It’s been a couple of years since Texas Instruments has announced a significant change to one of their major graphing calculator product lines, the most recent being the addition of color to the TI-84 line with the TI-84 Plus C. Tomorrow morning, TI will officially break their silence on a big update to that same extremely popular line of calculators with a new 84, the TI-84 Plus CE. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with Texas Instruments’ President of Educational Technology, Peter Balyta, about the new TI-84 CE, and what that new device will offer to students and teachers.
“Sleeker” Design, “Just as Durable”
The most noticeable difference to most users with the TI-84 Plus CE will be its physical appearance. The 84 CE is 30% thinner and lighter than previous generations of the TI-84 Plus. Call it a “TI-84 Air”, if you will. This is a welcome change. While the TI-84 Plus C brought dramatic improvements to the display of the 84 family, the body remained basically the same, pretty bulky by the standards of 2012, the year it was announced. By contrast, TI’s other popular family of calculator, the TI-Nspire, is much thinner and feels newer. Balyta promises that the change in size for the 84 CE will not come at the cost of body quality, and it will be “just as durable” as its predecessors, which is saying something, since the TI-84 family has always been built like a tank. The press photo, displayed above, reveals the TI-84 Plus CE to be a really beautiful device, and, yes, it will be available in all of those colors (red, pink, plum, silver, black, gray, and 2 shades of blue) at launch. Balyta says that Texas Instruments is considering adding more colors to the product lineup over time.
Besides the new body style, there are other changes. The TI-84 Plus CE will feature 6 times as much RAM (154 KB) as its predecessor. Battery life should still be a full month on a single charge, but with the 84 CE, there’s a “deep sleep” mode that activates after 96 hours that should dramatically extend battery life beyond a month. Balyta implied it could extend battery life as long as a summer break for students.
The user interface will remain unchanged for the TI-84 Plus CE, which teachers know is important for consistency across the classroom. However, the 84 Plus CE does require a different operating system than previous TI-84 models. That means you won’t be able to share apps or OS’s from older TI-84’s to a new TI-84 Plus CE. However, Balyta did explain that Texas Instruments has already updated the most popular 84 apps for the new 84 CE, and those apps will come pre-installed on the 84 CE.
In addition to the user interface, many important features about the TI-84 Plus C are unchanged in the CE. The color display remains the same resolution (320 x 240 pixels, 140 DPI, 16 bit color) as the previous generation. And, of course, the 84-Plus CE will be accepted on all major standardized tests (ACT, SAT, AP, IB), just like its predecessor.
Every hardware release from Texas Instruments comes with software updates, and the TI-84 Plus CE will be no exception. The TI SmartView, which allows teachers to display a TI-84 on their computer/interactive whiteboard, will be updated to include a view of the TI-84 Plus CE, free of charge for those that already have a current license of TI-SmartView. TI is also updating their TI-Connect product that allows users to connect a TI-84 to their Mac or PC. In addition to adding the normal ability to connect a TI-84 Plus CE to a computer as one would expect for OS updates, app transfers, etc, TI is adding new functionality altogether. The new TI-Connect will allow users to connect multiple TI-84’s at the same time to transfer files to one or several 84’s simultaneously.
Texas Instruments has put themselves on a tight timetable for the TI-84 Plus CE release. The 84 Plus CE is going to be available in the Spring of 2015, as is the new TI-Connect. The update to TI-SmartView software should be available for users sometime in the Summer of 2015.
As is often the case with a big new release, I hope to have the opportunity to do a hands on review the new TI-84 Plus CE for readers of Tech Powered Math, so if you don’t already, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ for updates as the product launch nears.