What is Vex? Vex IQ vs Lego vs littleBits (2017 Edition)

The answer to the question “What is Vex?” depends on what you’re asking about.  Vex Worlds is the world’s biggest robot tournament.  But the Vex construction set is the robot kit you need to participate in it.

What is Vex?  Is Vex better than Lego?

The most popular Vex set is Vex IQ.  Although it is a bit pricey, I like the Vex IQ kit overall.  In fact, I think Vex is a whole lot better than its overpriced competitor, Lego Mindstorms.  However, Vex is not as good as my personal favorite robot kit, littleBits.  Unless you plan in competing at Vex Worlds, littleBits is a better deal overall.

How well does Vex stack up against the competition?

Want to learn more about how Vex matches up against the most popular robot kits?  If so, keep reading.  You’ll find the detailed info, reviews and comparisons you’re looking for below.

FYI The review you’re about to read represents my honest thoughts about the best (and worst) robot kits on Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate, but I don’t have any special relationship with any of the robot kit makers I review.

Why should you listen to me?

In 2016, I decided to put my DIY expertise and bargain hunting skills to good use and start this site.

Best Quadcopter Under 50 Dollars: alex munkachyAs a former ramen noodle eating college student, I have a lot of experience finding cheap but good DIY electronics gear online.

The reviews you’ll find on Robot Fanatics are blunt and to-the-point.  My main goal is to help you look for information and find the best bargains.

Enter your email address into the bar on the bottom of the screen and I’ll send you the info when I find good deals on robot stuff.

littleBits

Pros


Arduino / IoT compatible

No soldering, no wires

 Real robotics components

Learn C++ and .NET


Cons


Only 6-14 pieces

Large kits are pricey


Best robot kit

Vex

Pros


Robotics tournament

 No soldering, no wires

850 pieces

Learn C++


Cons


Basic components

Simplified software



2nd best overall

Lego Mindstorms

Pros


Lego brand name

No soldering, no wires

 Good for little kids

Large community


Cons


Can't learn C++ or .NET

Overpriced & overrated


Vex vs Lego Mindstorms

There’s no real competition between Vex and Lego Mindstorms.  Vex kicks Mindstorms EV3’s butt all over the place in terms of price, hardware and overall value.

I used to like Lego when I was a kid.  But lately, the company has resorted to “coasting by” on the strength of their history and brand name popularity.

What is Lego Mindstorms?

Lego Mindstorms is basically an overpriced, weak version of Vex.  Both Vex and Mindstorms are similar because they both contain pieces that snap together.  Also, both kits contain parts based on real robotics components.

But because Vex is sturdier, less expensive and has more pieces I personally think it’s much better than Mindstorms.

Vex is more durable than Mindstorms

Vex parts and pieces look and feel a lot more sturdy than Lego Mindstorms components.  For example, here’s a collection of flimsy looking Lego Mindstorm wheel axles:

axels
Lego Mindstorm’s dinky plastic wheel axles

When you compare the cheap Lego parts to Vex parts, the difference in quality is obvious.  Vex axles are made out of steel and can bear a lot more weight.

steelvexrobot steelvexparts

Vex IQ is also cheaper than Lego Mindstorms EV3

At the moment, the Vex IQ Super Kit is much cheaper than Lego Mindstorms on Amazon.

Everyone knows the Lego brand name.  That’s why Lego charges more.

Even though Vex hosts the biggest robotics competition in the world, Vex isn’t as popular as Lego.

But Vex is way better!

Vex IQ has more pieces and better components compared to Mindstorms

With Lego Mindstorms, you pay more and get less.

Even though Vex IQ is cheaper, it comes with more and better robot stuff.

Vex IQ Super comes with:

  • a robot brain with 12 ports
  • 850 pieces
  • 4 motors
  • 6 sensors
  • a remote controller

But all you get with Lego Mindstorms is:

  • a robot brain with 6 ports
  • 550 pieces
  • 3 motors
  • 3 sensors
  • no remote controller

What is Vex?  Vex vs Lego WeDo 2.0

Look for Lego WeDo deals on Amazon.

Lego WeDo 2.0 is about the same price as Vex IQ.  However, Lego WeDo 2.0 is awful.

Lego WeDo’s software is dumbed down and cutesy.

If you want your kids or students to learn real robotics skills, go with a Vex kit and forget about WeDo.

What is Lego WeDo?

To put it bluntly, Lego WeDo is a simple Lego toy that’s disguised as an educational tool.   It’s a cynical attempt by Lego to make money off of the growing demand for classroom robot kits.

With Lego WeDo, teachers who don’t know a thing about robots can easily go through the motions of teaching their kids STEM skills.  Checking off STEM boxes on lesson plans has never been easier, thanks to this kit.

Why do you hate Lego WeDo so much?

My main issue with Lego WeDo is that the “skills” kids learn with it are close to useless.

Though the kit does help kids learn basic machine logic, its programming language only works with Lego WeDo products.

Vex’s software might take a little longer for 2nd grade kids to master, but at least it teaches them the basics of a real programming language– C++.

wedolego
WeDo 2.0 looks bare bones compared to Vex IQ Super

What’s the difference between WeDo 1.0 and WeDo 2.0?

The main difference between 2009’s WeDo 1.0 and 2016’s WeDo 2.0 boils down to Bluetooth functionality.   You have to connect WeDo 1.0 to your computer via a USB cord.  WeDo 2.0 creations can be controlled wirelessly via Bluetooth.

Pricing

Last time I checked, a Lego WeDo 2.0 core set cost about the same amount of money as the Vex IQ Super.  Check the latest WeDo prices on Amazon.

Pieces and Components

  • Lego WeDo 2.0 has just 280 pieces, but Vex IQ Super has 850
  • With Lego WeDo 2.0 you get a limited “SmartHub” brain that needs a computer to work, but Vex IQ Super has a real robot microprocessor
  • You get 1 motor and 2 sensors with Lego WeDo 2.0, but Vex IQ Super has 4 motors and 6 sensors

What is Vex?  Vex vs littleBits

Look for littleBits deals on Amazon.

If you’ve read some of the other articles about robot kits on Robot Fanatics, you probably already know that littleBits is my personal favorite electronics set.

Essentially, littleBits is an electronics set that snaps together with magnets.

Here’s a video of somebody snapping a littleBits circuit together.

The main reason why I like littleBits is that it takes all the boring work out of being a Do-It-Yourself electronics geek.

With littleBits, you don’t have to strip wires or solder them to circuit boards.

And you don’t have to fool around with breadboards or worry about frying your components.

If you’re not familiar with littleBits yet, check out my in-depth review of the littleBits system for more info.

Pricing

littleBits sometimes takes flack for being too expensive.  But actually, I think it’s quite cheap compared to Vex and Lego.

For example, you can get two littleBits Arduino Coding Kits for the price of one Vex IQ Super.

Parts and components

When it comes to components, Vex and littleBits are like apples and oranges.

Vex has a lot in common with building blocks based systems like Legos and Construx.

The littleBits system, however, is designed to change the way that ordinary stuff works.

coffeelittlebits

Vex IQ gives you 850 pieces to snap together.  Most littleBits kits come with just 5 or so bits and a few accessories.

With Vex, you’re limited to basic motors and sensors.  But littleBits has lots of cool and weird speciality components.

Here are just a few of the most basic littleBits bits.

littlebitsbits

Look for littleBits deals on Amazon.

Vex vs littleBits: Software

When it comes to software, littleBits and Vex are identical.  The Vex IQ and littleBits systems are both based around Arduino microcontroller technology.

The Arduino programming language is very similar to C++, which is a very valuable programming language to know.

Because both littleBits and systems speak the same language, it probably wouldn’t be hard to get Vex and littleBits pieces talking to each other.

What’s the difference between the 3 Vex IQ kits?

Look for Vex IQ deals on Amazon.

There are currently three different versions of Vex IQ.  Each kit is somewhat pricey, but they’re all cheaper than Lego Mindstorms:

If you follow the links above, you’ll see that there’s not much of a difference in price.  The super deluxe kit is only a little more expensive.  In my opinion, the extra stuff you get with Vex IQ Super makes it worth the extra investment.

What is Vex?  A deep look at the Vex system

what is vex? vex box

Look for Vex Robotics deals on Amazon.

In my opinion, the best way to learn robotics skills is to experiment on your own.  But in order to do that, you need the right tools.  There are lots of robotics kits out there.  But a lot of them are cheaply made.  Also, some are too basic to be of any use.  Still others are way overpriced.

Other articles about robot kits from robotfanatics.com:

Though the Vex system isn’t perfect, it’s one of the top robotics kits out there right now.  Vex is part of a brand new generation of robot kits.  With today’s new robot sets, motors, microcontrollers and sensors snap together with ease.

The Vex commercial below does a pretty good job of showing off the strengths of the Vex system.

Look for Vex Robotics deals on Amazon.

Pros

  • A huge, expandable construction system that snaps together
  • Everything you need to compete at Vex tournaments
  • Gives you the ability to slowly “level up” your engineering and programming skills

Cons

  • Other systems (like littleBits, for example) offer more interesting component parts.

In my opinion, the key advantage Vex has over other systems is that it’s impossible to outgrow.  Robot sets for young kids like Ozobot are cute and can help improve motor skills.  But after kids reach a certain age, they get bored.  But not with Vex.

What is Vex?  The largest robotics tournament in the world

Look for Vex Robotics deals on Amazon.

In my opinion, the best thing about the Vex system is the fact that it gives you the ability to compete in huge robot building contents.

Currently, Vex Worlds is largest tournament of its kind in the world according to Guinness World Records.

what is vex? vex worlds

Vex robot competitions provide a chance for young robot builders to make friends.  They also provide opportunities for them to win prestigious awards.

The kids that earn the right to say that they won Vex Worlds 2017 will soon have universities eating out of their hands.

Vex in the classroom: teacher testimonials

The way things currently stand, it looks like it’s going to be a race between littleBits and Vex to see which robot kit will motivate teens to get excited about science and technology.

In my opinion littleBits is probably a better choice for schools because littleBits offers a far better selection of components.   Just about every type of electronics component you can think of has been made into a littleBit bit.

But educators around the country are absolutely crazy about Vex.

Maybe teachers feel more comfortable with Vex because it resembles a traditional construction set.

Here are a few nice things teachers have said about Vex.

What more could I ask for in helping to develop my students into life long learners who were now empowered to modify their creations. They learned to work with Easy C programming where they could drop and drag modules and read the C code that is being developed along side the icons. Having a competition that supports what my students learn in the classroom was icing on the cake.

what is vex? makers love vex

– Nancy McIntyre, Regional Manager Robotics Education & Competition Foundation

To have a robot programming platform that is free and web based is a call from the heavens.  I have these very eager students.  They had a hard time grasping programming.  And I feel like Vex IQ kind of fills in that gap.

what is vex? why teachers love it

Sharissa Desrochers, High School Tech-Ed teacher

 

There is so much support out there for VEX between the curriculum and the forums the students learn how to research their problems and come up with solutions on their own. I’ve been teaching for 14 years and I’ve seen a lot of curriculum. I honestly believe the VEX Robotics System is the best way to deliver a fun and challenging robotics and engineering curriculum.

what is vex? testimonial

Travis Lehman, Technology & Engineering Teacher

What is Vex?  Vex IQ pros and cons

what is vex? vex IQ

Look for Vex IQ deals on Amazon.

Here’s a quick list of good and bad things about the Super edition of Vex IQ.

Good

  • Big robot set with 850 pieces
  • Storage bin and an organization tray
  • Colorful, clear instructions that show you how to instantly build 6 bots
  • 7 authentic robotic sensors
  • 4 real robotics motors 
  • Vex tournaments allow your kid to make win trophies and make friends

Bad

  • Even though it’s cheaper than Lego, Vex IQ is still pretty pricey
  • To get the advanced robotC software, you have to pay extra to upgrade

littleBits

Pros


Arduino / IoT compatible

No soldering, no wires

 Real robotics components

Learn C++ and .NET


Cons


Only 6-14 pieces

Large kits are pricey


Best robot kit

Vex

Pros


Robotics tournament

 No soldering, no wires

850 pieces

Learn C++


Cons


Basic components

Simplified software



2nd best overall

Lego Mindstorms

Pros


Lego brand name

No soldering, no wires

 Good for little kids

Large community


Cons


Can't learn C++ or .NET

Overpriced & overrated


About Alex Munkachy

Hello and thanks for visiting Robot Fanatics! The aim of this site is to introduce people to the fun and interesting world of robotics. Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RobotFanatics.