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Guide to Choosing Retail NXT or Education NXT by Filip Verhaeghe

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
Price $250 $250 $280
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 Cables 7 7 7
NXT Converter Cables 0 3 3
USB Cables 1 1 1
Lamps 0 3 3
NXT Rechargeable Battery 0 1 1
NXT Charger 0 1 1
Total Parts 577 431 1102
Technic Parts 519 ? ?
Storage Boxes 0 1 2
LabView Software Licenses 1 0 1
Robot Educator ? 1 1
Course Materials 0 0 0
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.

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Anonymous said...

With regard to software, I'm not sure your chart is correct. I believe that the LabVIEW based software is NOT included in the education version. Rather, it is a separate ($42) purchase.

March 30, 2006 9:07 PM
Filip said...

Thanks. You are probably right. I changed it, and also adapted my advice accordingly. Feedback is welcome. Are the proposed options the best possible combination?

March 30, 2006 9:38 PM
Louis Davis said...

I can confirm the absence of software in the educational kit.

Here is what I got in an email from Lego Education:

The main differences between the retail version of the NXT set and the
Education version available from our site are the inclusion of a
rechargeable battery, converter cables, an extra touch sensor, and the 3
lamp bricks. Also, the Education version includes sorting trays to help
keep your set organized. The LEGO MINDSTORMS Education NXT will cost
$250 from our site. This does not include the software you'll need to
program any robots you build. The software will cost $42. For more
information about pricing, see here:

March 30, 2006 9:44 PM
Filip said...

Thanks Louis. Based on that info, I have revised my advice again. Did you notice there is some conflicting information about the number of touch sensors in the Education Base Set?

For instance, in http://web.archive.org/web/20070125220351/http://legoeducation.typepad.com/faqs/ it says there is only one touch sensor. I did read elsewhere about the two touch sensors, but I can't find any article on that anymore.

March 30, 2006 11:59 PM
Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Filip. I am a teacher and have been trying to decide which set to buy. One thing I noticed is in the table there are only 431 total parts in the education set vs 577 for the retail set. Is this correct and if so what parts would be missing in the education set?

March 31, 2006 10:57 AM
Filip said...

I believe there are less Lego Technic parts in the Education Base Set, relative to the retail set.

March 31, 2006 11:27 AM
koldo said...

Do you know wath is ROBOLAB 2.9 Upgrade? Is it a upgrade from Robolab 2.5.4 to NXT Software?

March 31, 2006 6:08 PM
Filip said...

The way I understand it, the RoboLab upgrade allows you to keep using the familiar RoboLab environment to compile software for the NXT Intelligent Brick.

So the upgrade does not "upgrade" you to the new LabView environment that comes with NXT, but rather upgrades your RoboLab software.

The idea is probably to provide a smooth upgrade path to Mindstorms Education RCX users. They do not immediately have to abandon the development environment they know, but can upgrade to NXT hardware.

Since both software packages are based on the LabView core system, I'm not sure how different they are. I think the new LabView is easier to use and more powerful, but I did not I evaluate them.

March 31, 2006 6:21 PM
Filip said...

On legoeducation.typepad.com, it mentions item 979833, "Transformer" right after item 979798, the NXT Rechargeable Battery. This seems to suggest you need to buy both. I called Lego customer support about this, and according to them, the 979833 is an AC Adapter that is designed for the RCX. You do not need it to charge the NXT Rechargeable Battery (item 979798).

March 31, 2006 6:45 PM
World's World said...

The whole range is listed over here, available for pre-order.


April 01, 2006 9:51 PM
Anonymous said...

"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."

Where/when did this get announced. I applied and was not selected but have not been notified of this.

April 02, 2006 5:24 AM
Robert said...

Okay, I'm pretty new to this. I preordered the retail set yesterday, and today went to the education shop and ordered the education resource set. Does that make sense? To me, that seemed like the best combination. Does anybody know if the resource set will ship before July 1st?

April 02, 2006 6:35 PM
Filip said...

Anonymous, about the announcement, check out my comments here.

Robert, that makes perfect sense. I guess everybody just has to look at the features and make up their own mind. I have quite a bit of Lego Technic, so for me that would not make sense. I think.

April 03, 2006 10:34 AM
Robert said...

I asked them about the shipping date of the education resource box, and they told me that they would only start shipping August 1st (just in case anybody else is interested in that, and might be influenced by that information to go for the retail set instead ;). BTW, all preorders will ship on July 1st, not just to the MDP applicants. You can see that on the NXT Lego Shop page and in a few other locations, too.

April 06, 2006 3:10 AM
Alex said...

Dear All
Thank you for information you posted. It helped me a lot to make a decision.

April 17, 2006 8:47 PM
Anonymous said...

Do they plan to offer the battery
seperately in the near future?
Seems silly to have to purchase
the edu version just to get the battery.

June 05, 2006 1:39 PM
Filip said...

Yes, the battery is currently available from Shop@Home, also for retail versions.


July 12, 2006 5:05 PM