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When it comes to graphing calculators, two manufacturers dominate the market: Texas Instruments and Casio. Although finding the best graphing calculator means picking between the two brands, don’t assume that your options are limited because the two companies offer graphing calculators with a range of functions and features.
When you’re selecting the best graphing calculator, consider the course you’re taking and whether you’d like to use the calculator on a standardized test like the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or AP exams. It might also be helpful to check with your teacher or professor to see which calculators are accepted.
In the meantime, read on to see the best graphing calculators to buy today.
Best Overall: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE
The TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator comes preloaded with more than a dozen applications such as inequality graphing, correct math notation, and data collection. The thin, lightweight design features a high resolution, full-color backlit display with a sleek design. The graphing calculator also comes in several different colors: black, pink, white, coral, gold, mint, gray, and blue, so you can find one that suits your style. The full-color screen enhances the display experience, making graphs easier to read by adding color-coded equations, plots, and objects.
The TI-84 Plus CE includes a rechargeable battery that keeps you from having to head to the store to stock up on batteries. It also means you need to make sure your graphing calculator is fully charged before class and especially before heading out for standardized college testing. The calculator is approved for PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP exams.
Best Advanced: Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color
For more advanced mathematical calculations like Calculus, opt for the TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color Graphing Calculator. An upgrade from Texas Instruments' TI-Nspire CX graphing calculators, this version offers faster performance, interactive visuals, and graphics that are easier to read. In addition to computing basic equations, this graphing calculator can plot functions and equations, construct geometric figures and animations, graphically create a hypothesis, perform calculations on data, and more. There are six different graph styles and 15 colors to choose from to distinguish each of your graphs. All this, and the TI-Nspire CX II is lightweight, and its touchpad is easy to navigate with. This product comes with a rechargeable battery.
Best Value: Casio FX-9750GII
The Casio FX-9750GII Graphic Calculator features all the basic functionality of an entry-level graphing calculator, making it great for math coursework from Pre-Algebra to AP Calculus and Statistics and courses in between (like Geometry and Trigonometry).
The icon-based menu makes it easy for students to navigate. The FX-9750GII also includes several soft-menus to easily access functionality for common tasks. The high-resolution LCD display includes enlarged-dot area technology that enhances the visuals—lines and curves are sharp and easier to see and comprehend. The high-speed CPU processes lengthy calculations and complex graphs quickly and accurately, which is essential during test time when every second counts.
Speaking of test time, test takers can also benefit from the Casio graphing calculator—it’s approved for use on the PSAT, SAT, and college entrance exams, as well as AP tests. The FX-9750GII requires four AAA batteries and includes built-in USB functionality for connecting with other devices.
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Best for Calculus: Casio FX-9860GII
The Casio FX-9860GII features an oversized, high-resolution display, making it much easier to view the graphs and data displays on the calculator screen. Plus, the backlit display feature can be turned on to improve visibility. The calculus calculator can be used for a variety of math courses from Pre-Algebra to Statistics and has expanded functionality, such as the built-in spreadsheet application that makes it useful for science courses like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and even Business & Finance courses. It’s especially great for students who are taking Calculus courses.
You can navigate the functions by using any of the 15 pre-loaded icon menus. It features the same speedy processing as other models and is even approved for use in college entrance exams and AP tests.
Best for Algebra: Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus
The TI-83 Plus graphing calculator is a great entry-level calculator for middle and high school students taking math and science courses such as Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 & 2, Trigonometry, Calculus, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
The LDC screen features 64 x 96-pixel resolution and offers a clear display. The built-in memory can store and analyze up to 10 matrices. The calculator also features a split-screen that’s helpful for tracing graphs while scrolling through the table values.
The TI-83 Plus is a great choice if you don’t need many advanced functions or if your professor does not allow calculators with the more advanced functions.
It’s approved for use on the SAT, AP, PSAT, and ACT tests and uses four Alkaline batteries.
Best for High School: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus
The TI-84 Plus graphing calculator comes preloaded with essential functions for all your graphing needs. This version of the TI-84 plus doesn’t feature the color display, only comes in black, but also has a lower price tag.
Users can easily access advanced functions by pulling down the display menus. The calculator features horizontal and vertical split-screen options, allowing users to view the essential information on the screen without having to scroll around.
The TI-84 Plus graphing calculator has been approved by standardized testing organizations for use on the PSAT, SAT, and ACT college entrance exams, as well as AP tests. It includes an i/o port that can be used to communicate with other TI products. The calculator also uses four AAA batteries and includes a lithium battery backup that protects RAM memory.
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Best for Engineers: Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS
The Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS graphing calculator features advanced functionality for students taking advanced high school coursework and university students in math, science, and engineering classes. You can even import digital images and place graphs and equations on them. It's also possible to create documents and pages and store them the way you would with a computer. Even more, you have the ability to enter equations in proper notation—with superscript and subscript.
The graphing calculator's CAS functionality, or “Computational Algebra System," allows you to manipulate equations and solve for any variable within the equation. Those taking courses such as Chemistry and Physics will find this functionality helpful since it helps students discover the theory that drives equations.
This Texas Instruments calculator is approved for use on the SAT and PSAT exams, as well as AP tests. It’s not approved for the ACT exam. Students in Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1 or 2 may not find this calculator useful.
Best Color Display: Casio PRIZM FX-CG50
Released in 2017, the Casio PRIZM FX-CG50 Graphing Calculator is the brand's latest PRIZM model, so you know you'll be getting the best features. With a natural textbook display, it has a high-resolution LCD screen with over 65,000 colors and 82,000 pixels. It's useful for high school and college math classes, as well as finance and business purposes. Along with the ability to create 3D graphing designs, this graphing calculator offers Python programming and picture plot technology to display real-life images. It also comes at a great value and is easy to use, thanks to a straightforward icon-based menu.
Best Features: Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium CAS
Calculate more complex calculus and algebra functions with the Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium CAS Graphing Calculator. With a generous 2.7 MB flash memory, it boasts a large, 100 x 160-pixel display, 3D graphing, and even has a split-screen view function. Better yet, this graphing calculator comes with a one-year warranty and a USB cable to share files with other calculators or connect with computers. Its advanced features, including a Computer Algebra System (CAS) to solve most equations, make it ideal for those in engineering or physics fields.
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The Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE (view at Amazon) is the best overall graphing calculator because of the value it offers: it has an excellent colored back-lit display, is rechargeable, and has the most popular applications preloaded. Or, you could go with the Casio PRIZM FX-CG50 (view at Amazon), which is cheaper but has a high-resolution screen, picture plot technology, and an intuitive menu.
What to Look for in Graphing Calculators
Chances are if you’re buying a graphing calculator, it’s because your teacher or professor said you needed one. They may recommend the best model for your course, and you can also check College Board to see which models are approved for use on SAT and AP exams. Use your course and exam requirements as a guide, but if you plan to continue your mathematics studies, it may be worth going for a more advanced model.
It's important to consider the size and clarity of a calculator's display—some have color screens while others are black and white, and more advanced models display 3D graphs and real images.
If you plan to study advanced math and engineering, you may want to choose a calculator that has additional applications such as making spreadsheets, creating documents, or importing images.
Some models can be charged or connected by USB to other devices, while others are typically powered by four AAA batteries or rechargeable batteries.
As long as your calculator performs the functions you need for your class (or your job), you don’t necessarily need to go with the most expensive one. If you're going to use it long-term, however, it may be worth investing in a more advanced model, so you don’t have to replace a cheaper version every year.
What exactly is a graphing calculator?
Graphing calculators offer all of the basic calculation options of a regular calculator, along with a display screen that can plot graphs and perform complex equations. They are different from scientific calculators, which can also handle some complex equations in that they have graphing capabilities.
Why are graphing calculators expensive?
For starters, graphing calculators feature more bells and whistles than scientific or other calculators. Still, they never really dropped in price as older technologies typically do. What’s more, there are free graphing calculators online today, so how could graphing calculators still command expensive prices? The answer: it has more to do with economics and business practices than with the price of technology. Because graphing calculators are still required in most high school and college-level mathematics courses, as well as the SAT and other state exams (where you can only bring an approved device), there is still a huge demand for them. That means manufacturers can keep the prices up.
Which is better: Texas Instruments or Casio?
Texas Instruments (TI) is an American company founded in 1930 and Casio was launched in Japan in 1957, with the latter being the first to market with a graphing calculator. While TI is the market leader (some might even call it a monopoly), choosing which brand to go with comes down to personal preference. For math students, though, you can’t go wrong with either as they both offer different outstanding calculators at various price points that will appeal to students of all levels. However, don’t be surprised if your teacher or professor recommends TI models just because they are the most well-known.
Meet the Expert
LaToya Irby has over a decade of experience as a financial reporter. She has been a writer and ghostwriter for dozens of publications, including AllFreelanceWriting.com, Invibed.com, HealPay.com, and FinanceGlobe.com.