BuWizz – New Lego Power Functions Alternative

/ January 9, 2018

buwizz 2.0BuWizz is a four channel high-performance controller for LEGO® Power Functions, with embedded battery and a Micro-USB charging port. Paired over Bluetooth with smartphone or tablet, BuWizz is compact yet powerful. It’s fully compatible with all elements of LEGO Power Functions, as well as old elements of LEGO electronics, such as RC-Buggy motors 5292. BuWizz was first released as a start-up project on the Kickstarter in summer 2016, and successfully backed in August 2016 (I also was one of the backers). The first devices were sent to the owners in February 2017. And more recently, on November 27, 2017, was introduced  BuWizz 2.0 with the long-awaited Ludicrious Mode, which delivers a voltage of up to 11.8 Volts (officially declared 11.2, but in a full charge voltage reach 11.7- 11.8V).

One more tip about this device. Personally, I was frustrated why BuWizz called “BuWizz”, and I think not only I, so here is the official quote:

BuWizz is an imaginary name. Means nothing. Or something. Bluetooth. Battery. Better. Upgrade. Wizard. BuWizz. Makes your models whizz by. You decide what BuWizz means.

Features:

  • 4 outputs for Lego PF
  • Charging from the standard Micro-USB cable
  • You can use power bank to charge BuWizz or use power bank as an additional battery for BuWizz.
  • Change the voltage modes of your models “on the go” remotely.
  • Maximum load current up to 3A per channel (up to 4.5A for BuWizz 2.0); the maximum voltage is 9.2V (Fast Mode) or 11.2V (Ludicrous Mode – only available in BuWizz 2.0);
  • Battery capacity 7.5 Wh, Battery type – Lithium Polymer (Li-Ion)
  • The charging time is 20-80% 1h 15min, 0-100% 2-3h. Power charge up to 5W (5V, 1A).
  • Works at temperatures from -20C to + 60C;
  • The size of the device is 3 bricks in height, 4 in width, 8 in length. This is 1 Lego brick less in height than the standard LEGO Li-Po 8878
  • Can replace LEGO battery box + 2x Lego IR receivers +2x Lego remote controllers.
  • Range up to 50 meters BuWizz 1.0, 60 meters BuWizz 2.0. (depends on the device from which the control is carried out).

Buwizz vs SBrick buwizz 2.0 vs sbrick

SBrick is a LEGO-compatible Bluetooth receiver, (as well as a Buwizz) controlled via the application from a smartphone on iOS or Android.

SBrick Technical specs:

  • 4 channels for control;
  • weight 12.9 grams, dimensions 32x32x24mm
  • Works at temperatures from -20C to + 60C;
  • operating voltage 4 – 10.8V, maximum voltage up to 11.8V
  • operating current up to 1A per channel (recommended), maximum current 2A per channel with continuous loads, maximum peak current 3A per channel.
  • Range up to 50 meters (depends on the device from which the control is carried out).
  • Ability to create custom profiles through Profile Designer
  • The application supports control up to 4 SBrick simultaneously (64 channels)
  • programming on Scratch (SBrick Plus only)
  • work with Lego NXT / EV3 sensors (adapter connection), LEGO WeDo (SBrick Plus only)

lego buggyTo compare these devices, let’s take a serious model in terms of power consumption and design features. I’ve tested BuWizz on MOC-4874 BAJA TROPHY TRUCK. This model is not an official LEGO set, it’s a MOC (My Own Creation) from RM8. The model has 2 most powerful LEGO motors – RC-Buggy motors 5292 (produced till 2006). Buggy motors are used for driving, Servo-motor for steering. Control – 2 SBrick. Power supply – 2 LEGO Li-Po units.

The reason for using 2 Sbrick’s may be unclear, but let me explain. The fact is that the total current consumption of 2 RC-Buggy motors is about 2-2.5A, and at this current in LEGO Li-Po triggered protection circuit. The power is cut off for Li-Po at only 1.3A. Due to this fact the LEGO power supply is the “weak link”, and we had to use 2 Li-Po units, one for each motor, and accordingly 2 SBricks.

So BuWizz here is the perfect solution. It will replace 2 Li-Po and 2 SBricks, which reduces the weight of the model by ~ 100grams and believe me, this is very important for high-speed models. By connecting each motor to a separate channel there will be no problems with the protection circuit triggering, even though we use only 1 power supply (Buwizz itself) instead of two units from Lego. Therefore, there are no needs for 2 SBricks. Also, I should admit that BuWizz can be used only as a power source, and the motors can be controlled via SBrick which connected to the BuWizz. In this setup, we will have to get more flexible control settings of the model through the SBrick custom profiles, as well as use individual control buttons for LEDs, sensors (for SBrick Plus), and other functions which is not yet available in BuWizz app.

LEGO Power Functions VS BuWizz

In case the remote control is only needed for motorization of models where a small number of motors – from 1 to 4, and the load on the motors is small, then you can get by with a solution from LEGO. The main drawback is probably that with more motors, more IR Receivers and IR Controllers will be needed. In LEGO PF is only 2 channels in 1 receiver, therefore, for every 2 motors, you need to buy a new receiver and remote. But the maximum quantity limited to only 4 receivers and 4 controllers since there are only 4 channels for their operation – hence a maximum of 8 motors or other PF elements. The second drawback is the radius of action. For the in-house use it will be enough, but on the street – with a big difficulty. Also, LEGO infrared and remote controllers work very poorly in bright sunlight, and the distance to work on a bright sunny day can be reduced up to 1 meter (slightly better with the V2 Receiver 58123 up to 3-5 meters, but it’s not a panacea). And the third negative moment – all the battery packs and Li-Po battery have protection from 1 to 1.3A, so if you decide to build something with a large current consumption (even if used with SBrick) – you will have to buy another one Li-Po or battery box.

Purchase BuWizz or not – is it worth his money?

The cost of BuWizz 2.0 is $134 (now there is a 10% discount). I should agree, it’s not so cheap as It would be expected. But let’s compare the prices of the similar solutions from Lego, and Lego + SBrick:

BuWizz 2.0 SBrick+LEGOLEGO
BuWizz – $134SBrick – $59Li-Po 8878 – $50*
Li-Po 8878 – $50*Li-Po Charge 45517 – $30*
Li-Po Charge 45517 – $30*IR Controller 8885 x2 – $20*
Cable 8886 – $3*IR Receiver V1 8884 x2 – $30*
$134$142$130

*all prices are taken from shop.lego.com for the US

As you can see, the prices are very competitive, while the performance of BuWizz Brick is much better for near the same money. But what if we calculate the cost of electronics for Buggy (BAJA TROPHY TRUCK) mentioned above? Then, the picture will be quite different: 2x SBrick + 2x Li-Po 8878 + 2x 8886 + 1x Li-Po Charge 45517 = $ 254. The price of components are almost in 2 times higher than one BuWizz unit costs.

In Conclusion

In my opinion, BuWizz is a good device, especially for MOC designers and professional builders. If you are not one of them, but planning to build something close to these specs:

  • the weight of the model is more than 1.5 kg;
  • motors will operate at high power and under big load;
  • will be used 4XL motor / 4L motor + optional Servo or M-motor;
  • will be used 2 or more RC-Buggy motors;

it is also a great choice to use BuWizz. It gives to your creations much more power and speed than other solutions. In all other cases, SBrick or LEGO PF would be enough.