Three best scientific calculators
Calculators save time on basic math problems, but there are some equations that are just too complicated for a traditional four-function calculator to solve. For more advanced math, you'll need to upgrade to a scientific calculator.
Scientific calculators can perform complex calculations, including linear regressions, standard deviations, and inequalities. They're often used by students studying algebra, geometry, and statistics as well as professionals working in STEM fields.
The industry is dominated by a few brands, but there are still dozens of models to choose from, and it's easy to get confused about what you're supposed to be looking for. So we've put together this short guide to help. Here's a quick overview of what you need to know about scientific calculators before you buy one, including our top product recommendations.
Considerations when choosing scientific calculators
There are several important features to consider when purchasing a scientific calculator.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a scientific calculator is the functions it can perform. The calculator won't be of much use if it can't solve the problems you need it to solve.
Think about the type of math you need the scientific calculator to perform. If you need the calculator for algebra, for example, you should look for one that can help you with linear equations, inequalities, and exponential equations. If you'll be using the scientific calculator for statistics, you may be more interested in whether or not it can solve standard deviation problems. And for calculus, derivative and integral functions are essential.
Most scientific calculators are versatile enough that they can solve a variety of problems, so you shouldn't have trouble finding one that fits your needs unless you need to perform very advanced calculations.
Durability is important when choosing a scientific calculator, especially if you're using it for school because you don't want it breaking down on you mid-exam. A good scientific calculator should be well-made with sturdy buttons that are easy to press and that won't come loose or stop working over time.
A scientific calculator should also have a well-fitting case that won't slide off when the calculator is placed in a bag or drawer. The case helps protect the calculator from damage and spills. Otherwise, you may end up with a cracked screen or sticky buttons that make the calculator difficult to use.
Pay attention to battery life as well. Most scientific calculators use a solar-powered battery, so you will only have to worry about keeping the battery charged, not replacing it. However, if you're scientific calculator operates on traditional batteries, you will have to replace them regularly. You can get a sense of a scientific calculator's battery life by reading through customer reviews.
The best scientific calculators come with a warranty, usually for one year from the purchase date. That way, if the calculator is damaged for any reason, you can get a replacement without spending any more money. However, given the low cost of scientific calculators, a warranty likely won't be a make-or-break feature for most people.
Ease of use
A good scientific calculator should be easy to use and have a large display that's easy to read from any angle. The best scientific calculators have a two-line display. This enables you to see the numbers you inputted and the solution on the screen at the same time.
If you plan to convert between different formats often--for example, between decimals and fractions or between degrees, radians, and grads--you should look for a scientific calculator that makes it easy to switch the results from one format to another.
Some scientific calculators enable you to go back and edit your equations, which can save you time if you make a mistake. This feature can also be useful if you plan on performing the same types of calculations over and over again but don't want to type out the equation every time.
Ideally, your scientific calculator will come with instructions to help you learn what all the various buttons do and how to perform specific calculations. However, not every calculator offers this resource. If you're new to scientific calculators, you should choose one that is simple to operate and doesn't require you to press extra buttons to get the solution to a problem.
Most scientific calculators cost between $10 and $15. There isn't a significant difference in quality or function among the $15 calculators as compared to the $10 calculators, so it's important to evaluate each model based on the features you need and the customer reviews of the product's durability and ease of use.
Read through the owner's manual when you get your scientific calculator to familiarize yourself with its functions.
The best scientific calculators are straightforward to use and require the fewest keystrokes necessary to perform functions.
If your scientific calculator runs on regular batteries, it's always a good idea to have some extras on hand.
Always charge or change your batteries before an exam so you don't have to worry about the scientific calculator dying in the middle of it.
If you're working with statistics, you may want to look for a scientific calculator that is capable of generating random numbers for data sets.
Some scientific calculators enable you to store answers in the memory, so you can easily recall them later with the press of a button.
Remember to put the cover on your scientific calculator when you're not using it to prevent the screen from getting scratched or damaged.
Shut off your scientific calculator when you're not using it to conserve the battery.
Q. Can I use my scientific calculator on standardized tests like the ACT or SAT?
A. Probably, but it's important to double-check. Some scientific calculators that can solve algebra problems on their own are prohibited during standardized tests. If you're unsure if your calculator is one of these models, you should consult the official rules of the exam.
Q. My scientific calculator isn't working. What do I do?
A. The first step is to check the batteries. If your scientific calculator uses a solar-powered battery, leave the calculator out in the sun for a little while and try again. If it uses regular batteries, try replacing them. If that doesn't fix the calculator, look for a reset button on the back of the unit. Usually, this is a small button you can press with the tip of a pencil or pen to reboot the calculator if it has frozen. If that still doesn't work, consult the manufacturer's instructions for further troubleshooting steps.
Q. Don't all scientific calculators do essentially the same thing?
A. While all scientific calculators perform advanced math functions, some are capable of performing more functions than others. It's important to think about which functions you're going to use most often before purchasing a scientific calculator.
Scientific calculators we recommend
Best of the best: Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS 2-Line Scientific Calculator
Our take: This is a versatile scientific calculator that is useful for general math all the way up to complex statistics and engineering problems.
What we like: This calculator has a two-line display and can tackle one- and two-variable calculations, so you can use it for a variety of applications. It comes with a one-year warranty and runs on a solar battery that lasts for a very long time.
What we dislike: Some users have reported issues with the calculator freezing, and you must view the screen from a specific angle in order to see the numbers.
Best bang for your buck: Casio fx-115ES PLUS Engineering/Scientific Calculator
Our take: This scientific calculator is a good choice if you're looking for a reasonably priced calculator that can handle complex equations with ease.
What we like: This affordable calculator can perform over 280 calculations, ranging from simple addition to polar-rectangular conversions. It also has a feature that enables you to backtrack and edit your input, so you don't have to type the whole problem over again.
What we dislike: The buttons are prone to falling off, and some complain that this calculator is more complicated than it needs to be.
Our take: Consider this scientific calculator if you're new to advanced calculators and looking for an inexpensive option.
What we like: This easy-to-use scientific calculator comes with a two-line display so you can see the problem and the solution at once. The display is large and easy to read, and the calculator is fairly easy to use, even if you've never used a scientific calculator before.
What we dislike: There have been a few complaints about the calculator's buttons not registering when you press them.
Kailey Fralick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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