Review: Calculator (DSiWare)

Does it add up?

Although the majority of titles on the DSiWare shop are games, since launch there have been some items that would more accurately be described as ‘apps’. Common on smartphones, they have become increasingly less frequent on DSiWare. Cinemax are bucking the trend with Calculator; does it get the sums right?

The list of features for this calculator is, on paper, substantial. Cinemax state that this app combines basic and scientific calculators with a unit conversion function. It sounds good, but the first problem that you may encounter is the lack of useful instructions, making it difficult to actually figure out how to use the functions on offer. Whereas a typical scientific calculator will be accompanied by a substantial user manual, this app provides basic instructions on how to use the unit conversion tool, but no details on the rest of the functionality. As a result you are presented with a complex range of buttons and no clue what they all do.

It’s also important to state that this is a basic scientific calculator. It has some functionality, but it is missing a lot of tools considered important in more advanced devices. There are no graph drawings, nor is there an easy-to-use 'Shift' button for additional functions such as inverse cosine etc. Inverting functions is possible with the 'INV' key, but it is a 'trigger' function that is awkward to use and can be left on by accident, causing confusion and incorrect calculations. In addition, the workings of your calculations, as displayed on the top screen, are presented in an old fashioned manner, with multiple lines employed to separate calculations. Many modern calculators display workings in linear and logical single lines, assisting understanding of how a solution is reached. The method of displaying even simple calculations in multiple lines could and should have been executed better.

The functions included do work properly. Simply tapping with the stylus allows you to use simple mathematical commands such as logarithms, sine and cosine, with accurate results. There is a neat slider to change from a decimal setup to those such as hexadecimal, as well as perfectly competent memory buttons, allowing you to retain up to two previous answers for convenience.

The main advertised function of this app is the conversion tool, which proves to be a strong point. Not only is it the one area explained in the user manual, but it also easy to use and highly detailed. One tap of the ‘CNV’ button changes the top display to show twelve categories of common measurement types, such as area, volume and velocity. Once you’ve selected a category you simply press left on the d-pad, at which stage you are given a list of relevant measure units. Using either the d-pad or assigned buttons on the touch screen you can apply instantaneous conversion of a value from one unit to the other. Strangely, there is a conversion button that is supposed to be used to calculate the result, but the app does this automatically and instantaneously anyway. That makes this button redundant, and amongst other things this could have been used for the missing ‘shift’ button functionalities.

The presentation of this calculator has strong and weak points. Visually, the buttons on the touch screen are clear and easy to distinguish, while the top screen does an adequate job overall. The conversion tool is presented well on the top screen, but as mentioned before the calculator could have displayed mathematical workings in a more logical and user friendly style. Overall though, the designers have done a respectable job of producing a crisp, structured display.

Conclusion

This calculator app is a reasonable effort on the DSiWare platform, though it does fall short in some key areas. The functionality is that of a basic scientific calculator, lacking some vital functions such as graphs. In addition, the lack of a meaningful user manual is problematic for those who are unfamiliar with scientific calculators, therefore severely affecting the level of accessibility. The conversion tool is well constructed and, overall, Calculator serves some purpose for those who desire such an app for their DSi. Unfortunately, the overall package doesn’t quite give all of the right answers.