REVIEW – I was at back-to-school night when another mother nudged me and asked me what calculator my son had because her daughter “had to get the same calculator.” Such was the buzz around the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator. I was a bit taken aback…I mean, when I was in high school it was all about having the right jeans. I guess times are just more exciting now. The right jeans can’t graph in 3D and support python programming like this calculator can.
What is it?
The Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator is a really amazing scientific calculator with a color display capable of 3D graphing, E-CON4 applications, catalog functions and much more.
What’s in the box?
- Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator with case
- a 3-pin to USB cable
- Some instructions/warranty info
- Angle unit, Angle unit conversion (Deg, Rad, Gra)
• Trigonometric functions, Inverse trigonometric functions
• Hyperbolic functions, Inverse hyperbolic functions
• Exponent functions, Logarithmic functions
• Power functions (square root, cubic root, square, power, radical root)
• Coordinate conversion (Pol, Rec)
• Combination/Permutation (nCr, nPr)
• Factorial, Inverse, Random numbers, Random sampling of an existing list, Fractions
• Logical operations
• Sexagesimal ↔ Decimal conversion
• Matrix calculations
• Vector calculations
• Complex number calculations
• Base-n calculations/conversions
• List data calculations
• Display format
• Conversion (pre-installed software)
• Engineering symbol calculation
• Engineering notation
- 3D Graph (pre-installed software)
• Rectangular coordinate graphing,Polar coordinate graphing
• Integration graph
• Parametric function graphing, Inequality graphing
• Trace, Zoom (box zoom, zoom in, zoom out, auto zoom)
• Table and Graph
• Dual Graph (table and graph, graph and graph)
• Sketch (tangent line, normal line, inverse function)
• Solve (root, minimum, maximum, intersection, integration: integral calculation improvement (real-time integral calculation), new integral calculation function (mixed integrals))
• Dynamic graph
• Conic section graph
• Recursion graph
• Picture Plot (pre-installed software)
- List-based one-variable and two-variable statistical analysis
• Statistical regression calculations
• Statistical plot (scatter plot, xyLine, normal probability plot, histogram, box plot)
• Statistical regression graphs (linear, med-med, quadratic, cubic, quartic, logarithmic, exponential, power, sinusoidal, logistic regression)
• Advanced statistical calculations: tests (Z-test, t-test, χ²-test, F-test, ANOVA), intervals (Z-interval, t-interval), distributions
• Pie chart
• Bar graph
- Power supply : Four AAA-size alkaline batteries or four nickel-metal hydride batteries
• Approximate battery life (hours) : 140 (AAA-size alkaline batteries), 85 (nickel-metal hydride batteries) Assuming 5 minutes calculation and 55 minutes display per hour
• Dot matrix display : 216 x 384 dots
• Display capacity (characters) : 21 x 8
• Internal operation digits : 15
• Nested parentheses levels : 26
• Data communication : 3-pin cable, USB cable
• 3-pin serial port
• USB port
Design and features
The Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM is a powerful graphing calculator designed to support math students from geometry all the way through college level math and science. It’s approved for the SAT, ACT and AP tests and it has an “exam mode” that can be locked for testing purposes.
As a gadgeteer, I open techy stuff all the time and I can tell you that I’ve never had a package that was more difficult to open. The plastic was incredibly thick and I wound up having to use a box cutter, which made me worried that I might damage the calculator. I found myself pretty frustrated. I understand that they don’t want these stolen, but there must be a better way.
I don’t need such a powerful calculator – I do just fine with one from the dollar store. My son, however, wants to major in engineering and is great at math, so he’s had a graphing calculator for quite a while. In fact, he usually carries two graphing calculators to school in case one runs out of battery or a friend forgot theirs, so I enlisted his help for this review. His calculators are another brand (named after one of the 50 states, if that’s a clue), so there was a bit of a learning curve. He found the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator fairly intuitive, but he says he still has to fiddle with it to find what he wants just because he isn’t as familiar with it as his old calculators.
The Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM is really ideal for graphing. It can display four types of graphs (Line, cylinder, plane and line) and it uses templates to draw them to make it easier for the user. You can draw and display up to three 3-D graphs and then compare them mathematically and visually. Once displayed, you can zoom them in and out, rotate them vertically and horizontally and show cross-sections of them. It’s an impressive way of connecting the mathematical expression to the visual one.
My son mostly used the graphing modes because his classes this year haven’t required complicated equations like last year’s calculus classes did. Graphing is where he noticed the biggest difference between the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM and his others. “This one is a monster,” he said. It’s apparently much, much quicker at graphing than his other “lone star state” calculators.
The Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator has a special financial mode that allows you to calculate and design graphs specific to economics. This should not be confused with the special E-CON4 mode, which allows for collection of data for use in classroom science and tech lessons.
We didn’t try out any of the programming parts of this calculator which include a Python programming mode. While neither my son nor I program in Python currently, I know my son wants to learn so I’m happy that this calculator can grow with him.
For instructors, the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator in the “Manager” mode lets teachers prepare activities for their class and then display them by connecting the PRIZM to a computer or projector via a USB cable. Unfortunately, the “Manager” requires a software license subscription. It arrives with a year long subscription, but after that, it looks like you’ll have to renew for around $25 per year. I am not a math teacher, so I have no idea if this is standard, but I know that as an underpaid servant of the state I don’t like having to pay for anything in order to do my job and I’m sure I’m not alone. I would think that Casio would give teachers a break if they want them to recommend the fx-CG50 PRIZM to their students. The whole reason my son has two of the other brand’s calculators is because teachers recommended them.
Another thing that the fx-CG50 PRIZM lacks is CAS. CAS allows the user to input some of the operations using symbols, which can eliminate human errors in typing and of course, is quicker. My son didn’t miss it because none of his other calculators have it, but if you like that it could be a deal breaker.
Another curious feature that I’m surprised to see in the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator is that it’s not rechargeable. It takes four AAA batteries. They seem to last a while, but I was surprised to see that on a calculator that has such processing power.
My son said nothing bothered him ergonomically about this calculator, but that it was a bit more difficult to get out of its case than his others. And speaking of its case – it’s white. I do wish they’d made another color an option because the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM really picked up the pencil lead in my kid’s backpack. (Correction: they do offer it with a black case). While he’s admittedly not the tidiest kid (he’s a teenager, after all), if you’re one who likes to keep their stuff pristine, you might have to wipe down that case once in a while.
What I liked:
- Much faster at graphing than the other brand
- This calculator will grow with you
What I’d change:
- It gets dirty in white
- It’s not rechargeable.
If you do a lot of graphing, the Casio fx-CG50 PRIZM calculator is your calculator. While it has a lot in common with the other brands of graphing calculators, this one is much speedier.