An A+ Tool: Review Of The HP Prime Graphing Calculator

Graphing calculators are such an essential part of the advanced math experience in school that it’s easy to forget how many features they have. They are a requirement for geometry, advanced algebra, and calculus, but what exactly separates the HP Prime graphing calculator from the others on the market?

We looked at all of the bells and whistles included with the HP Prime graphing calculator, so you can make the best decision for your academic or professional future. Let’s find out what makes this calculator tick!

What is the HP Prime Graphing Calculator?

The HP Prime graphing calculator is an advanced calculator capable of much more than just figuring out who owes what amount when it’s time to pay the tab at a restaurant. This is a device that has been certified to work on the IB Diploma Exam, the PSAT, the SAT, the SAT Subject Tests in Mathematics, and certain AP exams.

You’ll be working in advanced graphing, high-level geometry, and even spreadsheet applications when you use the HP Prime graphing calculator. The calculator can connect to HP’s Prime Mobile App, so you can seamlessly switch from the calculator to another Windows, Android, or iOS device.


Name                Prime

Brand                HP

Model Number        NW280AA

Dimensions        7.2” X 3.4” X 0.6”

Color Options        Black

Battery                Lithium Metal (1 included with a purchase of new model)

Weight                0.5 pounds

Comparing the HP Prime Graphing Calculator

Unlike similar graphing calculators, the HP Prime comes with a full-color screen, giving you advanced readouts of your data and running applications. You’ll be able to easily determine which function of the calculator you are using, and the ability to swap out to another app inside the calculator at any time.

Pricing the HP Prime Graphing Calculator

You’ll find the average price of the HP Prime graphing calculator hovering around $120 for a brand new model. You might also consider looking for the calculator if it has been previously used, but you’ll want to compare the cost of a used model to the number of included components. Make sure that the lower cost doesn’t take away from a missing battery, cracked screen, or malfunctioning buttons.

Where to Buy

The HP Prime graphing calculator is available at many major online retailers. HP’s official online store, as well as Amazon and Newegg all, sell the model through their digital storefront. Policies on sales tax may differ, so be sure to factor tax and shipping into your final cost when making a purchase.

If you prefer to make your selection in person, you can find the HP Prime graphing calculator at stores such as Best Buy, Staples, or Office Depot. Most of the time, big box stores don’t carry used models, but you may be able to find an open box item that has been previously returned and is no longer sealed. Open box items will have a reduced price and may have a different return policy.

Reviewing the HP Prime Graphing Calculator

Ease of Use

Putting it through a test session, we can tell that the HP Prime graphing calculator is at the top of its class when it comes to presentation. This is a calculator specifically marketed toward educators and students. There are several education apps included with the calculator, which make it easy for students to plug in values and solve quadratic, trigonometric, and geometry equations with no added work.

The HP Prime graphing calculator includes a wireless delivery system, which enables the calculator to accept quizzes and polls designed by teachers. Teachers can also remotely enable an “exam mode,” which restricts certain settings on the calculator when it’s time for an in-class examination.

The Weight

The hardware design on the HP prime deserves praise. At only half a pound, you’ll barely notice this device is in your hand. You could almost say it’s too light and could easily be knocked off your desk from an errant elbow while performing rapid other calculations on scrap paper or another computer monitor. Fortunately, there’s a screen protector included with the calculator that prevents any accidents from occurring.

The included lithium battery recharges with a basic micro-USB cable. Even if you’re a full-time math major, you shouldn’t need to worry about recharging the HP Prime more than once every eight days or so. Charge speed is about the same whether you use the wall charger or a USB port on a computer or laptop.

Using the Touch Screen

Unlike many of its competitors, the HP Prime graphing calculator includes a touchscreen interface for jumping in and out of different menus. With all of the mobile and gaming devices that focus on interactive menus incorporating touch, this should make the HP Prime a top choice for any student who wants their calculator to feel similar to every other device they currently own.

The touchscreen is incredibly responsive and should feel identical to anyone who spends their day messaging friends and family or taking a break with a video game. The buttons on the rest of the calculator will still see plenty of use, and you’ll need to educate yourself on when to use which interface – not every function is available on the touchscreen.

Touchscreen Buttons

Compared to a lot of TI calculators, the touchscreen buttons that appear at the bottom of the screen are an amazing convenience that you won’t be able to live without if you ever go to another model. It might seem a bit confusing at first, especially if you’ve worked with other calculators in the past. Using the touchscreen to perform simple functions relevant to the open app will feel like home after a short time, and you won’t want to use another calculator that doesn’t have an identical feature.

Menu Interfaces

While we’re on the subject of menus, this calculator reads like a dream. The HP Prime graphing calculator can be browsed equally with the keypad or the touchscreen, so if you’re still uneasy about using a touchpad with the calculator at first, you can stick to hard button presses, although we recommend you get adjusted to the touchscreen as quickly as possible.

The drop-down and pop-up menus are perfect for those who have grown up using similar menu trees through Microsoft Office and Google Docs. You can resize any of your columns or rows inside the spreadsheet app, making your personal viewing experience different from others. Thanks to the full-color display, all of your spreadsheets can be filled with different color cells. You’ll feel like you have a fully-functioning spreadsheet program in your pocket!


Let’s tackle an important subject and one you’re likely considering for the main reason to purchase the HP Prime graphing calculator: how do the actual graphs look?

We’ll be honest – you might forget about Texas Instruments completely after giving this calculator a spin. No matter how complex we made our graphs and how ridiculous the visual readout should have been, the HP Prime had no problem visualizing our data and providing us with a simple, efficient display that didn’t require any eye-straining or menu adjustment.

One of the great things is not needing any special pre-defined program or template for use when graphing any complicated equations. Conic sections and circles, normally requiring workarounds on other calculators, were a breeze for the HP Prime graphing calculator. You put the numbers in, and the Prime spits out the results like no effort was needed.

Computer Algebra System

Have you ever wanted a calculator that could handle algebraic equations along with the ability to graph just about anything you put it? The HP Prime graphing calculator has you covered, as it can work with variables as well as numerical values in its Computer Algebra System (CAS) calculator. Not only will it manipulate variables and simplify equations, but it can find integrals and solve equations. Where was this calculator when we were in school?

The CAS calculator exists independently of the normal operations, so you’ll have to enter the CAS mode in order to work with algebraic expressions. That doesn’t mean they won’t easily interact; in fact, you can simply copy and paste a final result from the CAS and take it over to the main calculator mode, and vice versa.

You’ll need to remember that in the CAS mode, the HP Prime will return values in fractions and radical numbers, while the normal mode puts them in decimal form.

Zooming and Geometry

Just like any other conventional mobile device, you can use two fingers and zoom in or out with the HP Prime graphing calculator screen. Your graphs can be manipulated the same way as the rest of the photos on your phone, and you’ll be amazed at how natural it feels to do this on a calculator.

The ease of zooming with your fingers also applies to use the geometry app. You can select an entire triangle, pentagon, or square, and manipulate the view and their positions with a simple touch of the screen.

Scoring the HP Prime Graphing Calculator

If you couldn’t already tell by our glowing praise, we can’t say enough good things about the HP Prime graphing calculator. The ability to use this calculator to perform complex algebra, shift geometric figures on a graph, and slide in and out of multiple apps is simply incredible on a screen that looks just like an Android or iOS device.

Teachers will be very pleased with the delivery system contained in the calculator, and the ability to disable certain features while giving an exam in the middle of a class session. Students who already own smartphones or tablets will have no issue adjusting to the interface and swapping back and forth between buttons and the touchscreen.

Working with Algebra

The ability to work with algebra is such a convincing factor that it’s going to be tough to ignore in other calculators if you ever decide to move away from the HP Prime and try something else. On top of solving equations that you would otherwise have to work out by hand, you’re able to take these results and plug them directly into other equations you’re already working with.


Alternatives to the HP Prime Graphing Calculator

If you decide that the HP Prime graphing calculator isn’t for you, there are some other options we would recommend. Maybe you need something a bit more complex, or the touchscreen doesn’t work for you.

The Texas Instruments TI-84 has been a classroom standard for decades. It now comes pre-loaded with a dozen apps, making your graphing calculations easier and freeing up the time you need to work on other equations. The LCD display might look antiquated compared to the HP Prime, but this calculator would not still be around if it wasn’t one of the go-to devices in math classrooms everywhere.

There is also the Casio fx-9750GII, if you’re on a budget and can’t fork over the extra money necessary for the TI or HP models. While the Casio calculator lacks many of the more complex operations found in the other two, it still hooks up to a USB cable for data sharing and PC connections. You’ll need to purchase separate software to take full advantage of connecting.

Final Thoughts on the HP Prime Graphing Calculator

What’s the most important feature in a graphing calculator for you: ease of use? A full-color display? A touchscreen that makes a calculator feel like an iPhone or Droid?

All three of these directly apply to use the HP Prime graphing calculator. While other calculators look like classic pieces of hardware that have survived the test of time rather than adapted, the HP Prime is a model that has evolved. User feedback has resulted in a completely streamlined interface that is too friendly to warrant anything other than our highest recommendation.

If you are used to another brand, be it TI or Casio, you should give serious thought to making the switch to HP. Teachers and students alike will be happy!


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