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.

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.

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.