The Orion TI30XS Multiview Talking Scientific Calculator

Posted by Karl Belanger | 02/23/2016 | Access Technology

As with the Orion TI84, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has teamed up with Texas Instruments to make another very common and popular calculator accessible. This calculator has an extension at the top with three buttons on it for accessing the accessibility functions, as well as a speaker on the back. The TI30 looks much more streamlined than the TI84. Where the TI84 had a piece that was clearly an add-on, the accessibility add-on to the TI30 looks much more like it is a part of the product. The TI84 used two separate sources of power, one for the Orion accessibility add-on, plus the regular batteries for the calculator; this device on the other hand has everything housed in one unit with a micro USB port for charging. Overall, this calculator is an excellent little device for doing any level of math, up to and including advanced trigonometry (trig) functions.

Unboxing and basic overview

The calculator box contains the calculator, two covers, quick start guides in both print and Braille, a micro USB cable, AC adapter, and a flash drive with the full manual on it. The quick start guide provides some initial orientation, and instructions to get you up and running. The guide recommends to fully charge the calculator before first using it. The TI30 announces “charger connected” or “charger disconnected” when plugging in or unplugging the device.

The calculator orientation is with the screen facing up and away from you. The button layout has the power button the closest button to you on the left. Along the left side are buttons for memory, exponents and log functions, and the 2nd key is the topmost key in that row. On the right side, the Enter button is closest, followed by the basic operations keys, a Clear button, and four-way navigation arrow keys. In between those columns is a standard calculator keypad, with other functions and control keys near the top of the unit. Above the screen there are the three access keys. These keys provide access to the accessibility functions of the calculator, including adjusting the speech rate and volume, a key describer mode, reviewing the screen, and turning off the speech entirely.

Using the calculator

The TI30 powers on via the button at the bottom left. The calculator plays a tone followed by “Home Screen.” You are ready to start performing calculations. Simply type in the equation desired and press Enter, located at the bottom right. To turn off the calculator, press the 2nd key and then Power.

Getting to know the Orion TI30XS Multiview

By pressing and holding the center of the three access keys at the top of the unit, the Silence key, the calculator enters learn mode. In this mode, pressing any key will announce the function of that key. Pressing the 2nd key, top left below the screen, followed by another key will announce that key’s second function. Some keys have additional access functions, used by pressing the leftmost access key. By pressing Access then Power, the battery status will be announced, and Access plus ^ (exponent) will announce the charging status, among others. To exit learn mode, press and hold the Silence key again.

Entering basic calculations

Entering basic calculations is very straightforward. All functions and numbers are voiced as they are entered, and pressing Enter completes the calculation. If an operation is entered immediately after Enter is pressed, the calculator will announce “Answer” before the operation to indicate that the operation is being performed on the previous calculation’s answer. The TI30 can handle basic operations, scientific operations including powers, roots and logs, plus trig functions like sine and cosine. It is possible to review what has been entered by using the arrow keys at the top right of the main calculator section.

Menus: Probability, Data, Stat, Angle

The TI30 contains four menus that can be accessed through the buttons in the second row of keys near the top of the keypad. Probability and Data menus are accessed with the second and third keys in the second row respectively, and Angle and Stat (statistics) menus are accessed with the 2nd function and the same keys. The Probability menu finds combinations, permutations, factorials, and generates random numbers. The Data menu provides lists where you can enter numbers for use in the stat function and other areas. The angle menu lets you choose how angles are displayed. Lastly, the Stat menu will calculate various statistical values for the lists created in the data menu.

The Table Function

The Table function is one of the neatest parts of this calculator. It takes an algebraic equation such as y = 4x^2+3x-5 and creates a table of X and Y values. This function is very versatile, allowing for extremely complex functions. It is also possible to set the starting X value and increment for the table. Even when calculating complex functions, the calculation is very quick.

Configuring the calculator

The calculator has two areas for configuration. The first is in the Mode menu. This menu contains settings for the trig functions and how many decimal places are to be used. The brightness can also be adjusted with the 2nd and plus and minus keys.

The configuration of the accessible functions is done with the access key on the left of the group of three. Pressing and holding this key enters Orion Settings mode. It is now possible to adjust the volume with the up and down arrow keys, and the rate with the left and right arrow keys. The default speed is a good one, not so slow that the speech seems drawn out but not very fast either. The fastest speed, 4, is nice and quick but the jump between the various numbers is significant enough so that it is very possible for someone to find one speed a little slow and the next somewhat to fast. Having finer grained control over the speed would be a very good idea.

Overall impressions

The TI30 is a very nice calculator. The added hardware feels almost like a part of the original unit, the accessibility features work well, and the operation of the calculator is largely intuitive. The recorded voice that it uses is very clear and easy to understand. A small amount of fluidity is lost when reading out a string of numbers, such as after a decimal point as each number is a separate file, but overall the voice is well done. The Orion TI30 would be an excellent addition to any student’s toolbox, especially if the class is using the standard TI30XS calculator, or for any professional who is in a field which requires a lot of calculations, though at $399 the price is rather steep.


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