Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TI-36X Pro Review

TI-36X Pro Review

This is a review of the TI-36X Pro Calculator by Texas Instruments.


Originally, this was the TI-30X Pro that was sold in Europe during the Autumn of 2010. Unfortunately, the 30X Pro had many bugs and as a result Texas Instruments quickly pulled the calculator off the market.

Click on this link for an article on the TI30X_Pro . The website, which has this article, is maintained and run by Joerg Woerner, is an excellent site for Texas Instruments calculators, past and present.

Recently, Texas Instruments released the TI-36X Pro, based on the TI-30X Pro; thankfully without the bugs. I got this calculator on 4/25/2011 at an Office Depot store in West Covina, California (greater Los Angeles area).

What the 36X Pro Does

The TI-36X Pro is Texas Instruments answer to Casio's fx-115 ES and Sharp's EL-W516 calculators. The calculator is dual powered - solar for operation and battery for memory retention. The 36X-Pro is designed to allow user to enter expressions exactly the way they are normally written. Exponents have a superscript, fraction bars can contain expressions, and answers can be shown in fraction form, decimal form, and if applicable, radical form or coefficients of π.

The 36X-Pro welcomes a return of the definite integral, something that has been missing on TI non-graphing calculators since the TI-68 (we are talking the late 1980s). In addition, the 36X-Pro adds the numerical derivative, sums (Σ), and products (Π).

Although the 36X-Pro enjoys a TI-84+ interface, the calculator features buttons that cycle through a list of functions with repeated presses of a button. They are:

ln log button: ln, log, log to any base
e 10 button: e^ (exponential function), 10^
π e ι button: the constant pi, the constant e, √-1 (for working with complex numbers)
sin button: sin, sin^-1, sinh, sinh^-1
(cos and tan buttons work similarly)
! nPr nCr button: factorial (integers only), permutations, combinations

The variable button works the same way, cycling through eight variables (an ALPHA key would SO much better). Thankfully, all the calculus functions require that x be the dummy variable, requiring only one press of the variable button.

Sadly the percent function still doesn't "work". All it does is divide the number attached to the % by 100. Hence typing 21.99 + 9.75% returns 22.0875, not 24.134025 (what it should be).

The 36X-Pro is function rich: prime factorization, fraction and integer extraction, absolute value, polar to rectangular conversions and vice versa, modulus, basic matrix operations, basic vector operations, base n conversions, logic functions, and random numbers. For statistical regressions, you are not limited to linear. Quadratic, Cubic, Logarithmic, Power, and Exponential are available. A trend that I am also seeing in non-graphing scientific (and financial) calculators is that distribution calculations are offered. For the 36X-Pro, this includes the Normal distribution and inverse (from a lower tail area), and discrete distributions Poisson and Binomial.

The numeric solver on the 36X-Pro works pretty quickly for most equations. You do not have to set each equation equal to zero, the calculator allows you to enter the equation as is. You also get 2 and 3 systems of equations. A cool feature of the simultaneous solver is that if the calculator will let you know if the system has no solutions or infinite solutions For the 3x3 case, equations for which solutions cam be found. Example: x = -168/11 + 12z, y = 72/11 - 4z, z = z.

The polynomial solver works with quadratic and cubic equations.

The 36X-Pro has one OP function that you can store simple macros. The macro takes one number as input. You can store the final result (only the final result) into a variable. The OP is good for quick functions and one-step recurrence relations. It won't do multiple step functions, loops, or comparisons. Examples of macros include "*2+3" and "+x→x". There is also an expr-eval (evaluate expression) function that you can temporarily store an expression with variables, including calculus functions (x is the dummy variable). Be aware that the evaluation function works one time. There is also a table mode, but the expression is in terms of x, so the table feature is not good for sums (Σ), integrals, or derivatives.

As far as complex number calculations are concerned, you are limited to arithmetic, square, cube, reciprocal, absolute value, angle, real and imaginary part extraction. The nice thing is that you can evaluate more complex functions with complex numbers...if you know the formulas.

The 36X-Pro has 20 common conversions (English-Metric, Temperature, Speed, Length, Pressure, Power, Electricity) and 20 common physical constants in SI units. (meter-kilogram-second system)

What I Like

* This is the most advanced non-programmable Texas Instruments scientific calculator since the TI-68, and it's solar!
* The operation is integrated: you do not have to switch to a separate matrix mode, complex mode, vector mode etc, to take advantage of these functions. This is my one big gripe about the Casio fx-115ES.
* I like the multiple touch keys - they clean up the keyboard (see exception below)

What I am not crazy about

* Only one key to access eight variables. To get the variable a, you have to press the variable key FIVE times. Yikes! TI was better off making an Alpha key and assign an alphabetical variable (and possibly θ) to each key.
* The arithmetic keys are chrome on silver - if it were not for the etchings, I would not be able to see the arithmetic symbols.
* Limited complex number functions. However, it is common that complex number functions on a calculator are usually limited.

Worth the buy?

I say yes. The 36X-Pro is a nice calculator and well designed. I say it is comparable to the Casio fx-115ES and Sharp EL-W506 both in terms of speed and overall functionality. For the time being, the 36X-Pro is offered in select stores, but I suspect that within a few months this calculator will be everywhere competing with the fx-115ES for shelf space in stores everywhere. I paid $21.99 for it.

Calculator Forensics: 9.000001562

What's in the Package

* TI-36X Pro Calculator with hard case and quick reference card
* A detailed and sturdy pocket manual. You can download the manual online from TI's website.

Happy Calculating!

Texas Instrument's TI-36X_Pro_Page

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