NXT 2.0 vs. Original NXT: Which one to Buy?

Right now we are in an interesting situation in that you can still buy the original NXT retail set (8527) or order the new NXT 2.0 kit (8547). I have been getting questions about which one to buy, and also what it will mean to have one kit along with project instructions intended for the other kit. LEGO was kind enough to provide me with a pre-release version of the NXT 2.0 kit, which I have been working with for while now, so here is some information, opinions, and recommendations that may help. I will abbreviate NXT 2.0 as NXT2 and the original NXT (8527) as NXT1.

1. First off, I will say that comparing NXT2 to NXT1 when “free building” projects of my own design using only the contents of one kit, I do prefer NXT2. Treads are a welcome addition, the Zamor (small ball) shooter is fun, the color sensor is a very nice upgrade from the light sensor, having two touch sensors is very useful and worth giving up the sound sensor for, and the software has some nice additions. Also, overall I think the mix of building parts is improved, and I find myself generally getting stuck less running out of parts and sizes that I need when limiting myself to one kit.

2. Considering building projects from instructions that you find so far on my site at nxtprograms.com and other web sites and books written for NXT1, unfortunately, most projects intended for NXT1 are not buildable as-is with only the NXT2 kit. The same will also be true for most projects designed for NXT2 if you have NXT1. If you are not limited to just the kit contents and can buy spare parts, this is somewhat less of an issue, but it is something important to be aware of. The kits are very similar overall, but several differences in parts availability and part counts make cross-building difficult. For example, the NXT1 kit has 11 15-beams and 4 13-beams, but NXT2 has 2 15-beams and 10 13-beams. A lot of my NXT1 projects have overall dimensions suited to 15-beams, but for NXT2, 13 is a better maximum dimension. Of course you can get more 15-beams and other parts in various ways, and I have posted some solutions here.

3. The NXT2 software is fully backwards-compatible with NXT1. You can load an NXT1 program (.rbt), and compile and download it to an NXT2 brick. This means that if you buy NXT2, you can use programs intended for NXT1 that you find on nxtprograms.com and other places, or any programs you wrote yourself for NXT1. This also means that if you have a mixture of NXT1 and NXT2, the NXT2 software can handle it all for you (including the sound sensor and other things not directly included in NXT2). However, note that if you connect an NXT1 brick to the NXT2 software and download a program, the NXT2 software will insist on upgrading the firmware of the brick to the NXT2 version.

4. The NXT1 software is not generally compatible with programs written for NXT2. Some very simple NXT2 programs can be loaded into NXT1 and compiled and uploaded to an NXT1 brick, but many cannot. Generally, you will be able to open and view the contents of NXT2 programs saved in the normal .rbt format in order to look at them, but don’t expect to be able to use them. NXT2 also includes a new .rbtx format saved by the new Pack-and-Go feature which is very useful because it includes MyBlocks, graphics, and sound files needed by the program, and is compressed and thus much more compact for all programs, but this format is not readable by NXT1 at all.

Conclusion and Recommendations

If you don’t have any NXT kit yet, and you can manage $360 (plus shipping and tax), the best thing to buy right now in my opinion is NXT2 plus the Education Resource Set (9648) from LEGO Education. NXT2 + 9648 is very close to being a superset of NXT1, so you have (almost) the best of both worlds. You will have NXT2 and everything it can do, you will have enough parts to build most models intended for NXT1 (from web/books/etc), and you will have a number of other cool misc. special parts as well. You will still be missing some NXT1 parts. Here is an analysis of the missing parts and suggestions for where to get them if necessary.

If you are new to NXT, want to spend less than $300, and want a set primarily to design and build your own projects, get NXT2.

Teachers and others that are dependent on existing instructions for NXT1 may want to stick with NXT1 (or the Education version of the NXT) for a while, then start saving money and putting together a plan for how to move to NXT2 later. Note that all of your NXT1 equipment will still be usable (bricks, motors, sensors, spare parts) when you transition/upgrade.

If you are new to NXT, have a budget of only $250 or so, want to be able to primarily build projects from existing instructions available on the web and books, and can’t wait, NXT1 is still available and is still a great kit. Then if and when you get an NXT2 set later, you can upgrade the firmware on your old brick and switch to the NXT2 software, and then you will have a great two-kit combination that will allow lots of interesting projects, including NXT-to-NXT Bluetooth projects.

For fans of existing project instructions, though, please also consider that LEGO has said that the mindstorms.com web site will be posting (free) instructions for several NXT2 projects in addition to the four that come with the NXT2 set. I will also be posting NXT2 projects to nxtprograms.com when and as time allows, and many other NXT2 users will start to post their projects to other places such as NXTLOG, and the variety will grow over time!


Rodzom said…
I would agree. NXT2 provides the most fun out of the box. I felt it was a bit easier to get into because it seems to have the better an more motivating projects in its software.

But still... since its currently unclear how long the NXT1 will be available, I'd advice those who are completely new to Mindstorms products to buy the NXT1 with all its background, literature and web-presence. It is still an extremely good choice.

The NXT2 is a nice addition if you already own the NXT1. To me both sets complement each other very well.
Unknown said…

very good overview.
I agree with almost everything.

The parts I miss most in the NXT2 kit is the turntable (I use it a lot for my models as it gives stable and reliable joints, but it is hard to get) and the gears - in my opinion, the ones in the new kit are too limited in number and variety.

The useful proposal of a combined NXT 2 + education resource set will fulfill most needs, though.
Eric D. Burdo said…
Great comparison Dave. Thanks!

I have a couple of NXT1 kits. Plus a huge pile of extra parts... But, I still want the NXT2 kit. :)
roboleo said…
Very good analysis Dave, thanks…
I have a couple of NXT1 and I bought one NXT2.
Just a question on the bluetooth connection:
Can NXT1 communicate with a NXT2 and conversely?
Anonymous said…
You won't have many problems if you already have NXT1 and you get NXT2, like me. Then you have a nice selection of parts, like the new color sensor, a turntable from NXT1, tank treads, a Zamor sphere shooter, and, most of all, 2 NXTs, 6 motors, 3 Touch sensors, 2 US sensors, a sound sensor and a light sensor, besides the already-mentioned Color Sensor.

My only problems with getting NXT2 are that I have to get another Rechargeably Battery pack and a different storage solution! My current box is already stuffed.

D-Robotics said…
That review helped me a lot! thanks! I have 1 nxt1 and want to get the nxt2 also. I only have 3 questions:
1. will the nxts be able to communicate via bluetooth or do i have to upgrade some firmware?
2. Can i update my nxt1's firmware for free after i get the nxt2?
3. If i want to make a remote controlled car (for example) can i write the program in nxt2's software and then load it on to each nxt? Or would the program be too complex for nxt 1 and i would have to update nxt1's firmware to get it to read nxt2's program?
NXTDude said…
i already received my NXT2 set thanks to amazon.com and I built the ball shooter which is really fun to control from my computer and works in almost real time, just a tiny tiny delay, the treads are great, the new tires are more street-like for flat surfaces, the new software is awesome, however, when I installed it, it automatically changed from the original NXT1 software, which had the instructions for the first Alpha Rex, the Robotic Arm, Tribot, and Scorpian, and I have NXT1 & NXT2 and wanted to build them their starter bots at the same time (ex. Robogator and Scorpian) I think though, that if I put the CD for the first set in my computer, I might be able to get the instructions, not sure though, if anyone can help me with this, that'd be great, all in all I agree with the getting NXT2 if you're new, it is really a great kit! Oh and one more thing, if anyone has tried the image editor on the NXT2 software, did you notice it freeze when you try to upload a picture, however, this might be because i have a Mac. Anyway, great article!
Dave Parker said…
Yes, NXT1 and NXT2 can communicate with Bluetooth. And if you did have some kind of compatibility problem, it is easy and free to upgrade both bricks to the NXT2 firmware (just connect to the NXT2 software and download a program and it will upgrade the firmware for you).

If you have mixed kits, you will generally want to upgrade all bricks and computers to the NXT2 firmware and software anyway, because the software has improved and the compatibility works better in that direction (NXT2 can read NXT1 stuff but not vice-versa).
NXTDude, You can find the NXT1 models at this link in PDF form. Enjoy!


NXTDude said…
Sweet, thanks a bunch Chris! That totally helped me out. Thanks! =) --NXTDude
Unknown said…
What if you already have nxt1? Is it worth it to upgrade?
Robolab 2.9 said…
And just mentioning, that many people wonder if NXT1 and NXT2 use the same brick (hardware) - the answer is yes. They are identical, so you should not have Bluetooth issues, save for differences in firmware.

Well I already have 2 NXT sets but I think I will get an NXT 2.0 set as well. Just one of them...for now :) I don't actually have an NXT 2.0 set but I plan on getting one sometime this year. I think if you are planning on having 2 NXT sets like most people who have NXTs always enjoy 2 sets :) Then an NXT1 and NXT2.0 should be a good choice. I like to get my extra parts from lego edu and from technic sets. Thanks for the comparison :)
Unknown said…
Personally I think the contents of the sets is immaterial to me and I don't use the NXT-G software. I've enough LEGO already without wanting to buy the NXT2 set.

BUT... this does mean that NXT1 sets will be heavily discounted and a great bargain if you can find them! Yay!
LEGOmom said…
Has anyone compared the NXT2.0 software to the new education version? I have the newest education version w/ the datalogging and such. Is there anything in NXT2.0 which would make me want to have that software as well? Someone mentioned computer control of the robot?

Thanks for the write up, it was very helpful. I'd love to add an NXT2.0 kit to my kids 2 NXT1.0 kits but I don't see how I could talk DH into it!

Anonymous said…
Any chance that anyone who has both kits could tell me which they like better and why?

Dave Parker said…
The "NXT-G 2.0" software from LEGO Education (not to be confused with the software from NXT 2.0 retail) has the data logging feature, which is not in the retail software. The 2.0 retail software added a PC to NXT Bluetooth remote control, image editor, sound editor, Pack-and-Go feature to bundle MyBlocks/sounds/graphics with a program file, in addition to support for the color sensor, and a couple of other minor things, none of which are in the LEGO Edu NXT-G 2.0. Both versions now have support for floating point (non-integer decimal) numbers.
Armagon said…
This post was over a week ago, so it may be that no one sees my comment, but:

If I have an NXT1 and want to upgrade to have all the parts that the NXT2 has, what do I need to get? Likewise, am I able to obtain a version of the updated software without buying the full kit?
Robolab 2.9 said…

Currently, if a parts expansion set is coming is unknown.

A software upgrade is - they say - not coming (source: NXTasy forums).

Armagon said…
Thank you, Richard.
Unknown said…
from what i have read here, the hardware of Both NXT1 and NXT2 are the same.

i need to buy two NXT kits soon.
question is, if both teams (students) will be sharing the parts. will there be differences between the two sets.

in others words, is it possible to upgrade the firmware of NXT1 to NXT2, and end up with two "Identical" NXTs plus more part options? will i be able to program the NXT1 with the new software once i upgrade it.

i hope my question is clear. thanks.
Unknown said…

Quoting David
"If you have mixed kits, you will generally want to upgrade all bricks and computers to the NXT2 firmware and software anyway, because the software has improved and the compatibility works better in that direction (NXT2 can read NXT1 stuff but not vice-versa)."

i guess answers my question.
i'm better off buying 1 NXT1 and 1 NX2. for more pieces.
When you say the NXT2.0 s/w is different, are you referring to the firmware or the visual programming IDE ?

I have a small question if anyone can answer - is the NXT (1.0) brick different in hardware than the NXT2.0 brick? If not can I upgrade my NXT1.0 firmware to be compatible with 2.0 ?

iasimov said…
i plan to buy 1 education base set (9797)+ 1 education resource set (9695) as my first kit.
shall i stick to it or replace education base set with retail 2.0?

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