on October 30, 2013
********UPDATE 5 December 2013************
So after a reviewer pointed out that import from brick works for programs built on the brick itself, I updated my words to reflect the fact that it was user error on my part. I'd still like to be able to use that function on programs written in the software that were sent to the brick though, although a PC-less brock to brick send with bluetooth is a neat feature and I'll have to see if that might be a workaround, although the teams robots are just different enough that a code written for one won't instantly work for the other; they would definitely need the ability to pull it into the software to make minor tweaks
********UPDATE 30 November 2013***********
I've changed my writeup below to reflect that you CAN easily download a module from the EV3 website that lets you use the gyro sensor for the home edition software. After giving it some thought, I'll stick with 3-stars for now due to the other reasons listed. If I could give this a 3.4, I would
I purchased this kit because I regularly mentor a First Lego League (FLL) team (well 2 teams, from the same school) and wanted to be able to work on things from home without having to borrow their equipment (they have 2 new EV3 Education kits). Not being an educator (in the formal sense) I purchased this version (i.e. not the education version) and figured that the biggest difference would be the data logging portion of the software not being part of the home edition. I realize that with a little research, I might/should have known what I was getting (or not getting as it were) but at the end of the day some of the `deltas' between the Education version and this version are just so glaring, that I can't be satisfied with my purchase.
To start off positive, First, the things I like about EV3:
1 - I like the look of the new software, and some of the changes. (see below)
A - One good example is how less brain power is involved in connecting data wires between certain types of blocks. The effort it took to convert a number to text, although minor, seemed unnecessary to me in NXT; its much easier now in EV3 (although ironically I had to look up some info to make a basic motor test code because I was expecting to have to do extra steps)
B - I like that there are arrows on the sides and top/bottom of the screen so that you can scroll left, right, up, down without having to change to the `hand' cursor and click and drag the screen over (or zoom out/in, or do a click drag sort of deal which isn't possible on all peripherals).
C - I like that you now have a project, and then tabbed programs as part of one overall project. This makes organizing the codes we have for each task much easier. (on the brick menu, you open a project folder, then the programs are listed underneath).
2 - I like the new look of the brick display(s) - the tabbed browsing and way that everything is displayed is much more intuitive, and space efficient
3 - I love the motor control, and port view functions on the EV3 - I was able to do a lot of good teaching about how the sensors work to the kids just by using a brick, wire and sensor (assembled robot not required)
4 - Its great that there are now 4 motor control ports (versus 3 on the NXT). This opened up the possibility of 4 motors in an FLL match, which increased the kids options in bots and assemblies that they build.
5 - SD card slot and USB - good, common sense add-ons
Now, my issues with it:
1 - The Software
A - Its super bloated and slow! I have a dual, dual core Xeon server board, velociraptor hard drive, nVidia GTX 265 with 1GB memory, 8 GB of RAM, and windows 7 64 bit ultimate, and it still lags for me! I realize that my Xeon 5200 series CPU isn't quite `with the times' but that should be more than enough computing power to run this thing effortlessly. I suppose Lego only has LabView to blame in this case. . . .
Part B below is no longer true - you can download a module from the Ev3 website that lets you control a gyro sensor using the home edition software. I'll leave what I originally wrote below
B - Even if I buy a gyro sensor, the home edition software can't control it! I can see not including this sensor in the kit, but I would think that's a bad business practice limiting the sale of a gyro sensor to ONLY the education kits?
C - you can't open NXT programs in the EV3 software, and to my knowledge, there is no conversion available. This is a problem, because the NXT community is well defined with lots of codes available to help the kids learn, and work their game board. Having to transpose codes over, when you consider the differences mentioned above (data wires and such) won't necessarily be a drag and drop situation.
I've tweaked part D below after becoming aware that import from brick didn't do what I assumed it did(user error)
D - "Import from Brick" only works for programs that you wrote on the brick itself (as opposed to on the PC using the software). I had high hopes for this so that we could easily share programs between our 2 teams, but when I tried it the only program that was available to import was the demo. Although sending from brick to brick by bluetooth might be a workaround or sorts, the teams really need to be able to make a minor tweaks to the code to adjust for minor differences between their robots, so simply moving the program over to the other robot won't quite get the job done.
2 - You can't build the basic 'tribot' with the parts included. The biggest part missing is the ball bearing (referred to as the 'ball pivot' on legoeducation.us). Other parts are some basic angled connectors (seriously standard parts here), some basic axles of specific sizes (again. . . these are COMMON parts that aren't included) and some bigger wheels. This is probably the MOST glaring difference between the kit, because these are parts that probably cost pennies.
3- LEGO's promises of the brick not acting up when the battery gets low were false. I had 6 double A's in, brand new out of the box, and after a couple hours occasional use (we were working on and troubleshooting a line following bot) the brick FLIPPED OUT, during the line follower competition (yes, the competition). The two robots the 2 teams built have had the same issue (although theirs is rechargeable - I have to take my robot apart to change the batteries, which is a real pain)
In conclusion, I think this product line is great. There is a ton you can do to educate, compete, challenge yourself, or just plain have fun. The problems I have with it are the price tag considering how little has changed from the previous kit, and the glaring differences between the regular version and the education kit. It made it uniquely hard, and required extra spending on my part, for me to most effectively help my team(s).