on January 24, 2014
This is the best scientific calculator that I've ever used. It provides a lot of the functionality of the Ti-84 graphing calculator for a small fraction of the price. There are few other calculators on the market that provide comparable functionality - namely the Casio FX-991ES/FX-115ES and the Sharp ELW516XBSL. However this calculator is the best of the group.
What sets this calculator apart from the pack is its ease of use and excellent usability. You don't need to read the manual to figure out how to use it, and its features are very usable.
Big, High Resolution Display: All the three high end scientific calculators (this, the casio, and the sharp) have pixel grid displays and can show expressions in their written mathematical form. However this calculator's 4 line display can show more on the screen than any of the other calculators. This makes long calculations easier, makes matrix entry much more usable, data tables more usable, and data entry for statistics much easier. Unique (in this class) capabilities of this display include:
- See up to 4 expressions and results at a time. The calculator puts the result on the same line as the expression when it fits comfortably. The Casio and Sharp only let you see one calculation at a time, and you must scroll back to see previous calculations.
- 3x4 augmented matrix entry (for a 3 variable linear system) where the entire matrix can be seen at once. On the Casio, you have to enter larger matrices one line at a time, and on the Sharp you can only enter one coefficient at a time.
- 4 row * 3 column data entry for statistics: you can see 4 rows of 3 column data at a time, plus a data entry line below. On the Casio, you can only enter X and Y values rather than having 3 arbitrary lists, and the display can only show 3 rows of 2 column data at a time. The Sharp is also limited to 2 variable XY pairs, and as a further limitation you can only enter/view one XY record at a time.
Thanks to the better display and better display use, the Ti-36X Pro is by far the most capable of the pack.
No Complicated Mode Switching: In the Casio/Sharp sense of modes, the TI-36X Pro has only one mode. It can do everything in that mode. There is no separate mode for integration, statistics, data entry, solving systems of different types, etc. When working under time constraints, switching between modes and navigating elaborate nested menus wastes time and breaks one's chain of thought. Losing all calculation history on a Casio/Sharp when switching modes doesn't help either. On the TI-36X Pro, just press one button to do what you want without switching mode. Want to enter data for stats? Just press the DATA button and start entering data into the table. Want to jump to solving a cubic equation? Just press poly-solve and solve your polynomial. Want to jump back into your stats? Press DATA and you'll be back with all your old data intact. Once you're done with your stats, press CLEAR and you'll be back at the regular calculator window with your calculation history and saved variables just as you left them.
Numerical Integration, Numerical Differentiation, Series Summation, and Sequence Product: All these features are quick, accurate, and need no explanation to use. Note that the numerical integration algorithm used here is faster and more accurate than the Simpson's Rule used on the Sharp. The sequence product is a handy feature that you don't see on other calculators.
Overall, this is a fantastic calculator. I do recommend reading the manual though. This calculator has a ton of handy features that you probably aren't aware of.
With that said, I have a few minor criticisms:
- The 2x2 system solver shows the AX + BY = C form rather than a 2x2 matrix. This may be more beginner friendly, but its annoying to have to press enter twice to move between variables. You need to press enter twice because it lets you change the sign between AX and BY from + to - and back. This is a useless feature that slows down operation. A regular 2x3 (2x2) augmented matrix (as used by the 3x3 solver) would be more efficient.
- You need to press the up button twice and then press enter to edit the previous expression. On the Casio, you only need to press up once and then start editing right away
Notwithstanding these minor criticisms, I recommend this calculator whole heartedly. It's a must have for Engineers and Scientists.
on December 14, 2014
I am a 3rd-year Engineering student, and this calculator has become my goto calculator for exams. I own at least 7 or 8 scientific calculators (lost count now), and 3 graphing calculators: these include the HP 50G Graphing calculator, the Sharp EL-516 and I have also used the Casio 115/991ES in the past (same calculator, just different branding between the US and Canada). The Sharp and Casio calculators are the most direct comparisons, while graphing calculators are obviously usually seen in a separate league.
I won't compare this to TI's other scientific calculators, because this is simply the most powerful scientific calculator that TI makes.
PROS compared to Sharp/Casio's most advanced scientific calculators:
1) Multiline display, and the interface actually uses the multi-lines. If you look at the Casios and Sharps, they use the mult-lines for displaying fractions and the last answer, but never display more than the last answer. In comparison, this TI-36X Pro uses all four lines, so that the last three answers/equations can all be displayed. It's much more like a graphing calculator in this respect.
2) One single mode for all functions; no need to switch between complex mode, normal mode, polynomial mode etc., like the Sharp and Casios do. It's merely for historic reasons that the Casios and Sharps still do this, and it makes so much more sense to have everything done in one mode (like a graphing calculator).
3) Solid, tactile buttons that have a slight "click" when you push them. I really like this, because I don't even need to be looking at the keys to know whether my keypress has registered or not. I find with the Casios and Sharps (particularly the Sharps) that they have keys that are really easily depressed, and don't give you great feedback on whether they've been clicked.
4) Really, really good interface. If you have ever used a graphing calculator from TI, you will feel right at home. The matrix equations, polynomial solver and and linear equation solver all have graphing calculator-like input, which should be both very familiar to many users, as well as intuitive for those new to TI UI design. For example, the polynomial solver is like a computer wizard, taking you through the steps for entering the coefficients of your equation. Really easy to use.
5) Cycling through functions with a single button is pretty innovative, and I think faster than using the 2nd function or (even worse) relying on entering another mode or menu. For example, in order to access ASIN, you just hit the SIN/ASIN button twice to cycle to ASIN. It's really easy and doesn't require you to use two separate buttons.
6) Really good definite integration and derivation. It works really well, and is faster than my Sharp (I performed a side-by-side comparison multiple times for speed).
1) The intuitive interface comes at the expense of a few more button clicks in a few situations. For example, the polynomial solver is dummy-proof for entering your coefficients, but I generally feel that the Casio and Sharp calculators can accomplish the same thing with 1-2 less clicks occasionally.
2) Variables (other than 'x') are difficult to access. The variables are all stored under one button, which you cycle through. 'x' is easy to access since it is the first variable, but to access 'z', you need three button clicks. To access 'b' requires 6 button clicks. I would have preferred an alpha key for access keyboard variables, or a menu with number shortcuts.
3) The silver buttons and silver rocker colour are poor. I know that many other reviews have complained about this too, and it is a bit annoying. It definitely doesn't make the calculator unusable or anything, but they are a bit hard to read, and I personally also feel that they look out-of-place on a calculator that otherwise has rather dull (and more professional) colours.
4) This is a personal pet peeve, but above the "enter" button on the button-right, the TI-36X Pro has a Decimal/Fraction conversion button instead of the "multiplication" operator button; instead, the operator buttons have all been shifted up by one. TI has many other calculators, and most of them have the operator buttons right above the Enter key... which makes sense to me, since they are frequently used. I would have preferred to have the Decimal/Fraction conversion button above the operator keys, to make this keyboard more standard in comparison to other TI and HP calculator layouts. I sometimes hit the conversion key instead of the "addition" operator key as I am used to from other calculators (as a side-note, TI and HP prefer the single-column 1x4 layout of operator keys, whereas Casio and Sharp prefer the 2x2 layout of operator keys. You can easily adjust to either, although I personally prefer the TI/HP layout, as it's easier to access single-handed I think).
PROS to graphing calculators
What really pushes this calculator over-the-edge for me is that it feels like a graphing calculator in many respects; the interface is intuitive, the line display maximizes all your command history... and it does this while focussing on the main features you might need, such as matrix calculations or solving polynomial expressions. Obviously this can't do graphing, since it isn't a graphing calculator, but it does have a "function table" where you can enter a function and it automatically gives you the y values for an interval of x. That allows you to quickly plot a function's general curve on paper using the provided xy points. Very useful, and for this I have been able to stop needing a graphing calculator. Not only are graphing calculators not allowed on many exams, but some of the more advanced functions on graphing calculators (ie. matrixes) actually require fewer button presses to do on the TI-36X Pro. And I'm tired of changing batteries on a graphing calculator. In other words, I can actually accomplish stuff faster and more reliably on the TI-36X Pro.
Honestly, this is a fabulous calculator. The Casio and Sharp calculators have been around far longer, so that's why you may hear some older users advocating for them, but the TI-36X Pro embraces a more intuitive UI with single-mode operation, and packs a few graphing calculator features which cover 99% of everything I do on a calculator in Engineering. I highly recommend this calculator for anyone in need of the most powerful scientific calculator on the market, or a graphing calculator user who finds that they don't need all that functionality and just want something a bit lighter to carry with them.