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Which adding machines for your office are best?

While adding machines, sometimes referred to as printing calculators, may seem outdated and obsolete, they remain indispensable for offices all over the world. In spite of the abundance of computer-based options and bookkeeping apps, many prefer the tangible, permanent records that adding machines let them keep and review.

The Sharp EL-1197PIII Heavy Duty Color Printing Calculator is a feature-packed adding machine that includes a backlit display and large, quiet keys. Its rubberized feet keep it firmly in place on your desk and it can print in two colors for easy-to-read record keeping.

What to know before you buy an adding machine for your office

Adding-machine benefits

Benefits of using a printing calculator include:

  • Ease in looking back on your math equations to ensure accuracy.
  • Ability to quickly attach physical copies of your work to your records.
  • More focus, due to the lack of distractions and notifications that are unavoidable while using a computer.
  • Simple buttons and basic displays.

The complexity of your record-keeping

Depending on your record keeping and business model, digital alternatives to adding machines may better suit your needs. While some offices run their records exclusively on software, many also use adding machines so they can instantly have a physical record.


Adding machines require rolls of paper to print their work. While this may seem trivial, office costs can add up over the course of a year, so you need to consider your budget. Determine if the record-keeping convenience of a printing calculator will offset the cost of adding another critical office supply to keep in stock.

Printing method

Adding machines print receipts in one of two ways:

  • Ink machines use rolls of ink that can dry out and need to be replaced when used up. Some models can print in multiple colors, making it easy to find the numbers you are looking for as you review your records. Their printouts are permanent.
  • Thermal machines rely on special paper that reacts to heat. They don’t use ink that can dry out or expire, but the thermal paper is more costly than regular paper and thermal machines can print in only one color. Thermal printouts also can fade over time and are vulnerable to temperature changes and heat.

What to look for in a quality adding machine for your office


Select a machine with a large, vibrant display. Some models use illuminated displays while others rely on LCDs that need an external light for viewing. The bigger and more legible the display, the less strain it will cause while using.

Key size 

Larger keys make adding machines easier to use. They also make it less likely that those with bigger fingers will accidentally press the wrong key, disrupting their workflow. While larger keys result in a larger device, most users happily sacrifice an extra inch or two of desk space to get a more user-friendly machine.

Printing speed and color printing

Thermal printers are generally faster than those that use ink, though their paper is more expensive and they can only print in one color. Ink printers sometimes allow both black and red ink, letting you print negative numbers in red, which makes your data easier to see and interpret.


Select an adding machine that prints quietly and has buttons that won’t disturb others while being pressed. This is especially important in shared work environments where noisy typing and printing can be disruptive.


Choose a printing calculator that has functions that will let you conveniently run your most common equations without having to spend the time to do all the work manually. While there may be a learning curve to understanding how to make the best use of your machine, the time saved in the long term will pay for itself. 

Power options

Select a machine that lets you run it off of AC power but still use a battery as a backup. The mechanical nature of printing can quickly drain batteries.

How much you can expect to spend on an adding machine for your office

Budget adding machines can be purchased for less than $40. Most fully-featured models will cost between $60-$80.

Adding machine FAQ

Can adding machines print multiple copies of the same calculations?

A. Some can, making it easy to share information across files and ensure that your data won’t be lost if your printout is misplaced.

Do adding machines get jammed?

A. Yes. Many have features that greatly reduce the likelihood of a paper jam, but when it does happen it will require some disassembly to get it back on track.

Can I use an adding machine to print notes?

A. No. Adding machines are used for numerical equations only — their keypads do not have alphabetical characters. To print notes, you will require a label maker or other small printer with a full keyboard.

What are the best adding machines to buy for your office?

Top adding machine for your office

Sharp EL-1197PIII Heavy Duty Color Printing Calculator

Sharp EL-1197PIII Heavy Duty Color Printing Calculator

What you need to know: This machine from a leader in electronics is packed with useful features.

What you’ll love: It runs on AC power and features a backup battery. It prints in two colors, has a bright, illuminated display and is loaded with functions that make record keeping a breeze. Key presses are quiet and easy.

What you should consider: It’s noisy while printing and has a large footprint.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

Top adding machine for your office for the money

Casio HR-170RC Plus, Min-Desktop Printing Calculator

Casio HR-170RC Plus, Min-Desktop Printing Calculator

What you need to know: This machine prints in two colors and is half the price of most of the competition.

What you’ll love: It can run off of battery power or an AC adapter. It features a large display and includes equation and function features that make your work quick and easy.

What you should consider: Its display is not backlit, and it seems much larger than it has to be, with a lot of unused space between keys.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

Worth checking out

Victor 1310 Big Print Commercial Printing Calculator

Victor 1310 Big Print Commercial Printing Calculator

What you need to know: This machine has a backlit screen and can print large characters on thermal paper without needing ink. 

What you’ll love: Quiet and fast, this printing calculator’s screen is easy to read. It has the option to print large characters, making equations and numbers easier to see.

What you should consider: Its display has a limited viewing angle. It uses thermal paper as opposed to ink, which may shorten the lifespan of your printouts and increase supply costs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

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Derek Walborn writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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