graphing calculators on the market, specifically the TI-84 Plus CE from Texas Instruments. After giving a brief overview of this calculator, we discuss its benefits and drawbacks.
Then, we compare this calculator to similar products on the market, noting our final thoughts on why the TI-84 Plus CE is superior to most products. When analyzing the best graphing calculators on the market, we analyzed a combination of durability, affordability, usability, brand reputation, and integration in the classroom.
Ultimately, we think the best graphing calculator does not have every feature possible but instead a balanced set of features that makes it ideal for students of any age.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE TI-84 PLUS CE GRAPHING CALCULATOR
The TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator can be purchased on Amazon for $134.97 in a black color variety.
There are also 8 other colors that customers can choose from, like white, gold, mint or blue. The price varies between differently colored models, ranging from $112 for the blue color to $144.99 for the pink color.
This calculator uses a rechargeable battery. Each charge lasts for about a month. It also uses a high-resolution, 16-bit color display in order to display information and images. The resolution is 320 x 240. The TI-84 Plus CE is 30 percent lighter than previous generations of the TI-84 calculator, weighing about 7 ounces.
This graphing calculator has been approved to use with all college entrance exams, as well as AP exams and IB exams. This makes it the preferred calculator of many high schoolers and college students.
Each calculator comes with a sliding cover with rubber grips. This cover can slide over the front of the calculator to protect it when being stored or it can slide over the back of the calculator and serve as a supportive structure.
The Benefits of the TI-84 Plus CE
One of the main differences between the TI-84 Plus CE and earlier models of the TI-84 Plus is the weight of the device.
At 7 ounces, the TI-84 Plus CE is lighter than most graphing calculators at its price point. This makes it extremely portable and able to be carried in a backpack for long distances. This is especially important for students that do a lot of walking between classes, like college students.
There is nothing worse than feeling bogged down and overburdened by our school supplies simply because they are too heavy. Succeeding at school is already difficult enough for most us, having to keep up with daily homework and end-of-the-year exams.
The TI-84 Plus CE is one of the best graphing calculator’s available because it dovetails with any life on the go. This is typical for most students who are also involved in extracurricular activities. Sometimes these students have to attend events related to these activities while also carrying their school supplies, like their calculator, textbooks, and laptop.
Yet, if you have a heavy calculator, your total backpack weight might negatively impact your productivity. Just imagine a college student spending a hot summer morning campaigning for some organization.
This student’s approach would likely be more efficient if he were as light and free as possible, able to move around and interact with other students seamlessly. Yet, many of these tasks require students to carry their belongings with them at all times, making a lightweight calculator ideal for these situations.
All of this is to say that the weight of our items matters when it comes to feeling and performing at our best. This is evident not only when it comes to students but anyone that carries a graphing calculator with them daily.
Ultimately, the best graphing calculators are going to be amenable to transport, making them ideal for any commuter, not just students. This means that many professors would benefit from using them as well, as any tutor that travels significantly from client to client.
When you think about, even a pound or two can make a difference when it comes to feeling lightweight. Just think about how much your laptop weighs. Most modern laptops weight at least 2 pounds, with some weighing as much as 5 pounds. It’s likely that you already have to carry a laptop around if you are a college student.
Why add another device to the mix that is almost just as heavy? Inferior graphing calculators on the market might weigh about the same weight as a laptop, while the TI-84 Plus CE is less than half a pound.
THE BENEFITS OF THE THINNER SIZE
Furthermore, the TI-84 Plus CE is a thinner calculator than its predecessors, making it one of the best graphing calculators on the market. Anyone who has taken a long exam in a stuffy room without enough desk room to lay out their materials knows how important the size of a calculator is. Students only have a limited space when they are working, and a smaller graphing calculator might allow a student to fit more on their desk.
While a cluttered, fuller desk isn’t always desired, in many cases it is. This is especially the case for time-sensitive exams when you usually want as much information in front of you as possible for reference. The TI-84 Plus is so thin and lightweight that it could easily fit on a limited sized desk or even on your laptop or lap if necessary.
THE BENEFITS OF THE COLOR SCREEN
The color screen is another noticeable improvement on the TI-84 Plus CE when compared with previous models in the TI-84 lineup. This makes it more accessible for younger generations that often benefit from the use of colors when learning abstract concepts.
More than anything, the color screen makes this calculator easier on the eyes for many. This is important since many students discover that they stare at their graphing calculator for long periods of time. Staring at a black-and-white display can get boring after a while, literally sucking the color out of learning and development.
Staring at a color screen, on the other hand, is a much more immersive and satisfying experience. Sometimes that’s all we need to push through that last hour of work on our math homework.
Furthermore, many students remember information better through the use of colors, especially when it comes to graphing multiple functions at once. Many inferior graphing calculators use different tones of black in order to distinguish different graphs.
Yet, this can be confusing and difficult to rely on when you need to recall the information. The best graphing calculators, however, use contrasting colors when representing distinct information, allowing for better recall in the future.
THE BENEFITS OF THE USER INTERFACE
Perhaps the main benefit of the TI-84 Plus CE is that it makes hardly any changes to the user interface of past TI-84 graphing calculators.
This is a benefit given how user-friendly past TI-84 calculators have been. This quality is what has made this lineup so trustworthy among high school and college students.
Luckily, Texas Instruments has kept the button layout mostly the same on the TI-84 Plus CE. The only major change is that the TI-84 Plus CE’s buttons are smaller and rectangular rather than rounded.
A consistent user interface might be the single most important feature for any student looking to purchase a new graphing calculator. Many students that are purchasing a graphing calculator are doing so for the first time.
Yet, this doesn’t mean that these students have never used a graphing calculator before. In fact, most students are first exposed to graphing calculators in their math class when they use a classroom copy or another student’s.
Since the TI-83 and TI-84 graphing calculators are commonly used by teachers and instructors, it’s likely that students will already be accustomed to the button layout and user interface of these devices.
Thus, it makes sense when buying your own graphing calculator to purchase one that does not radically deviate from what you’re used to. This will make it easier to continue your development and speed up your usage of your calculator.
In this sense, the best graphing calculators don’t overwhelm us with some new system to learn. Instead, they support our current conditioning, which could allow us to complete our work more efficiently. This is enjoyable in and of itself but is also important on timed exams like the SAT Math section, for example.
THE DRAWBACKS OF THE TI-84 PLUS CE
The main drawback of the TI-84 Plus CE is the price. Even if you purchased a color scheme on the lower end of the price range, you would still be dishing out well over $100 for a graphing calculator.
While this might not affect many younger students, as their parents will likely be paying for the product, it could affect older students that are on a budget. These students still want to get the best graphing calculator available but might not be able to do so considering the high price.
A portable graphing calculator is practically a necessity for some classes or students, while others view it as a luxury. Of course, our computers can provide us with many of the same features that modern graphing calculators provide, yet without any cost.
Some students that can get by using online calculator applications might benefit from a cheaper graphing calculator or no graphing calculator at all. In this sense, it’s important to genuinely reflect if you actually need a graphing calculator. Some students convince themselves they do because they love the sleek design of the new TI-84 Plus CE.
Yet, this can result in regretting your purchase later on. Alternatively, some students convince themselves not to buy the TI-84 Plus CE due to its price but actually really need it for their work.
Thus, any crucial resource that costs a lot can disrupt a student’s life, leading to poor decision making. This is why the best graphing calculators are also usually affordable.
HOW DOES THE TI-84 PLUS CE COMPARE TO OTHER GRAPHING CALCULATORS?
Texas Instruments is really the paragon of excellence when it comes to graphing calculators.
- Color Screen. The screen size is 320 x 240 pixels (3.5 inches diagonal) and the screen resolution is 125 DPI; 16-bit...
- Rechargeable battery included.Lasts up to two weeks on a single charge
- Thin Design and lightweight with easy touchpad navigation
The TI-Nspire CX is a comparable graphing calculator to the TI-84 Plus, costing $141.99. This calculator is ideal for mechanical engineering purposes as well as any work involving the sciences or differential equations. The TI-Nspire CX is also ideal for doing 3D graphing using associated software that can be run on your computer.
Yet, the TI-Nspire CX has a different button layout and user interface than the TI-84 lineup. This translates to a higher learning curve, which could be a deal breaker for users who don’t want to master a new system.
- REF/RREF function, random integers, unit conversion, new types of regressions, chi-squared GOF function, 9 new...
- 1500 KB Flash ROM
- Built-in eActivity and spreadsheet applications
Additionally, the company Casio makes graphing calculators that are more affordable, like the Casio FX-9860GII for $69.99. Yet, most of their graphing calculators are not as durable as the TI-84 Plus CE.
Thus, while you might save money initially on these Casio calculators, the TI-84 Plus CE will result in more long-term savings since you won’t have to purchase a new one as often.
OUR THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF THE BEST GRAPHING CALCULATORS
At the end of the day, we don’t think the market for graphing calculators has changed much in recent years. Texas Instruments still dominates the industry with their TI-84 lineup.
The TI-84 Plus CE represents a slight upgrade over past TI-84 models, making it one of the best graphing calculators for any student or teacher.
We think Texas Instruments will continue to make this calculator smaller and more efficient until it is eventually integrated seamlessly into our smart phones.
In the future, we see the best graphing calculators being purchased as software, not hardware. Specifically, we think future customers will be able to download a graphing calculator application to whatever wearable technology they own. This would prevent students from having to carry around a separate device at all times.
Regardless of what happens in the future, we think Texas Instruments will be there every step of the way to deliver cutting-edge products to customers.