The Calculator Buying Guide

By Nicole Tinkham
Image from Creative Commons by jakeandlindsay

So you need to purchase a calculator for the office. Easy enough, right? If you’ve ever shopped for office supplies, you know there are always multiple options to choose from. Scroll through our catalog and you’ll quickly find out that the calculator section goes on for several pages with various different types (printing, graphing, scientific, and desktop). Now, instead of just flipping through and buying the first one you see, you have to consider what your needs really are. To make things simple, we created this guide to explain the different types and features to look for when making your calculator purchase.

Printing Calculator

printing calc

Pictured: Sharp EL2630PIII Two- Color Printing Calculator

You may need a printing calculator if you have to keep financial records. A printing calculator, or adding machine, is similar to a desktop calculator but it keeps a record of calculations by printing on a roll of paper. These will often run a little more money than desktop calculators so it’s important to understand the features available and know exactly what you’re looking for.

• Functions: You’ll find some printing calculators with special functions such as tax calculation, loan calculation, currency exchange, and cost/sell/margin options but others will not have these functions. You’ll also notice a choice when it comes to the memory keys. These store numbers on the calculator to be used at a later time. Some calculators have a 4-key memory, while others may not have any at all.

• Speed: Speed is something to consider if you’ll be entering in a long series of numbers. Speed is measured by lines per second. You’ll notice a wide range of speeds from 1.4 lines per second to 8 lines per second.

• Print colors: One and two color printing is available. Colors include black, blue, red, and purple.

• Price: Depending on the features, printing calculators can run quite a bit of money. However, there are very basic calculators that are less expensive. Make sure to get all the features you need while keeping in your budget.

• Paper: Most printing calculators will take bond paper rolls but you may run into a few that take thermal rolls. Both types are available but keep this in mind when purchasing your calculator supplies.

• Warranty: Warranties on printing calculators range from six months up to 3 years.

Desktop Calculators

desktop calc

Pictured: Innovera 15971 Large Digit Commercial Calculator

These are your basic calculators that perform the basic mathematical functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). While they may be simple, there are certain features to keep in mind.

• Keys: Some desktop calculators have special keys such as the +/- key, grand total key, square root key, and backspace key. You may not have use for these special keys in which case you may prefer the very basic calculator.

• Memory: We mentioned memory under the printing calculators and the same goes for desktop calculators.

• Display: Calculator displays come in fixed, angled, and adjustable positions. You may find that an angled or adjustable display is easier to read. You must also think about the number of display digits. Many calculators display 12 digits but some only display 10 or 8.

• Functions: Some of the available functions on desktop calculators are the same as in printing calculators. You can get a desktop calculator that is able to do currency exchanges, percent add-on/discount, item count, markup/down and tax calculation.

• Size: Desktop calculators range in size from the larger 6 ½ x 8 ¾” to pocket size (2 ¼ x 3 ½”). Think about where you’ll be keeping your calculator to determine the perfect size for your space.

Financial and Graphing Calculator

graphing calc

Pictured: Texas Instruments Nspire CX Handheld Graphing Calculator

Financial and graphing calculators can plot graphs and solve equations. Many of these are also programmable, allowing the user to customize programs. Some features to look for include the following.

• Memory: Since these types of calculators have programs, you must consider how much storage space it has for instance, 100MB or 3.5MB.

• Functions: Differential Equations, Parametric, Sequence, Polar, Histogram, Plot, and Zoom are just some of the special functions you’ll find with graphing calculators.

• What’s included: When purchasing a graphing calculator, notice what’s included with it. A rechargeable battery, software, case, and USB cable may be included in the package.

Scientific Calculator

Scientific calc

Pictured: Sharp EL- W516XBSL Scientific Calculator

Scientific calculators are more advanced, being able to perform calculus, trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential functions. If you’re in the math or science field, you’ll find this type of calculator useful. Here are some of the things to look for when making your purchase.

• Memory: As with graphing calculators, you’ll have to consider how much memory a scientific calculator has.

• Power source: Some calculators are strictly run on batteries while others also run on solar.

• Formula notation: Your options when it comes to formula notation include algebraic, direct algebraic logic, and standard.

• Functions: Some of the functions to look for are fraction calculations, fraction/decimal conversions, probability, and more.

• What’s included: Some calculators will include batteries and a case. Look into what the calculator comes with before making your purchase.

While this guide will lead you in the right direction of getting the calculator that works best for you, don’t forget that we’re always here to help. Even with this detailed post, we’re sure questions will come up. Just stop in, give us a call (941-747-2995), or leave a comment in the box below for further help in choosing a calculator!

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