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Some Thoughts on Buying a Scientific Calculator


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DISCLAIMER:  The information on this web site, and especially particular FAQ #1 here,  reflect the writer's subjective opinion and observations. The FAQs should be considered only as another source of information.  The writer is not endorsing any particular brand or model of the calculators mentioned or any particular store or shop. The writer does not warrant the accuracy of any FAQ.  Any calculator mentioned may not be a representative sample of what is on the market, and the manufacturers may change their products or specifications without my knowing about it.

(1) What's the best scientific calculator to buy, and where's the best place to buy one.
I prefer not to make specific recommendations about manufacturers and vendors on this website, but I'll tell you what to look for and where you can find some good prices. 
        First of all, don't buy one of those six- or eight-function calculators that are little more than an adding machine.  Definitely do buy one with a two-line display, and one with algebraic entry. (That's called V-S.P.A. M  for the Casio and EOS for the TIs.)   The two-line displays keep both your entry and your answer on the screen at the same time.  Make sure it has "Replay" or some such  provision for moving the cursor so that you can make corrections.  You'll also need an INS, insert, for entering things you may have left out in your entry.  Make sure it has a fraction function. That looks like this: ab/c.  It should have provisions for entering powers of 10.  That would be something like EE or EXP.  It should also have these:  Trig functions, log, ex , ln, nPr, nCr, and x2, square root,  and provisions for taking roots and powers other than two (either xy or ^.).  Some students may want complex number capability.
     If you're attending an electronics technical school, you might look for a calculator with BIN, HEX, and OCT.  Some calculators have the logic functions AND, OR, and XOR.  Again these might be of some use to electronic technicians or those aspiring to be.  You can also evaluate a logic expression such as ~(p.~q).  But I've found that most teacher don't use a calculator for evaluating logic functions, and most students don't go to the trouble to learn how to use a calculator for that. 
 Where to buy:  I'm not going to tell you where to buy a calculator; I'm going to tell you some places they're available.  Wal-Mart, Best Buys, Office Depot, Office Max, Target (I believe Target still has them.), and others that may be specific to your area.  A scientific calculator that is  satisfactory for many students can be had for a little less than ten dollars.   A Casio fx-300MS sells for $8.73.  A TI-30xIIs that is has a few more functions than the Casio mentioned,  sells for $14.96.  A  more sophisticated Casio, fx115ES, sells for $17.87.  This calculator has all of the normal functions mentioned above as being necessary plus complex numbers, numerical integration, differentiation, statistics, and matrices. These prices are as of  8/20/07.
    I still believe that the best method for those on a tight budget is to buy something like a fx-300MS and when you need the extra power of graphing, matrices, and financial applications, go with a used TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator.


How about the Durabrand calculator that has recently appeared at Wal-Mart for $19.95?  Here's what little preliminary information I have on it.  (Please read the DISCLAIMER at the start of this document.)
     *  Has a 50-key keyboard that appears to be fairly well arranged except, possibly for the SHIFT key.
     *  Has fraction and Ans keys.
     *  Has sufficient memories for most any purpose - 26.
     *  Has about any of the standard algebraic and trig functions that you would want - including one- and two-variable
    *  Algebraic entry of formulas.
    *  Easily obtained battery - CR2032.  This is the same as the battery used for the memory in the TI-83 Plus.
    *  Has some limited programming ability.
    *  I'm told that the User Manual is in Spanish as well as English.
    *  The display for the graph is very small, 35 x 23 pixels.  The full-screen display on the TI-83 Plus is 62 x 94  and the split-
        screen G-T display is 50 x 46.
   *  As far as I can see, there is no equivalent of the ENTRY function on the TI-83 Plus.  This is very useful when you need to use
       a long expression and only edit a number or maybe two.
   *  Programming is limited to 400 steps divided among ten pre-designated programs.  Gamers, forget about it. 
   *  I'm told that the User Manual is in very small print and can be tedious for some to read. 
        This calculator certainly adds another strong competitor in the upper price range of scientific calculators in that it has "graphing" and limited 
        programming functions.  This calculator is more on the order of the old Casio 7000G Graphic calculator.   I have no direct experience with either
        using it or with its reliability. 

Activation Date: 8/20/06
Revision Date: