If you’ve considered buying a graphic calculator, but not sure where to begin or what the market has to offer, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll cover how graphic calculators work, different types of calculators, and what to look for when shopping. We’ll look at the TOP 5 best graphic calculators along with their differentiating features to give you a clear idea of what to look for.
What You Will Learn from This Guide:
 How Does a Graphing Calculator Work?
 Different Types of Graphing Calculators
 What to Look For When Buying a Graphing Calculator
 What FirstTime Graphing Calculator Users Should Know
 TOP 5 Best Graphing Calculators
If you do math or science calculations, you either have or need a graphing calculator. Graphing calculators are a vital tool for students and professionals alike. If you perform simultaneous equations, regressions, or ratios, you want to have a graphing calculator in your pocket to quickly provide a visual representation of your results.
Graphing calculators are essentially handheld computers, although they may also be connected to programmable devices such as gaming units or laboratory equipment.
Today’s graphing calculators expand the single (preprogrammed) calculation process used in the mid1980s. They allow you to input, calculate, and store formulas and functions with great ease and accuracy. Points are plotted and the graphs, lines, bellcurves, or other results are quickly and clearly displayed.
Display screens have gotten bigger and have higher resolution to accommodate dot matrix read outs. Processors are more powerful to allow quicker calculating. Memory has also expanded to run and store more complex programs, apps, functions, and results.
How Does a Graphing Calculator Work?
A graphing calculator helps students visualize mathematical results and concepts. It also provides a technical check on the accuracy of handcalculated computations.
They solve simultaneous equations. Results are graphically plotted and appear on the calculator’s display screen. Like basic calculators, there are numerous buttons and function keys that allow you to run a variety of programs and, depending on the model, perform a variety of functions. The more advanced the graphing calculator is, the more complex programs or apps and advanced calculations may be input, stored, and performed.
Different Types of Graphing Calculators
Graphing calculators are versatile units. They may be used individually or connected to devices such as laboratory equipment, weather gauges, thermometers, etc. They may be used for mathbased games or programmable learning tools.
CAS (Computer Algebra System) Calculators
CAS calculators generally perform more efficiently and provide results faster because algebra, for example, is performed symbolically rather than assigning each variable a numerical code. CAS graphing calculators are necessary for symbolic math and complex calculations with a number of unknown variables. They manipulate and solve variables and equations, and factors. They find a function’s min. max., and zero by expanding and resolving expressions.
Make sure CAS calculators are approved for use during standardized exams before purchasing one since CAS graphing calculators automatically simplify and perform equations without showing the work. Some CAS calculators are not approved due to their extensive features and function capabilities.
NonCAS (Non Computer Algebra System) Calculators
NonCAS graphing calculators provide all calculations needed by most math/science students. Decimal and fractional results are created through numerical equations, which require students to show their work. As a result, these calculators are generally approved for use during standardized testing. Advanced college or grad students and professionals require greater CAS calculator capabilities.
What to Look For When Buying a Graphing Calculator
 Cost
Expect to pay more for a graphing calculator ($60  $300) than a basic one. Graphing calculators are more powerful with more memory, displays typically have a higher resolution, and their processors are faster. You may resell your calculator and recoup some of your initial cost if you take care of it.
There are less expensive ($60  $125), namebrand, basic graphing calculators that are suitable for high school students. They do not have highend display screens, but they have functions necessary to complete basic calculations.
Midrange graphing calculators ($125  $150) have more features advanced high school and beginning college students need.
Highend graphing calculators ($150  $300) have high resolution color screens and offer a variety of basic and complex features and functions. These are bestsuited for advanced academics and professionals.
 Battery
Most graphing calculators run on alkaline batteries. If you intend to use it daily for many hours, you may want one that has rechargeable batteries that save you money in the long term.
 Display
Highend, expensive graphing calculator models have larger, fullcolor screens that make navigating and menus easier/faster. Some are touchscreens. These are especially helpful if you are heavilyfocused on mathematics. Otherwise, a less costly model with the standard monochrome screen will suffice.
 Natural Display
Graphing calculators with a “natural display” screen show equations and formulas exactly the way you type them. These calculators are easier to use for new users because fractions appear as fractions rather than as decimals and symbols are fullsized.
 Memory
Manufacturers program a calculator’s readonly (ROM) memory. The more ROM the calculator has, the more versatile the tool is and features/functions it can capably perform.
RAM (random access memory) saves and stores complex programs, apps, and functions. Advanced and more complex calculations require more RAM. The more RAM the calculator has, the longer your information may be safely stored.
 Processor
Your calculator’s processor speed determines how fast you can perform your calculations. It is measures in megahertz (MHz). Professionals and examtakers may want a faster processor to quickly complete their decisionmaking calculations.
TOP 5 Best Graphing Calculators
Sharp Calculators ELW516TBSL Advanced Scientific Calculator
Sharp’s ELW516TBSL is an inexpensive, durable, solarpowered advanced scientific calculator that has a large, 16digit, WriteView screen that displays fractions, symbols, etc. in textbook form.
This graphing calculator has seven operation modes (Normal, Complex, Stat, Drill, List, Matrix, and Equation). It offers 640 functions, memory keys (8 temp, 4 formula, 4 definable), and a Home refresh key. You can perform advanced scientific calculations, quadratic, cubic, and linear equations as well as variable statistics. “It stores up to 14 previous operations, and has 9 assignable variables.”
The downside is that this graphing calculator is not programmable. It is not approved for ACT exams. It also cannot solve inequities/system of inequities or matrix calculations. Also be aware that WriteView only functions in Normal mode.
Recommendations:
This graphing calculator is intended for professionals and math, science, and engineering students. It is standardized testingapproved for SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, and Mach IC & IIC exams. A 1yr. warranty and protective hard case are included.
Sharp: Check the current price
Casio fx9750GII Graphing Calculator – Best Basic Graphing Calculator Value
The Casio fx9750GII is an affordable, basic, entrylevel graphing calculator. Although it is not a professionalgrade graphing calculator, it has enough features, functions, and an easytonavigate iconbased menu. It features a highresolution LCD display. It also has a builtin USB datasharing port and intuitive design and software.
The highspeed 62KB CPU rapidly and accurately processes complex calculations and graphs. It requires four AAA batteries to run, which provides approximately 200+ hrs. of overall battery life. The highresolution LCD display has enhanced dot area technology which produces sharper lines and clearer images.
The downside of this graphing calculator is that the batteries are nonrechargeable. Additionally, the PC Program Link software to connect it to other devices is not included (sold separately). It also carries a California Proposition 65 Warning.
Recommendations:
This graphing calculator is designed with high school students in mind. It is intended to assist with math studies, from prealgebra and geometry to calculus and statistics. This graphing calculator is also endorsed and permitted for use by PSAT, SAT, and ACT college entrance exam and AP test companies. A hard slideon protective cover is included.
Casio: Check the current price
Texas Instruments Ti84 Plus Graphing Calculator – Basic & Inexpensive Graphing Calculator
Texas Instrument’s Ti84 Plus Graphing Calculator is an inexpensive, math/science graphing calculator that calculates to 14digit accuracy and displays 10 digits with 2digit exponents. The MathPrint screen displays fractions, symbols, etc. in textbook form. It has pulldown display menus and (vertical and horizontal) split screen options. It has an I/O port to communicate with other TI products. It runs on four AAA batteries. A lithium backup battery protects its RAM memory.
This graphing calculator has preloaded function and interactive apps including geometry, inequality graphing, and realworld data analysis. Operation modes include Normal, List, Sequence, Matrix, Equation, and Interactive functions. You can perform advanced scientific calculations, quadratic, cubic, and linear equations as well as variable statistics and matrices.
The downside is that this Ti84 Plus graphing calculator model does not have a color display.
Recommendations:
This graphing calculator is intended for middle school  college students. Although the Ti84 Plus is not endorsed by college entrance exam companies, it is permitted for use during SAT, PSAT, ACT, IB, and AP exams. Product tutorials, webinars, and college exam practice questions for your Ti84 Plus are available online.
Texas Instruments TI84 PLUS: Check the current price
HP Prime Graphing Calculator – Best TouchScreen Graphing Calculator
The HP Prime Graphing Calculator is a powerful, highend, 16bit touchscreen, personalassistant graphing calculator. The 400 MHz ARM9 processor is powered by a lithium ion rechargeable battery. It is fast and versatile and accurately plots Boolean graphics. It has an easytoread color, icon graphic display menu and simple keyboard. It also has a USB port for communicating with other devices. It incorporates poweroff memory protection.
This graphing calculator offers CAS, advanced graphing, dynamic geometry, and spreadsheet applications. It also offers graphing, math, scientific, and statistical functions. It has 256 MB of memory storage and expandable application library.
The downside is this graphing calculator’s complexity!
Recommendations:
This graphing calculator is designed for high school – college students, as well as engineering/surveying and math/science professionals. It is permitted for use during PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, ACT, IB, and AP standardized exams. HP has a 30day return policy and offers a 1yr. warranty.
Texas Instruments TI84 PLUS CE Graphing Calculator – Best High School Graphing Calculator
Texas Instrument’s Ti84 Plus CE is a durable, lightweight, thindesign graphing calculator. It features a highresolution, fullcolor backlit display. The MathPrint screen displays colorcoded equations, plots, fractions, symbols, etc. in textbook form. It is powered by a TI lithium ion rechargeable battery. It has an I/O port to import and use images. It incorporates a “deep sleep” mode for idle period memory protection.
This graphing calculator has preloaded inequality graphing, data collection, and correct math notation applications. You can perform advanced scientific calculations, quadratic, cubic, and linear equations as well as variable statistics and matrices.
The downside is that this Ti84 Plus CE graphing calculator model appears to be less durable than its competition. It also tends to quickly drain its battery.
Recommendations:
This graphing calculator is intended for middle – high school and college students. It is approved for use during PSAT, SAT, ACT and AP exams.
Texas Instruments TI84 PLUS CE: Check the current price
What FirstTime Graphing Calculator Users Should Know
Purchase a less expensive graphing calculator that has features and functions relevant to your immediate classroom, exams, or office needs. Model upgrades frequently occur and most graphing calculators are within an affordable range that allows you to comfortably upgrade as your needs and level of expertise change.
FAQ – People are asking:
Can you use a graphing calculator on the PSAT or on the SAT?
Ans: Not all graphing calculator brands and/or models are approved by the standardization Board(s) for use during PSAT, SAT, ACT and AP exams. Before purchasing, be sure your brand and model of calculator is endorsed for use by the standardized testing companies.
Which is better, a graphing calculator or a phone app?
Ans: A graphing calculator is a handheld computer with specific menus and preloaded app, functions, and spreadsheet applications. The pixel display is made to be larger and clearer on a graphing calculator.
How do you reset a graphing calculator? Ans: Many graphing calculators reset the screen from a central Home refresh key.
Can I solve equations on a graphing calculator?
Ans: Different models offer different computation levels. All graphing calculators perform basic math and scientific calculations such as quadratic, cubic, and linear equations and statistics.
What is the best graphing calculator for high school?
Ans: There are many inexpensive, basic and entrylevel graphing calculator models. Select one that has clearlymarked buttons and function keys and the displayed results are easy to see and understand.
Which graphing calculator is best for calculus? Ans: A midlevel/mediumpriced graphing calculator will adequately perform precalculus, calculus, geometry, trigonometry.
Product Comparison – At a Glance
Product  Features 
Sharp 

Casio 

Texas Instruments Ti84 Plus 

HP 

Texas Instruments TI84 PLUS CE 

Conclusion
Graphing calculators are essentially handheld computers. The more advanced the graphing calculator is, the more complex programs or apps and advanced calculations may be input, stored, and performed.
They are typically used individually, but many also connect to and interact with other PC, laboratory, and professional devices and instruments.
Basic and midlevel graphing calculators are designed for students (middle – high school and college) as well as professionals. Various models may not be endorsed by standardized testing companies, but they are approved for use by the individual taking any of the standardized (PSAT, SAT, ACT, IB, and AP) exams.