Whether you are taking a math class that requires the use of a graphing calculator, or you work in a profession in which a graphing calculator will be useful, you may find that shopping or this type of tool is a bit of a challenge. A specialized calculator, a graphing calculator is a handheld device that can plot graphs, solve various equations at the same time and perform other tasks that involve variables.
Because these calculators are complex and they can offer a wide range of features, and because there are so many on the market, trying to find the best graphing calculator to meet your needs can be a bit challenging. To help you find the best graphing calculator, we have comprised this handy buyer’s guide, which is full of valuable information that will help you make the best decision.
Types of Graphing Calculators
There are two main types of graphing calculators:
- Computer Algebra System (CAS)
- Non Computer Algebra System (Non – CAS)
Computer Algebra System Graphing Calculators
CAS graphing calculators are designed for the manipulation of symbolic expressions. This type of graphing calculator can evaluate, factor, integrate, solve all roots and simplify equations, all with the touch of a button. Mathematicians and scientists, particularly those who frequently use symbolic expressions, will find CAS graphing calculators beneficial.
Non Computer Algebra System Graphing Calculators
Considered numerical calculators, non computer algebra system graphing calculators compute basic numerical equations.
Graphing Calculator Considerations
Before you start shopping for a graphing calculator, there are several factors that you are going to want to take into consideration to ensure that you purchase the best one to meet your needs. By considering these factors, you will be able to select a calculator that performs the functions you need, that is easy to use and that you can rely on.
The screen is a very important factor to consider when shopping for a graphing calculator. You want to be able to see the information the calculator presents with ease. The smaller the screen, the more difficult it will be to view the information; however, while a larger screen may be easier to see, it will also mean a larger calculator, which could be a disadvantage if you plan on traveling with your graphing calculator.
Additionally, you also want to make sure the screen presents information clearly. Typically, a color screen is easier to view; however, graphing calculators with color screens do tend to be more expensive than graphing calculators with black and white screens.
The Power Source
In order for your graphing calculator to work, it needs to be powered up. As mentioned above, a graphing calculator can be powered by alkaline batteries or it can be recharged. Determine which type of power source will better suit your needs before you start shopping so that you can choose the best one to meet your needs.
You are purchasing a graphing calculator so that it can perform certain functions and provide you with certain information. Make sure that the graphing calculator you purchase is capable of providing the information you need it to. Do note that if you are planning on advancing in mathematics, science or business, it might be worth your while to invest in a higher end graphing calculator. Some graphing calculators are tailored to graph data that is inputted for statistics courses, while others are geared toward algebra and calculus.
Ease of Use
The easier the graphing calculator is to use the better. Some graphing calculators can be complex, but if they are easy to operate, you will be able to figure out those complexities with ease. Things that will make your graphing calculator easier to use include an easy to read display, clearly marked buttons that clearly indicate what their functions are and an easy to access on – off button.
If you are a student or if you are purchasing a graphing calculator for a student, you want to make sure that you know what the school’s policies are for using a graphing calculator. Some schools may not permit the use of these devices in class, or they may not be permitted to be used while taking tests. If the use of a graphing calculator is not permitted, purchasing one doesn’t make sense.
The Return Policy
Make sure you check out the return policy, too. In the event that you aren’t satisfied with the graphing calculator or you find that you can’t use it, you want to make sure that you can return it for a full refund.
Another important factor to consider is the processing speed. A graphing calculator that is outfitted with a fast processor will allow you to perform and save your equations quickly and easily.
Graphing calculators can vary significantly in price. Lower end models can over around the $100 mark, while higher end models can exceed $200 or more. Generally, the larger, the more advanced and the more features the graphing calculator offers, the more expensive it will be. Make sure you know how much you want to invest on your graphing calculator before you start shopping so you don’t overextend your budget.
Graphing Calculator Features
Graphing calculators can offer a variety of features. These features are designed to make the graphing calculator easier to use and to improve its functionality. Typically, the more features a graphing calculator offers, the more expensive it will be, so if you don’t need certain features, you may want to avoid purchasing a model that boasts certain features to keep the cost down.
Many graphing calculators are equipped to download programs. These programs can help you perform more advanced mathematical functions, and some are capable of being used to play games. If you want to make the most of your graphing calculator, look for one that can download programs. However, do note that devices that are equipped to download programs do tend to be more expensive, so this is a feature you may want to avoid if you are trying to keep costs down.
Some graphing calculators are programmed in various languages. If you are fluent in several languages, or if you intend on using it with an audience that speaks different languages, a graphing calculator that offers this features may be useful for you.
If you plan on storing a lot of information on your graphing calculator, it is a wise idea to look for one that features additional memory. The more memory your graphing calculator offers, the more information it will hold. This feature can help you make the most of your device and use it to its fullest advantage.
A 3D graphing calculator can help you better understand the way the functions work by displaying them in 3D. With this feature, you can select the steepness and height of your 3D graph, modify the colors of different sections of your graphs and create various 3D graphs using the same axes.
A graphing calculator that offers USB capability will allow you to connect the calculator to a computer or another compatible device. This feature makes sharing files with your graphing calculator and other devices with ease. With some graphing calculators, this feature will also allow you to integrate equations into Word and different spreadsheet programs. Additionally, USB connectivity allows you to download updates and new applications to your graphing calculator.
If you want to ensure your satisfaction with your graphing calculator, look for one that features a warranty. Should you be unhappy with your graphing calculator or should something happen to it during the life of the warranty, the manufacturer will replace it or refund your money (dependant on the terms of the warranty.)
Best Graphing Calculator Brands
There are several companies that manufacture graphing calculators, which can make finding the one that best fits your needs a challenge. To help you find the best brands, we conducted extensive research and tested the graphing calculators from several manufacturers ourselves to see how they compared. After our thorough assessment, we determined that the following brands offer the best graphing calculators.
Texas Instruments is one of the most well known and highly regarded manufacturers of graphing calculators on the market. Texas Instruments produces such a wide array of high quality graphing calculators that offer an array of features that they are the first name that comes to mind when most people think of this type of device.
Hewlett Packard manufactures an array of high quality computer equipment. Their graphing calculators are some of the best available because they offer so many options, the latest features and the most cutting edge designs.
Casio is a highly regarded manufacturer of electronic equipment. This company makes an array of electronics, including graphing calculators. We liked how easy their graphing calculators were to use, how many features they offered, and the various prices that they offered.