Would you buy a $220 desk calculator? Wired’s Brian Barrett would—or, at least, doesn’t think it’s as ridiculous an idea as it sounds on the face of it.
In a clever essay, Barrett uses the $50 Fire tablet and the $220 Casio S100 calculator, two devices announced within days of each other, in a comparison to make a point. Both devices seem insane—the Fire tablet insanely cheap, and the Casio insanely expensive—but there are reasons for both prices.
Barrett gives a reasonably nuanced review of the Fire, in line with some of the things we’ve already said about it here: it’s cheap because Amazon is selling it at close to cost in an effort to hook more people into its ecosystem, but all the same it has better specs than the $330 iPad Mini of 3 years ago. The Casio calculator, on the other hand, has a few nice advances and some good build quality, but the main reason it’s being sold at $220 is because it’s a 5,000-unit commemorative collector’s edition to mark the 50th anniversary of the very first desktop calculator.
Where the Fire tablet was explicitly designed to land in as many hands as possible, the S100 exists for the exclusive sake of a very small niche. It’s a collector’s item, a trophy for calculator aficionados and Casio fans. There aren’t many of those, but there also don’t have to be.
So just as there can be ridiculously cheap tablets, there can be ridiculously expensive calculators—and both have their place.