best graphing calculator

Why the best graphing calculator for engineers should have these features

All calculators are not equal – you have graphing calculators on one side of the engineering spectrum and you have most of the other models of calculators on the other side. Well, this is what an engineer or engineering student would say if you were to seek an opinion about calculators. And it is not without reason.

A graphing calculator allows users to perform functions that other calculators cannot actually perform. For instance, when you need to perform some complicated ‘curve fitting for extrapolation’ or ‘input an equation in infix notation’ for evaluation, you need the functionality of a graphing calculator. Point settled and rested – graphing calculators reside at the higher end of calculator features.

Now, within this category of graphing calculators, there are little differences that you may not be aware of, and this lack of complete information may sometime surprise you when you find out that the model in your hand does not perform all the functions expected of a graphing calculator.


See Also: What You Need To Look For in the Best Scientific Calculator?


Why do buyers often opt for a safe purchase? 

Don’t be surprised at this information. It is true. We are now in an era where every model gets labeled as the ‘best’, the ‘top’, the ‘best in class’, the ‘ultimate’, ‘superior’ and an endless list of adjectives.  Negotiating your way through this maze may appear confusing, and you are more likely to end up with a ‘safe’ purchase. Safe purchase? Yes. You are most likely to settle on some brand you have heard of in the past, or a brand/model which your friend/family member finds to be good enough.

Well, if your friend/family member did indeed get the best graphing calculator for engineers, you can consider yourself lucky. But you may never really know until you use it, right?

The need to identify features and leave out the bells and whistles

Many buyers often get carried away by bells and whistles in a product and forget to look at the features that are necessary. Take, for instance, a regular tape measure – would you want it to have different colours for every foot, or would you want it to offer you different options to measure objects in different standards? The colours are the bells and whistles, and the options are the features.

In pretty much the same way, you need to check out the features of a graphing calculator. Here’s the method you need to follow – avoid all the common descriptions that are offered, and look for specific features. Certain features are an indication that the model will have other associated features by default. So, let’s take a look at some important features that a calculator needs to have to justify a label of the best graphing calculator for engineers.

Asymptotes on graphs

Now, this is something that you need to be aware of when you get your graphing calculator. A large number of buyers often fall for this. Many graphing calculators may appear to have the functionality of showing asymptotes on graphs. However, not all models actually have this capacity. Some are actually a bug and not a feature. In other words, what you may consider to be a feature may actually be a bug.

So check it out by looking at different graphing functions to ascertain if the value is indeed an asymptote or a spike on a graph. Look for specific mention of this feature on the specs sheet – models that do have this feature will offer in-depth explanation about turning the asymptotes mode on and off.

Small differences set to zero

If you were to use numbers in your calculations that are smaller than the precision of your calculator you will get incorrect results. In other words, most calculators set small differences to zero. This is largely because of the fact that calculators are intended to supplement or work with textbook examples offering results that are convenient.

From a textbook point of view, you will not find this to be a problem, however, if you wish to get an answer that is perfect, like floating point arithmetic, then you need to look at a graphing calculator that does not incorrectly set small differences to zero. To be on the safer side, you need a graphing calculator that has the capability to handle numbers that are as small as 10-18. If the calculator that you have chosen has this capability, then you have the right one.

Four top models of graphing calculators

The following four models of graphing calculators are quite popular among users – online and in-store purchases. This information is available in the public domain, and we have collated the important features of these models to represent the same through comparison to help you make a decision based on your specific needs.

Model

Recommended for subjects

Reliability

Suitability

TI-84Plus CETI-84Plus CE
  • Pre-Algebra, Linear Algebra, Algebra 1 & 2
  • Trigonometry, Geometry
  • Precalculus, Calculus
  • Statistics, Business & Finance
  • Math, Biology, Chemistry & Physics
5 rating Professional exams
TI-84PlusTI-84Plus
  • Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1&2
  • Trigonometry, Geometry
  • Precalculus, Calculus
  • Statistics, Business & Finance
  • Math, Biology, Chemistry & Physics

 

5 rating Professional exams
TI Nspire CX CASTI Nspire CX CAS
  • Pre-Algebra, Linear Algebra, Algebra 1&2
  • Trigonometry, Geometry
  • Precalculus, Calculus
  • Statistics, Business & Finance
  • Differential Equations
  • Math
  • Life Science
  • Earth Science
  • Physical Science
  • Biology, Chemistry, Physics

 

5 rating University students/engineering
TI 83 PlusTI 83 Plus
  • Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 and 2
  • Trigonometry
  • Statistics, Business & Finance
  • Calculus
  • Biology, Chemistry & Physics

 

5 rating High school students, also approved in professional exams

 

Permissions in exams

You need to also carefully look at calculator models that are permitted in exams. If you have a calculator that is not permitted in an exam, then you will find that you have wasted your money. Therefore check the list of permitted models in exams before you get one if you intend to use it for appearing in professional exams and tests.

Final word

Brand value is important but is certainly not the only consideration. The same goes for sleek looks and visual appeal. Your priorities should ideally be in this order – functionality, precision, additional features, convenience, power, reliability, price, and looks.

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