Okay, Hi Guys!

So as some may know, I'm currently a university student, and I will need a new calculator starting next year for my classes... (I study engineering, so lots of physics and math classes) Anyhow, I wanted to pick out a new calculator to help me out, but also one I can do other things such as game/program/experiment with.

The one thing I would really want is a CAS with it.

That leaves the following basic contenders:

The HP Prime.
The Nspire CAS with touchpad
The Nspire CX-CAS
The Ti-89 Titanium

Now which of these four calculators is the best choice for me in both school and other experimental stuff? What useful features do they all have, and how big is development for each of them?
My suggestion is the TI-89 Titanium (cue boos and hisses from Nspire and HP fans)

Here's why though:

For math: CAS is great, but there is a thing built into the titanium (actually, it's a pre-installed app) called Symbolic Math Guide (or SMG)

This app does step-by-step problem solving, but you still need to input what things it needs to do (in other words, it shows work, but you have to tell it what work to show). It's a great tool, and I believe the 68k series are the only TI calcs to carry it (but I don't know for certain).

For programming/experimentation: gcc4ti (fork of TIGCC that is much better than TIGCC) is like Ndless, but for the 68k series. You won't have to worry about all that lockdown stuff TI is doing to the Nspire, since the 68k series no longer has OS updates or hardware updates (and TI doesn't care much about the 68ks anymore).

So yeah, there are my two cents.
Link wrote:

The Prime seems to me to be a calculator that has everything you want. It has a CAS, and also appears to have a very powerful implementation of BASIC.
Link wrote:

Only get the CX if you absolutely NEED color. All I know about the Nspires is that they are powerful but EXTREMELY LOCKED DOWN in terms of programming. No I/O in Basic and no ASM/C that isn't locked down in subsequent OS releases.

Link wrote:

The 89 is very powerful as well. It has a mature programming community which is (unfortunately) stagnant with the ocasional gem released. As an 89 Titanium user, I must say that the math functions are much better here than in the z80 series.

My final word is that a Prime looks like the best option in terms of speed and programmability.
There's always the good old HP 50g, which has an absolutely huge software base on the engineering side of things, although admittedly not much for games. Worth taking a look here: http://www.hpcalc.org/

The hardware's pretty powerful (not Prime powerful, admittedly), the OS is relatively stable (a few bugs here and there, but nothing critical), the thing has SD expansion (why bother with proprietary linking software when you can just use good ol' SD?), and the platform has been completely and utterly hacked in every which way possible (to the point that HP even included updated versions of some of the major third-party 48-series OS modifications in the stock 49G, 49g+/50g, and 48gII ROMs, along with the System RPL compiler (the internal language of the OS), Saturn assembler, and (except for the 49G, which still ran a Saturn) ARM assembler).

If you're allergic to RPN, the 49G and newer natively support algebraic notation, and even the ancient 28C/S and 48S/SX/G/G+/GX do have some support for algebraic notation (basically, you can enter an algebraic object onto the stack and have it evaluate it). Admittedly, the 49G and newer algebraic handling is a bit hackish how it works under the hood, it's basically translating everything into an algebraic object and evaluating that. Been a while since I played with it, but algebraic RPL programs look REALLY strange when you look at how it actually stores them, back in RPN mode.

Oh, and it takes AAAs, instead of a LiIon pack.

Performance could be better (because the thing is emulating the old HP Saturn processor), but it's not bad overall.

The Prime's software can't exactly be called stable at all, from what I've heard. Programming is in their Giac-derived Pascal-like language, nothing native yet AFAIK. (Doesn't mean that there won't be, or that you can't hack it in. HP has historically been receptive to things being hacked in. But, this is more educationally focused...) The hardware's beefier, the display is a lot better, yes. But, you've gotta recharge the battery, no running off AAAs.

If you're considering the 89, I'd say it's also worth considering the mature HP platform.
I'd like to thank you all for the help, especially the warning about the lock down of the Nspire platform. So judging from your responses and a bit of my own googling, seems like the Ti89 Titanium is my best choice here. However, looking over your response bhtooefr, question, is the 50G also support algebraic notation? Cause I may see if I can find a good deal on ebay on top of that as well. Thanks for the advice guys!
The 50g even defaults to algebraic, and when in algebraic mode, can be programmed in an algebraic notation. (But, natively, it expects reverse Polish.)

And, the 49G (not the 49g+) isn't horrible (although IIRC has rubber keys over the HP mechanism, so key feel isn't the best from what I've heard - it does mean that they're cheap, though, and they've got most of the OS enhancements of the later 49g+ and 50g), although if I were gonna use a Saturn-based calc, I'd go back to the 48GX and get the biggest cards I could find for it. And, the later-production 48gII isn't bad if you don't mind losing SD, having limited RAM, having the smaller 131x64 instead of 131x80 screen (the 49G is the same way though), and a 48 MHz instead of 75 MHz CPU.
Ah, thanks for clearing up then! I'll see what I can get then! Smile
Better way to show it, actually:

Well-built, slow, horrrendously expensive to expand, and the ones with decent memory and expansion are horrendously expensive themselves on eBay (the 48GX being the worst offender). And they're clunkier to use as algebraic. Not a concern for me, but I prefer RPN.

Old slow CPU
Mediocre key feel
No expansion
No USB on board
Serial I/O
512 kiB RAM, 1 MiB flash
More outdated firmware than the rest of the 49/50 series (including the 48gII, which is a cut-down 49g+/50g, not a 48-series)
131x64 screen
Cheap, because it's the black sheep of the HP family (seen as too TI-like as far as styling and key feel, as I understand).

Fast CPU (but emulating the old CPU)
Varying key feel due to quality control issues
Bigger 131x80 screen
SD expansion
512 kiB RAM (although less usable than the 49G, due to the emulator being in RAM), 2 MiB flash (and it's not as bad as the 83+ family about not running things out of flash)
USB and IR I/O

Fast CPU
Good key feel
Adds TTL serial I/O to the 49g+
4 batteries instead of 3
Otherwise exactly the same, even uses the same firmware

Fairly fast CPU (underclocked from the 49g+/50g)
First-gen (3 batteries) has the same key problems as the 49g+, second-gen (4 batteries) has the same good key feel as the 50g
131x64 screen
First-gen has 128 kiB RAM, second-gen has 256 kiB, and they've both got 2 MiB flash but you can't use it it seems
First-gen just has USB and IR, second-gen adds TTL serial I/O

Really, looking at that, the 49G is CHEAP, so there's that going for it, but otherwise, go 50g. The 48gII is too limited IMO.

I will note that playing with an emulator of the 49G will give you the gist of any of the 49-series calculators, as far as how they are to use. However, most 49-specific development (as opposed to 48/49 development) is on the 50g (and therefore works on the 49g+ just as well, may work on the 48gII (if it's just ARM-dependent), and might work on the 49G).
For what it is worth here are my findings:

I found the TI-89 Titanium a bit fussy and disliked the GUI. I personally found it too sophisticated for my needs.

The HP series is the professionals choice but unfortunately I bought the HP-39GII which was poor and plasticky. The Aplet development process was awkward. The PC Comms software was buggy and did not work properly as it was designed for Windows 3.1. You will find HP's user base is less active compared to the massive installed base for TI.

Have you considered the Casio 9860 series - it's a cracking little calculator and compares well to both HP and TI's similar offerings.

I would stick with TI not least because the guys here are so helpful and you'll find a wealth of help and resources.
The 39gII was primarily designed for the Chinese market, IIRC, and the software that's for Windows 3.1 isn't for that calculator, it's for the older machines in that family.

Which, speaking of that... the RPL-based 38/39-series:

38G: Basically a 48G, cut-down, with an algebraic-only restricted educational firmware and a rewritten graphing engine
39G: A 38G on the 49G hardware
40G: A 39G with CAS
39g+: A 39G on the 1st-gen 48gII hardware. Don't buy this for the same reason that a 49g+ or a 1st-gen 48gII are bad.
39gs: A 39g+ on the 2nd-gen 48gII hardware.
40gs: A 39gs with CAS, and missing the IR

Those are the calcs that use the software that was designed for Windows 3.1, not the 39gII. And IIRC, that was just the aplet IDE, not the actual link software. And, the link software for the 48/49-series is quite archaic too (not 3.1-level, it's very much early Win95-era - back in the day, I don't believe HP actually had their own link software, you just used whatever Kermit client you wanted), but with the 49g+/50g, you don't ever actually have to use it due to the SD card slot.

Software for the 38/39-series isn't that widely available, so if you care about third-party software, I wouldn't get one, though.

The 39gII actually uses much newer software that's similar to the Prime's software, which makes sense as the 39gII and Prime are closely related software-wise.
bhtooefr wrote:
The 39gII was primarily designed for the Chinese market, IIRC, and the software that's for Windows 3.1 isn't for that calculator, it's for the older machines in that family..

Agreed - thats what I had heard and read in other forums - but only after I had struggled with it.

bhtooefr wrote:
38G: Basically a 48G, cut-down, with an algebraic-only restricted educational firmware and a rewritten graphing engine
39G: A 38G on the 49G hardware
40G: A 39G with CAS
39g+: A 39G on the 1st-gen 48gII hardware. Don't buy this for the same reason that a 49g+ or a 1st-gen 48gII are bad.
39gs: A 39g+ on the 2nd-gen 48gII hardware.
40gs: A 39gs with CAS, and missing the IR.

That's a great summary of HP's offering in this line. I personally (if I could justify the power) would consider the 50g which is the flagship.
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