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Financial math doesn’t always rely solely on percentages and basic arithmetic. Sometimes, the problems you’ll face as a small business owner or home office worker will need to be mapped out on a graph to quantify the data with which you’re working. Whether you need to generate a statistical model or want to see your sales figures on a graph, having a graphing calculator by your side will be a huge help.
Before you wonder which brands will be worth your money, you should consider what features you’ll need. You'll likely have different needs if you're calculating taxes or determining probabilities, or if you want to program a formula and function yourself. Another important thing to look out for is how clear a device’s screen is at displaying information. Some graphing calculators have monochrome and pixel-based displays while others boast rich, high-definition graphics in color.
When you have an idea of what features you need, check out our selections of the best graphing calculators.
Best Overall: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus
As a mainstay for the education system due to its intuitive design and relative affordability, the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE is the product of fine-tuning over the years, resulting in one of the best graphing calculators on the market, no matter the business.
Sporting a large high-resolution 16-bit color screen, the TI-84 Plus CE can plot out data while keeping equations within eyesight. You can color-code certain equations, plot points, and objects. And because of its processing power, data is handled in real time, making it easy to create and read graphs.
Most of this calculator's functions should feel familiar to anyone who has ever used a Texas Instruments device. Getting from start to any of its preloaded apps and images is easy thanks to its updated yet familiar operating system. Plus, the calculator's key layout is relatively unchanged from previous models.
This model sports new features, improvements, and multiple color choices, but it’s reportedly 30% lighter and slimmer than past models—the TI-84 Plus CE measures around 7.5 inches long, 3.4 inches wide, and 0.6 inches thick and weighs 12 ounces.
Best Value: Casio FX-9750GII
Though most graphing calculators are typically priced between $100 and $200, there are affordable options out there if you’re willing to sacrifice some features. It may not be as flashy as some other models, but the Casio FX-9750GII offers a solid value for business users.
With a 21-character and eight-line display featured prominently at the top of the calculator, note that it has a monochrome dot-area display, which may not be the easiest to look at for some. Still, the calculator offers an easy-to-understand, icon-based menu system.
Marketed as an entry-level graphing calculator, the FX-9750GII can quickly draw up pie charts and bar graphs and calculate depreciation and has a random number generator built into it. Its included USB connectivity also lets you connect it to other calculators, your PC, or compatible Casio projectors.
There may be other—even potentially cheaper—models, but price doesn't equal value for the functionality included. The Casio FX-9750GII is a great option from a top manufacturer.
Best Color Graphing Calculator: Casio PRIZM FX-CG50
Color-coded data is easier to parse, which is why many graphing calculators sport color displays. The Casio PRIZM FX-CG50 is one of the best color graphing calculators for a range of reasons, including its large, high-resolution, backlit display.
With the ability to display more than 65,000 colors, the PRIZM leverages its screen by having all of its functionality accessible through a graphical user interface. That helps make the operating system easy to navigate for business owners.
Though it's not as powerful as other graphing calculators classified as computer algebra systems (CAS), the PRIZM is still more than capable of many kinds of graphical calculations. This model comes preloaded with a range of calculation apps, including a financial one to handle things like cash flow, amortization, and compound interest. The PRIZM is also capable of graphing data in 3D, and because of its processing power, graphs are drawn in seconds.
Best Touchscreen Graphing Calculator: HP Prime
Using touchscreens is second nature for many people these days, and some of the newer graphing calculators include that functionality, such as on the HP Prime. This model is a CAS-style graphing calculator, which means it can solve complex math equations at work, including those that involve variables. Due to its high-resolution, color touchscreen, and intuitive design, the HP Prime makes solving those equations incredibly simple.
Thanks to its powerful processor, this calculator can handle numerous types of graphing capabilities (including 3D graphing) due to the four different graphing applications included with the overall suite of programs on the device's memory.
The touchscreen offers a responsive method of input for a graphing calculator. But it stands out from other graphing calculators because it supports multi-touch input, which allows the user to pan around and look at their graphs without the need for clunky trackballs or keypads.
Best for Beginners: Texas Instruments TI-83
If you're looking for a solid entry-level graphing calculator for work, the Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus may be the model for you. Having hit the market in 2003, the TI-83 Plus is one of the oldest running lines of graphing calculators on the market. It is still in service for a reason. Its durability as a handheld device, clear display, and intuitive design make it a favorite among educators and professionals alike.
One of the main reasons the TI series remains a staple is its user interface—because the operating system is easy to navigate, you can quickly find functions. Additionally, because the TI-83 Plus has been around for so long, most users will already know how to operate the device.
As an older model, the TI-83 Plus does come with its shortcomings, including its low-resolution monochrome screen and the fact that it only has five built-in apps, though it does come with a financial application. Due to how the TI-83 Plus displays its calculations, problems you input won't show up as they do on textbook-like modern displays, which may make things confusing when dealing with complex equations.
Still, the TI-83 Plus is one of the better models for programming purposes. It's easy to make apps right in the calculator largely because of its high ease of use.
Best for Advanced Equations: Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium CAS
When handling advanced algebraic equations at work, you may want to opt for a CAS-style graphing calculator. These calculators are capable of factoring, solving, and providing simple answers to equations that deal with variables. To that end, the Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium is a solid choice for business users.
On the market since 2004, the TI-89 Titanium is a great choice for anyone who's in advanced math and engineering or expecting to take some form of standardized testing. It's one of the more advanced graphing calculators available because its CAS capabilities allow you to do more than other models can. With an improved built-in memory and an operating system that's still supported by Texas Instruments, this device remains relevant despite the release of more modern models.
Out of the box, the TI-89 Titanium comes with nine preloaded applications, including EE*Pro, CellSheet, and NoteFolio. Users can also write their own applications directly in the calculator or transfer one they built on a computer through the calculator’s USB port.
Best CAS Functionality: Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS
The Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS sports a color backlit display and is powered by a rechargeable battery. It also touts an extremely user-friendly interface and modern operating system that receives regular updates from the manufacturer. As one of the latest releases from TI, the TI-Nspire CX II CAS has a powerful processor built in, allowing users to solve more complex math problems at work in record time. Users can also have multiple applications and tabs running at once without slowing the calculator down. You can plot directly onto images, some of which are included on the device's memory, though you can upload any image file onto it for future use.
Though it's certainly not the most affordable graphing calculator, it is one of the best CAS models out there. Its modern design, intuitive operating system, and speedy functionality make it a standout choice for any business user who tackles complex math on a daily basis.
When it comes down to it, the two best graphing calculators for business users are the TI-84 Plus CE (view at Amazon) and the HP Prime (view at Amazon). If you need an absolute workhorse that doesn’t demand too much mental bandwidth to operate, the TI-84 Plus CE stands out as the best overall choice. If you’re looking for something that’s equally easy but in a “this is like my smartphone” kind of way, then the HP Prime with its color touchscreen and intuitive design would be a solid choice.
What are graphing calculators?
At first glance, a graphing calculator looks like a somewhat complex calculator. But although the primary goal of basic and scientific calculators is to quickly solve mathematical problems, graphing calculators are more advanced devices that let you visualize data at a conceptual level. Capable of plotting out graphs, finding intersection points, solving simultaneous equations, and accounting for different variables, graphing calculators help the user understand the solutions they’re finding and how variables can affect those outcomes.
Though most scientific and basic calculators have two- or three-line displays that highlight equations and their solutions, the screen on a graphing calculator is significantly larger to accommodate graphs. Features like color graphics, higher resolution, and zoom settings often set the more advanced graphing calculators apart from others.
Furthermore, graphing calculators are unique in that they are programmable devices. More advanced users can then create and store their own programs for their graphing calculator, allowing them to further automate different processes.
How are graphing calculators used?
Graphing calculators are known for their use in high school and college-level math and science courses, including trigonometry, statistics, engineering, and computer programming. These devices are also beneficial for standardized tests, including the SAT, the PSAT, and the ACT.
Outside of the classroom, graphing calculators can be found in numerous professions. Engineers and architects, for example, use graphing calculators to find solutions for acoustics and assisting in complex problem-solving. Financial occupations also gain some benefit from graphing calculators because concepts like market value and shopping patterns can be mapped out on a graph.
“Some investors will use historical data points on stock prices as a way to assess how the stock may shift in the future,” says Ryan Rollins, owner of Teach Me! Personal Finance. “A graphing calculator can be used to try and forecast future price changes visually as a trend line that you can analyze for patterns, such as seasonality.”
Why are graphing calculators so expensive?
If you’ve done some research into graphing calculators, you may have noticed that the average price can range from $75 to nearly $200. Though that may seem like a lot for a calculator, graphing calculators are more advanced than other types of calculators.
Graphing calculators are like mini-computers with more computational power than the average scientific or basic calculator. They also need to have some form of data storage to recall its programs, have a large screen to display the advanced concepts it's solving for, and in most cases, adapt to the user’s needs—especially if they’re coding their own programs for future use on the calculator.
Furthermore, graphing calculators are expensive because of their high demand in high school and college courses, as well as standardized testing. With scores of students snatching up graphing calculators for their courses, companies know they can charge a higher price because of those requirements.
“[Educators require] specific functions from the calculator, as well as a particular brand in many cases, to make sure there is no function more than what a student needs during the exam,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry and Loanry. “For algebra and geometry, if you want a high-functioning and long-lasting calculator.”
Why Trust Investopedia?
We selected the best graphing calculators by conducting research into the top manufacturers before seeking out the most highly rated devices in their lineups. We spoke to independent experts, and we compared specification sheets and considered how intuitive each model would be for the average business user. Our initial research resulted in a curated list of 20 popular calculators. That list was then whittled down to a select few by comparing the prices, feature sets, and ease of use associated with each model.
This roundup was written by Andrew Martins, an award-winning journalist turned freelance writer for publications including Business.com and The New York Daily News. Throughout the years, he has covered a range of topics including technology, financial regulations, and public policy.