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Math Education Handhelds Upgrades Hardware Science

Full Review of the Color TI-84 Plus 233

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the the-80s-never-looked-so-cool dept.
KermMartian writes "The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition isn't the first color-screen graphing calculator, or even TI's first color calculator, but it's a refresh of a 17-year-old line that many have mocked as antiquated and overpriced. From an advanced review model, the math features look familiar, solid, and augmented with some new goodies, while programming looks about on par with its siblings. The requisite teardown uncovers the new battery, Flash, ASIC/CPU, and LCD used in the device. Although there are some qualms about its speed and very gentle hardware upgrades beyond the screen, it looks to be an indication that TI will continue this inveterate line for years to come." Lots of screenshots and pictures of the innards too.
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Full Review of the Color TI-84 Plus

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  • The real question... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:43AM (#42956319)

    Does it have RPN?

    • Why is this tagged as off topic... Unless I am completely missing sarcasm or an inside joke.. RPN is Reverse Polish Notation.. which is most definitely on topic when it comes to calculators..

      • The real question is why "offtopic" instead of "troll".

        Does anyone really think "Does (some TI calculator) support RPN?" after 40+ years of HP using RPN and TI using standard notation could be anything but an attempt to wind up the tired postfix vs infix debate?

      • I agree, it's absolutely a relevant question. As all regular calculator users know, Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) is a much more efficient method of inputting and computing complex functions or large series of calculations with a minimal number of keystrokes. Although it's not as common today, engineers of a certain vintage will probably remember with fondness their HP-41 Series [wikipedia.org] or perhaps even the HP-67 [wikipedia.org] or HP-65 [wikipedia.org] (for the real old-timers) programmable calculators.

    • by mrops (927562)

      Is it to hard to come up with Android ROM to kill this thing once and for all. The kind of battery life this has can be easily had on a Nexus 7.

      Put in a custom graphic calculator ROM and let TI RIP.

      I realize there may not be such a ROM and the fact its highschool kids who use it, its unlikely a group with capability to actually customize such a ROM will ever do so.

      • Re:Android (Score:4, Informative)

        by elfprince13 (1521333) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:14PM (#42957751) Homepage
        Unfortunately, there's this thing called the "College Board". They make the SATs.
      • I have a Nexus 7 and found a couple free graphing calculator apps that completely eliminate any need I might have otherwise had for a full graphing calculator. I actually first started looking at apps because I wanted my old TI-83 for something but couldn't find it. Granted, students wouldn't be able to bring a fully functional Android device with them to a test, so I guess that's why TI can continue to charge the ridiculous prices they do for these things.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @01:56PM (#42957563)

      Don't you mean, "RPN it have does?"

      • Of these a Beowolf Cluster Imagine.
    • You're looking for Cabamap.
  • "Power: Rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, ~5-10 hours of use
    Battery Life: Officially 5 days of classroom use or 2 weeks of homework use
      "

    That's really, REALLY crappy! for a 15Mhz, 1287k ram device! i would have espected at least ten times that!

    • by Aaden42 (198257)

      Given that my TI-85 used to run an entire school year on maybe 2-3 sets of four AAA batteries, having to charge the thing weekly (and realistically probably more like every couple of days with any real use) is insane. I'd have nightmares about the thing dying in the middle of a test!

    • by rcamera (517595)
      i wonder how much of that battery usage is going into refreshing the lcd screen? seems like this would be a perfect application for color e-ink displays.
    • "That's really, REALLY crappy! for a 15Mhz, 1287k ram device! i would have espected at least ten times that!"

      I've noticed a LOT of gear lately using rechargeables where replaceable batteries would have made a lot more sense.

      Take outdoor equipment for example. I've seen a lot of otherwise high-end flashlights and headlamps that use rechargeables... and I won't even look at them twice. If I'm out in the wilderness for 5 days, a regargeable is almost completely useless to me. Same with "lantern" - style devices, and just about anything else that can be battery powered, like cameras.

      I mean, seriously. For some o

  • by fliptout (9217) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:55AM (#42956437) Homepage

    The target market for this calculator is high school.. How many slashdotters are in high school?

    • I have no idea. Do you? Quite besides which, target markets have never meant much to geeks.
      • target markets have never meant much to geeks

        Unless the target market ends up not big enough, in which case the product never gets mass-produced or falls out of production because not enough people want it. This happened to 4" tablets priced for use without a cellular data plan (such as the Nokia N810 in North America and the three years of Android prior to Galaxy Player introduction in October 2011), it happened to 3-4" tablets with a gamepad (such as GP2X), and it happened to 10" laptops at the end of last year [slashdot.org].

    • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @12:13PM (#42956629) Journal
      It's an update of a classic gadget that a lot of /.ers would have used. Geeks get nostalgic about gadgets, that's why it belongs here.
  • Why would anyone need color on a calculator? It just drains battery life! I'd rather like to see standard batteries with long life, a small form factor, tons of easy to use functions including CAS, good keys, and an outstanding printed manual. Apart from the form factor various older HP and TI calculators fit this description, but I'd love to see something like the Casio Slim but with CAS and RPN. ;-)

    • The only thing I can think of, is if you're doing something with color / heat maps.

      I've seen some stuff like that. But then again not for anything I needed to do, even in college.

      Though breaking it down to a high school level, perhaps as an alternative way to depict 2D in a broad way. X, Y, and color-map to visually approximate the Z value for something really complex.

      • by neminem (561346)

        Obvious answer: because games are better in color. Corollary fact: if you're fiddling about with a gameboy in a high school lecture, you'll get in trouble. If you're fiddling about with a TI in a high school lecture, you probably won't unless the teacher sees what you're doing (ever notice just how many variations on the "hide what you're doing screen" program have been written for TIs?)

        Color makes sense. ;)

        Yes, I fully admit, I played the *crap* out of Tetris in calc in high school.

        • Well that's the obvious "demand" answer... kids want to be able to play cooler games. And of course TI realizes this.

          But I'm sure there is a more practical reason... like an actual use / need for color other than a nicer UI and games. Something math / science related that would affect a High School or College student.

          Though college students would probably want to use either a more advanced TI calc that's easier to program... or just use their Smart Phones / Tablets.

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @12:02PM (#42956513)

    Pity the article was too darn lazy to summarize the tech specs:

    CPU: custom z80 @ 6 / 15 MHz
    LCD: 320x240, 16-bit
    RAM: 128K of internal RAM, 21K user-accessible
    ROM: 4MB Flash ROM chip, 3.5MB user-accessible.
    IO: serial port, miniUSB jack
    Keys: 50 dedicated keys
    Programming languages: TI BASIC, z80 Assembly

    Pity people couldn't provide benchmarks of couple common integrals across the HP48GX, HP49, HP50, TI-82, TI-84, so we can see how fast it is.

    • by Joehonkie (665142)
      I also demand screenshots of homebrew video games that are the obvious main purpose of having this thing in a boring math class. (And I wonder why I have trouble with even simple arithmetic)
  • Is it $10 or less yet?

    A state needs to contract out the creation of calculators to some firm and just get them for $10 a pop. There is no reason TI should be getting $100 for them.

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @12:25PM (#42956755)
    A full CAS, the Ti-84 was a good calculator, I loved mine and it worked great. However it fell short for me because it lacked a good CAS, hence why I bought a Ti-89 Titanium. I know a lot of people, engineers included wonder why anyone would bother getting a calculator with a CAS built in, it's simple, why do algebra by hand and risk making a mistake when your calculator can do it MUCH faster, more accurate and in most cases with a better final answer.
    • It is targeted at education and math teachers get all uppity if the calculator can do too much since they don't know how to effectively teach or test their students.

      If you want CAS TI's color model is the nSpire CX CAS. More powerful overall and has a full CAS setup on it.

      • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
        Well I wouldn't go as far as to say they don't know how to teach. I just finished some very intense math courses dealing with advanced vector calc and to be honest there is no way to really teach it where it's clear and straight forward.
  • that I cannot, for example, do with Maxima and octave on my Nexus 7, much more quickly and without that feeling of being trapped in the distant past?

    • by pavon (30274)

      It can keep a battery charge for more than a couple days.

      • by jopet (538074)

        Thats true and highly relevant for people who have no chance to get close to a mains plug within 24 hours :)

  • Is that how long it has been since I was in high school?
  • Does it run blockdude?
  • As the article indicated, we've had the TI-82/83/84 for the better part of two decades. Educational institutions and teachers know how to make it work for what they want it to do in a classroom. I personally don't know anyone that's purchased a graphing calculator for something other than a math class, so I have to assume education is a very large segment of the graphing calculator market share. Personally, I don't see anyone being exceptionally compelled to change their curriculum away from the TI-8X, a
  • For this price you can get a 7" Android tablet and buy a graphing calculator program for $5 or so. Hell, Wolfram Alpha will even show you calculus solutions step by step. TI really does not deserve to be in business at this point.
  • by Dwedit (232252) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @04:03PM (#42958855) Homepage

    15MHz Z80, and a 320x240 16-bit screen. Drawing to that screen has got to be slow.
    Copying bytes from memory to an IO port is 24 cycles per byte on the usual code (ld a,(hl) \ out (n),a \ inc hl)
    The screen itself is 153,600 bytes large.
    So it takes more than 3,686,400 clocks to output an entire screen image, most likely a lot more time. This suggests the entire screen can be updated 4 times per second with unrolled code, and that's not counting the code needed to set up and get ready to output data to the screen, or generate said data. More realistically, the screen could be updated updated 3 times per second.
    For things like solid color fills, probably much faster, possibly as high as 8FPS.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      Their Z80 implementation may not necessarily use the "classic Z80" timings. Indeed, Zilog's own current Z80 based microcontroller offerings are pipelined, and will get a throughput of up to 1 instruction per CPU cycle. The basic Verilog TV80 implementation of the Z80 also executes instructions in fewer clock cycles than the classic Z80 timings. I'd be surprised if the TI implementation has the same timings as the classic Z80.

      There's also various screen memory layouts that reduce the amount of work the CPU h

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