The Lego Car Blog Elves love remote control Lego creations. Well, they love them if they are at the controls. As regular readers will know there have been a number of remote control related incidents here at TLCB Towers, resulting in much Elven hospitalisation. Well things are about to get taken up a notch…
Revealed here as a Kickstarter project back in June 2016 the BuWizz bluetooth control battery brick has become a regular third-party accessory within the Lego Community. With claims of up to eight times the power of LEGO’s own Power Functions battery set-up, now expanded to twelve times with the release of BuWizz 2.0, the potential to transform the way Lego models move is huge. But does the BuWizz live up to the hype? We’ve been sent a copy to find out…
Our BuWizz arrived a simple cardboard box, packaged only with a little piece of paper denoting the required warnings and LED indicator meanings. The BuWizz brick is a clever thing, incorporating both a rechargeable li-ion battery and a bluetooth control into one 8×4 stud box, reminiscent of LEGO’s own battery boxes from the 1980s. There are studs on top, tubes on the bottom, and four Technic pin holes with which the BuWizz can be attached to genuine LEGO pieces.
Our BuWizz came in a dark grey hue that we don’t think matches any of LEGO’s colours, but seeing as it can be mounted internally within a creation an exact match isn’t required. The moulding quality is OK, perfectly 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 compatible power outlets.
You must charge your BuWizz upon arrival via a micro USB, which the pack does not contain. This is a bit of a shame as it means the device is not truly plug-and-play, requiring a lead from something else in order to charge. We found a lead, plugged in the BuWizz, which let us know it was charging via the LED on top, and busied ourselves for a few hours.
Upon returning to our BuWizz a green light indicated we were ready to go. Like the aforementioned SBrick, the Buwizz brick uses an app to connect your phone or tablet to itself. The app is an easy download and connects the device seamlessly. Within it are six pre-programmed control interfaces available to operate your model. Each requires a small amount of set-up so that the app knows which of your motors is connected to which port which is simple enough, although there is no ‘test’ function as per the SBrick, which would be useful.
We connected four XL motors mounted within a direct-drive skid-steer test rig to the BuWizz battery and hit the controls. Weirdly one motor (and only one) span the wrong way, but the BuWizz’s simple ‘reverse’ option soon cured that. Then, because we have the mental age of five, we engaged ‘Ludicrous Mode’…
Inspired by Tesla, BuWizz’s ‘Ludicrous Mode’ turns up the power to the motors by a factor of three. Multiply that by the four motors you can drive at once and you get twelve times the power! And boy, does it show…
Flicking between ‘Normal’, ‘Fast’ and ‘Ludicrous’ via the app sees a noticeable (and considerable!) jump in power. It’s almost like a ‘The Fast and the Furious’ NOS scene, only the bottom of your model doesn’t fall off for no reason. Our test rig shot across the room proving that whether you’re pulling a heavy load or trying to go light and fast, the BuWizz brick will bring your models a whole new lever of power.
The BuWizz brick offers some huge advantages to LEGO’s own Power Functions battery and infrared set-up. With bluetooth control the device can be hidden, it isn’t affected by bright light, and you can control your models with your phone. It also offers some advantages over the previously reviewed SBrick, chiefly that it includes an integrated battery, meaning that you don’t need a LEGO battery pack, only the motors, in order to build a motorised model.
However it’s the huge power advantage is where the BuWizz really comes into its own, as it genuinely opens up possibilities that LEGO’s own system simply isn’t capable of.
It isn’t perfect though. The brick itself doesn’t look or feel as high quality as an official LEGO offering, which may seem like a bit of an unrealistic exception were it not for the impressive quality of the SBrick bluetooth control, and the app is miles behind the SBrick offering.
Our test rig was an absolute handful to try to control, partly because we were running it in ‘Ludicrous Mode’, but mostly because unlike the SBrick controller it’s not possible to add skid-steer to a joy stick, so two sliders have to be used simultaneously. These do offer graduated control, but it’s pretty basic. There is also no way to build your own control profile, so the BuWizz isn’t able to programme a custom creation in the same way that SBrick’s superb profile designer can.
If you want a third-party device to allow you to build a complicated multi-motor creation that can be uniquely programmed and then controlled via your phone, the BuWizz is probably only a two star buy.
However maybe that’s not the point of the BuWizz brick. If you think of the BuWizz brick as NOS for your Lego – a simple bolt on that will unleash a heap more power, it’s a five star bit of kit. Possibly even six – and that’s not even possible. But then Ludicrous Mode shouldn’t be either – and yet it is.
We’ll meet in the middle at four stars, and with custom profile controls rumoured to be in development for the BuWizz App, it could be five before long. The Super Power is indeed worth the hype.