If there has been one really helpful tool during an engineering exam it has been the scientific calculator. A device that helped you calculate stuff faster than using your already stressed brains.
To find the best scientific calculator we looked at some of the best and most used calculators today. We also made sure to check that the calculators we recommend are allowed in examination halls.
For full disclosure, we have to state that there are not many brands in the budget market, with Casio and Texas Instruments being the only reputable brands making good scientific calculators.
Best Scientific Calculator
Casio fx-991 EX Classwiz Scientific Calculator
With a modern phone-like design, well laid out buttons and a user-friendly UI the FX-991EX ticks all the boxes in design and user-friendliness. But its support for up to 552 functions including spreadsheet, ratio, and QR based graphing makes it one of the best scientific calculator in its category.
Also Good Scientific Calculator
Texas Instruments TI-36 X Pro Scientific Calculator
The TI-36X doesn't have the modern design, build or features as the Casio but it has one key feature which has helped earn a very dedicated fan following. Its ability to store results and equation makes it a great tool for a certain type of user. It also supports natural textbook display like the Casio and can display up to 14 characters unlike the Casio which only shows 12. So its differentiating features make it a calculator that is as good if not better than the Casio fx-991 EX.
This is a really long post! Use these links to jump around.
Why Trust Us?
To make sure you get the best scientific calculator we went through many websites to see what they were suggesting. We also picked some of the best selling products on Amazon and Flipkart. To further know what people felt about each product we went through their customer reviews to see if the people who had bought them were missing any feature or facing any issues. Now quite satisfied with customer reviews we looked on Youtube for video reviews that showed the workings and features of these calculators along with their speed tests.
We also read through several Reddit threads where people were discussing about each and every calculator we had shortlisted. Here we picked up quite a few cons about each calculator. Next, we started going through all the details present on the manufacturer’s website and we used this document on Casio’s website, that was a comparison of Casio and Texas Instruments’ calculators. This document really helped us easily understand what feature was missing and what unique feature was present in each calculator.
How we selected?
We started our selection process by picking calculators suggested by other technology websites. While reading these websites we looked for features that people may want like easy to read display, ergonomic buttons, and great battery life.
To make sure we haven't left out any calculator we even looked through all the best sellers on Amazon and Flipkart. After going through several product reviews we got an idea of what people expected from a scientific calculator and what they did not like on the product they got. However we did not find any reviews that talked about the performance of the calculators, so we turned to Youtube for detailed review videos and speed tests. Here we found a lot of content that really helped us pick the best scientific calculator for engineering students.
From Youtube's comments sections we reached Reddit threads where people we seeking suggestions over picking either the TI or Casio calculator. Here we got to see what features were missing in a calculator and what unique features were required by a certain group of people.
We then started digging around in the manufacturer's websites, here we used this document from Casio’ site to comapre between their own calculators with those of Texas Instruments. The document beautifully showed the features that were present in different categories of UI, battery, basic to advanced mathematical functions and additional features. After reading through this we were definite about which calculators were better and hence we reached our two best picks.
Best Scientific Calculator (in detail)
One of the fastest calculators in its class
Modern and Ergonomic Design
Brilliant High-Resolution Display
Can display 12 characters
Thoughtful UI and supports natural textbook input
Supports Spreadsheet, 4x4 Matrix, and Ratio calculations
Dedicated DMS buttons for quick surveying calculations
Cool QR code features
Long-lasting battery also comes with a solar panel built-in
Can be used for Engineering exams due to its non-programmable nature
White cover and back may pick dirt stains
Higher resolution screen make the fonts smaller
Doesn't save the previously used formulas and calculations
Doesn't support LCM and GCD
Doesn't support Product Calculation (Product of f(x))
We all know the usefulness of a scientific calculator when compared to a regular calculator especially during an engineering examination. What you must know is most scientific calculators have almost the same features except a few extra mathematical functions on the newer models. But what really separates one calculator from another is the user interface. Overtime due to muscle memory we do get used to most types of interfaces but it's always nice to have one that is simple and easy to use. This is exactly the focus Casio had with their latest scientific calculator the fx-991EX.
Starting with the buttons, the number pad has white buttons that stand out on the black background. This is much better than the usual gray buttons on the competitors and even previous Casio products. The buttons themselves are much larger than usual which is a small but important improvement over the previous generations. The d-pad and top row are finished in chrome and stand out nicely which makes using them that much easier.
It also looks much better than the previous generations of dull gray Casio calculators. It has a nice black texture on the front fascia and a full white finish on the back and cover. Combine that with the large thoughtfully designed buttons and it looks more like an senior citizen phone than a scientific calculator.
Coming to one of the most important updates in the fx-991 EX, the software UI. Traditionally calculators have had list based UI's like the older Blackberry phones full of text and very little icons (Shown in the image on the right). Thankfully with the FX-991EX, we get a well thought out icon-based menu system that is more Windows Phone with its square tiles and is simply much more intuitive to use (Shown in the top image on the left). This is all thanks to Casio Classwiz UI that make not only using the calculators easy but also for a teacher to teach its functions easily.
Some users did report that the screen although high resolution makes the fonts smaller than before which is actually true (As can be seen in the image above) . However the resolution makes them more legible and the UI lets you read the options and menu more easily than before thanks to ClassWiz.
Now that the FX-991EX solves the user interface issues with calculators, is that the only reason to pick it? Not quite, Casio has improved many other key aspects of the calculator. Calculation speed, this is something nobody thinks about but as we and almost everyone around us have done engineering we know calculators when fed with a complex equation will take a few seconds to blurt out the answer. Often the display goes off while processing the equation that can sometimes gives you a mini heart attack especially during an exam. “Oh no, did my battery die? Do I have to retype the whole equation again? Am I going to fail? What is going on?”, these are the thoughts that have run through our minds. The FX 991EX makes sure these thoughts never enter your mind. When compared with any other calculator in its price range the FX991EX simply outshines them in calculation speed, it is faster than them from anywhere between 1 second to a whopping 5 seconds for complex equations. You click enter and it displays the answer. No screen off nonsense, no thinking, nothing. That is quite a difference and in fact, you can imagine the time you save (or earn) during exams when you use this particular calculator.
Now that usability and speed are covered let us see what the calculator can do. Apart from your basic mathematical and trigonometric options, it has spreadsheet capability which includes statistical calculations, recursion formulas, and Riemann Integrals. 4x4 matrix calculations are also supported. In all 552 functions are supported by the Casio FX 991EX, to know more about the mathematical capacity click here.
Another neat trick is the QR code feature. Which when used lets you create graphs of the equations you've created using your smartphone. Do note this is not a graphing calculator and the QR features need a smartphone to work. You can also use the QR code to pull up the online user manual that really helps to use the calculator easily. Click here to visit the QR website of Casio.
While most users of the Casio fx-991 EX were satisfied with its performance we did notice a few people mentioning that it did not save the previously used equations in memory after the calculator was turned off. This was a feature many said was present in the Texas Instruments calculator. So if you do need this feature look at our next best pick.
The Casio also cannot perform LCM/GCD and Product Calculations (Product of f(x)). So if you need all these features do check out the Texas Instruments TI-36 X Pro which is also our best pick.
Funnily enough, we found quite some complaints regarding the white back and cover. Not all of them were about the panel getting dirty, but because the white color makes copying in exams more difficult. The formulas and answers written on the white back are more prominent than on the gray colored calculators which use it to hide it well. This maybe a genuine concern for the few, we hope the majority will not indulge in such activities.
The Casio fx-991 EX comes with a single battery cell (G13/LR44) and supports solar charging. There is a nifty little icon on the screen that shows if the calculator is solar charging or not. Talking about the battery life, calculators are known for their super long battery lives and this is no different. Our researcher who has a working Casio Scientific calculator has not changed his calculators battery even once in 7 years. It also comes with a long 3-year warranty.
With the price of around Rs.1,200, the great features, the amazing design and easy to use UI the Casio fx-991 EX will be a wonderful tool for your engineering studies.
Note: For a more detailed list on what functions the Casio fx-991 EX and Texas Instruments TI-36X support click here.
Runner Up Scientific Calculator (in detail)
Can store up to 20 entries unlike any Casio Calculator
Easy to use and supports natural textbook input
Displays 14 characters over the Casio's 12
Supports LCM/GCD and Product Calculation (Product of f(x))
Long-lasting battery also comes with a solar panel built-in
Can be used for Engineering exams due to its non-programmable nature
The gray body will not get stained as easily as the Casio
Older generation calculator
No dedicated DMS buttons
Can only solve 3x3 matrices
Lacks Spreadsheet and Ratio calculations
Low screen resolution
No fancy QR features like Casio fx-991 EX
Slower than the Casio fx-991 EX
The Texas Instruments calculator comes from an older generation of calculators, but don't let that fool you. It is still a very competent calculator. It displays more characters (14) compared to the Casio (12). It has support for LCD/GCD and Product Calculations which the Casio misses out on. But the biggest benefit is the fact that it can save up to 20 entries into its memory which can be recalled at any time.
The display although not a high resolution as on the Casio fx-991 EX still has a natural textbook based entry which gives you results and equation in the textbook format.
The buttons are however quite small and the gray-on-gray buttons and body make it tough to read. The White color font too is not easy to read.
Now coming to what it loses out on, when compared to the Casio is the spreadsheet and ratio calculation support. The matrix support although present is limited to only 3x3, unlike the Casio's 4x4. For a civil engineer who has to do a lot of calculations involving degrees, minutes and seconds (DMS) will find the task a bit longer on the TI-36 X Pro, as you have to go through a menu and then select the corresponding symbol. The dedicated DMS button on the Casio will be a life-saver for you and will help to speed up your calculations.
There is also no fancy QR code feature like the Casio but we can let this one slide owing to the age of the calculator.
So to conclude if you need a calculator that can store numerous entries has a few extra functions (LCM/GCD etc.) and can display more characters than the Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro makes for a great pick. It costs around Rs.1,200 and comes with a 3-year warranty.
Note: Click here to know all functions that can be performed on the Texas Instruments TI-36 X Pro
Casio offers a 3-year warranty on its calculators. For any product repair you can take the calculator to any one of the 25 service centres of Casio to get it repaired. Click here to see the service centre nearest to you.
Texas Instruments has a 3-year warranty on the calculators. We could not find any information regarding service centres but Texas Instruments mentions they will replace an out of warranty calculator for a service fee.
Who are our best picks for?
The Casio fx-991EX with its modern design, simple UI, faster processor and 552 functions is what you must pick if you want the best scientific calculator. It is priced very well and can be used for all engineering related calculations.
The Texas Instruments TI-36X has a dedicated following for some features that are not present on the Casio products like the saving functions, different mathematical calculation support and longer character support.
The Casio FX-991EX has a modern design, modern software, fast processor and a lot of features. It has some neat tricks up its sleeve as well like QR code support and spreadsheet support. If you need a calculator that is not only fast and capable but also affordable and easy to use than look no further than the Casio.
The Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro comes with some unique features like support for LCM/GCD, product calculations, 14 characters display and ability to store entries. Like the Casio, it too has a natural textbook display that makes it easy to enter and view equations. If you need a calculator that has all these features and is priced very well then you can look at the Texas Instruments scientific calculator.