By tpm | February 25, 2011
Please buy your TI-Nspire CX on Amazon .
UPDATE: I have posted my TI-Nspire CX Review
When I contacted Texas Instruments a few weeks back to ask about an FCC filing TI had made involving WiFi for the TI-Nspire Navigator system, I had no idea that my inquiry would lead me to a web conference with the product line strategy manager for the TI-Nspire, Mark Fry. What was being presented in the blogosphere as just an improvement to the TI-Nspire’s Navigator system turns out to be much, much more. In fact, it is a quantum leap forward in the entire Texas Instruments strategy for the TI-Nspire family of handheld graphing calculators and related software.
Today at the T3 conference, Texas Instruments’ annual showcase of its educational technologies, TI is rolling out the biggest changes to the Nspire line since it was introduced. Last week, I had the chance to see the new TI-Nspire CX in action via web conference with Fry. After nearly an hour of seeing its new capabilities in action, my head was spinning. I’ve been promised a chance to check out the Nspire CX in person in April, but for now, let me share with you the highlights of the demo that the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire team put on for me.
TI-Nspire CX is in Color
This was my first big shock. The TI-Nspire CX features a 16-bit, 320 x 240 display, capable of 64,000 colors. Of course, the Casio Prizm (review) rolled out in January as the world’s first full color calculator capable of loading images. With Casio raising the bar, I had expected Texas Instruments to respond, but this was sooner than I anticipated and has obviously been in the works for some time.
Much like the Prizm, Nspire CX is capable of loading image files provided by the user and curve fitting functions, or performing regressions, onto those images. The demo I saw allowed students to guess and check coefficients to match the equation of a parabola formed by a water fountain. The equation appeared on the screen simultaneously with the image. Most major image file types are supported, including JPG, BMP, and PNG. As you would expect, the TI-Nspire CX display screen also features backlighting.
TI-Nspire CX has 3D
If there’s been one big knock against the TI-Nspire, it’s been the lack of 3D graphing. That’s a major factor holding back some advanced calculus users from purchasing a TI-Nspire, turning many to the TI’s other popular high level calculator, the TI-89 Titanium (review). That won’t be a factor any more with the Nspire’s new 3D capabilities. The Nspire CX rendered 3D beautifully in color, far better than I’ve ever seen on a handheld calculator. If you’re not familiar with the current TI-Nspire line, it’s split into TI-Nspire and TI-Nspire CAS (Computer Algebra System). To be clear, there will be both a TI-Nspire CX and TI-Nspire CAS CX, and both will be 3D capable. They will also be getting differential equation support, another big bonus in those high level college math and engineering courses.
The TI-Nspire CX’s Attractive Hardware Upgrades
While I’ve always been impressed with the TI-Nspire, the design wasn’t the reason why. It was thick, originally had an odd button configuration (fixed with the touchpad update), and had “wings” at the top. With the TI-Nspire CX, that’s no longer the case. While the button configuration from the touchpad is here to stay (fortunately), the hardware has been redesigned and is much slimmer. The wings are also gone.
Some of this was probably made possible by Texas Instruments’ decision to abandon AAA batteries altogether on the Nspire CX. Much like your cell phone, the battery pack for the TI-Nspire CX is rechargeable, most easily done via the USB port. Fry told me to expect about 100 hours of use on a single charge. It will be possible for Nspire CX users to replace the battery pack themselves by removing the back panel with a screwdriver.
And of course, there is the Wifi, which led me to TI in the first place. The Nspire Navigator system has had wireless capabilities for a while via a unit that snapped on the back of the calculator. However, the new WiFi for Nspire CX is a much smaller unit that attaches to the top of the calculator, allowing it to communicate with a single, TI-Navigator enabled computer.
Upgrades for All TI-Nspires
If you already have a TI-Nspire grayscale, don’t worry, you are not left out in the cold. When Nspire OS 3.0 is released for the Nspire CX later this spring, it will also be released for the original grayscale TI-Nspire models as well, both CAS and non-CAS. Although you obviously can’t upgrade to a color or a backlit display, you will get every other ability that is coming with the TI-Nspire CX, including the ability to load photographs (in grayscale), to graph in 3D, and the differential equations support. Fry also previewed 3D for me in grayscale, and while it lacked the wow-factor of color, it still looked great. The grayscale shading rendered 3D far better than the wireframe 3D I’m used to from the TI-89 Titanium and TI-Voyage 200.
Taking it a step further, I inquired about the future of the grayscale TI-Nspire models. Will Texas Instruments continue to manufacture them? I was assured that the short term answer is yes. Long term? “We’re going to let the market decide,” said Fry. With the release of TI-Nspire OS 3.0, there will also be major upgrades for the TI-Nspire’s teacher software and TI-Nspire Navigator system.
When Will the TI-Nspire CX be Released?
Very soon. I was told to expect the debut of the color TI-Nspire CX in stores in early to mid April. To go from product announcement to release in about 6-8 weeks is breakneck speed. I have to wonder if there is any urgency to get it out with schools making their end of the year purchases and the Casio Prizm already on the market. In terms of cost, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the TI-Nspire CX will be $165. I’ve been told to expect an evaluation copy of the Nspire CX at around the time it’s released to the public. I will keep Tech Powered Math readers up to date with a hands on TI-Nspire CX review as soon as I have it.
Please buy your TI-Nspire CX on Amazon .