September 11, 2017

Sphero's R2-D2 & BB-9E - Review

When The Force Awakens was released, BB-8-8 was a hit as new character, he emoted just right, had a charm about him, but perhaps most of all, he was something we had not seen before. The Sphero droid was a smash hit, because it was a fully interactive droid from Star Wars and now the team are back, with two new droids.

BB-9E and R2-D2 are the two droids, out of the two of them R2-D2 is far and away the most interesting, that is not to say that BB-9E is not, he is fun and a little menacing, but more of an extension of the BB-8 design than anything else. R2-D2 is something new, well not the look of course, but the build and how he works is quite something and of course, given the 40-year history with the character, his interactions just feel better.

BB-9E, as mentioned above, is more of an extension of the BB-8 design, they move identically, the increase in motion, sharp turns and stops, all have them acting the same. From that point of view, it is hard not to recommend getting him, simply because he has a more of the same feel, even though he is superior to BB-8. One area that the design is much improved is that the head, the small section from the top of the droid, now has lights and it makes the droid feel alive. Having the red led, for his eye, helps sell that he is a bad droid, because red is bad, but the two small led’s to the side just help make the fact that the droid is doing things. While he does not do much while charging, pressing the button the charging base, will turn the lights on and having that bright red led just shining at you, from the pure black around it, is a little intimidating.

Perhaps the biggest issue that I have with BB-9E is that the body, the main unit, which has the same print design, is see through and that is annoying. The droid has a blue led, that you can use, to align him to the direction you want to control him from and when that lights up, you can see everything inside and while that sounds cool, it’s quite distracting. When the light is not on, you can’t see through it, which is nice, but seeing the insides, kind of ruins the illusion and like I said a small thing. The sounds that the BB-9E unit makes are again, provided by your smart device and while it works, much like BB-8 did, it only lasts as long as it takes you to play around with the R2-D2 unit.

R2-D2 us a completely different experience, not only from how he moves, but just how he behaves. The droid has two distinct modes, standing still and moving about, regardless of which mode you choose he will do a range of things. When standing still, he will turn his head, make noises and occasionally rocking back and forth on his legs, much like his movie counterpart. When he is in this position, you have access to almost all of the emotes that you can trigger when he is in motion, the exception being the one that has him sprint forward. Just having him sitting on my desk, whirring noises included, is a delight, just to hear him react like something is coming never got old and the fact that all his sounds come from the body, makes it perfect.

Moving R2-D2 around though, takes a bit of getting used to, his movement, while like both BB-8 and BB-9E is slightly different, in that he has a turning circle. Whereas BB-9E will turn on a dime, so to speak, R2-D2 has a wider turning circle and a larger footprint, thanks to his larger size and tripod leg system. When R2-D2 has his middle leg extended, the main body also tilts back a bit, creating a larger space, which you need to manage. Most of this will feel like a second nature to you after a while, though there are some concerns with regards to the retractable middle leg, namely stability.

While the leg is extended, R2-D2 is very stable, it takes him smashing into any sort of object that has a slant on it, for him to tip over, as long as he is on a completely flat surface. If you have him on carpet, as long as the carpet is either thin, or well worn, the variances in the thickness can cause problems, which is what I had. If you don’t move R2-D2 for a while, he retracts the middle leg and then just sits there, makes some noise and wobbles, the problem is, because the carpet was new, R2-D2 would lose his balance when putting the leg out again. This was also an issue on a rug as well and while normally, I would suggest you keep him away from odd surfaces, but thanks to the resilient design, it should not prove to be a long-term issue.

If you are a Star Wars fan than it is hard not to tell you to buy a R2-D2 droid, his design is faithful and the sounds are as authentic as it gets, the biggest complaint right now is that he does nothing, without a paired device active. BB-9E however is another story, the lack of difference between BB-8 and BB-9E is hard to overlook, sure BB-9E looks cooler and has led’s in his head, but that is it, every other feature is the same. My suggestion is R2-D2 first and then BB-9E to complete the set, if you already own a BB-8 like I do, else, just stick with R2-D2

Thanks to Sphero for supplying the droids for review

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