Review - BuWizz - High Performance LEGO Power Functions Controller




Recently I stumbled upon a new way to control your LEGO Power Functions models. It's called BuWizz and it's currently [url=""]being funded using Kickstarter[/url]. I was lucky to receive a copy for testing purposes. This small review will reflect my findings.


The BuWizz unit isn't just a controller, it's a battery as well. It's conveniently sized like the [url=""]Power Functions Rechargeable Battery Box[/url] and the less expensive [url=""]Power Functions AAA Battery Box[/url]. Check out this [url=""]interesting article[/url] on Philos website for more information about battery boxes. [url=""] [img][/img][/url] As you can see I received a 3D printed prototype. The white button turns the unit on (and off). There's a green light indicating the unit's on/off state. When I received the unit, I immediately charged it to make sure the battery would be fully charged when testing it. The pin holes in each side of the unit makes for easy mounting. The boxes designed by TLG don't have these holes, which makes them harder to attach to your model. Pinholes on the short sides would be great, but I understood there's already little room for the circuit board etc. [url=""][img][/img][/url]


For this demo I will be using a Motorized 42039 Chassis, which is shown below. It's been sitting on the shelves for a while, so there's some dust here and there. Sorry about that :wink: [url=""][img][/img][/url] Here's a detailed picture of the motor configuration. I like this setup, because it's lean and powerful. Only downside is that you need to remove the fake engine. But it leaves ample space for additional motorizations. [url=""][img][/img][/url] I attached both PF L motors to port #3 on the BuWizz and I connected the PF Servo to port #1. Since it's just a single unit, it can be easily mounted somewhere on the model. A single unit can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your model and your goal. If you like to replace the PF setup for some of the official models, you will need more modifications, since the form factor is different. On the other hand (the advantage), the total space you need for connecting 4 motors is less then when you are using two PF IR receivers and a PF battery box. So all in all it's a compact solution, especially when you need to hookup more than two motors.


Now that I have prepared the hardware and the model, I need to fire up the app. I am using an iPhone 6 for this test by the way. I don't have an Android phone, so I can't compare the two interfaces. From what I understood the iOS interface is still pretty basic and will be improved for the final product. First step is connecting to a unit. It's possible to connect to multiple BuWizz units with a single app. It's even possible to control your TV with the BuWizz, looking at the image below :wink: [url=""][img][/img][/url] There are four positions available in the screen, each corresponding to an output/port on the brick. [url=""][img][/img][/url] For each control/port you can select the type of control you'd like to use. You can choose between: [list] [*]Horizontal or vertical slider [*]Horizontal or vertical accelerometer (tilt controller) [*]Horizontal or vertical mixer (tracked vehicle steering) [/list] [b]SLIDERS[/b] Slider are the basic controls for operating a motor. Sliding vertically or horizontally sends power to the motors, resulting in steering or driving. [b]ACCELEROMETER[/b] Unlike the sliders, the model is controlled by tilting your phone. [b]MIXERS[/b] Mixers are used for tracked vehicles. I think this name needs a little work. [url=""][img][/img][/url] Here you can see I selected the horizontal and vertical slider, for both steering and accelerating. Next to the Start button you can see the CPU Temperature and Battery Voltage. [url=""][img][/img][/url]


I started the test in my photo studio, with very limited space. The BuWizz immediately responded to my commands, so the setup is very straightforward. Installing and configuring only took a couple of minutes. Ease of use if always a big plus when you try a new product. [media][/media] The video below demonstrates driving the model in the garden. Around 30 seconds I switched to ludicrous speed, which actually caused wheel spin. I am very pleased with the performance of the unit. I noticed some of you having problems with the lack of physical feedback when controlling the unit using a smart phone. I do concur that it can be tricky using the sliders. The final version of the phone will have bigger controls, which will improve the experience. Furthermore, you can use the accelerometer controls and tilt the controls to steer your model. That actually works quite well and is a lot of fun. You can configure the "zero-position" by pressing start in the neutral position. [media][/media] I have spoken to Roni and there will probably be RC support for the BuWizz. If this becomes a reality, and that's still an if (no guarantees), it means that you can control your model with RC "gamepads". This would obviously be a big plus for BuWizz. I did run into some connectivity issues where the BuWizz unit would lose connection at the end of the garden. This is because I used the prototype and a different BT solution is chosen for the final product. I quote: [i]The final product will use BT solution from Slovenian company Chipolo, they do BLE for a living for 3 years now (proximity tags) and they got up to 120m range. This means we will probably get 60m or so since we need reliable communication, not just detection.[/i]


How much bang do you get for your buck? The price of a single unit is around $100 (that is 100 USD) excluding S&H. This boils down to $125 for a single unit and $230 for two units, if you choose the recently introduced [url=""]Double Special[/url]. When you compare the price to the PF rechargeable battery box ($40 plus a $30 transformer makes $70) combined with two PF IR receivers ($15 each) it results in more or less the same price. I know most of us will have plenty IR Receivers, but it's only fair to compare the complete package. So the price seems fair, but worldwide shipping does add a significant percentage of the original price (around 25%). You do get the BuWizz unit for less money than the final version will be, although I highly doubt people will be inclined to pay more than $100 for a single unit. I personally think $100 will be the psychological ceiling price, but the potential RC support might negate that ceiling.


So, what do I think of this product? I think it's already a great product. Some improvements can (and will be) made to the final product. Potential addition of RC would definitely add value to the product. [b]PROS[/b] [list] [*]Easy to configure [*]Easy to use [*]Lots of power [*]Ludicrous speed [*]Battery and controller in one (can be Con as well) [*]Form factor [*]Control multiple BuWizz bricks [*]Price is lower then the final version [/list] [b]CONS[/b] [list] [*]Form factor is different than original PF setup (can be Pro as well) [*]Lost connection (supposedly solved in final product) [*]Only controllable via an app (would be solved with RC support) [*]Shipping adds a significant percentage to the price [/list] [b]TO BE CONTINUED...[/b] [list] [*]Actual range of the final BT receiver [*]Possible RC support [/list]


I have confidence in this project so I backed it with $230 for two units, the [url=""]Double Special[/url]. There are improvements possible, but the easy of use already makes this a great addition to the PF product range for AFOLs and Kids alike. So don't waste your time and [url=""]back this project[/url], before it's too late!


Here's a video (by [b]Zblj[/b]) demonstrating the BuWizz unit with 2 RC buggy motors. As you can see the performance is incredible. He used the Android app. [media][/media]

Discussion about this set can be found here.