In August of 2020, LEGO released a new version of LEGO MindStorms called LEGO MindStorms Inventor, which is released just a few months after the release of LEGO Spike Prime. So what is the difference between MindStorms Inventor and Spike Prime? Does that mean I have to upgrade my LEGO Spike Prime in order to catch up the trend? In this post, I would like to compare them and help you on your decision.
Lego Spike Prime
As I mentioned in previous posts, LEGO Spike Prime offers both Scratch-like programming blocks and Python coding. If you have learned Scratch 3.0 programming, you might be pretty familiar with the left diagram. It is built upon Scratch programming modules, but add LEGO specific tabs such as Motor, Movement, Lights, etc.
It is also easy to write Python code and run it from the LEGO Spike App. Please note this Python environment is not standard Python IDE, It just supports MicroPython, which could be regarded as a subset of Python to facilitate running code fast on microprocessor. The constraint is that except those embedded libraries, you could not import other Python libraries freely.
LEGO MindStorms Inventor
For LEGO MindStorms Inventor, the App appearance is much similar to that of LEGO Spike Prime. The most apparent difference might just be the color. MindStorms Inventor has a dark tone and you could not find a place to change its tone. Personally, I am not fond of this tone, which shows the programming blocks in high contrast against the background and irritates the eyes. Maybe this dark tone is more suitable for Python environment.
In terms of functionality, I only found one more programming block compared to Spike Prime. That is “start animation” block in Light tab. It contains an animation editor in which you could visually edit the light pixels on the light matrix. For all the other programming blocks, both models are same. Personally, I am not programming heavily on the light matrix, so animation feature is not a decisive factor for my choice.
However, if you would like to add remote controller of xBox One or DualShock, MindStorms Inventor is a better choice. It offers extension modules to support remote control.
Please note that till this post is published, MindStorms Inventor’s Python environment is still of beta version, but it will definitely be not long before it releases official version. The Beta version of Python editor has not new functions compared to LEGO Spike Prime.
For LEGO Spike Prime, its core set 34567 contains 528 pieces of bricks. It includes 1 color sensor, 1 force sensor, 1 distance sensor, two medium motor, one big motor and a smart hub. It is enough for doing general tasks. However, if you would like to build vehicle model and program it for WRO or FLL competitions, it is not enough. You might need to add at least another color sensor and another big motor, so that your robotics vehicle could run along the colored route and design attachments to accomplish different types of mission.
For LEGO MindStorms Inventor, its set contains 949 pieces of bricks. It include 1 color sensor, 1 distance sensor, 4 medium motors and a smart hub. You need to add an extra color sensor to design robotics vehicles.
The following table shows the purchase recommendation.
|LEGO Spike Prime||LEGO MindStorms Inventor|
|Total Pieces||528 pieces (Core Set)||949 pieces|
|motors & sensors||2 medium motors, 1 big motor,|
1 color sensor,
1 force sensor,
1 distance sensor
1 smart hub
|4 medium motors,|
1 color sensor,
1 distance sensor
1 smart hub
|Extra Components||Better to add an Expansion Set which contains 1 big motor, 1 color sensor and other bricks.||Better to add another color sensor and 1 force sensor.|
Lego Spike Prime’s demo models cover multiple categories. It could be robot vehicles to accomplish different missions, or some funny models to simulate functions of automatic devices. It is easy to build models by starters and intermediate users.
For LEGO MindStorms Inventor, the software App provides 5 sample models. Each of them offers “further activities” to use the model in different scenarios, as seen in the below diagram.
Those models follow the style of previous LEGO MindStorms EV3. They design exquisite mechanical structure with the use of multiple connectors. As shown in the below diagram, the model uses multiple connectors to design a critical part of ball catching device. If you are not a fan of mechanical structure, those models might not be suitable for you.
In terms of the sample code, either LEGO Spike or MindStorms Inventor does not provide complete programming samples. For example, in the above “basketball hero” model, the sample code demonstrates how to catch the ball and toss it to a bucket. However, in real scenario, there is much more variance to be considered. How to make the vehicle straightly face the ball? How to throw it accurately into the bucket? All those scenarios are not reflected in the sample code.
If you try to connect your LEGO Spike Prime to LEGO MindStorms Inventor app, it could still work but the program will remind you to upgrade the firmware. It seemed that the smart hub firmware of Spike Prime and MindStorms Inventor might be a bit different, but the sensors and motors are highly compatible with each other.
There is not really much difference in terms of software, motor and sensors between Spike Prime and MindStorms Inventor. If you prefer to build more complicated models and have much passion on designing mechanical structure, you could choose LEGO MindStorms Inventor. However, if you are a bit scared of the complicated mechanical structure, like me, and would like to focus more on programming to make your model “alive”, it is wise to choose Spike Prime since it skipped some complicated connectors and make you feel less stressed when you build your models.
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