This page was copied entirely from the bnxt blog that is no longer available.
Information on the Lego Mindstorms NXT sets is starting to drip in, but to most people, the distinction between the various sets isn't very clear. If you are a (private?) teacher, and you want to buy NXT, should you buy the retail version of Lego Mindstorms NXT, or the Education version? And what if you are not teaching?
For teachers, I would definitely say Lego Mindstorms Education NXT, because the rechargeable battery will save your budget, and the converter cables help you interface with parts you already have. If you don't need a class license on the software, you can buy an ordinary software license at $42 (which is cheaper than adding a battery pack to the retail set, at $48). So count on spending $292 on your first Education NXT set.
For other users, you need to consider how quickly you will run through your batteries. You could purchase the retail version and get the Education rechargeable battery pack, but this is more expensive than getting the Education NXT and adding the software.
If the rechargeable batteries are not your main concern, then go with the retail set. Although the education base set has an additional touch sensor, converter cables and lights, these items can be purchased separately as well. When you buy the retail set, you can start right away.
Given all possible choices and equal delivery for all, for myself I would choose the Educational Base Set, and add a software license. The battery plus sensor plus cables plus lights are just too good to resist. However, as a MDP applicant who didn't get selected, I can get the retail set delivered in the first week of July, so that is why I have purchased the retail set anyway. Any additional sets I buy will be Education sets, because with the retail set I already have the software that is missing in the Education set.
As a short summary, the retail version is better suited for casual use, and the education version is for people more serious about NXT robots. However, the education version comes without software, which will set you back another $42.
You don't want to compromise and are willing to spend even more on your first set? Then buy the Education NXT Base Set ($250), and in addition buy the Eduction Resource Set ($59), plus an extra software license ($42). The Lego Education Resource Set is a separate box from Lego Education, that contains 670 (mostly Lego Technic) parts, and an additional storage box. By the way, the FLL Robot Set appears to be a Lego Education NXT Base Set plus a Lego Education Resource Set, plus a software license, but a FLL Robot Set cannot be purchased directly.
Here's the list of features of the various offers as I currently understand them:
|NXT||Education NXT Base Set||FLL Robot Set|
|NXT Intelligent Brick||1||1||1|
|NXT Servo Motors||3||3||3|
|NXT Touch Sensor||1||2||2|
|NXT Light Sensor||1||1||1|
|NXT Sound Sensor||1||1||1|
|NXT Ultrasonic Sensor||1||1||1|
|NXT Converter Cables||0||3||3|
|NXT Rechargeable Battery||0||1||1|
|LabView Software Licenses||1||0||1|
|Pre-ordering From||April 1, 2006||April 1, 2006||May 8, 2006|
|Who Can Buy||Anyone||Anyone||Registered FLL Teams|
A word of warning: it is not clear how big the rechargeable battery is, and I suspect it is slightly bigger than the 6 AA's of the retail NXT set. I assume it sticks out a bit from the bottom of the NXT Intelligent Brick, and has its own connector to recharge. However, I don't think that for most inventions these size differences matter much.
All pricing is for the U.S., in U.S. dollars. In Euro, the price ranges from 250 to 300 for the retail and educational set, depending on your country. Pricing in Australia and Canada is higher than in the U.S.
All of the advice will be updated as new information becomes available. I'm trying to help you make your decisions, but remember that I may change the advice in the future based on new information from Lego, or the comments to this article.
UPDATE: Lego Education also posted an interesting comparison between the old Lego Mindstorms RCX and the new Lego Mindstorms NXT.