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Two years ago, in February 2013, Cemetech got its hands on an early sample of the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition thanks to TI Education's generosity, and I quickly wrote a hands-on review of the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. Now, I have my very own Radical Red TI-84 Plus CE, as previously announced via photograph, and I'm excited to share my hands-on experiences with the TI-84 Plus CE with you. The TI-84 Plus CE largely brings the existing math features of the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition to a thinner, faster, lighter calculator, so I'll be focusing on the new calculator's physical characteristics, hardware, and speed. Of course, I'll reiterate my observations about the math features of the TI-84 Plus CSE and TI-84 Plus CE from my TI-84 Plus CSE review for our readers more accustomed to the monochrome TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus family. In short, the TI-84 Plus CE addresses complaints about the speed of the two-year-old TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and is a thin, light, easy-to-use device with familiar math and science features.



The Timeline
We learned about a possible TI-84 Plus CE calculator way back in 2014 from a student who posted a photo of his teacher's experimental TI-84 Plus CE prototypes on Reddit. On January 13, 2015, TI and Vernier posted more information confirming that such a device existed, and on January 26, 2015, Dr. Peter Balyta, President of TI Education, kindly sat down with us for an exclusive interview announcing the TI-84 Plus CE. Now that I have my own Radical Red calculator (and my fellow Cemetech staff Shaun "Merthsoft" McFall and Daniel "tifreak8x" Thorneycroft have bought their own), I better appreciate how this new calculator updates the look-and-feel of the calculator, even if it doesn't introduce novel math and science features. At publication time, the new calculator is already available in black and red from educational distributors; this summer, students and their parents will be able to buy the TI-84 Plus CE in eight different colors from retailers.



The TI-84 Plus CE: Thin, Light, Fast
By far the most obvious change that the TI-84 Plus CE introduces is the thin, light case in 8 attractive colors. At press time only the black ("Classic") and red ("Radical Red") calculators have made it out to the public, although Dr. Balyta was sporting a dark blue ("Denim") calculator at TI's T^3 2015 educator conference in March. The TI-84 Plus CE is the first calculator in over a decade to abandon the curved, streamlined case of the TI-84 Plus, TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, and TI-89 Titanium. Instead, it uses a significantly thinner, more rectangular case that feels modern and comfortable in this reviewer's hands. While much of the case is still made of matte ABS plastic, the face of the device is shinier plastic, with a glossy black border around the 320x240-pixel color LCD, and a glossy faceplate in the calculator's color.

Size and Weight: TI markets the new TI-84 Plus CE as "Surprisingly Slimmer, Lots Lighter"; despite the rather unfortunate grammar, we feel this describes the new calculator in a nutshell. The TI-84 Plus CE cuts 30% of the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition's weight, weighing just 201g (7.1 oz) with its slidecase and battery or 163g (5.7 oz) without the slidecase. The height and width of the calculator are nearly the same as its older siblings, but now it's 1.27cm (0.5") thick without the slidecase, a decrease of 37% from its older TI-84 Plus siblings' 2.0cm (0.79"). Qualitatively, we found the calculator to be comfortable in the hand, to easily slip into a bag between notebooks and textbooks, and to be sufficiently strong to resist damage from getting squashed between heavy books.

Colorful Calculators: For the average student or teacher, the svelte lines of the new calculator will no doubt be its most obvious improvement over the older calculators. However, while the older calculators at best let you change the color of the slidecase and the faceplate over the keys, the entire TI-84 Plus CE body comes in 8 different colors. The standard black case is called Classic, and the other options are Radical Red, Positively Pink, Lightning (light blue), True Blue, Denim (navy blue), Silver Linings (gray), and Plum Pi (purple). There are no green, yellow, or orange colors available, although the School Property version of the calculator is dark gray with yellow accents.

Under the Hood: We loved the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, but students, programmers, and even teachers complained about how slow it was. If you tried to type long equations on the homescreen, the screen would lag, and forget trying to type TI-BASIC programs on the calculator. The TI-84 Plus CE thankfully fixes this with two major improvements: a memory-mapped LCD and a fast ez80 processor. For the technical types, a memory-mapped LCD means that the contents of the screen can change at the speed of RAM writes, rather than I/O output commands, which together with the ez80 processor yields a practical speedup of more than 300%. The ez80 processor is a successor to the venerable 1970s z80 processor in the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and older TI-83 and TI-84 Plus calculators. It can work with 24-bit instead of 8 and 16-bit numbers (compare to the 32-bit and 64-bit processors in modern PCs), and thanks to a technique called pipelining, it can process instructions faster than the older z80 processor. In our TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition review, I wrote that an "ez80 CPU [...] would have been a better choice" than the 2013 calculator's slow 15MHz z80, and it seems that TI felt the same way.



The two biggest benefits of the new processor are faster screen rendering and a huge 154KB of RAM for storing programs, matrices, lists, and more. The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition had only 23KB of RAM, and its black-and-white predecessors had 24KB of RAM. Matrices can now be a full 99x99 elements (the maximum on the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition was 49x49 elements), you can store many lists each up to 999 elements long, and programs can be up to 64KB each. The faster screen rendering means that the OS will feel more responsive. On the other hand, the math features of the operating system were not significantly overhauled for the new processor, so math operations are only slightly faster. A program that counts to 100 and displays each number takes 10.15 seconds on the TI-84 Plus CE and 26.36 seconds on the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, a 2.6x (260%) speedup. However, counting to 10,000 without displaying the numbers yields only a 15% speedup from the older to the newer color calculator.

The TI-84 Plus CE OS: Math and Science Features
The TI-84 Plus CE is designed as a classroom tool for algebra, geometry, precalculus, and other high school math and science classes. The key features it offers, like arithmetic calculation, graphing, statistics and probability tools, geometry tools, and a finance solver are squarely aimed at high school students. Like its older siblings, it does not offer a Computer Algebra System (CAS): while it knows that when X=1, 2X+X evaluates to 3, it has no concept of the fact that 2X+X simplifies to 3X. The TI-84 Plus CE, like the other models in its line, is accepted on "high-stakes" exams like the SAT, PSAT, ACT, AP, and IB tests.
  • Arithmetic and Algebra: The calculator has a MathPrint operating system, which means that as on the recent TI-84 Plus and TI-84 Plus Silver Edition calculators, radicals, exponents, functions, and fractions look a lot like what you'd expect to see in a math book. The figure below left shows how mathematical expressions look on the calculator's homescreen.
  • Graphing: Equations and statistics plots can be graphed in any of 15 different colors, various line styles, and with even more shading options than the black-and-white calculators. You can add a grid or axes in different colors, or put an image behind the graph. Graphing is 20-50% faster than on the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition (figure below right).
  • Statistics and Probability: You can compute statistics and fit functions to sets of data, and as with the older calculators, you can plot the data and the lines of best fit. The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition introduced the QuickPlot&Fit-EQ feature, which allows students to draw points and then fit a line directly on the graphscreen. This can be particularly useful for finding the equation that describes a shape in an image. You can also compute and graph properties of probability distributions and cumulative distributions (PDFs and CDFs).
  • Drawing: The TI-84 Plus CE fixes a few bugs from the older color calculator; you can draw lines, circles, points, text, and pixels in different styles and 15 different colors. You can draw geometric shapes, annotate graphs, or simply sketch.
  • Programming: Programs can be written in TI-BASIC or ez80 Assembly language, and can now be up to 64KB. We love calculator programming as a way for students to learn basic programming skills, plus writing programs to solve math and science problems forces students to break the problems down into logical steps that help to cement the material.
  • Finance and Solvers: The TI-84 Plus CE includes the same Finance tools and solver available on the older calculators to compute the past and future value of loans and investments. It also includes a numeric solver that can solve for X in equations of the form f(x)=g(x).
  • Apps: The TI-84 Plus CE comes pre-loaded with familiar Apps from TI, like Cabri Jr., CellSheet, Conics, Vernier EasyData, Inequality Grapher, Periodic Table, PolySmlt, Probability Simulator, Science Tools, and Transformation Graphing. If TI allows the calculator enthusiast community to use an App signing key in the future, the community will be able to expand that list with more educational and utility Apps like Doors CSE.




Features for Programmers
Programmers are already exploring the TI-84 Plus CE hardware; it looks like it will make TI-BASIC programs faster, and Assembly programs faster and more powerful. The memory-mapped LCD and MMIO are particularly exciting for ASM programmers; games will be able to achieve much higher framerates, and educational programs can include more user-friendly simulations and speedier rendering. TI has not yet announced plans to release an SDK for programmers, but the community has begun documenting the OS and hardware features, and we look forward to possible additional future tools from TI that support community Assembly programming. Texas Instruments' new TI Connect CE includes a new TI-BASIC editor, similar to Cemetech's SourceCoder, that we hope will introduce more students and teachers to TI-BASIC programming.

Summary: The Big Picture
The TI-84 Plus CE combines all of the math, science, engineering, and programming tools of the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition with a thin, light case, a fast processor with plenty of RAM, and a better battery. The software features of the calculator have been proven over the past several decades, and millions of students and teachers are already familiar with how to use the calculator. The novelty of this new calculator is the modern design, the pleasing size and weight, and the better technical specifications that add up to a more pleasant user experience. While you won't be computing the determinant of a matrix or graphing a sinusoid more than 50% faster than before, the day-to-day math features feel faster, more responsive, and less frustrating. If you're a power user who explores TI-BASIC or Assembly programming, the new calculator's features will mean a world of difference for you, both simply in the responsiveness of the calculator and in the many new possibilities the large RAM, memory-mapped LCD and I/O, and ez80 processor provide.

The TI-84 Plus CE will be available in eight colors for $129 in retailers early this summer, the same price point as its older, thicker, heavier sibling, the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. We recommend it as the best option in the TI-84 Plus family to anyone looking for a math and science tool or a programming tool. The OS feels fast and remains full-featured, the battery, processor, memory, and LCD have been improved in the past two years, and the thin, light, colorful case will no doubt excite students and their parents.


For more specs, references, history, and information on the TI-84 Plus CE, please refer to our TI-84 Plus CE reference page.
Will jsTIfied get an upgrade for the CE, or is it not worth the speed difference?
Have you tested any asm programs yet?
From your initial testing, is the tokenization system largely the same as the older z80 calcs, meaning that programs like Sourcecoder and Tokens will only need minor changes?
Also, because xkcd rocks
ordelore wrote:
Will jsTIfied get an upgrade for the CE, or is it not worth the speed difference?
Yes, it will. However, we need to write a new emulation core for the ez80 processor and the new peripherals, and that's a pretty sizeable chunk of work that I and UnknownLoner haven't had time for yet.
Quote:
Have you tested any asm programs yet?
Yes! Here's a photo from one of those tests:


Quote:
From your initial testing, is the tokenization system largely the same as the older z80 calcs, meaning that programs like Sourcecoder and Tokens will only need minor changes?
Identical. The only new tokens are ASM-related.

Quote:
Nice. Wink
ordelore wrote:
Have you tested any asm programs yet?


Yes: Smile



Anywho, great work Kerm on this write-up! Very descriptive and through work; well done! Smile
There are three tokens missing, however, so there is a small difference.
MateoConLechuga wrote:
Anywho, great work Kerm on this write-up! Very descriptive and through work; well done! Smile
Thanks very much! Since you have your own TI-84 Plus CE now, is there anything you want to add to my thoughts or that you disagree about?

merthsoft wrote:
There are three tokens missing, however, so there is a small difference.
Which tokens are those? Ah, I found your post:
merthsoft wrote:
<Merth> 84+CE does NOT have the FRAC-APPROX token, which the 84+CSE does
<Merth> Also no Get( or Send(, unsurprisingly.
Not to toot my own horn, but here are some BASIC speed runs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpvO7JgkLAI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coUlPZI0S4c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl4NUQnBF3Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NIRFhVW8O4

Feel free to ignore the sound. Very Happy
Thanks for this in depth explanation Kerm! You make me want one even more now. Razz I am only 20 dollars away... Very Happy

Are the CSE and the CE slidecases compatible wih both calcs?
I think you missed the part in the first post where it said it was thinner and completely redesigned. :p No, they are not compatible at all.
tifreak8x wrote:
I think you missed the part in the first post where it said it was thinner and completely redesigned. :p No, they are not compatible at all.
Indeed, but at least the TI-84 Plus CE takes less plastic! When I make a 3D model of the TI-84 Plus CE slidecase to 3D-print, I'll be able to print CE slidecases faster than I can print CSE slidecases. Smile
I had thought so becuase I saw the Cemetech logo on the slidecase.
Unicorn wrote:
I had thought so becuase I saw the Cemetech logo on the slidecase.
Ah, that's just the CE resting on top of my Cemetech TI-84+CSE slidecase. I haven't started modeling the CE slidecase yet.
Ah, so it was for the looks then?
Unicorn wrote:
Ah, so it was for the looks then?
Yep, just artistic license.

tifreak8x wrote:
Thanks for sharing those! Assuming a certain tifreak8x reminds me, I'm hoping to post a few hands-on videos of my own that teach very basic TI-84 Plus CE skills, tied into "Using the TI-84 Plus", hopefully coming out soon.
Thanks for the review, Kerm, as a programmer's calculator it seems really great. Now i'm still waiting for these things to be available in (or rather, sent back to) China. I have a feeling that this calc will have a stronger assembly presence than the CSE.
chickendude wrote:
Thanks for the review, Kerm, as a programmer's calculator it seems really great. Now i'm still waiting for these things to be available in (or rather, sent back to) China. I have a feeling that this calc will have a stronger assembly presence than the CSE.
I know that we certainly hope to make it so, and I hope you'll join us in that endeavor. Smile It strikes me as rather silly that these start their lives in China, but you can't easily get them. Neutral
KermMartian wrote:
It strikes me as rather silly that these start their lives in China, but you can't easily get them. Neutral

Well, turns out they're not made in China anymore.
Look at the back of a CE, you'll see "Made in Philippines"
What's with the reset button on the back of the CE? what does that do? factory reset or just a normal memory reset or something?
Michael2_3B wrote:
What's with the reset button on the back of the CE? what does that do? factory reset or just a normal memory reset or something?
It's a RAM reset, similar to pulling a battery on the old TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus calculators. They need a separate button since it's not really feasible to pull the battery any more. The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition had the same button.
Great review! How would one of these compare to a 68k calc speed wise? My TI 89 also seems to be significantly faster than my TI 84 Plus C Silver Edition.
  
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