Whether you’re heading to high school or have a job which requires you to do advanced mathematical calculations, a scientific calculator will make your life a lot easier. To help you out, we’ve done all of the research and legwork for you.
In this article, we’ll be reviewing some of the best scientific calculators on the market so that you can find one which fits your needs and budget perfectly.
Top 6 Best Scientific Calculators For 2020
Take a look at the table below; in it, you’ll find the name of each calculator we’ll be examining, as well as a couple of important specifications. We have a lot more to say about each of them, though, so don’t make a decision just yet.
|Scientific Calculator||Display Lines||Digits Per Line|
|Casio fx-260 SOLAR||1||10|
|Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS||2||10|
|Casio fx-115ES PLUS (Editor's Pick!)||2||10|
|Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro||4||13|
Let’s talk a little bit about our evaluation process. We’ll be looking for any strengths and weaknesses that each product might have, and at the very end, we’ll decide which is the best scientific calculator overall based on our findings.
That said, let’s get started with the Casio FX-260 SOLAR.
Casio fx-260 SOLAR – Best Budget Scientific Calculator
It costs around 6 USD, so it’s definitely affordable.
You also don’t have to worry about spending money on additional batteries since it’s powered by solar energy (hence the name). However, with such an inexpensive product, there are some downsides.
For instance, its display only shows a single line. Longer calculations can be shown, but you’ll have to scroll down to see anything after the first ten digits.
One area that hasn’t been compromised on, though, is the functionality.
This calculator can handle any high school level maths problems. It can calculate both square and cube roots of numbers, perform trigonometric functions, simplify fractions, calculate logarithms, and display numbers in scientific notation.
This is just a small taste of what this product can do. Casio claims that it has over 140 different mathematical functions, and the good news is that you can even take it into the exam room with you. It’s approved for use in PSAT/NMSQT, SAT and ACT entrance exams, and also AP tests.
Casio claims that this product has a long lifespan, but unfortunately, there’s no warranty for this product. This, regrettably, is to be expected for something which costs so little but to prolong its life it comes with a slide-on hard case.
You can also choose to get a black or pink version, so there’s a little room for personalization here too.
The buttons are made of hard plastic instead of rubber, which again, is mostly due to the product’s low cost. This shouldn’t have any real downsides, but it does make the calculator seem lower quality than it actually is.
We do like how small it is, though.
It’s just 6” tall, 4” wide and an inch thick, and weighs just 4.8 ounces. This makes it the perfect size to fit into a pocket or bag, and ensures that no matter how many textbooks you have to bring with you, you’ll always have room for it.
All things considered, this is probably one of the best calculators you can find for under 10 USD. It has a wide range of different functions that can take care of even the most difficult high school problems and conversions, so if you buy it when you first enroll, you’ll be covered until you graduate at the very earliest.
What We Liked
- Extremely affordable
- Can handle all high school level problems
- Comes in two colours
What We Didn’t Like
- No warranty
- Single line display
Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS – Best All-round Budget Scientific Calculator
Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room: it’s probably going to be expensive, right? Wrong. It retails for a little over 10 USD and stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the more expensive calculators on the market.
If the standard black color scheme doesn’t do it for you, there are further eight colors to choose from.
We know that a calculator isn’t exactly a fashionable item, but at the very least it’ll help you stand out.
This calculator has a two-line display with a maximum of ten characters per line. Larger problems can be navigated a line at a time using the arrow keys and the last entered calculations are saved for easy access.
It also has cut and paste functionality. Once an equation has been solved, you can go back and edit it, factoring in other numbers to see how it changes the answer. Additionally, you can quickly switch between scientific and engineering notation.
The TI-30X ISS is primarily solar-powered, but we know that sometimes there just isn’t enough light in the classroom.
For this very reason, Texas Instruments have included a battery as a backup – this means that there’s no way the calculator can die at a vital moment, for example in the middle of an exam.
Make no mistake, you’ll want to bring this with you.
Whether you’re trying to convert something, simplify a fraction, solve a trigonometry problem, or wrap your head around algebra, this calculator can help. It even supports one and two-variable statistical problems, which are outside of the bounds of a high school math class.
So what’s the catch? Well, it might not be up to scratch if you’re studying a college-level course.
For example, it can’t create graphs or tables, but really, for under 20 USD, you’d be hard-pressed to find a calculator that can.
Overall, the TI-30X IIS from Texas Instruments is a well-balanced calculator that can take you all the way through school. Its equation editing ability makes it a lot easier to learn exactly how to solve difficult problems, and the low price tag makes it a very attractive product indeed.
It even comes with a one-year limited warranty, so you know it’s built to last.
What We Liked
- Wide range of functions
- Allows you to quickly edit and rerun calculations
- Comes in nine colours
What We Didn’t Like
- Not suitable for high-level maths courses
Casio fx-115ES PLUS – Best Advanced Scientific Calculator
It comes packed with over 280 different mathematical functions.
Fractions? No problem. Statistics? Great. Even more complex problems like linear regression and polar-rectangular conversions are a cinch for this model.
What’s more, it allows you to step backward through calculations for a better view of how exactly a problem was solved. You also have the option to edit these, which allows you to substitute other numbers in – great for if you messed up several steps ago.
So how much does a calculator like this cost? Surprisingly little: it has a recommended retail price of less than 15 USD so it’s affordable no matter how small your budget is.
Some products allow you to convert between decimals and fractions, but that’s not enough for Casio.
This product allows you to convert numbers between forty different measurements so you’ll never find yourself struggling to work out how many inches are in a mile.
Like the TI-30X IIS, this product uses a hybrid solar power and battery power method to function.
It’s unlikely that you’ll have to rely on the battery, but if it does kick in, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a lesser model would have failed you.
So does this calculator have any flaws? Well, yes, but they aren’t deal-breakers.
For a start, it comes with a grey and purple colour scheme which, to be honest, looks a little dorky. Its huge range of functionality may be a double-edged sword too – with so many options to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming for someone with fairly simple needs.
So what’s our overall opinion of this product? Basically, we think it’s great for anyone heading into an advanced class, or who plans to study areas like engineering or computer science. However, if you just need it for a calculus class, it’s probably overkilling.
What We Liked
- Almost 300 different mathematical functions to choose from
- Huge range of conversion types
- Has a battery backup power source
What We Didn’t Like
- May be too advanced for beginners
Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro – Best Mid-Budget Scientific Calculator
Get this: it retails for a little under 20 USD, but it can handle just about any high school or college level problem. We say just about any because it doesn’t have any graphing functionality, but any standard numerical or algebraic equations are fair game for this model.
One of the great things about the TI-36X Pro is that it displays equations and formulae the same way they appear in the textbooks. Fractions are stacked instead of being shown horizontally, and often this can be the difference between total understanding and confusion.
Its screen has enough room for four lines of text, and each line holds up to thirteen digits (including three after a decimal point), so even the longest equations can be viewed on one screen. If you do happen to enter something too long for a single screen, you can move up or down one line at a time using the arrow keys.
There are several different conversion settings (more than three dozen, in fact) that allow you to view a number in radians, floating-point form, or even hexadecimal. It can calculate the base logarithm of any number too, which is excellent for computer science students.
Additionally, it allows you to calculate the standard deviation using one or two variables, so it’s a fantastic choice for anyone looking to study statistics or advanced mathematics. It may be a little too advanced for people with simpler needs, though.
Here’s the deal: this scientific calculator is capable of solving most high school problems and even a good portion of college-level ones.
If you’re just looking for a standard calculator to help with trigonometry, you’d probably be better suited to one of the less expensive products.
That said, if you plan to pursue a career in a scientific field like engineering, this calculator will give you the tools that you need in order to succeed.
There are just two things that it can’t do: give you the willpower to make it to class, and graphs.
Are you looking for a graphing calculator? Check our guide about the best graphing calculators, this will help you to choose what to buy. Read it right here.
What We Liked
- Perfect for college-level students
- Shows equations as they appear in the textbooks
- Over 36 different conversions
What We Didn’t Like
- More expensive than most of its competitors
Sharp EL-W516TBSL – Best Scientific Calculator for College
It costs a little over 20 USD, but you really get a lot of value for money with this product: some of the others we’ve seen so far can handle almost 300 functions, but this one goes above and beyond with 640 different functions on offer.
Everything from cubic polynomials to imaginary numbers is accounted for. It can easily deal with quadratic and cubic equations, and even three-variable linear equations don’t pose much of a threat. There’s even a dedicated equation mode that allows you to insert variables into your problems.
But there’s more: the calculator’s display can show four lines of text, with a huge 16 digits per line. Equations are shown as they are in the teaching material, too, with fractions appearing vertically instead of horizontally.
You can also store up to four different formulas using the F keys.
Despite this feature, it still doesn’t count as a programmable calculator, so you’ll be able to take it into an exam room, no problem. It’s nice and small too, at just 6.6” tall, 3.1” wide, and 0.6” thick.
When you’re paying a little more for a product, you expect it to be practical whenever you need it, which is why this calculator has a dual power system.
It primarily uses solar energy but switches to the battery backup when there’s too little light.
Can we address the elephant in the room for a second? This calculator actually looks great. It has a sleek black and silver colour scheme and the button labels are an interesting mint and orange combo.
It actually looks and feels like a high-end product, even though it costs less than 25 USD.
So, our final thoughts: this calculator is aimed squarely at people with advanced mathematical needs. It can’t handle graphing, though, which is unfortunate, because that would have made this the ultimate scientific calculator, hands down.
However, despite this limitation, it holds up very well. Regardless of whether you’re going to high school or university, this product will serve you well for years to come, particularly if your chosen area of study is heavily mathematical.
What We Liked
- Can handle just about any problem other than graphs
- Can display several lines of text on screen simultaneously
- Very attractive casing
What We Didn’t Like
- A little expensive
HP 35S – Best Premium Scientific Calculator
So how does this product justify its high price tag? Well, firstly, it has a high-quality construction. Its front panel is glossy black plastic, and each button has a nice colour-coded explanation of its supplementary functions. It even comes with a genuine vinyl case, which is a nice touch.
More importantly, though, it has a functionality that the other products can’t even dream of matching. Simply, there are so many different functions available that it’s not even worth listing them all.
Suffice it to say: if you can dream it, you can do it (except for graphs).
Better still, if there’s something you want to do that doesn’t come as standard, you can add it since this is a programmable calculator.
It offers an additional degree of sophistication by allowing you to loop through equations multiple times, perform conditional tests to determine the result, and even create subroutines which can be as many as 20 levels deep.
Now, this isn’t a solar-powered calculator. It relies upon its two batteries, but there’s a twist. These are wired in parallel which means that you can replace one at a time without losing all of the functions that you’ve saved.
One of the only disadvantages of this model is its small screen size.
It shows just two lines of text at any one time and whilst it displays 14 digits per line, it really would have been nice to have a slightly larger display.
We did like that you can store up to 26 intermediate values at any one time though.
For more complex calculations, you’ll likely need a few of these, but it’s always good to have more than you need.
Calculators can be very confusing, and while you’re unlikely to read the entire 200-page digital manual, we’re glad that this calculator came with such in-depth documentation.
One thing is clear: it’s extremely versatile, extremely powerful, and although it costs a bit more, it justifies this by being the last non-graphing calculator that you’ll ever need to buy.
What We Liked
- Fully customisable – allows you to add your own functions
- Has a backup battery which can be replaced without turning the calculator off
- In-depth algorithm customisation options
What We Didn’t Like
- Premium price tag
How To Pick The Right Scientific Calculator For Me?
Hey, we get it. Maths is hard, and since most calculators brag about the advanced functions they offer, it can be difficult to accurately compare two models. However, once you know what you’re looking for, it’s actually fairly simple.
To help you out, we’ve created a list with the aim of helping you find a scientific calculator that fits your needs, and more importantly, your budget.
First and foremost, you’ll have to consider how many of the functions offered are actually useful. For example, if you’re buying this calculator for high school level work, you’ll likely need one which can solve quadratic equations and basic algebra problems. For an example of some of the problems you’ll need to solve, you can check out this sample curriculum.
You should also be keeping an eye out for one with a decently-sized display. Not only does this allow more information to be on the screen at one time, but it also allows them to display equations the same way that they’re shown in textbooks, which makes them easier for learners to understand.
If you have higher ambitions, though, you’ll need a calculator that can deal with more advanced topics. Statistical analysis is a plus here, as is the ability to program in your own functions. Simply put, you need a calculator that will last for your entire college career, not just for freshman year.
There are a number of other things you should take into account. Take the screen, for instance: does it come with a protector, or is it prone to scratches? How large is the product? Is it heavy? Does it come in a choice of colors or is it grey only?
Possibly the most important thing to think about is whether or not you’ll be allowed to take it into an exam room. There are specific models of calculator which are approved for certain tests, and they usually mention this on the packaging, however you can also find out by looking up the specific exam online.
How is the calculator powered? Models that use solar energy are good because they don’t require additional batteries, however in dimly lit places, they can die without warning. If you have saved functions or equations, these will disappear when this happens. Conversely, a product that uses batteries has ever so slightly higher running costs but is less likely to run out of power when you need it most.
Some models even use a combination of these two power sources which gives you the best of both worlds. This allows you to change the battery without losing any of your stored information too since the calculator will remain on even when the battery is removed as long as it’s in direct sunlight.
Choosing just one of these scientific calculators as the best overall was particularly difficult given how wildly people’s needs can vary. However, after careful consideration of the facts, we’ve settled on the Casio fx-115ES PLUS.
It’s a very affordable product that offers a good level of depth and complexity whilst also providing tools to help you understand how to solve some of the more difficult equations.
It may not be a good choice for someone with a rudimentary understanding of mathematics, but for more advanced users, it’s perfect.
Now that you’ve read about the best scientific calculators. You may want to read our guide about the best portable tv, read it here.