New Cortex enclosure design?


I just noticed the Cortex microcontroller product page shows a different case design. The only visible change is that the VEXnet key inserts into a raised area rather than the recessed area of the previous design. My guess is that this moves the Wifi radio further away from the electronics to reduce interference. ==>

Anybody have more details on the “Humpback Cortex” controllers?
Are the electronics identical, or are there more changes under the hood?


  • Dean

we have seen some teams have the “newer” version
when we asked if they had interference issues they claimed they didnt
but that might just be their personally experience

Yep, the new cortex does raise the vexnet key about of the enclosure to reduce problems with reception. They didn’t really announce it, so I’m guessing that they didn’t want everyone sending the old one back in and requesting a new one.

What! This isnt fair! they cant just bring out a new design that minimizes interference and keep quiet about it!

Sure they can! This clearly isn’t a major redesign; just a tweak to take advantage of lessons learned. It may be a bit annoying for “early adopters”, but I think it is always better if they continually improve their design.

My guess is that this is why they are allowing the USB extension cables for the VEXnet keys for competition. (I like these, BTW. Cheap, and the mounting ears can be tapped to #4-40 or drilled out and tapped for #6-32 competition-legal screws.)


  • Dean

How good are your experiences with Electronic Goldmine? It looks like they have some good stuff, and I’d like to buy some, but after reading some reviews about the site, I don’t want to. Apparently they will rip you off. Have you ever ordered from them?

I’ve ordered from them several times over the last few years and always been happy with the results. Orders have always shipped complete and on-time. So far, my credit card hasn’t been compromised. I can’t promise you’ll have the same experience, but I will certainly order from them again.

Like all surplus sales sites, you need to read the description carefully. If an item doesn’t say “NEW”, then it isn’t. I’ve seen people get upset about that.

[EDIT] BG Micro also seems to have these same extension cables here. BG is yet another surplus site like EGM. I’ve (successfully) ordered from BG once or twice, but that was many years ago. [/EDIT]


  • Dean

Yes, we redesigned the Cortex plastic after the first production run. the only change is a small board inside the Cortex to raise the WiFi key (antenna) further above the processor to increase the effective communication range.

Please note, the original Cortex design is perfectly fine for use on standard VEX fields. I made the decision to redesign the Cortex after my engineers pointed out that the published Wifi range is 150’ and we could only get about 50ish (depending upon the environment). The redesign puts our range back around 150’. We redesigned it because it was an improvement and cost us almost nothing to do the change.

The allowance for the extension cable has more to do with robot design than the Cortex. Some robot designs encapsulate the Cortex in metal which significantly reduces the WiFi range. The extension cable gives teams the flexibility to move the antenna into an area with no surrounding metal.

At the end of the day, we want to give all VEX users the maximum possible range with our products.


So what about people that have the old design? Do you know if the New Zealand scholastic company will receive the new systems instead of the old ones? Because they stock vex parts in big shipments so we dont have to order from the USA.

Paul: Thanks very much for the additional information. It sounds like a great tweak to the product. Thanks for continually looking for ways to improve the product line.

charsleysa: The only difference is that the new key placement offers greater maximum range. This should be unimportant in a competition setting, and the two Cortex case styles should perform identically if you are using USB extensions.

I’m personally not worried about upgrading my Cortex collection since I’ve never had any signal range issues. And I’ve got a few USB extensions if I ever do, though I find them more useful to allow convenient controller placement without worrying about metal interfering with the signal.


  • Dean

We have had so many connection problems with the cortex during competitions, it was so annoying!

The question is: was it only during the competition?

well this is annoying… we just bought 4 of the old ones a couple of months ago… but why was it not announced?

No. Happens all the time, our coach had to by some USB cables so we could change the placement of the dongles. Lynfield, we also brought some new ones for the Upper North Island regionals and we got the old design so to see that just over a month ago we got the old design when the new design should have been announced just kinda gets on my nerves!

If you’ve got USB extension cables, just use them and the two case styles should perform identically.

I can see being a bit annoyed if they changed the electronics and added features, but moving the VEXnet key up 1cm is not enough to loose any sleep over. Just use an extension cable to mast-mount the antenna, and you’ll have a clear signal as well as easy tether access for development.

As for IFI making an announcement about this, companies make minor changes all the time without any announcements. This change is only noticeable because it effects the look of the microcontroller.

When you order a product (any product, not just Vex), you are ordering what they have to sell you, not what they may come out with next. There is never a guarantee that they won’t improve the product later. With electronics in general, it is pretty much a given that they will come out with an upgraded version sooner rather than later. You either wait for better, or buy now - you can’t have it both ways.

I would prefer that IFI feels free to make minor improvements all along than lock the design to avoid hurting somebody’s feelings. It just means that the microcontroller you have in your hands is exactly the one you ordered, and that the next microcontroller you buy will be slightly better.


  • Dean

[EDIT] charsleysa: I don’t mean to pick on you - there are a few folks who posted a similar reaction to this change, and no doubt countless others who feel this way but didn’t post. I just wanted to express my philosophy in this situation. I also used to feel like I had been cheated or taken advantage of, but now that I’ve worked in the computer industry for many years, I’ve come to realize that is just the way of things.

Technology is a conveyor belt; you only get to see what is dropping off right now, but you have to know there are always new goodies lined up just behind it. Companies can only show you what is ready now, and perhaps a sneak peak at the next thing to help build buzz. But it gets very expensive for companies that reveal too much about how their next product is better than the thing they can sell you right now. They end up stuck with inventory they can’t sell, and surplus tech inventory never gains in value. [/EDIT]

I don’t see why you would want a company to stop improving their products just so you can feel better about the timing of your purchase.

Those cables from the Goldmine are ideal with the ends that can be firmly secured. I’ve ordered before from them and have never had problems.

The product line logistics are a pain, but VEX has done it before. The old pivot kits came with regular gears, the new one comes with the high strength ones. A huge improvement, but I’ve gotten lots of use out of my old pivots.

It could have been worse, they could say “New and improved, now with 150’ range” and charged an extra $50 for them.

Yup - I’ve threaded one for #4-40 screws, and it can mount to the slot of a slotted angle or angle gusset with the VEXnet Key’s USB connector passing through the slot. It makes it very easy to mast-mount the VEXnet key, and the connector is mechanically secure which makes it easier to run the robot tethered.


  • Dean

i think they would have done that, except the ORIGINAL was 150’ and it underperformed
thats why they allowed the usb extensions to be legal and they improved the current cortex design based on that problem (thumbs up)

pro: it looks cooler :rolleyes:
con: it might not fit in your compact robot design :smiley:

I remember seeing Chessy Poofs with this “new” Cortex microprocessor at Pan Pacific.

My team was like, “WOAHH.” It’s good to know that we are getting some of these.

While programming with the previous Cortex microprocessor, I noticed a numerous amount of disconnections. (Of course, I didn’t use the USB extensions yet). During the matches, connection seemed fine however…