This article covers the difference between the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition and LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 products. Other articles in the ‘difference between’ series:
One robotics platform, two targets
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robotics platform has been developed for two different target audiences. We have home users (children and hobbyists) and educational users (students and teachers). LEGO has designed a base set for each group, as well as several add on sets.
There isn’t a clear line between home users and educational users, though. It’s fine to use the Education set at home, and it’s fine to use the Home Edition set at school. This article aims to clarify the differences between the two product lines so you can decide which product works best for you.
Which set to choose?
The facts and figures on this page may help you decide which set works best for you in terms of hardware and software, but there are other criteria as well. Which set is the most fun? (And won’t end up gathering dust)? See this article for some additional considerations.
LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set (LEGO #31313) is the one you’ll find in toy stores and many online stores, as shown in Figure 1 (link). It is often referred to as the Home Edition or Retail Edition. Right out of the box you can build 5 robots including EV3RSTORM, GRIPP3R, TRACK3R, R3PTAR and SPIK3R (link) and 12 bonus models (link).
You program the robot with software that you can download from the LEGO MINDSTORMS website for free (link). You can also control your robot with your smart phone, or with the infrared remote control that comes with the set.
The set contains 1 EV3 programmable brick, 2 Large Motors, 1 Medium motor, 1 Touch Sensor, 1 Color Sensor, 1 Infrared Sensor and an infrared remote, as shown in Figure 2. The set also includes 7 connector cables and a USB cable for programming.
You’ll need 6 AA batteries for the EV3 brick, and 2 AAA batteries for the remote. Instead of using 6 AA batteries, you can purchase the LEGO EV3 Rechargeable Battery and charger. (See “The EV3 Rechargeable Battery” below.)
The set further contains nearly 600 building elements, including beams, axles, gears and connectors, as shown in Figure 3. The inside of the cardboard packaging contains a mission pad (link). You can view an unboxing video of the set here (link).
LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core Set
The LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core Set (LEGO #45544, see Figure 4) is available from LEGO Education and various education resellers worldwide (link). The set includes building instructions for one vehicle with various sensor attachments. More building instructions are available here (link). Software tutorials are available as part of the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 programming software, which can be downloaded for free (link).
The set contains 1 EV3 programmable brick, 2 Large Motors, 1 Medium motor, 2 Touch Sensors, 1 Color Sensor, 1 Ultrasonic Sensor and 1 Gyro sensor, as shown in Figure 4. The set also includes 7 connector cables and a USB cable for programming. The set includes a rechargeable battery for the EV3 brick and a charger.
The set contains nearly 540 building elements, including beams, axles, gears and connectors, as shown in Figure 6. The sturdy plastic box further contains storage bins for your Technic elements.
‘Upgrading’ Elements from Education Edition to Home Edition
If you have the Education Core Set (#45544), you may still want to build the robots of the Home Edition set (#31313), the 12 bonus robots (link), or robots from books about the Home Edition set (link). To do so, you’ll need to purchase separately the Infrared Sensor (link) and the Infrared Beacon (link), as well as certain Technic building elements.
To find the parts you need, start with the diagrams above. You may already have many of the pieces in your LEGO Technic collection.
Below you’ll find several lists that show which parts you need to upgrade so you can build the robots of the Home Edition and the robots in the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book.
Matt O’Brien created a list of the parts required to upgrade the combination of the Education Core Set (45544) and Expansion Set (45560) to Retail Set (31313) (link).
Peter Bittner has also made a nice Excel Sheet (link) that you can use to find which parts you need to upgrade from the Education Core Set (45544) to the Home Edition (31313), or from Education Core + Expansion set (45544+45560) to the Home Edition (31313). He has additional information here. (link)
You can order most elements from LEGO (link), or Bricklink (link). See also the instructions in the above files. Alternatively, you could get a large LEGO Technic set or a MINDSTORMS EV3 expansion set (See ‘LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Expansion Set’ below). You’ll get more value for money this way and it saves you some time, but you may still need to buy certain pieces separately.
‘Upgrading’ Elements from Home Edition to Education Edition
Similarly, if you have the Home Edition set (#31313), you may still want to build the robots of the Education Core Set (#45544, link). To do so, you’ll need to purchase separately the Ultrasonic Sensor (link) and the Gyroscopic Sensor (link), as well as certain Technic building elements. Note that the Infrared Sensor has exactly the same shape as the Ultrasonic Sensor. Both sensor can sense distance, but the Ultrasonic Sensor is more accurate for distance sensing. On the other hand, the Infrared Sensor also serves as the receiver for the Infrared Remote. It’s up to you to decide whether you need both sensors.
EV3 Programming Software Versions
LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robots can be programmed from a computer (PC/MAC) or a tablet (iOS/Android). The tablet app is a simplified version, leaving out several programming options. The PC/MAC programming software is the full version (and just as easy to use).
Both the computer software and the tablet app comes in two versions: The Home Edition and the Education Edition for teachers and students.
Home Edition Software
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition set (#31313) does not include a software CD in the box. Instead, you will need to download the Home Edition software for free from the LEGO MINDSTORMS website (link). The software includes a programming environment, and building and programming instructions for the robots you can build with the Home Edition set.
The software does not require a license key, so you can download the software early to see if you like the programming language, and to avoid waiting for a big download when you want to get started building and programing.
The installation file is about 700 MB in size. I found the following system requirements in the installation folder. I added a few comments in parentheses–they are not official comments. If you’re in doubt: Download and run the free software to see if it works before you buy the set!
* Silverlight 5.0 or newer (Installer is included – no need to download separately)
* Microsoft Dot Net 4.0 or newer (Installer is included – no need to download separately)
* Windows: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8, Windows 10 (32/64 bit) with the latest service packs. (Note that it does not work on Windows 8.0 RT or 8.1 RT)
* Macintosh: Mac 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 and later with the latest service packs
* 2 GB of RAM or more
* 2.5 GHz processor or faster (This is the minimum for a dual core processor. For example, my quad core processor is just 1.7 GHz and it works fine.)
* Minimal supported screen resolution—1024*768
* LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 does not support tablets or certain netbooks with hardware that does not meet the above requirements.
Education Edition for Teachers and Students
The LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 software (#45544) can be downloaded here for free (link). The installation file is about 700 MB in size. The system requirements are the same as given above. As of 2017, no paid license is required to download, install, or run this software.
The software includes a programming environment, and building and programming instructions for the robots you can build with the Education Core Set (#45544) and the Education Expansion set (#45560). In addition, it contains a data logging environment for science experiments. For example, you can plot a graph of the light level in a room, and see it change over time.
Using the Home Edition Software with the Education set
The EV3 brick in the Home Edition set is the same as the EV3 brick in the Education Core Set, so you can use either version of the programming software to control your robot. In fact, you can install both versions of the software on the same computer, if you like.
So it is perfectly possible to use the Home Edition software with the Education Core Set and vice versa. When you do, you’ll need to add a few programming blocks to the software to be able to control the Gyroscope and the Ultrasonic Sensor. See this page for download and installation instructions.
LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Expansion Set
You can upgrade the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core Set (#45544) with the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Expansion Set (#45560, link). This allows you to build bigger robots such as an elephant and a stair climber (link). The set includes over 850 building elements including beams, axles, and gears, as shown in Figure 7. It does not contain any electronic elements.
While this add on pack was made for the Education Core Set, it’s also an excellent parts resource for use with the EV3 Home Edition (#31313). You won’t be able to build all of the models from this add on pack because you may be missing some elements from the Education Core Set, but the pieces are very useful to create your own robots. In particular, the set contains 9x O-frames, 6xH frames, 13x 15M beams, and numerous gears including a differential and a turntable.
The EV3 Rechargeable Battery
The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition set does not include a rechargeable battery. You can simply use 6x AA batteries. You may want to invest in 6 high performance rechargeable batteries with a dedicated charger. If you do, you’ll probably want to get at least 12 batteries so you can use one set while you charge the others.
You can also purchase the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 rechargeable battery (#45501, link) and the charger (#8887, link. Be sure to buy the charger that fits the plug in your country). This allows you to charge your robot while it’s on. No need to take your robot apart when the batteries run empty. The battery does make your EV3 a bit bigger (precisely one LEGO unit), as shown in Figure 8.
Working with LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 books
Several LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 books have been published and a few more books are on the way. When you plan to buy one of these books, be sure to check in advance which LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set is covered. Some books contain instructions for robots you can build with the Home Edition set (#31313) while others contain instructions for the Education Core Set (#45544). Alternatively, just get the book you like, and upgrade your LEGO collection with the pieces needed for the activities in that particular book.
To use the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book, you need the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition. This book helps you get the most out of your EV3 set. You’ll build cool robots, all the while learning about EV3 programming. You can learn more about the book here.
This book is divided into several parts. The first parts (Chapter 1-9) introduce the reader to programming. The programming software for the Education or the Home version is essentially the same, so you can use this book to learn how to program regardless of which set you have. New concepts are demonstrated using a simple vehicle robot. If you have the Education set, you can build the vehicle according to the instructions in that set, and just follow along with the programming tutorials in this book. The same holds for the programming tutorials in Chapters 14-17, which you can also do with the pieces in either set.
In addition to programming tutorials, the book also contains chapters (12, 13, 18, and 19) with building instructions for bigger robots, like the walking humanoid on the front cover of the book. These robots can be built with the pieces in the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Home Edition (#31313).
Apps for Smartphones and Tablets
You can control your EV3 from your iOS (link) or Android (link) smartphone or tablet. The official Commander app is targeted at Home Edition users, with specific controls for the Home Edition robots, but it also works with the Education Core Set. In particular, if you have the Education Core Set, you can use the TRACK3R controls to drive the Educator Vehicle. In addition, you can create their own customized remote to control each motor connected to the EV3 brick. You can also program the EV3 with a tablet (link).
Purchasing Bluetooth and WiFi dongles
When you’ve created a program in the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 PC/MAC software, you transfer it to the EV3 brick using the USB cable included in the set. Once transferred to the brick, the robot can run the program on its own. In addition, you can program your robot wirelessly using Bluetooth or Wifi (using a USB WiFi dongle). This way, there’s no need to connect the USB cable each time you change the program.
While this works great for small setups at home, it can be frustrating to set up in classrooms, because classroom computers may not have administrator rights (for Bluetooth drivers) or they might not have access to configure wireless network settings (for WiFi). If you plan to use wireless capabilities in the classroom, consider buying just one dongle so you can try it out before you buy one for each set.
Questions and comments
The article and the illustrations are copyright (c) 2013-2017 by Laurens Valk, unless stated otherwise. Use the information in this article at your own risk.
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Update January 2017: Fixed broken links, and updated text to state that the Education software is now also available as a free download