I need a good engineering calculator at two locations: my computer desk and my workbench. I have been dragging my good ol’ TI-85 with me, but keep leaving it at one of those locations which forces me to consistently take a walk to retrieve it. So I had an idea… Buy another calculator. Since the TI-85 isn’t made anymore I looked at some alternatives. I wanted to stay with TI since I am familiar with their input methods (so I thought). I also wanted to stay with a graphing calculator, even though I hardly use the graphing capabilities. (I like having a small history of my calculations available to look at.) Another neat feature I thought I might enjoy is a back-lit screen since getting a well contrasted image on the TI-85 can sometimes be a chore unto itself. So I settled on a TI-84 Plus CE since a lot of reviews called it a “spiritual successor to the TI-85”. Well I’m hear to tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The TI-84 Plus CE is definitely not the calculator to own for electronics/engineering aficionados. The first annoying thing is that the “EE” (10^) key requires a SHIFT keypress. That is really, really, really annoying. I guess it’s something you just get used to, but why? There are at least 10 other keys that don’t need to be shifted, that no one is going to use on a regular basis, no matter what field you are in. Whose bright idea was it to bury the EE key?
Another thing, the back-lit screen is not that great. I was surprised at how effective that tiny bit of “kick up” of the TI-85’s screen helps with visibility. Even though the TI-84 Plus CE is back-lit, the viewing angle is so poor that it reminds me of the old TN displays of the 1980’s. (It’s horrible.)
It’s not all bad however… The keys feel fine and it’s easy to type on. It definitely has noticeably more processing power than the TI-85. And, the rechargeable battery seems to last much, much longer than the AAA’s in my TI-85.
Unfortunately, the poorly thought out EE key is a killer on this calculator and I have started my search for an alternative. It’s entirely my fault for not thinking about key layout when selecting a new calculator. It just something that never crossed my mind. Oh well, $100 gone bye-bye.