SBrick | Bluetooth Control | Review

SBrick

It’s time for another Review here at The Lego Car Blog. However we’re not reviewing an official LEGO set, or even an official LEGO product. After several days of fun… er, we mean ‘arduous testing’, we can bring you a full review of one the most important products to enter the Lego Community in years. This is TLCB’s in-depth review of the SBrick bluetooth control.

Regular readers of this website will know that remote control vehicles appear here frequently. This is thanks to LEGO’s excellent Power Functions system, which upon its release in 2008 allowed builders to easily motorise and remotely control their creations via infrared receivers. It was an instant success, and – judging by the amount of Power Functions equipped vehicles that still appear on these pages – it’s a product that shows no signs of waning.

There is a weak(ish) link with the Power Functions system though, as those infrared receivers struggle in direct sunlight, have a limited range, and they also restrict power to the two outputs they can handle simultaneously. But technology has moved on a lot in a decade, and it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to address these issues. And add in a whole lot more besides…

SBrick Review

Launched a few years ago the SBrick by Vengit removed the need for infrared control by bringing bluetooth to LEGO’s Power Functions system. This means that models can work in bright sunlight, there’s a huge 50m range, and – of course – that Lego creations can be controlled via any bluetooth enabled device, including your phone, tablet or gamepad control.

The SBrick itself is a wonderfully neat bit of design. Measuring sixteen studs square it’s no bigger than LEGO’s own infrared receiver, however with no, er… infrared receiver to worry about, it can fit twice the number of outputs – effectively doubling what your model can do. Plus as bluetooth uses UHF radio waves the SBrick can be completely hidden from view deep within a model – unlike LEGO’s infrared receiver which must have a line-of-sight to its controller in order to collect the signal.

Our SBricks arrived in grey, being a good colour match to LEGO’s usual Technic hue, and both looking and feeling high quality. In fact the only way the SBrick differs visually from an official LEGO piece is with square studs instead of round. The SBrick can connect to LEGO pieces in the same way that the official infrared receiver does, via studs on top, tubes on the bottom, or via Technic pins/axles on the sides. The SBrick must be connected to a power supply – in our case LEGO’s own Power Functions Battery Box – via a LEGO extension wire, at which point a green light appears to tell you power is being received.

You are then able to connect your motors, lights or sensors up to the SBrick’s four different outputs in exactly the same way as you would with LEGO’s own infrared receiver and your model is now ready to be controlled via bluetooth! Well, almost…

SBrick Review

Of course to control an SBrick-equppied creation you will need a bluetooth device. There’s no need for LEGO’s infrared controller, which can be replaced with any number of bluetooth enabled products. We selected an iPhone, downloaded the SBrick app, and got to work!

The app is a quick and easy download and install, and allows you to log in as a guest, or to set up your own SBrick account where you can create and save your own model profiles. We created a model profile for our previously reviewed LEGO 42030 Volvo 350F set and started looking through the various pre-programmed templates. The ‘Joysticks and Sliders’ seemed like a good fit and within minutes we had successfully set our Volvo up to drive, steer, raise, lower and tip its bucket all via a mobile phone! There’s a direction reverser should forwards turn out to be backwards and an ingenious ‘test’ button which gives the motor selected one second of power so that you know which one you’re setting up.

Even at this basic level the SBrick is light-years ahead of the Power Functions control, and it can do a lot more besides. Next we downloaded SBrick’s pre-programmed 42030 controller, which is one of several available for various LEGO sets (e.g. 42009 is shown in the image above). This effectively did the same as the profile that we created using the ‘Joysticks and Sliders’ template as a base, but it added graduated control (so not just ‘on’ or ‘off’) and it labelled all the controls too, creating a very pro-looking control screen. But what if you want to create your own bespoke profile for your own bespoke creation? Well it can do that too…

SBrick ForkliftThe SBrick Designer website allows you to create your own customised profiles, within which you can drag and drop joysticks, sliders and buttons onto a blank control screen. This allows you not only to set up how your model will function, but also what the controller will look like too. Speed, maximum rotations, steering axles etc can all be easily programmed into the profile – it’s like LEGO Mindstorms you can control on your phone. Only it’s even easier to set up. You can keep these profiles private if you wish, share them on the SBrick’s publicly available listing (as Mahjqa has done – whose forklift is pictured above), or share them with other users specifically. You can set up multiple profiles per model too, allowing you to work on one programme whilst still using another.

The SBrick profile designer is a superb coding interface and it’s this function which can make the SBrick itself such a powerful tool. If you want to simply control an official LEGO set or your own creation with more power and more precision – buy an SBrick and enjoy the app – even if you do no coding yourself there is still so much to fun to be had simply from the controller on your phone!

However if you’d like to try to programme your own creations, or if you want to teach programming to your children, with instantaneous visual progress – buy an SBrick, set up an account, and start creating. We think it’s as much fun as the building of a creation itself.

Either way, the SBrick takes Power Functions to an entirely new plain. Your models will look better, do more and go further. The SBrick is brilliant.

★★★★★

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22 thoughts on “SBrick | Bluetooth Control | Review

  1. Kelkschiz says:

    May want to consider crediting Mahj who made that forklift MOC and also took the picture of it.

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  2. […] We’ve also got our hands on our own BuWizz brick, courtesy of the BuWizz team, and will be conducting our own tests shortly [maniacal laugh!] in order to bring you a full review. Whist we find out whether eight times the power really is possible you can find all of the BuWizz powered creations previously featured here via this archives search, and you can read our five-star review of BuWizz’s rival SBrick by clicking here. […]

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  3. […] all-wheel mechanical brakes powered by a Medium motor, all-wheel suspension, LED lights, and SBrick bluetooth […]

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  4. […] of these functions can be controlled remotely via bluetooth, thanks to the third-party SBrick concealed within the build. This enables the models to be controlled by a phone or, as Eric has […]

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  5. […] by LEGO’s Power Functions system and controlled via bluetooth via the 5-star-rated SBrick, Mahjqa’s ‘SUP BRO’ stanced tuner runs a 22.5 degree camber on its remote control […]

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  6. […] adequate for the job in hand, but certainly not as good as an official LEGO piece (or the rival SBrick reviewed here previously). On top of the BuWizz are two connection ports, a status LED, and four LEGO Power Functions […]

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  7. […] There’s a whole lot more to see of this spectacular model at Beat Felber’s Marion 204-M Superfront Flickr album, plus you can read our 5 star review of the SBrick bluetooth controller that makes creations like this possible by clicking here. […]

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  8. […] (i.e. non-LEGO) bluetooth connection devices such as the superb SBrick and BuWizz feature regularly in the models that we publicise here at The Lego Car Blog. Able to […]

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  9. […] Perhaps what they should have built is this. Lachlan Cameron (aka Lox Lego) has recreated the CRZ’s razor-sharp looks in his Technic CRZ brilliantly, and he’s given the chassis a bit more bite than Honda managed too; Lachlan’s model adds a second electric motor giving his CRZ all-wheel-drive, which sure would’ve pepped-up the real car. There’s also remote control steering, electrically opening doors, torsion beam suspension, LED lights front and rear, a four-cylinder piston engine, and bluetooth control via SBrick. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] problems that regularly occur, particularly if third-party battery and software products such as SBrick or BuWizz have been used to increase power far beyond what LEGO envisaged. We’ve even […]

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  11. […] remotely. Two on-board LiPo batteries or third-party BuWizz bricks provide the power, whilst twin SBricks allow the McLaren’s working functions to be controlled via a mobile […]

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  12. […] opening tailgate, all of which are operable remotely via a Bluetooth device thanks to a third-party SBrick. The build also features all-wheel suspension, neat brick-built windows, and some excellent custom […]

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  13. […] the stunningly accurate shell are three Power Functions motors, a Micro Motor, and a third-party SBrick programmable bluetooth control brick. Each track is suspended via oscillating bogies and powered by an individual Medium Motor, a third […]

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  14. […] here earlier in the year the SBrick controller provides Lego models with bluetooth capability, allowing control via a mobile […]

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  15. […] Each axle is suspended by an ingenious leaf-spring system, there’s an inline-6 engine next to the asymmetrical cab, and a set of four outriggers stabilise the truck for when it’s using the neat folding crane mounted over the articulation point. Powered by another two Power Functions motors this can extend, rotate and winch (see the image below), and like the drive and steering is operable remotely via bluetooth thanks to two third-party SBrick bluetooth bricks. […]

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  16. […] as whilst the bricks are 100% LEGO many have been chromed for added realism, whilst a third-party SBrick brings programmable bluetooth control to the three Power Functions motors that power the […]

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  17. […] Paradise’ features remote control drive and a two-speed gearbox controlled via a third-party SBrick bluetooth brick, allowing the town to rove around the halls of TLCB Towers creeping-out the Elves. Whilst we get on […]

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  18. […] link below, and before long they could be featuring in creations here regularly alongside BuWizz, SBrick and […]

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  19. […] with six XL Motors providing drive, seven Servo motors steering all nine axles, and a third-party SBrick providing control via bluetooth. There are also working LED lights throughout plus – of […]

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  20. […] Every so often a creation comes along that shifts what we thought possible from LEGO bricks. This is one such creation. Created over the course of a year by Technic-building legend Sariel this is a fully working replica of JCB’s 5CX Wastemaster backhoe, powered by pneumatics, eleven Power Functions motors, and two third-party SBricks. […]

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