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Back in November 2012, Cemetech was the first to announce the existence of TI's first color-screen non-Nspire calculator, the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. Now, two years later, we are thrilled to bring you a first look at TI's new TI-84 Plus CE calculator. A natural evolution of the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition towards the thinner, lighter feel of the TI-Nspire CX and the HP Prime calculators, this new model appears to answer many of the complaints about the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. However, there is much we still don't know about the calculator (see the More Information links at the bottom of this article). Here's what we do know so far, based on TI's and Vernier's released info:
  • The TI-84 Plus CE has the same key layout (but with squarer keys) and the same keystrokes to navigate the OS as the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition
  • The operating system will start at OS 5.0 (as proven by the existence of EasyData 5.0 - thanks to critor for spotting this)
  • The calculator drops the 20-year-old 2.5mm I/O port and moves the USB port and charging LED to the right side of the device.
  • The TI-84 Plus CE has 150KB of user RAM and 3.0MB of user Archive (source: Vernier).
  • The calculator is qualitatively "very fast", based on a deleted Reddit comment. Perhaps most striking, this is likely the first TI-8x calculator since the TI-80 to not use a z80 CPU. Speculation abounds whether this device uses an ez80 or is an ARM emulating a z80. Current evidence points to the latter: the calculator appears to be nearly identical in dimensions to the TI-Nspire CX, and the likelihood of TI re-using existing hardware rather than re-tooling an entire ASIC is high.
  • The TI-84 Plus CE has either a charging port on the bottom, like the TI-Nspire CX, or metal contacts for charging on the side, like the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition
  • Unless Vernier made a copy-and-paste error, the calculator will retail for $129, the same retail price as the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition.
What do you think about this new calculator? Is it the answer to bringing the TI-83+/TI-84+ line into the 21st century, or is it a misguided attempt to refresh a disappointing calculator? We on the Cemetech administration team are very excited at TI's continued commitment to the TI-84+CSE series, hope we'll be able to update our books, documentation, and tools to support the new calculator soon, and can't wait to get our hands on the device!

More Information
Getting Started with the TI-84 Plus CE
TI Education's TI-84 Plus CE Preview Page
Vernier's TI-84 Plus CE Information Page

Just saw this a few minutes ago and I'm thrilled to get one.


My only concern, though, is ASM compatibility. Will this run Z80 ASM programs via an emulator layer like with the HP 50g and its Saturn emulation? Will this require community members to learn ARM ASM and C and port their CSE programs (although there aren't that many ASM programs for the CSE yet, it would still be rather annoying)? Will the calculator be totally locked down like the Nspire?


That said, the faster speed interests me. Maybe it's TI's answer to the HP Prime PPL language and BASIC will be much faster?
I am excited to see what it can do. Do we know what the processor speed is? I'm interested to see the development and study of usage of the USB port instead of the I/O port. What kind of base language does the processor use? Would you be able to write programs in that language? I assume the screen is the same size. Will there be cross-compatibility between the PCE and the CSE?

I am looking forward and hoping to be able to buy one soon!
Wow, such memory!
I really need this. Was it stated when this would be released?
It's definitely different from the others... sort of looks like an 85! (sort of...)
My only regret is that it doesn't have a 2.5mm I/O port. I've gotten to really love that thing, and does that mean no more music?
Hmmmmm... I have mixed feelings about this... But I still wanna get one!
huh. So faster, and more RAM, but less Flash, than the CSE?
gaventemples31415 wrote:
Wow, such memory!
I really need this. Was it stated when this would be released?
It's definitely different from the others... sort of looks like an 85! (sort of...)
My only regret is that it doesn't have a 2.5mm I/O port. I've gotten to really love that thing, and does that mean no more music?
Hmmmmm... I have mixed feelings about this... But I still wanna get one!

Out in Spring 2015 according to the TI announcement, so not too far off! Smile
So basically its an Nspire that only runs the defunct emulator? Could be powerful but I still prefer the limitations of the z80 line.
DJ_O wrote:
That said, the faster speed interests me. Maybe it's TI's answer to the HP Prime PPL language and BASIC will be much faster?
One can only hope! I'm very excited about that prospect.

gaventemples31415 wrote:
My only regret is that it doesn't have a 2.5mm I/O port. I've gotten to really love that thing, and does that mean no more music?
Hmmmmm... I have mixed feelings about this... But I still wanna get one!
Yeah, I lament the loss of the 2.5mm I/O port too. We can still use standard communication over the USB port, but it will make things like ArTICL and other microcontroller interfacing (not to mention CALCnet!) a lot more challenging. Huh, I hadn't even thought of the CALCnet ramifications yet. Sad

elfprince13 wrote:
huh. So faster, and more RAM, but less Flash, than the CSE?
One can only assume that that extra Flash went to a larger operating system, perhaps?

JamesV wrote:
Out in Spring 2015 according to the TI announcement, so not too far off! Smile
I think it's safe to assume that it will be available for use at T^3 2015, so March 14th or so is the latest they might be releasing at least some models of this, I'd say.

tr1p1ea wrote:
So basically its an Nspire that only runs the defunct emulator? Could be powerful but I still prefer the limitations of the z80 line.
That's very possible, based on the evidence. We'd potentially have both the limitations of the z80 line and the power of the ARM line here, though! I don't think I'm opposed to that.
No more audio Sad
And if it is an ARM emulation I sure hope that it won't be as locked up as the nspire....also I doubt they'd emulate the undocumented op codes.
But still awesome news that it is way faster ^.^
Sorunome wrote:
No more audio Sad
And if it is an ARM emulation I sure hope that it won't be as locked up as the nspire....
I think being able to harness the power of an ARM directly in some way would be very desirable to z80 programmers. I'm wondering why they finally decided to let us have more than the physically-addressable user RAM? Perhaps the size of graphics for the TI-84+CSE's screen was a factor?
Quote:
also I doubt they'd emulate the undocumented op codes.
Yep, but luckily at least my TI-84+CSE programs don't use the undocumented opcodes much, and I'm sure the software that does could be easily modified.
Quote:
But still awesome news that it is way faster ^.^
Very much so!
KermMartian wrote:
I'm wondering why they finally decided to let us have more than the physically-addressable user RAM? Perhaps the size of graphics for the TI-84+CSE's screen was a factor?


This is something I was wondering, it would also indicate that by whatever means the OS is running - it would be modified.

That being said, RAM set aside for as an LCD resourse likely wouldnt be mentioned as part of userRAM. Perhaps there are more image functions and such?

Im also in 2 minds about utilising ARM if it exists. There would be no advantage to writing any code in z80 at all if you had actual hardware access (assuming it runs on an ARM), aside from simple launcher/exploit code. Basically it would be the end of TI's z80 era and bring about a swift end to the 84+CSE.
So, assuming this new one is a lot faster than the CSE, it is either:

- A Z80 based machine with a higher clock rate or,
- An ARM based machine with the CSE operating system written from scratch for the new architecture, or
- An ARM based machine with a Z80 software emulation running a (possibly somewhat newer) version of the CSE OS.

I am inclined to believe the third case as the most possible one. Not bad, but I'd still prefer a color TI 89 instead. I have very limited use for non-CAS machines. My CSE lives mostly in a drawer and has only been charged once Sad
Indeed,I think the new memory would be a plus, but I have to wonder: Why the heck would TI make 150kb of RAM? And decrease the amount of ROM? Seems to be very fishy to me, as the nspire has 64Mb of RAM, not Kb.
If the new model does indeed use an ARM with a Z80 emulation layer, I suspect there will be a programmer interface for direction ARM code execution, because software development and maintenance costs are much higher for Z80 assembly. They therefore have a strong business incentive to mitigate that with C-based ARM code.

However, I would like to suggest an alternative theory based on the history of TI's previous Z80 line.

In 1996, TI released the TI-83. It provided the correct combination of math functionality for the lucrative high school education market, but limited programmability. Therefore, in 1999, TI released the TI-83 Plus, featuring the same math capabilities, but with enhanced programmability via 512 K of execute-in-place (XIP) flash memory. In time, however, the device proved to feel slow, and half a megabyte proved to be somewhat limited for some students. Therefore, in 2001, TI released the TI-83 Plus SE.

Concurrently with TI-83 Plus development, TI developed the TI-86. The TI-86 addressed limited memory by adding more RAM, but proved unsuited for the high school market due to too-advanced mathematical abilities.

The TI-83 Plus SE featured the same general architecture, but with an entirely new ASIC with a much-improved MMU, the Z80 integrated into the ASIC to reduce chip-count and pin-count, and support for multiple flash chip sizes, going into production with a 2048 K chip. It also secretly featured more RAM, with support for up to 256 K, and perhaps TI wanted to see what 3rd-parties would do with the 128 K that went into production. Somewhat strangely, the TI-83 Plus SE also featured two mirror ports of the LCD ports, possibly suggesting support for a second chip-select line for the LCD driver interface to permit a more sophisticated driver in the future. The success of the TI-83 Plus SE led TI to develop further yet another new ASIC for the TI-84 Plus/SE line.

Released 3 years later in 2004, the TI-84 Plus/SE models appeared to add little new to the TI-83 Plus SE---which was now discontinued---, adding only a USB port and a clock, and the option of either 1024 or 2048 K of flash. Internally, the TI-84 Plus/SE ASIC saved money for TI by integrating the RAM into the ASIC, eliminating an extra chip from the hardware. Moreover, the USB port proved successful, as the older DBUS port was antiquated. TI later posted an update to the TI-84 Plus/SE OS, adding some minor new functionality, which was well-received, but not a market-changer. Then, in 2007, TI, having noticed that the extra RAM wasn't being used much, silently released a cost-saving update to the ASIC, featuring less RAM but otherwise identical. Three years, TI released a significant update to the TI-84 Plus/SE OS: MathPrint. MathPrint addressed significant usability concerns for students, and was well received.

Again three years later, in 2012, market desires were changing again. The TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus/SE line were ridiculed for having the same old 90's-era B&W LCD. Therefore, TI slapped a color screen on the same old hardware, and utilized the ASIC's support for multiple flash chip sizes to increase flash to 4096 K. Because the back light for color LCD consumes far more power, TI also replaced the AAAs batteries with a rechargeable LiPo cell, giving us the TI-84 Plus C SE. The OS for the new model required significant changes to support the new LCD, but the overall interface retained the same text-centric design. Overall, teachers and students liked the fancy-but-not-very-useful color LCD, but panned the slow performance and large imbalance between the smaller user RAM and far larger archive.

TI's engineers concluded that the performance issues would be difficult to address, being in-part due to the large large pixel count being driven by a slow CPU. Unfortunately, the Z80 in the ASIC could not be driven much faster, possibly due to the old process node of the ASIC, and the nature of the IP TI was using for the Z80 core. While it would be possible to optimize the OS to run faster on the color LCD, Z80 assembly optimization is not something TI's engineers are good at. While they could increase available user RAM with an OS update, they chose not to, perhaps feeling that it would be too much of an a-pull.

Given this history, I'd like to suggest the following for the TI-84 Plus CE:

The TI-84 Plus CE is based around yet another revision of the Z80 line ASIC. It again features 4096 K of XIP flash memory, and a Z80-compatible CPU. However, the Z80 is not the same Z80 IP TI previously used. Instead, it is a Z80-compatible CPU with either or both superior pipe-lining and a faster CPU clock speed. Because the CPU is still a Z80-compatible CPU, TI did not need to re-engineer the user interface of the TI-83/84 Plus line, nor license a considerably more expensive ARM CPU IP. The ASIC also features the maximum 256 K of RAM that the 2001 TI-83 Plus SE ASIC specification supports, and TI altered the OS to make much of that RAM available to end-users through changes similar to how the TI-86 supports extended RAM. As TI re-engineered most of the ASIC with a new CPU IP and more RAM, they also likely took the chance to move the ASIC to a newer, smaller process node, reducing production costs through using a smaller die, despite a considerably higher transistor count.

I therefore expect that porting older TI-84 Plus C SE software to the TI-84 Plus CE will not be too difficult. However, porting will be nonetheless be required, because the OS's handling of user RAM changed significantly in order to support addressing more than 32 K of user RAM. Games are likely to be easily ported and compiled for both models, while software that interfaces more closely with the OS's math and user storage functions may require much more work.

Overall, the TI-84 Plus CE is therefore just another evolution of TI's high-school-oriented calculator line. While we may find that being kept in the dark about the new hard is annoying (I bet IQ Joe has a pre-production sample), the new model will likely be very well-received by both the education community and the programmer community.
I would prefer this option, but you never know. Something about an ARM emulator just irks me - perhaps a little too much (sorry all!).

What do you think about LCD driver? Also what of the remaining RAM?
tr1p1ea wrote:
I would prefer this option, but you never know. Something about an ARM emulator just irks me - perhaps a little too much (sorry all!).

What do you think about LCD driver? Also what of the remaining RAM?

I wonder if they'll cater to those of us who primarily code games, and use an LCD driver that supports hardware scrolling.. Razz
JamesV wrote:
tr1p1ea wrote:
I would prefer this option, but you never know. Something about an ARM emulator just irks me - perhaps a little too much (sorry all!).

What do you think about LCD driver? Also what of the remaining RAM?

I wonder if they'll cater to those of us who primarily code games, and use an LCD driver that supports hardware scrolling.. Razz


Even just windowed bulk-writes would be nice.
JamesV wrote:
I wonder if they'll cater to those of us who primarily code games...
Unfortunately, I suspect you've already answered your question there. Smile As I think I mentioned long ago, they're aware that the programmers who develop on their calculators are an audience to be noted, especially in how we help to introduce students to programming, but students and teachers using the calculators for math and science, as well as standardized testing boards, will always come before us. Smile
KermMartian wrote:
JamesV wrote:
I wonder if they'll cater to those of us who primarily code games...
Unfortunately, I suspect you've already answered your question there. Smile As I think I mentioned long ago, they're aware that the programmers who develop on their calculators are an audience to be noted, especially in how we help to introduce students to programming, but students and teachers using the calculators for math and science, as well as standardized testing boards, will always come before us. Smile
Heh yeah I haven't got my hopes up, it was more of just an "I wish...". Even if they implemented a driver with hardware scrolling on the vertical axis, we could then go into half-res mode and emulate scrolling on the horizontal axis. And then... Alien Breed in colour! But yeah, very doubtful, and understandable from TI's point of view. Smile

elfprince13 wrote:
Even just windowed bulk-writes would be nice.
True, it would be great, although any LCD driver that allows that would probably also have some form of hardware scrolling (not that I'm actually aware of what available in LCD drivers, far from it!)
Ugh, can't they come up with better model names for their calculators? Next thing you know they'll make different models called "TI-84 Plus EC" and "TI-84 Plus CES" and "TI-84 Plus SEC", etc., and no one will get them straight. If this model requires me to add yet another platform section to ticalc.org's file archives, there will be no hope of anyone uploading files to the correct calc directory ever again…

With that rant out of the way, this does sound pretty interesting, and I'm curious myself as to how the hardware and CPU are set up and what this means for graphics performance. Smile
  
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