Welcome to our best graphing calculators review for students prepping for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or AP exams.

We simulated testing conditions, scoured Amazon reviews, and talked to students, teachers, and tutors to see which models performed best under fire and reduced testing stress. Some even ENHANCED RESULTS!

These 8 lived to tell the tale.

Don’t overthink this. It’s WAY EASIER than most students think it is. Will they make math cool? HELL NO. Will they make your test way easier and less stressful. HELL YES!

The 8 Best Graphing Calculators

In a hurry to get back to studying?

Here’s a quick overview of the best graphing calculators for each exam, budget, or personality:

  1. The Best Overall – TI-84 + CE: Preferred by Math Tutors and Teachers for the PSAT and SAT.
  2. The Best High-End Model – TI Nspire CX CAS II: The Calculator that Makes ANYONE a Math Person
  3. The Best UX – NumWorks: The Smartphone of Calculators (Incredible UI)
  4. The Best Mid-Range Model (Not for Testing) – TI-83 +: Perfect for Class or Homework and 30% Cheaper
  5. The Best Entry-Level Calculator – Casio FX 9750: Budget and Beginner Friendly!
  6. The Best Casio Calculator – CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50: Casio’s Best Model for Tests
  7. Casio’s Best High-Res Model – Casio fx-9860GII: Big Screen, Intuitive Menu, and Upgraded Resolution!
  8. The Best for Engineers and Physics Majors: The TI-89 Titanium

1. The TI-84+ CE: Math Tutors’ and Teachers’ #1 Recommended Testing Calculator

Quick Rundown: The TI-84+ CE is the color enhanced upgrade to the world’s #1 most popular graphing calculator. It’s the graphing calculator recommended by math tutors and teachers, and the entire US math curriculum is built with the TI-84 in mind. It does everything you need for any standardized test quickly and easily, and displays answers on a hi-def, color-enhanced screen. Chances are everyone else in your class or testing center will be using exactly this graphing calculator.

An absolute workhorse of a graphing calculator! It’s in your math teacher’s desk, your math tutor’s handbag, and probably in NASA Mission Control too.

The TI-84+ is by far the most popular graphing calculator (5-star rating on Amazon with over 7,500 reviews) in high schools, colleges, testing rooms, and tutoring centers, and the #1 recommend calculator for the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams.

The TI-84+ “CE” is just a newer, faster TI-84 with a brighter screen so you can quickly and clearly see answers and never risk writing the wrong number down because the screen is fuzzy.

It’s the perfect exam sidekick for students in math class, study centers, or testing rooms. That’s because it’s basically designed to help you succeed on standardized tests.

  • Find Functions Fast: Almost every common test function is just a single button press away, so that you can answer questions quickly and accurately. We never wasted a second fumbling around the keyboard looking for the SIN button.
  • See Answers More Clearly: Most other models made us squint our eyes to see answers. Not this one. The super bright screen makes fractions actually look like fractions and square roots actually like square roots. And the graphs are multicolored, so it’s easy to distinguish between graphs. You’ll never risk a wrong answer because you couldn’t see.
  • Get Answers Quicker: The upgraded processing and pre-installed images make everything load faster, so you don’t waste any time waiting for graphs to fill out or answers to appear.

And since it’s the most popular model, there’s an enormous, highly active community online sharing tips, tricks, and clear tutorials in case you’re lost. Any time we couldn’t figure something out, we just Googled “how to XYZ on TI-84+CE” and got a quick answer. You don’t get that elsewhere.

To be fair, this is the best OVERALL. It’s not the fastest, it’s not the best display, and it’s not the most functional – Ex: no CAS – but if we were going in the trenches of the SAT tomorrow morning, we’d only take one calculator with us: This BEAST.

If you want the best of the best graphing calculators, aka the Lamborghini, that one is coming next.

Pros

  • Best for test taking
  • Easy to use
  • Clear, multi-colored display
  • Durable and dependable
  • 5-star rating on Amazon with 7,500 reviews

Cons

  • No CAS
  • A bit of a learning curve

Check from Amazon

2. Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS: The Most Advanced Graphing Calculator of 2020

Quick Rundown: The sports car of graphing calculators. This is as close “cool” as it gets in the math world. This is by far the most advanced model on the list. If you’re doing advanced math, need advanced graphing, or plan on piloting a mini-rover on Mars, you need this calculator and none other. The learning curve and price are high though!

Test results in…

The TI Nspire CX II is the Lambo of the best graphing calculators!

This is the most common graphing calculator calculator for high-achieving students.

It’s sleek, fast, and more powerful than anything like it – just like the Lamborghini (Except it’s made in Texas).

No other model on this list rivals what it can do. In fact, it’s more than a graphing calculator – it’s a complete data collection and analysis device.

It does everything the TI-84+ CE does, and a ton more that the 84 could never do:

  • Collect data for classes
  • Draw detailed, complex geometric shapes
  • A spreadsheet app that’s actually usable
  • A note taking app to quickly jot down ideas

If you’re an aspiring aerospace engineer or math genius (none of us here are), you’ll love it.

The hands-on engagement made us really feel like we were learning. Not just “getting the answers”, you know?

When you pair a bright student with an Nspire, amazing things can happen.

Tutors and teachers claim that it’s the only calculator that makes them feel as though a student is actually enjoying learning (Kind of!).

Some of the graphing upgrades will help any test taker kick ass and take names (is that possible on a test?):

  • Visualize function, parametric and polar graphs in real time.
  • Quickly and easily create dynamic points defined by coordinates, sliders or expressions.
  • Write code for visual illustration of key math, science and STEM ideas.
  • New and improved UX: New app icons and color-coded tabs

But what really makes it the most advanced graphing calculator is the display. Check out how much easier it is to read compared to competitors:

TI-Nspire CX screen

OK, so why isn’t it #1 if it’s so good?

Good question.

That’s because the learning curve is massive, and the interface is unfamiliar. The TI-84 boots right up and gets you right into the game. The Nspire starts with a menu full of icons and forces you to open new tabs quite often.

That, and it’s so advanced that it’s kind of tough to get things done quickly – NOT GOOD during high stakes tests, you know?

Also, it’s a bit expensive. If you’ve got the money and are willing to invest a lot of time to learn how to use it, this is the best graphing calculator money can buy.

If you just want a great graphing calculator that’ll help you get a better grade on the SAT easily, stick with the TI-84.

Pros

  • More advanced functions than any other model
  • Tons of apps
  • High-def screen
  • Interactive functions

Cons

  • Complicated functionality means higher learning curve
  • Expensive

Check from Amazon

3. Numworks – The TI-84 Killer?

Quick Rundown: Numworks is changing the graphing calculator game. Unlike the older looking, clunky, dull models that dominate testing centers, Numworks has come out with a sleek, light, ultra-fast calculator with an eye-pleasing color display. It’s called the iPhone of calculators for good reason. It’s not as advanced as anything from Texas Instruments, but the performance and UX are incredible.

You’ve NEVER seen a graphing calculator like this before. Seriously, it felt like we were playing around on a smartphone. It’s the thinnest, lightest, and most vibrant calculator on the market.

Numworks has totally reimagined graphing calculators and finally created something that digital natives feel comfortable using.

It’s sleek, light, clean, and lightning fast. Seriously, we put it side by side with the TI-84 + CE to compare graphing speed – while the 84+ was still drawing a line, Numworks had already made a colorful graph and had enough time to spare to drink a coffee.

It feels so good to have some fresh blood in the industry not named Texas Instruments or Casio.

5 years from now, there’s a good chance that everyone will be using Numworks instead of the dinosaurs of the industry.

It does pretty much everything that more advanced graphing calculators do, except it’s faster, easier on the eyes, and simpler to use.

Plus it’s the world’s first open-source graphing calculator, meaning you can customize it or even repair it yourself after viewing their 100% public blueprints! And the cool thing is it’s open source that’s actually useful. Anyone with decent Python knowledge can customize the look and feel or repair a button if it breaks.

Now for the bad news…

Numworks sacrificed a bit of functionality to keep the calculator light, fast, and clean. You won’t get a treasure trove of apps like with TI. There are only 6 apps, and while you could theoretically program it to expand functionality, that’s out of the realm of expertise for most people. That, and the memory is much less than the TI series of calculators. That makes it “less than ideal” for advanced math degrees where you’ll want to save info from previous courses.

That’s why the TI-84+ CE is #1 and Numworks isn’t. Still, if you just need an awesome graphing calculator that’s light, fast, and has incredible UX for a test or math class, Numworks is perfect.

Pros

  • Great UX
  • Slim and light
  • Lightning quick
  • Made for digital natives

Cons

  • Lacking pre-programmed apps
  • Not as many functions as other calculators

Check the price on Amazon

4. TI-83: The Best Mid-Range Model

Quick Rundown: Not as good as the TI-84, but it’s cheaper and still gets the job done. If you need to save some money, nothing wrong with going with this older, but reliable, model.

The TI-83 + does pretty much everything the TI-84 + does, but for about 30% less.

The screen resolution is a bit worse, and it has way less RAM, but if you need a solid workhorse for home study or the classroom, the TI-83 will do just fine.

In our tests, it was about half the speed of the TI-84+ CE, so we can’t recommend it for testing.

While your peers are already on to the next problem, you’ll still be waiting for your graph to materialize. You’ll probably need an extra 3 hours for the math portion of the SAT if you take this one to the testing center.

We will say this though, it can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and lot of other cool formulas, and it’s cheaper than anything on this list so far. Plus it’s so durable you can smash it against the wall (we tried), and it won’t break. Please don’t do that.

That’s really all we have to say here. Need something “cheapish” for the classroom or homework? This is fine. Anything else, you’ll want to upgrade if you can afford it.

Pros

  • Cheaper than the TI-84+
  • Familiar interface

Cons

  • Slow
  • Limited
  • Clunky

Check the price on Amazon

5. Casio fx-9750GII – The Best Cheap Graphing Calculator

Quick Rundown: Easily the best graphing calculator model if you’re on a budget and it’s not even close. Does everything you need it to do for most math classes and tests, and is up to $100 cheaper than other models on this list. If you’re on a budget, this is the best graphing calculator on the market.

Need a good, dependable graphing calculator but don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend?

This is exactly what you need. The Casio FX-97 is the best budget graphing calculator out there, and tens of thousands of test takers around the world are using it as we speak, so no need to worry about functionality.

The Casio FX-97 did great under test conditions, and has everything you need for the SAT or similar tests. And it comes at 1/3rd the price of the TI-84+ CE and almost one hundred dollars cheaper than the Nspire.

We honestly didn’t notice that much of a difference between the TI-84+ and the Casio FX-97 besides one major flaw (We’ll get to that soon).

You’ll get pretty much everything you need WITHOUT breaking the bank.

The Good News…

The good news is that this calculator uses BASIC and has a similar layout to TI models, so it’ll feel familiar and intuitive. You can also upload applications and upgrade it if you need to.

The Bad News…

Remember, this is a budget calculator. You won’t be going to space and you definitely won’t be time traveling to 1955 by hooking up to a clock tower in a mall parking lot.

The screen is a bit tough to look at, and lots of reviews around the web complained about the resolution. It’s also not as fast as the TI-84 or Numworks.

But even with that, it’s still fast and clear enough for test taking. Like we said, in our “simulated’ test, it did perfectly fine, and it costs next to nothing.

Thanks Casio!

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Has everything you need
  • Simple to use

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • The screen wasn’t the best resolution

Check from Amazon

6. CASIO FX-CG50: The Best UX on a Casio

Quick Rundown: Casio’s best calculator UX-wise, and one of our favorites. The user interface is simple to navigate and answers are displayed in textbook format, something you never see in this price range. If you’re the kind of person who hates squinting to see answers or can’t handle the boring TI interface, we recommend this one.

The CG50 is very similar to the FX-97, except with an insanely user-friendly interface.

Casio FC-CG50 graphing calculator screen viewWe honestly felt like we were playing a video game rather than doing math. Everything is accessible from this main menu. You press the button, do your math, and it spits back hi-def answers in super bright, vibrant colors.

And the definition on the screen is just as good as reading a textbook. Seriously, unlike every other model on this list, the CG50 prints answers as you’d see them in a textbook.

Check it out:

Casio FC-CG50 graphing calculator screen view 2

It’s got over 20 apps, with everything from a periodic table to financial and geometric functions, so it’s got all of your bases covered and you won’t need to waste time or money upgrading the software. It’s good to go “out of the box” or so they say.

If you’ll be doing a lot of graphing, this is absolutely our favorite color graphing interface. Look at how easy it is to read:

Casio FC-CG50 graphing calculator screen view 3

Compare that to the TI models that look more like 1950s projector sheets, and it’s night and day. Nothing compares.

It can even graph 3D shapes, something you never find in a calculator under $100.

Now for the downside…

Overall, it just can’t do as much as the TI models or Numworks. Yes, it looks great, and yes it’s really easy to use, but if you want extra functionality or faster processing, you’ll have to upgrade.

Also, it uses old school batteries and overall it’s a bit bulky and heavy. None of us felt very “hip” while using one…not that looking cool should matter – this is math after all.

Pros

  • The best UX
  • Simple to navigate
  • Ultra-vibrant colors are easy on the eyes

Cons

  • Can only do the basics
  • Battery powered and a bit clunky

Check the price on Amazon

7. Casio fx-9860GII: The Best Bang for Your Buck

Quick Rundown: A very simple, easy-to-use graphing calculator at a fair price. Similar to the TI-84 but cheaper. The interface is old looking but the backlight makes it easy to read. Does the basics, but that’s about it. Great value and usability for this price point.

The Casio FX-98 is the big brother of the 97, and very similar to the TI-84+, just a good deal cheaper.

It performed nearly as good as the $100+ models on our list, but it costs about 25% less than average.

Overall, it’s very solid, easy to use, and has next to 0 learning curve. You’ll be able to do pretty much everything quickly and stress free.

The TI-84+ is definitely a bit better, but if you don’t have the money to spend, this is as close to TI-8+ you can get in the “affordable” price range.

Why we liked it…

It’s got all of the basic functions plus a ton (17) of cool apps for lists, finance, geometry, etc.

And the screen has a very “cool” backlight that makes the extra big screen easy to read, so you can write down answers faster without squinting or going blind by 50.

Easy to use plus easy to read equals an awesome calculator if you ask us.

Buying Tip: If you’re deciding between the FX-98 and the CG50, here’s what to do. Ask yourself, do I prefer a better looking screen or better functionality? The 98 is definitely the better “calculator” if that makes sense. But the CG50’s screen and usability are way better from a UX standpoint. Choose wisely!

What could have been better…

Like most Casios, it doesn’t rival the Nspire, TI-84, or Numworks in terms of functionality. It’s just not as powerful. Of course, for the vast majority of non math-geeks, this won’t matter much at all.

This might be a bit too nitpicky but it runs on 4 AAA batteries, so I feel like I’m stuck back in Prehistory using some clunky proto-calculating device. By the way, the batteries definitely make this bad boy a brick. On the plus side, if anyone ever tries to steal your calculator, you can hit them over head with the FX-98 and knock them out.

Pros

  • Simple and easy
  • Affordable
  • Built-in light for easy reading

Cons

  • A bit limited
  • Not a fan of the old-school display
  • Battery operated
  • Clunky

Check the price on Amazon

8. The TI-89 Titanium: The Best Graphing Calculator for Math Majors & Engineers

The TI-89 without a doubt the best graphing calculator for serious math people. And is the calculator most recommended for electrical engineering, mechanical engineer, physics, and AP physics.

Most engineering students refer to this as “the calculator that replaces the TI-84”. That about says it all.

The pre-installed apps, advanced 3D graphing, and differential equations make solving the equations you encounter in these courses way easier.

You’ll also get:

  • Anti-derivatives
  • Factoring and expanding variable equations
  • Symbolic equation solving
  • The most powerful CAS offered by Texas Instruments

As you advance toward your degree, you’ll notice more and more people left the TI-84+ back at the SAT and picked up a TI-89 when the heat turned up.

It’s the only calculator that actually GETS BETTER the HARDER THE MATH GETS.

Does that make sense? The more you need it to do, the better. Because this thing can do EVERYTHING.

Here’s a short list of what it’s capable of:

TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator

Another reason it’s a must-have for advanced math degrees: MEMORY.

The TI-89 Titanium has 2.7MB of memory to easily store equations, solutions, and external data for later use – a godsend when you need to quickly retrieve something from a class you took a year ago.

We aren’t the only ones who loved it:

TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator feedback

It’s far from perfect though. Here are our thoughts after spending a day with it:

  • It’s difficult to get the hang of: This thing can do everything, which can also be a bad thing. Because it does everything, it’ll take a long time to get used to. Perfectly fine if you’re taking a master degree, though.
  • Price: It’s a high-end calculator so it’s not cheap. But think of the VALUE. If you’re using it for 4 or 5 years (or more), it comes out to about $20-$25 PER YEAR for a critical piece of hardware. Or the cost of a short Saturday night at the campus bar.

Pros

  • Designed to make life easy for engineers and physics majors
  • Capable of just about everything
  • Highly functional bust still very fast

Cons

  • High learning curve
  • We don’t like the screen
  • Price

Check the price on Amazon

Graphing Calculator Buying Guide

Here’s something we learned after testing dozens of graphing calculators under testing conditions:

The calculator you use makes a BIG difference. Like, way more than you think.

Even we didn’t realize just how much the calculator matters.

When you’re 40 questions into a testHere’s something we learned after testing dozens of graphing calculators under testing conditions:

The calculator you use makes a BIG difference. Like, way more than you think.

Even we didn’t realize just how much the calculator matters.

When you’re 40 questions into a test and the calculator takes two minutes to draw a graph, one that you can barely even see because the screen is so dim, the value of a good calculator hits you in the face.

Getting the right model for your situation ensures you any functionality you could possibly need. It even could help improve your test grades.

Thing is, most parents have 0 clue what to get their children, and most students don’t even really know what they need.

This buying guide contains everything we’ve learned over the course of the last few weeks of testing graphing calculators, including practical tips for choosing one based on real experience.

First, Understand that Functionally is Overrated (Kind of)

Are you attempting to launch a space shuttle to the moon and calculate a safe landing so the astronauts don’t burn up on re-entry?

If you answered yes to that, then this section doesn’t apply to you (Why don’t you have a calculator already, anyway?).

For the rest of us mortals, please keep reading.

Functionality is overrated. BIG TIME.

We tested some extremely advanced and very expensive models with fancy functions and buttons. None of them made this list.

Once you get into the nitty gritty of most math curricula or standard tests, you realize that most of the fancy bells whistles go unused.

In fact, a lot of student and parent reviews around the web complained about how they never used 80% of the calculator’s capabilities. And that they wish they’d gone with a cheaper model instead of blowing hundreds of dollars.

So what are you even getting at here?

What we’re trying to say is you’ll probably only need a calculator that can do the following:

  • Basic math functions (Add, subtract, etc)
  • Decimals
  • Graphing
  • Fractions
  • Higher-order functions
  • Raising a number to the power of another

That’s really it. Of course, not for all tests and all occasions. This is just a rule of thumb.

Test Tip: Practice extensively on your calculator before the test, so you know exactly how to do what’s asked of you. If you waste a lot of time fumbling about, you’ll get stressed and it could impact your grade. and the calculator takes two minutes to draw a graph, one that you can barely even see because the screen is so dim, the value of a good calculator hits you in the face.

Getting the right model for your situation ensures you any functionality you could possibly need. It even could help improve your test grades.

Thing is, most parents have 0 clue what to get their children, and most students don’t even really know what they need.

This buying guide contains everything we’ve learned over the course of the last few weeks of testing graphing calculators, including practical tips for choosing one based on real experience.

First, Understand that Functionally is Overrated (Kind of)

Are you attempting to launch a space shuttle to the moon and calculate a safe landing so the astronauts don’t burn up on re-entry?

If you answered yes to that, then this section doesn’t apply to you (Why don’t you have a calculator already, anyway?).

For the rest of us mortals, please keep reading.

Functionality is overrated. BIG TIME.

We tested some extremely advanced and very expensive models with fancy functions and buttons. None of them made this list.

Once you get into the nitty gritty of most math curricula or standard tests, you realize that most of the fancy bells whistles go unused.

In fact, a lot of student and parent reviews around the web complained about how they never used 80% of the calculator’s capabilities. And that they wish they’d gone with a cheaper model instead of blowing hundreds of dollars.

So what are you even getting at here?

What we’re trying to say is you’ll probably only need a calculator that can do the following:

  • Basic math functions (Add, subtract, etc)
  • Decimals
  • Graphing
  • Fractions
  • Higher-order functions
  • Raising a number to the power of another

That’s really it. Of course, not for all tests and all occasions. This is just a rule of thumb.

Test Tip: Practice extensively on your calculator before the test, so you know exactly how to do what’s asked of you. If you waste a lot of time fumbling about, you’ll get stressed and it could impact your grade.

The 3 Most Important Factors for Buying a Graphing Calculator

After testing dozens of models and knocking our heads together powwow style, we’ve drilled down to the most important qualities in a graphing calculator:

Ease of Use

When push comes to shove, you want a calculator that doesn’t require a PhD to operate.

A simplified keyboard and quick access to important functions are by far the most important quality in a calculator.

That’s exactly why the TI-84+ CE ended up #1 over the Nspire. The Nspire is great, but it’s tough to operate.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Pay attention to the functions: Are they grouped together? Are they easy to access? With the TI-84+CE, you just hit MODE and you unlock secondary functions. Easy as Sunday morning.
  • Pay attention to the colors on the keyboard: Extremely overlooked factor here. The last thing you need is to have to squint your eyes just to read which function you’re using. Again, the TI-84+ CE has white on black lettering, meaning it’s insanely easy to read each function quickly.
  • Pay attention to the home screen: Here’s where Numworks really shines. You open the calculator up and you’re greeted by a home screen with bright icons. Some calculator’s home screens are impossible to read.

Display

How important is display?

How would you feel having to use a magnifying glass just to see where the X/Y axis intercept and still not being able to read the number?

Display is equal to ease of use. Nothing is worse than a calculator that destroys your eyes and grade.

We found the best resolution to be 320 x 240 pixels, and you’ll want a screen that’s at least 2.8”.

Screen size isn’t as important as screen resolution though. If you have to choose one over the other, go for resolution. The TI-84+, Numworks, and Nspire all have 320 X 240, and the Casio CG50 is almost that same amount.

At that resolution, you’ll be able to see everything in vibrant, hi-def, so you won’t be confused about answers or have to waste time and risk glaucoma from squinting for 3 hours straight.

Anything less and it starts to get rough on the eyes, especially during long tests.

Customizability

You want a calculator that works for years not months, right?

Being able to update, expand, or customize your graphing calculator is a huge advantage. It’s not as important as ease of use or resolution, but it’s up there.

Some calculators even let you download video games. You could feasibly play DOOM in the middle of class and nobody will know!

Using the TI-83 felt nightmarish compared to the Numworks or TI-84. It’s literally night and day. We couldn’t imagine having to slog through the SAT with the TI-83.

For example, with the Numworks, you can customize nearly everything. You can even take the blueprints from the website and try to 3D print your own!

If you’re really good, you can program your calculator to do insanely tough math for you in the press of a button (Even more than it already does).

Conclusion: Get a calculator that you can customize and update.

Other Graphing Calculator Considerations

These next features don’t matter nearly as much as the previous 3, but they’re worth mentioning.

  • Speed: Speed matters at testing time, but not how you think it does. We found that when we had to wait several seconds for the graph or solution to load, we got ANXIOUS. Even though we still had plenty of time, the waiting made us feel like we were wasting time. Now imagine the pressure of a real test and watching your peers writing down answers instantly, and it’ll be magnified. That’s why we recommend fast calculators for the SAT (Numworks or TI-84+ CE).
  • Memory: Being able to recall formulas, programs, and other data from previous tests or courses could prove to be invaluable (Though usually not allowed on standardized tests). If you’re stuck, you just dig back in your archives, find the formula, execute, and BANG you’ve got the answer with no effort. NOTE: Numworks has less memory than other models, but the UX and speed are so good it’s worth giving up that advantage.
  • Battery Life: This comes last, since nearly every good calculator will have enough juice to get you through even the longest tests. Still, having a calculator that dies after 3 hours is annoying. Thankfully, every model on this list went the distance during testing.