General Consensus on Spark MAX and REV NEO

Now that the first “build season” with the Spark MAX and Rev NEO’s has passed, what are your thoughts on them? Were they consistent and reliable, or were they buggy and problematic? Would you use them again? Do you think they are a replacement for the brushed motors and beloved TalonSRX of the modern FRC scene? I’m looking to get an idea of where the CD community is at with this new product.

Ask again after the destructive test competition season.

Edit: like cbale2000’s team we have used several Spark MAX / NEO combinations this year. Total of seven on the robot, along with a fistful of Redlines and a few cylinders. Luckily we won’t be powering very many motors at any one time. And with NEOs in the drivetrain, we have seen relatively low peak currents for the same acceleration, compared with previous drivetrains that used 775Pro/Redlines or CIM/MiniCIMs. Brownout is not the concern that it has been in past years

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I’ve been pretty impressed with the performance of the NEOs, the weight and acceleration is a great advantage over similar alternatives. We’re using them extensively on our robot this year.

That said, the SparkMAX controllers have certainly had their share of issues in the firmware due to how new the software is, but REV has been constantly updating the Firmware implementing more features and fixing bugs.

Overall I’m optimistic, but as Richard mentioned above, it will really take a competition season to prove them out.


Just curious but I’ve heard that the NEOs can burn out very easily if stalled. Do you forsee an issue when NEOs are used on the drivetrain?

We planned on maybe using 2 NEO’s when released, but the weight savings provided was such that we wound up with 9 NEO’s on the Bot. We dropped from a 6 mini-cim drive to a 4 NEO drive and we are unable to detect any decrease in performance. Getting rid of 2 additional talons also helped with the BOM cost. We are hopeful that these motors/controllers can survive the season. We definitely have our fingers crossed.

We also have a backup plan of getting rid of major portions of bot to get under weight and going back to mini-cims if they prove to be unreliable during competition.

Firmware issues with the Spark MAX have been a pain all season but once everything is working as intended, the NEOs are phenomenal. Currently using two to power a continuous elevator.

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We are running 2 NEOs on our robot, for a 2 stage cascaded elevator. Didn’t want to commit to using them on the drivetrain, and the firmware issues throughout the season confirmed that to be a good choice.

I like the fact that it has built in encoders. Unless you’re really looking for an insane level of controls, the fact that it’s on the motor and not the output shaft probably isn’t too big of an issue. Especially when you’re running something like an elevator and can bank on a consistent starting position (all the way down) and gravity always pulls your backlash in the same direction (also down).

Smart Motion doesn’t feel as refined as Motion Magic but we didn’t really do too much work with it. We are running pure position-based PID on the SPARK MAXes and that seems to be working fine.

We also had issues with having one SPARK MAX following another but those are resolved now. Not sure if it was a firmware problem or bad software on our end.

The acceleration is nuts and the weight savings is even more nuts. ~8 lbs for going from a 4 CIM drivetrain to a 4 NEO drivetrain is absurd if you’re willing to take on the early adopter risk.

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Define “very easily”. There’s a wide range between 775Pro-levels of burnout and CIMs - NEOs are in there somewhere… from my experience closer to that of a CIM than a 775Pro. However,I don’t think they take as much abuse as a CIM.

We’ve been driving them aggressively and have seen no issues with burnout so far. The burnout issues I’ve seen posted have all involved significant continuous stall times when using them on mechanisms. Knowing that they may not handle stall as well as CIMs, we opted to use them only in the drive train, leaving situations where we may choose to intentionally stall a motor to a CIM.



From what I’ve seen of people saying they burn out easily, it’s usually conditions where any motor would burn out.
The only issue 1991 had with them was the result of a bad data port cable on our end.

IMHO, is that the SPARK-MAX and the NEO brush-less motors are a great new addition to FRC, but not quite 100% ready. Call it 80%?, Maybe 90% even? Definitely close enough to be out there.

As with most new/first year products there are always unexpected challenges, bugs etc that are completely unforeseen by the developers. This is absolutely normal and honestly to be expected.

I do think, a complete FRC season of usage and reliability data will be telling, and I do hope that all this data proves to be more positive than not. Time will tell.

Along this lines, I’ve been trying to get our team to invest in a SINGLE SET (read: 4) of them, but for offseason/off bot testing. I think that next year or two we will see some major updates to brushless from most of the vendors out there, and that these are REV’s foot in the door.

Can’t wait to see how they are in person, and how other vendors respond for next season.

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