Buying Guide for Scientific Calculators
Why buy a scientific calculator?
Scientific calculators offer a wide range of advanced functions that likely go well beyond the functionality of the calculator on your smartphone. As such, they come in handy once you get to higher-level math classes requiring a calculator with graphing functionality, engineering functions, and impressive processors that save you time and frustration. Luckily, scientific calculators are very affordable, so you can probably find a perfect model that suits your budget.
What should you look for in a scientific calculator?
- Areas of Focus: A scientific calculator is used to calculate areas of math and science, and most, while varying in functions, can achieve similar levels of problem-solving. However, a handful of scientific calculators also employ a secondary feature (graphing) to solve and better understand mathematic relationships that can be visualized. Graphic functionality tends to increase the price, so you’re facing a bang-for-your-buck scenario dependent on your field of study. Thus, ask yourself whether you’ll need a graphic calculator for your current classes or future areas of mathematical studies.
- Screen Size: The size of a calculator’s screen is another factor you should consider. Calculators with more advanced functions, like those used for graphing, are large so that you can see the graph of a function as accurately as possible. However, a multiline design can get messy if you only want to solve simple equations. Your standard scientific options present one or two lines without crowding your screen and are perfectly suitable for most students.
- Price Awareness: If you haven’t heard it from students in a while, here it is: calculators can get very expensive. That’s why you should be conscious of where to save. The biggest factors driving a calculator’s price are screen resolution, which is most desired when graphing, and function capacity. More functions mean more dollar signs. However, if you buy with specificity in mind, then you can afford to short yourself as long as that calculator is a sound fit for the subject you’re using it for.
Can you use a scientific calculator for your exams?
While most scientific calculators can be used for basic math and science exams, some standardized tests are more strict about which specific models can be used. As such, if you’re a high school student and will soon be taking AP exams and the SAT, it’s a good idea to pick a calculator that can be used during these exams.
Our Picks for the Best Scientific Calculators
Pros: Featuring a nice variety of color options and an affordable price tag, the Texas Instruments TI-30XIIS Scientific Calculator is a great product for high schoolers needing a scientific calculator. For one thing, it’s approved for use with SAT, ACT, and AP tests, which is great for peace of mind. However, this calculator also stands out for its two-line display and edit functionality, allowing you to quickly fix mistakes in your equation without redoing the entire thing. Factor in its rugged build quality, and you have a scientific calculator that’s well worth the asking price.
Cons: While this is a very intuitive scientific calculator to pick up and use, its display wasn’t quite well received. Some mentioned having to look at it at a precise angle for best results, which can be irritating when you’re in the middle of a high-stakes exam.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for one of the most reliable scientific calculators on the market for one of the lowest price points, this is probably the calculator for you. While its display isn’t exactly top of the line, this calculator’s intuitive layout, rugged build quality, and widespread adoption make it a safe choice for most high school and junior high students.
CATIGA CS-229 Scientific Calculator
This scientific calculator helps users visualize formulas, making it great for visual learners.
Pros: In the market for a high-quality scientific calculator with nifty graphing functionality? The CATIGA CS-229 Scientific Calculator is worth considering. This calculator scores points in terms of substance and style by featuring some bold color options and three operating modes (Angular Measurement, Calculation, and Display). It’s convenient for visual learners since it offers a quick and effective means of visualizing formulas. This calculator also stands out for its large display and various functions, making it a great scientific calculator for those seeking a step above basic models.
Cons: Compared to premium scientific calculators from top brands like Texas Instruments and Casio, this product will probably underwhelm users in terms of its build quality and “feel.” It also might not be immediately intuitive for those who are used to other brands, but the included instructions are detailed enough to bring you up to speed quickly.
Bottom Line: While those looking for something basic and affordable will likely be overwhelmed by what this calculator brings to the table, students who are visual learners can benefit from this device’s unique functionality. That being said, it’s a scientific calculator and not a graphing calculator, so be sure to understand this calculator’s limitations and functionality before you buy.
Sharp Electronics EL501X2BWH Scientific Calculator
A budget-friendly scientific calculator that's easy to navigate and built to last.
Pros: Conveniently priced and capable of handling over 130 scientific and math functions in its memory system, the Sharp EL501X2BWH Scientific Calculator has a lot to offer for its price. It sports an easy-to-read 10-digit LCD screen and is programmed to shut down when not used to maximize battery life automatically. This scientific calculator also stands out for its intuitive key layout, which is way easier to navigate than similar products when you first get the hang of your new calculator.
Cons: If you are considering purchasing this product for high school classes, check its functions to ensure they are suitable for the courses you plan on taking. While its 130 scientific and mathematical functions will be more than enough for most students, those taking advanced courses may be better off investing in a more function-rich scientific calculator.
Bottom Line: While this isn’t the lowest-priced scientific calculator on the market, it’s a great affordable option that easily outclasses most competitors in terms of build quality and ease of use. If you’re seeking a calculator great for advanced arithmetic and sports plenty of essential scientific functions, this one’s a great choice.
Aucanla Scientific Calculator
This unique scientific calculator features a built-in notepad and intuitive layout.
Pros: The budget-friendly Aucanla Scientific Calculator comes equipped with an innovative display screen for quickly taking notes while your teacher is explaining a problem at a rapid pace. Its single-line display is very easy to read in classroom lighting, and its various functions are mapped out intuitively, so it shouldn’t take long to get the hang of. If you’re trying to limit your reliance on disposable paper and seeking a reliable scientific calculator, this model delivers where it counts.
Cons: Not everyone will be willing to settle for a single-line display when looking for the perfect scientific calculator for their needs. If you prefer to see your work saved on a scrollable display to tell how you got to the solution for an equation, this is probably not the scientific calculator for you.
Bottom Line: While this is not the most advanced scientific calculator you will find, its basic function offerings and handy notepad are more than enough to suit the needs of a wide variety of middle school-to-high schoolers. Despite its affordable price point, it also performs well in terms of longevity, so it should last most people more than just a few semesters.
RENUS 8-Pack Scientific Calculators
These reliable scientific calculators make great classroom loaner models thanks to their durable designs.
Pros: If you’re a teacher who needs some high-quality loaner calculators without breaking the bank, the 8-pack from RENUS is your best choice. These calculators make life easier for students thanks to their easy-to-read two-line displays, but teachers will appreciate their durable designs and protective covers even more. These calculators also stand out for being approved for many standardized tests, making them an excellent option for classes that require calculators capable of one and two-variable statistical calculations.
Cons: While these calculators sport a fairly impressive build quality for their inexpensive price point, there may be issues such as keys sticking or being loud when pressed. Also, these calculators have a somewhat long auto-shutoff period of five minutes, meaning they may deplete batteries faster than some other models.
Bottom Line: While these calculators sport a clunkier feel than most premium scientific calculators, they’re still impressive compared to similarly-priced bulk options. As such, if you’re looking for long-lasting loaner calculators that should be easy for most students to use, the RENUS Scientific Calculator is an excellent choice.
While some may assume that most scientific calculators are interchangeable, this is not true. To choose the best scientific calculator for you, research its functions, screen size, and overall build quality.