1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics Calculator?

  1. Jul 2, 2004 #1
    I'm going to be a new physics major in the fall. I think a graphing calculator is almost a necessity, but how "hi-tech" do I need? The graphing calculators from TI range anywheres from $100-$150. Do I need to get top-of-the-line? I don't want to spend an extra $50 if I don't need to, but I don't want to spend $100 on a calculator and not have it be good enough either.

    Thanks! :approve:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2004 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I really don't think you need to. I never bought one. Surely your university/college has a Mathematica/Maple license. You can also do a lot of graphing with Excel.

    Do your research on calculators. Also find out about other graphing resources like the ones mentioned above. Then wait...if you find, at some point that you really need a hotshot graphing calculator, buy one.
  4. Jul 3, 2004 #3
    I recommend getting a TI-83 Plus. I got mine for ~$100 CAD. Also, I'm sure you can get one used on EBay for much much cheaper. I find it is able to do everything I need it too.
  5. Jul 3, 2004 #4
    TI-92 Rules!!!

    I don't know what is it that you wish to do with the calculator (I know that you want it for physics...) but, if you want to solve integrals, 2nd order differential equations, system of equations (don't need to be linear), handle matrix or just do a 2+2 account (this sound's an announcement) you should buy the TI-92 or higher (I have a voyager and I couldn't be happier with it). But, nevertheless, know how to solve you're problems by hand, it's the best way because one day you will literaly be doing 2+2 on the calculator (I notice that on myself and I only use it now on exams or when my brain stops...)
  6. Jul 4, 2004 #5


    User Avatar

    At the university I attend, you are required to have a TI-89 for all mathematics courses. The physics courses merely recommend a TI-89, but do not require it.

    My advice for you is to talk to the department head or secretary for each department (math & physics). Simply ask them if a calculator is required for any classes, and if so, which classes. They will help you a lot better than any of us can.
  7. Jul 4, 2004 #6
    Get a laptop and slap Mathematica or Maple on it. Either will blow any graphing calculator out of the water. And both software products cost about the same as a graphing calculator anyway.
  8. Jul 4, 2004 #7

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Think about MathCAD and MatLab also if the university has a site license... Mathematica is powerful, but has a very steep learnig curve intially. Many friends of mine programmed everything they needed for their PhD's in MatLab and many of my friends working in industry prefer it.
  9. Jul 4, 2004 #8
    TI-89 Rules!!!

    I'm sorry, I'm so in to my calculator that i forgot that my first two calculatores were the TI-89. I used it from my first to my fourth year in university (my course is a 5 years one). I only bought the voyager, that is an upgrade for TI-92 because my TI-89 were both stollen.

    The point is that 89 and 92 (there are no 92's now, it only exist voyager that is the same thing) have the same algorithm to solve everything and the difference is the user interface. In the 92 family - voyager! - you have a nicer keyboard.
  10. Jul 4, 2004 #9
    Matlab is great for numerical work, but Mathematica/Maple/MathCAD are better for algebraic work. And I found all three of the latter to be much easier to learn than Matlab. (Also, there is a lot more third-party support for the latter programs.)

    You don't need a site license at your univerisity. Mathematica and Maple can be purchased by students for the price of a graphing calculator no matter where they attend. (Not so sure about MathCAD.)
  11. Jul 4, 2004 #10
    TI-83 Plus is only like $30 now. Dude your in college physics without one?!?! Man I couldn't live without one my freshman year of high school.
  12. Jul 5, 2004 #11

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'm dating myself, we didn't have graphing calculators or for that matter pc's when I went to college. The calculator of choice in Physics, Chemistry and Engineering was the trusty old TI-15C, still use it today for many calculations and.
  13. Jul 5, 2004 #12
    Real engineers and scientists used Hewlett-Packards with reverse Polish.
  14. Jul 5, 2004 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Only those that work for Hewlett-Packard!
  15. Jul 6, 2004 #14
    Hi! I'm in third year high school. I got a voyager just so that my classmates would think I'm insane. I'ts quite a good calculator, symbol handling, has lots of memory, very programable, 3D graphing, diffeq. solver, eq. systems solver, usb cable and not to forget: it's got a built in watch and a qwerty keyboard! I bought it mainly because it's so bloody cool, haven't had any practical use for it yet though, at least not in class... the simpler TI 83 is way easier to handle and easier to learn. I got one of those too and I use it mosty for every-day calculations like chemistry and the physics I'm in. It's just simple, reliable and powerful. The voyager is cool though.

  16. Jul 6, 2004 #15
    hey theres this wicked calulator that every new entrant gets upon entry, way more powerful than any of yours,

    its called a brain and its free! but wait theres more ... common sense yeeeeeeeehaw!
  17. Jul 6, 2004 #16


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Personally I think the graphing calculator is used by too many students nowadays. There is no reason why you need a calculator with a CAS (TI-89 or HP49G+). I'm taking introductory Calculus-based physics courses next semester with my trusty HP 32SII (RPN :) ). If you do need a CAS, buy a copy of Maple or Mathematica (expensive but it will pay off). If you want to get through the course with an A or B, then buy the CAS and ignore everything I have stated. If you wish to learn something (and still have the possibility of making a satisfactory grade), ignore the CAS on a handheld calculator and be sensible. A scientific calculator is all you need. Most of my instructors (math and physics), frown upon the advent of the graphing calculator.

    And if you are going to buy a scientific, buy an HP33S (Algebraic or RPN input). If you really want quality, you can look around on Ebay for a discontinued HP32SII (RPN entry), which will run about $150. If you still plan on buying a graphing calculator /w a CAS, buy an HP49G+. Over the years I've come to hate TI products (83 and 89). HP products are superior.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2004
  18. Jul 6, 2004 #17


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Rubbish :wink:. I'm not an employee of HP, and I use one.
  19. Jul 6, 2004 #18
    The software on the TI-89 is equivalent to that on the TI-92/Voyage 200. There's nothing you can do on the TI-92/Voyage 200 that you can't do on a TI-89. That being said, I would never buy a TI-92/Voyage 200 for school use because the large QWERTY keyboard scares a lot of professors and proctors, whereas the TI-89 looks like a regular graphing calculator.
  20. Jul 6, 2004 #19
    Personally, I prefer RPN (built-in equation library could be useful, too) but the HP I own (48G+) never seemed to me as being fast at graphing. Still, it is a friend when crunching numbers, and the Stack is great for viewing what you have entered prior to applying operations (which is excellent for forgetful minds such as my own).

    Good luck with your studies!
  21. Jul 6, 2004 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Have you ever tried dropping the resolution from the default of .00001 (I believe), to something more reasonable (say 1.0000). I usually keep my resolution about .5 or so on my 48GX and it graphs rather fast. However, the last time I used my 48GX for graphing, was quite sometime ago. Nowadays, I just use it as a good number cruncher. You can build up some calculations very fast compared to that of a TI-83 (in comparison, of course).
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2004
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook