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In April 2015, I first got my hands on a Radical Red TI-84 Plus CE, and wrote a hands-on review of the TI-84 Plus CE. I was thoroughly impressed with the calculator compared to the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition: although the older calculator brought a color screen to the TI-84 Plus family, it was saddled with the older, slow z80 processor in its monochrome siblings. The TI-84 Plus CE beefed up the line with a slimmer calculator, a better screen, and more importantly, a fast ez80 processor with a lot more RAM. Since then, the programming community has enthusiastically adopted the TI-84 Plus CE, with very few monochrome calculator projects released and almost no more TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition programs.

When it was initially released, the TI-84 Plus CE was available in a spectrum of 8 colors. The standard black case was called Classic, and the other options were 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. TI's chart of TI-84 Plus CE colors suggests that six of these colors are available in stores (True Blue, Radical Red, Silver Linings, Plum Pi, Positively Pink, and Denim), Classic (black) may or may not only be available directly to schools, and Lightning appears to no longer be available. However, we saw the very first publicly-released gold TI-84 Plus CE in February at the T^3 2016 conference, and in April, TI teased two new TI-84 Plus CE colors. We correctly guessed that those colors were white and gold, and in late June, the white and gold calculators became available in stores.



Our friends at TI generously sent me a gold TI-84 Plus CE yesterday; I swiftly set to work using it, putting it through its paces, measuring and weighing it, and taking a look under the hood. I'm happy to share my findings on the gold 2016 TI-84 Plus CE calculator, with takeaways likely relevant to the white TI-84 Plus CE and newly-manufactured versions of the other colors as well.

Feel and Impressions
The most obvious novelty of this particular TI-84 Plus CE is the classy gold face behind the keyboard. It's complemented by a black LCD bezel, a black back case, and a black slidecase. The gold is indeed "classy", not just because of what it is but because of the color chosen, a pale metallic shade with a sheen like the real metal, rather than a gaudier, more mustard color. It appears to be a gold plastic rather than a gold-painted plastic, and therefore the color will not scratch off over time. The shiny black LCD bezel, matte, textured black back, and black slidecase offset the light gold well.

Without its slide case, the gold TI-84 Plus CE is 159 grams, 4 grams lighter than the 2015 Radical Red TI-84 Plus CE. Because the battery is the same and the case design appears the same, I believe the difference is a different, slightly brighter LCD. With its slide case, it is 198 grams, still about 4 grams lighter than last year's TI-84 Plus CE. The dimensions are identical, and it appears that the cases were cast from exactly the same molds. It could be my imagination (or the wear on my keypad), but the keys appear slightly stiffer, a positive attribute that makes it easier to feel when you're hitting the activation point on the keys.

Better USB Port
One of the most frequent comments on my Put Games on your TI-84 Plus CE video, backed up by my own experiences, was that the USB port didn't work well on the TI-84 Plus CE. Specifically, when you plugged a mini USB cable, the calculator would only charge, not transfer files. The first few times you used it, you actually had to push the USB cable in much harder than you would expect for it to fully click into the calculator's USB port, which eluded me and other TI-84 Plus CE owners. Happily, the new TI-84 Plus CEs have no such problem. It looks like TI changed to a new brand or model of mini USB port; both its external characteristics (below) and the view from inside the case show differences.



Upgraded SoC (CPU)
As an Electrical Engineer by training and passion, I couldn't resist briefly cracking open the gold TI-84 Plus CE to see what makes it tick. In particular, since I disassembled my Radical Red TI-84 Plus CE to take photographs of its internals, I wanted to see what had changed in the intervening year and a half. The answer, it turned out, seems to be "not much". The mainboard (apparently manufactured by Plotech, according to the silkscreen) doesn't have any obvious layout changes, although its numbering has changed. The SoC, which contains the CPU, RAM, USB controller, and other controllers, is now anchored at its four corners with epoxy, and its markings represent one of the few noticeable changes.

The new gold TI-84 Plus CE uses a newer revision of the System-on-a-Chip (SoC) than the Radical Red TI-84 Plus CE I already owned. As you can see from the photo below, the Radical Red's SoC is marked "ET2014-00 / PHFW2-010/1443", while the Gold's SoC is marked "ET2015-00 / PKC66-010 / 1549". Educated guesswork suggests that the Gold's SoC is revision 1549 of the chip design, produced in 2015, and while the older Radical Red's SoC is revision 1443, produced in 2014. It is not known what improvements have been made, but I know that inquiring minds here hope that the necessary delay cycles for RAM and Flash have been further reduced to get instruction speeds closer to the full 48MHz clock speed of the ez80 CPU inside the SoC.



Final Thoughts
The TI-84 Plus CE has already wowed the graphing calculator hobbyist community as a significant step forward in revitalizing the TI-84 Plus family. Although there are some limited grumblings about the fact that we can't create Apps for the device, the availability of C and assembly programming, libraries, full use of a fast ez80 processor, and programs that can be up to 64KB with additional data in AppVars has been very attractive. From an end-user perspective, the thin, sleek package with slightly faster math and graphing and much faster scrolling and screen refreshing makes it feel like a more modern device. I'm happy to see that the new gold TI-84 Plus CE wraps these features in an attractive new package, and once OS 5.2 and the TI-Innovator System arrive this fall, I look forward to using the gold TI-84 Plus CE to further experiment with DIY electronics and the TI-84 Plus family.

I hope it can run all regular CE ASM and C programs.
DJ_O wrote:
I hope it can run all regular CE ASM and C programs.
My testing with the available programs shows that everything works well so far. The boot code version is 5.1.5.0014; I'm not sure if that tells anyone anything. The only things I can imagine no longer working would be parts of Cesium and the rumors I've heard of a TI-Boy port that require Flash write access, and I'm afraid I haven't had the opportunity to test either of those. To my disappointment, it didn't come with OS 5.2, which makes me think they're still ironing out final bugs before rolling that out. I'm eagerly anticipating the new TI-BASIC commands in OS 5.2.
This was probably their answer to those exploits that were found.
I love the colour so much - lucky you, Kerm. If only i could find it available in Europe or Canada...
Nice to see that some improvements were made, instead of doing a simple re-skin. I just purchased one on Amazon before seeing this review and I'm glad I'm getting an improved version.
amazonka wrote:
I love the colour so much - lucky you, Kerm. If only i could find it available in Europe or Canada...
It's available on the Canadian Staples website, but for some reasons they still don't have the white CE in stock.
Thanks, DJ Omnimaga, I have just tried but after entering my Toronto post code it said out of stock for gold ones unfortunately too Sad

Let me know if you find anything else please - I will be for less than a week in Canada this time so fingers crossed...
If TI had addressed the performance bottlenecks in updating the ASIC, you'd notice easily enough. Specifically, all menus would appear to render instantly. Even complex MathPrint would render much faster. TI is an electronics design company. Their engineers, if they were told to do so, could have easily designed the ASIC to provide at least 5 times the performance it currently does. Sadly, we've come to expect TI to make short-sighted engineering decisions. If TI really has produced a new ASIC revision, it probably only fixes that one problem we've not publicized, and they likely didn't ask their engineers to spend even five minutes looking at whether CPU performance could be improved in the slightest. I'll be pleasantly surprised if they fixed both issues, but I honestly don't expect them to address the performance issue. I don't see them seeing any benefit to future-proofing the design by improving CPU performance.

And just to show that I'm not making crap up when I claim that CPU performance could be improved by a factor of five, I'll now talk about how exactly to do so:

A redesigned ASIC would break the bus into two segments: A "native" eZ80 segment, and an ARM segment. The native eZ80 segment would have a direct, zero-wait-state connection to the RAM, and there would be custom logic for interfacing with the flash chip. A second tier of the bus would be the ARM bus, allowing CPU access to the standard ARM IP cores on the chip, though with a significant wait state penalty. I suspect that TI didn't do zero-wait-state RAM access initially because it would have been awkward to implement logic for the LCD DMA to work with a zero-wait-state RAM. But such a problem is addressed easily enough. Split the RAM into two sections, the main system RAM on the native eZ80 bus, and the VRAM on the ARM bus with DMA access. This reduces system flexibility and introduces a performance hit for VRAM access, but it would be well-worth it for the general performance boost.

As for the flash chip logic, it would eliminate the internal wait states entirely (it currently takes 4 wait states for a read request to even exit the dang ASIC!), only requiring 4-5 wait states on flash reads. Additionally, the flash memory bus would be expanded to 16-bits (something the flash chips have always supported) and a one-byte cache implemented. Whenever the CPU requested an even-addressed byte, both the even and odd addresses would be returned by the 16-bit bus, and the unrequested odd-addressed byte cached. If the next flash address requested by the CPU was the cached odd address, it could be returned with zero wait states. Flash reads are mostly for executing code, which has strong locality-of-reference, and thus such a simple caching strategy would reduce the average read penalty for flash reads to just 3 wait states, instead of the current 9.

These proposed changes to the internal bus would improve performance by a factor of five to eight, and without breaking software compatibility! And even if TI didn't think they could justify adding eight extra pins to the ASIC, they could nix the one-byte cache, and still improve performance by a factor of three.
DrDnar wrote:
[TI could have done a better job]


First, money. The engineers don't redesign ASICs for free. If TI didn't give them the money to work longer address performance, they didn't do it. Second, kids just want a calculator they can use. Nobody at my school cares or even notices how much faster the TI-84 could be if it was actually designed correctly. In fact they just nod off the price of the calculator as a whole, completely oblivious to where the money is actually going. It's the sad truth: we're a minority in the face of TI. We're the "hackers."
oldmud0 wrote:
[Stuff I've said before]
Cool story, bro. :p

But seriously, it costs thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to fabricate new shadow masks for a new ASIC revision. I can't believe it would have been equally or more expensive to address the internal bus performance issue. Also, the education division is TI's most profitable division (though overall a tiny party of their total revenue). They can easily afford to fix the dang bus.
Yesterday on the 30th, I got a new CE and It seems that some of these changes is on mine. It's the black model.
I looked at the USB port and it looks like the one on the gold one. I'm not going to look at the SOC because I don't want to void the warranty.
doubledogdare610 wrote:
Yesterday on the 30th, I got a new CE and It seems that some of these changes is on mine. It's the black model.
I looked at the USB port and it looks like the one on the gold one. I'm not going to look at the SOC because I don't want to void the warranty.

Welcome to cemetech doubledogdare610! The color is nothing but a cover, the guts are the same for all colors and those only change very slightly over time for the same model, so assuming it was made in a newer production run, it would have the new SoC revision Wink you should introduce yourself in the appropriate topic and maybe post your new calculator along with any other calculator you might own in the Post Your Calculator Collection topic!
KermMartian wrote:
DJ_O wrote:
I hope it can run all regular CE ASM and C programs.
My testing with the available programs shows that everything works well so far. The boot code version is 5.1.5.0014; I'm not sure if that tells anyone anything. The only things I can imagine no longer working would be parts of Cesium and the rumors I've heard of a TI-Boy port that require Flash write access, and I'm afraid I haven't had the opportunity to test either of those. To my disappointment, it didn't come with OS 5.2, which makes me think they're still ironing out final bugs before rolling that out. I'm eagerly anticipating the new TI-BASIC commands in OS 5.2.


EDIT: The BASE code is .0019, not the BOOT code, my mistake.


My gold calculator just came in the mail and it has boot code version 5.1.5.0019. Would there be any functional differences between versions?
Looks like I will be getting my hands on a golden one soon as well Smile - it should complement French white one nicely I think Wink
How have your experiences been with the calculator so far, Ordelore? Amazonka, that's great to hear! I look forward to your impressions.
KermMartian wrote:
How have your experiences been with the calculator so far, Ordelore? Amazonka, that's great to hear! I look forward to your impressions.

Quite stunning. I never realized how much of an improvement the CE is over the CSE.
I'm thinking about making my entry for Contest 17 using CE basic.
My mother and my brother are travelling to Edmonds, WA.
I supplicated them to bring me a TI-84+CE

Do you know some shop were they can find it? Maybe the mall?

Regards
frankmar98 wrote:
My mother and my brother are travelling to Edmonds, WA.
I supplicated them to bring me a TI-84+CE

Do you know some shop were they can find it? Maybe the mall?

Regards


The TI-84+CE should be available at the stores listed in this table. It might be a good idea to call ahead though, because I have seen them sold out at times.

There used to be a table showing which colors were available at each store, but I can't seem to find it.
I think you meant https://www.cemetech.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12890 link in the opening post showing which colours were available
  
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