Texas Instruments TI-89
There isn’t alot I can say about this calculator which hasn’t been discussed by other reviewers. I, like the majority of them, and probably you the reader, have an 83 and got into a calculus course, or calculus-intensive course, and realized that the 83 was no longer going to cut it. Well I got the 89 from Amazon and since that day the 83 began to look more and more primitive…sigh…The 89 can factor, differentiate, integrate, sum, products, binomials, solve systems and matrix operations, etc. It can also graph in 3d, polar, or differential field (what you may have seen in the promo shots). It even has the option of exact or approximate answers. A very helpful option I’ve found is the stored units of measurement you can use in the cases where you need to work problems in physics, engineering or even chemistry.

Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium Graphing CalculatorAfter about two months of use I’m still learning just how much this graphic utility has to offer, but the user-interface has long since become completely intuitive for me. But the buyer should beware if they are making the transition to this right before the final–its menu style interface takes a day or so to get used to, and the manual while long isn’t as comprehensive or as clear as it could be, relying heavily on abbreviations. Perhaps the most frustrating thing to learn is the exact sequence various commands need to be entered in, in order to get to the graphing utility to something other than say TOO FEW ARGUMENTS or SYNTAX ERROR. (Using the onboard catalog of functions, gives you an entry guide at the bottom of the screen.)

What I didn’t expect to use, but find very useful is the USB cable and software which allows me to upload screen shots, ie graphs, which I can then attach for homework and lab assignments when I don’t have access to either Derive, Excel, or my mac’s Grapher. It is also possible to download additional programs and apps but I can’t see me, or most of the potential buyers, of this utility actually needing to do this. It can be programmed as well, but again I have hard time imagining when the need to do this would actually arise.

This graphing utility is a little larger than the 83-85 line (already bordering on the cartoonish) but it is significantly smaller than the 92 (with which it shares the exact same Derive software and which has a full-qwerty keyboard.) However, this is an altogether much more powerful device than the 83 and an equal to the more cumbersome 92. So its a good compromise.

One small question in the back of my mind is that with the advances in LCD screens particularly in cellphones why isn’t possible to give this utility a better screen? If a device can be built which relays phone and text messages, has a 2mp camera, can stream video, has an MP3 player on it, and a backlit color screen capable of video playback, all in a space volumetrically equivalent to my wallet it seems like the 89, computing power and all, could be built significantly smaller and with a much nicer display. I realize that the market for graphing utilities is no where near as competitive nor as profit tempting to justify enormous outlays in r/d for enhancements, but you would think some of the technology could be licensed by TI for use in their future utilities. In a world of $200 textbooks an additional $50 or so for a tool like this is pretty insignificant. It’s not too hard to imagine this thing having at least a backlit LCD, finer resolution (the 3d graphs are borderline useless), and a rechargeable battery.

As futuristic as this utility is compared to earlier ones, a quick comparison with my cell phone or my iPod, already nearly 3yr old, and the contrast looks like technology from two different century’s. Well, I suppose they are in fact…

The utility, like all other TI, utilities is surprisingly well-built–the durability of these is a credit to TI, who with a market consisting entirely of lucrative bulk school contracts and parents supply-shopping for often careless students, could like textbooks publishers make them as cheaply as possible. I’ve only seen one of these 89 broken and it was only part of the screen: they are made impressively tough.

This rant of mine notwithstanding, as graphing utilities go the 89 is great; although I haven’t used the Hewlett-Packards, I can say that the 89 is the standard I’ve encountered for all undergrad math and science courses. If you’re intending to take advances courses in any of the latter you will probably have to buy one of these eventually; accepting the inevitable early you might as well become familiar with it as soon as possible.

Technical Details

  • Graphing calculator handles calculus, algebra, matrices, and statistical functions
  • 188 KB RAM and 2.7 MB flash memory for speed; plenty of storage for functions, programs, data
  • Large 100 x 160 pixel display for split-screen views
  • USB on-the-go technology for file sharing with other calculators and connecting with PCs
  • Backed by 1-year warranty

Texas Instruments TI-89