BB-9E App-Enabled Droid Review (Sphero)

BB-9E App-Enabled Droid
PRICE CHECK
   
EDITOR'S REVIEW
OVERALL EDITOR'S RATING:
What It Is

BB9E is the new Astromech droid making his debut in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He's similar to BB8 in that he is essentially a rolling sphere with a magnetized piece for a head, though his top piece is not a hemisphere like BB8's. The Sphero App-Enabled BB9E is an awesome droid designed for the connoisseur, collector and the committed Star Wars fans. The first thing you'll notice is that it is  knock-down/drag-out gorgeous units. The technology, of course, is every bit as sophisticated.

In the movie, BB-9E is in the service of the First Order, which means he's working for the bad guys--and though we don't know too much else yet he's probably not as friendly as BB8. But that doesn't mean you won't love playing with the Sphero version. Get him charged up on the base, which uses inductive charging, download the Droids app (for iOs or Android). All the Star Wars droids, including last year's BB8 can now be controlled by this one app, which we think is pretty cool.

The app is required to bring BB9E to life. Functions including basic driving, drawing paths for your droid to follow, a very cool augmented reality feature that allows you to explore different ships as seen through BB9. For driving, it's very much like the other Sphero, sphere-based  products. Connect the app to the droid, orient the direction and then use the joystick to move the droid. There are also different expression controls, which are really amusing and add a lot of character to BB9 To explore the AR function, you place BB9 on the AR platform, and he runs as you're exploring. Like everything else on these droids, there's a bit of a learning curve but it's very cool, and as you're exploring, you'll find various photos and information about the areas of the ship you're inside. There's also a feature that will allow you to watch the Star Wars movies with this droid. We were unable to try that out prior to this review, but we think that's a cool add-on.

The app is really excellent with lots of Star Wars sounds and music. There isn't much in the way of instruction, so much of what you learn about how to use them is going to be based on trial and error and exploration. It's fairly intuitive, and there are some onscreen guides to help you along the way. There are a few things to be aware of. When you're driving the droids, hard, smooth surfaces are best, though BB9 will work on low pile carpet.

Driving BB9 takes a little more practice, as the ball can move fairly quickly. Give yourself plenty of room to start. The top piece on BB9 is held in place with a powerful magnet, but it could get knocked off in collision. Simply pop it back on. (You may want to keep a can of compressed air around to clean out the bottom of the head, as it does pick up dust when it runs around the floor.) Fortunately, these are both super sturdy, but you'll want to be careful about driving them off a desk or a table. We had a few falls with BB9 as we were testing, and it survived nicely. We just wouldn't want to make a habit of that.

Is It Fun?
The beautiful design, elegant technology and, of course, the Star Wars association virtually guarantees that this is fun. It doesn't take long to run BB9E through everything he does, but there is also more in this than there was in the BB8 from 2016. There's more play in the AR feature for example, and it's fun to watch BB9E racing around on the pad as you explore the ship "through his eyes."  We didn't get to check out the mode where you can watch the movie with the droid and have it respond, but that's more an add-on benefit than a feature.
Who It’s For
So the obvious question is ultimately, who is this for? With price tags of around $150, this is no small investment. We really like how the play has been expanded, the droids have been brought together in one app and of course how great looking this is.

For dedicated Star Wars fans who will enjoy exploring, discovering and playing with these, it will definitely be worth the investment.

What To Be Aware Of
If you have multiple droids, you can connect them all to the app and they will interact in the Patrol mode. You have to switch between which droid is the primary one at any given time by touching the outline of the droid on the screen.

Running the droid in AR mode on the platform for an extended period of time speeds up the depletion of the charge.

BB9E is super sturdy. We drove him off tables and desks (not intentionally) and he kept running great.

If you run into a wall, you may knock the headpiece off. Simply reattach it by holding it over the sphere and rotating till you feel the magnet connect.

If you're running BB9E on a carpet or floor, it may pick up dust, which can get trapped under the headpiece. Check that and clean it out regularly, either with your fingers or a can of compressed air.

Also check out Sphero's R2D2.

AT A GLANCE:
  • Fun

  • Repeat Play

  • Assembly & Instructions

    None or Very Easy