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Sharp's EL-531RB-BL is the blue version of its EL-531RB basic scientific calculator, and, unfortunately, the cool color detracts from the unit's usability. It uses the translucent plastic so popular in electronic devices these days, and button labels tend to get lost in the clutter of internal parts that are visible.
Those willing to put up with this annoying byproduct of form over function will find that the EL-531RB-BL is a lot of calculator for the money, with features we wish every entry-level scientific calculator had. The display, for example, is a two-line design that shows the equation you've entered at the top and the numbers and symbols you are currently entering at the bottom. This makes it possible to keep track of your equation as you are entering it, and special editing and playback keys let you go back and make changes to anything you want before calculating the final results. This is a feature found only in the most expensive calculators just a few years ago, and it makes this device easy for anyone to use."p" Another nice touch is the Direct Algebraic Logic entry method, which lets users enter equations exactly as they are printed on a blackboard or in a textbook. Output is purely digital--the calculator can't solve abstract algebra problems and display the results in terms of X and Y (or in any other alphanumeric terms)--and the calculator can't produce graphs, but it's excellent for number crunching and checking work for students who understand the fundamentals of problems they are working on. The calculator has 183 functions thanks to the use of a shift key, including the ability to perform statistical calculations. It also has an extremely clever integrated case cover that slides up and folds flush with the back of the unit without ever being removed from the calculator (meaning it can't be lost).
If not for the translucent casing, this model would be on equal footing with the black EL-531RB as a near-faultless entry-level scientific calculator. Its only other drawback is the lack of good documentation, as it comes with a single folded sheet that describes its operation. --T. Byrl Baker