PROS / This calculator is widely accepted as the industry standard and is very easy to use.
CONS / It isn't as versatile as some other calculators.
VERDICT / The TI 84 Plus is the best calculator for a college or high-school student.
The TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winning TI 84 Plus graphing calculator from long-time manufacturer Texas Instruments is largely heralded as the benchmark for all other calculators. This sleek and durable machine has practically been adopted by high-schools and universities across the globe, becoming one of the most widely used devices in schools; this model is compatible with every major test we could identify. The widespread acceptance of the TI 84 and its similar counterpart in the TI 83 has even extended to textbook printers; the majority of math textbooks include instructions on calculator input for individual equations written specifically for these two models.
The TI 84 outshines competitor HP 50g and all other calculators on our matrix almost solely because of its widespread acceptance in the educational world. It may lack a little in the features and compatible subjects, but it is immensely valuable in a classroom where the teacher and textbook are both assuming you’re using this model.
Texas Instruments is the largest calculator manufacturer at present, boasting accomplishments such as being the first company to create an electronic, hand-held calculator and the invention of the first working integrated circuit. With this reputation for innovation, it’s no surprise that they’ve become the industry leader in several different markets, including that of graphing calculators.
This device is essentially an improved version of the TI 83 standby. These calculators are loaded with features, spanning subjects from Algebra to Pre-calculus. Basic functions like multiplication and exponents are found on the physical buttons. Additional operations can be performed from the same keys by pressing the “2nd” or “Alpha” buttons before pressing the key. The details of these functions are displayed in a color coded print that corresponds to the orange-yellow of the 2nd button and the teal of the Alpha key.
This particular model operates with 480 kilobytes of ROM and 24 kilobytes of RAM. These numbers may seem small compared to modern computers, but calculators need much less storage space and processing speed than the standard desktop or laptop. All Texas Instruments calculators utilize the algebraic or infix input method, which is generally more familiar to the average user.
The display of the TI 84 measures 160 pixels by 120 pixels. This is slightly larger than the majority of calculators on the market presently. This larger display is enhanced by the high-contrast monochrome display that delivers a clear readout of your equations and solutions.
With its respectable list of compatible courses and durable construction, this trusty Texas Instruments front-man may be the only calculator needed for basic high-school and college math. Long-time users of this device report that they never needed to purchase an upgraded model throughout their school years.
The high point for this graphing calculator is its longevity and durability. The use of this particular model has become so widespread as to almost completely eclipse all other varieties on the market. It has become so popular that textbooks and professors now tailor their instructions to this configuration. Instructions for calculator use in respected textbooks use the interface of the TI 84 to demonstrate the operations. This reliability has contributed to its high ranking on our side-by-side comparison.
In addition to being accepted by nearly every teacher and instructional manual, this calculator is compatible with every major test that we identified, including the SAT, ACT and AP tests. Not only is it allowed in these cases, it is often the first model to be recommended by exam proctors. This model is the most durable and versatile that we reviewed.
Ease of Use
If having instructions for its use in every textbook and being taught math based on a knowledge of this calculator isn’t enough, an extensive user’s manual accompanies the device to aid in familiarizing yourself with it.
Modern graphing calculators are complex and powerful machines. This model is very straightforward and easy to use. After consulting with the manual a few times, the location of specific functions or symbols should be second nature. The layout of the buttons is intuitive and clear. There are menus and lists that house lesser-used functions, but these are not difficult to locate. The additional functions accessed by the 2nd and Alpha keys are clearly labeled and easy to read, located directly above the key to which they correspond. This is an important feature, as a common complaint against the later TI 89 model is that these labels are quite difficult to read.
An industry-standard one year limited warranty is included with the purchase of the TI 84. The warranty guarantees the quality of the calculator and covers any defects in the manufacture or materials of the product, but does not cover any user-inflicted damage. The calculator is durable enough that this should never be a major concern and the coverage of defective materials is comforting.
Texas Instruments’ website is full of helpful materials and customer support. For technical questions, an extensive FAQs section is available. We were impressed by the amount of online documentation this manufacturer provided. Everything from product tutorials to informational articles on caring for your calculator and tools for parents can be found on their support page. Another helpful feature is the unique “User Groups” function. These groups were created by teachers and professors that wished to share information about instruction and the use of Texas Instruments technology in their various institutions.
If you’re looking for a reliable graphing calculator that will be useable in nearly any situation, the TI 84 Plus is the best calculator around. Its feature set may not be as robust as some of the newer calculators, but its widespread acceptance and utilization in schools and on major tests launch this device to the top of our list.