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The days of high school algebra may be a distant memory, but that doesn’t mean a trusty calculator can’t help you as a business person. Whether you’re a small business owner trying to balance their budget or a home office worker determining their self-employment taxes, having a good calculator on hand can expedite the process. And while the technology behind handheld calculators is more than 50 years old, today’s devices run the gamut between options made for basic calculations to more advanced models with a built-in printer and full-color LCD screen.
To find the best calculator, it’s important to consider how intuitive its functions are, how affordable the model in question is, and how reliable the manufacturer’s products have historically been, along with other determining factors. With that in mind, here are the best calculators for you.
Best Overall: Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS
The Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS is a scientific calculator that’s just as good in the classroom as it is in the office. As a long-time mainstay for educators, it boasts all of the basic features you’d need in a calculator along with a two-line display that makes the TI-30X IIS stand out as the best. Though it’s not as high-res as some of today’s more technologically advanced calculators, this display allows the user to type out their equation in the top line, with the bottom line used to display the answers. As calculations become more complicated, the TI-30X IIS has cut, edit, and paste functionality to save entries for later use. The device also comes with a recall button so you can reference past work.
Powered primarily with solar energy, this calculator has a set of backup internal batteries to keep the device running even if the calculator’s been kept away from any light sources for a while. Overall, the TI-30X IIS is a solid platform that’s easy to use and can get the job done without too many bells and whistles.
Best Basic: Casio MH-10M
If you just need a calculator for handling simple calculations at work, the Casio MH-10M is about as basic a calculator as you’re going to get. With a large 10-digit LCD display and equally large keys, this solar-powered calculator is 7.3 inches wide, 6.5 inches long, and 1 inch tall. At that size, the MH-10M is the kind of desktop calculator that’s designed to sit right next to your financial documents as you crunch the numbers.
With keys meant to handle costs, sales, margins, and tax calculations, the MH-10M can help users figure out most business and finance-related calculations with relative ease. And while this calculator can handle basic math, it isn’t built to handle more complicated calculations.
Best Budget: Casio HS8VA
One of the most affordable calculators on the market, the Casio HS8VA is a solid business choice if you’re willing to sacrifice functionality. At 4 inches long, 2.3 inches wide, and 0.3 inches thick, this solar-powered calculator features backup internal batteries and an eight-digit LCD display that’s fairly large for the calculator’s size. Capable of performing basic math, markups, and square roots, the HS8VA does more than some other similarly-sized calculators. As long as you’re fine being somewhat limited when it comes to more advanced mathematical equations, the Casio HS8VA is for you.
Best Graphing Calculator: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus
The TI-84 line of calculators from Texas Instruments has long been a staple for math educators for decades, and the TI-84 Plus CE is a continuation of that line and it's great for business use. Originally released back in 2015, the TI-84 Plus CE sports a large, color screen and modernized software to help plot data on a graph. Because of its long lineage, anyone who’s used a TI-84 in the past should feel right at home with this graphing calculator. Most of its functions, including the built-in menu system, are largely unchanged from past iterations (even the key layout remains the same).
The TI-84 Plus CE’s screen is a high-resolution, 16-bit color backlit display. Thanks to this screen, users can color-code equations, plot points, and objects in real time, making graphs much easier to read for business users. Powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, this model is reportedly 30% lighter and thinner than previous TI-84 Plus models and comes with plenty of preloaded graphing and data analysis apps and images. Keep in mind that because it’s a graphing calculator with premium features, the TI-84 Plus CE may be more expensive than other options.
Best Scientific Calculator: HP 35s Scientific Calculator
Scientific calculators can perform an impressive number of calculations, with the limit mostly set by the device’s computational power and the user’s imagination. An excellent example is the HP 35s, which has more than 100 functions on its keys. This calculator sports a two-line, 14-character LCD screen that comes with an adjustable contrast so you can read the screen in various lighting conditions. With 30 KB of memory, the HP 35s comes with built-in keystroke programming functionality and the ability to store equations for future use.
Though it’s certainly a powerful calculator, it may not be the most user-friendly option out there; each button serves multiple functions that may be confusing to the average user, while the steps needed to access some of those functions may be too obtuse for others. This calculator also only runs on two CR2032 batteries, which will provide up to nine months of power if used for an hour a day.
Best Printing Calculator: Sharp EL-1197PIII
A printing calculator, like the Sharp EL-1197PIII, is perfect for those who’d like to double and triple check their calculations at work or who need a printed record. Built primarily for the desktop, this calculator boasts many of the features you’d expect, along with a two-color ribbon printer that marks your equations as you go at 4.5 lines per second. This model particularly stands out because it denotes positive figures in one ink color, while negative figures are printed in another—making profits and losses easy to discern.
At 12.9 inches long, 8.7 inches wide, and 3 inches thick, this device is larger than most. That size, however, accommodates a 12-digit display and a much larger keyboard than average. Furthermore, this calculator plugs into the wall for power, but includes a backup battery to store date, time, and tax rate values in the event of a power outage. Keep in mind, however, that as a printing calculator, it can run out of ink and paper, which costs money and requires some extra effort during installation. The printer’s moving parts could also fail over time, thus affecting the calculator.
Best for Ease of Use: Casio GX-120B
When looking for a calculator that’s easy to use, it’s important to consider how easy the buttons are to press and how easy it is to read. Enter the Casio GX-120B: a desktop calculator that has a 12-digit display and large keys. Durably made, it boasts a metal face plate and tough plastic keys.
Though not as computationally advanced as other calculators on the market, the GX-120B can help business owners easily calculate markups to handle cost and profit analysis. It also has a rounding selector to handle floating decimals or rounding values up or off. This model even features a decimal selector, which helps specify the number of decimal places used. Plus, the GX-120B has key rollover functionality, which stores key presses in a buffer so nothing gets lost (even if you type very fast).
Best Portable: Canon LS-555H
The Canon LS-555H is perfect for making relatively simple computations while business users are on the go, and with good reason: it folds in half, thanks to its clamshell construction, and it measures 4.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches long, and less than half an inch thick. Still, the calculator has an eight-digit display that takes up a large portion of its top half. It’s powered both by solar energy and an internal battery.
Keep in mind that this device isn’t capable of more advanced computations; it’s limited in processing power because of its smaller size. Its size also serves as a hindrance when it comes to the screen, which can only show a single row of digits at any time—making it impossible to double-check your inputs for any errors.
The Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS (view at Amazon) is the best overall calculator for multiple reasons. With an easy-to-use interface and large two-line display, it has enough power to handle larger calculations while maintaining the kind of functionality that people expect from Texas Instruments. Couple all of that with a reasonable price tag and you get a great calculator that can tackle easy sales transactions to complicated tax considerations.
What type of calculator is right for me?
Today’s calculators can handle a wide range of calculations, but sometimes you just need a simple calculator for work. If you only need to compute basic addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication, with some consideration for decimal points, then you will likely be fine with a regular calculator. The moment you need to “solve for X” or use data points to plot out a graph, you’re going to need a more advanced calculator.
What is the difference between a calculator, a scientific calculator, and a graphing calculator?
While every calculator can handle basic mathematical equations, scientific and graphing calculators are typically more advanced than regular calculators. For instance, a scientific calculator features functions that can solve algebraic equations, like finding exponents, roots, and logarithmic equations. Conversely, a graphing calculator can do all of those things, along with the ability to plot a graph on its screen, creating different types of graphs with just a few buttons.
Why would I need a printer-enabled calculator?
If you need to compute financial calculations or work in the financial sector, a printing calculator could be useful if you want to avoid creating lengthy spreadsheets for a single equation. Printing calculators have the innate ability to let you review your calculations whenever you want.
Traditional calculators have screens that can display just a few lines at a time, but a printing calculator creates a receipt of your entire string of calculations. Rather than being forced to do your work over again, you can read what was printed out to double check your work. When you’re done, the printed paper can be removed from the calculator and stored with your records.
Why are some calculators significantly more expensive than others?
As with most tech, calculators typically become more expensive as features like more computational power, high resolution color screens, and the ability to code and implement your own applications are added. It’s why a simple calculator can cost under $10, while a graphing calculator retails for around $100.
Why Trust Investopedia?
When selecting these calculators, we conducted research into the top manufacturers before seeking out the most highly-rated devices in their lineups. We sought out specification sheets and considered how intuitive each model would be for the average user. Our initial research resulted in a curated list of 20 calculators, which was then whittled down to a select few by comparing the price, feature set, and ease of use associated with each model.
Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist who has written for prominent publications including Business.com, Business News Daily, and the New York Daily News. Throughout the years, he has covered a range of topics including technology, financial regulations, and public policy.