For years, R2-D2 held the position of the best droid in the galaxy. He was Luke Skywalker’s trusty sidekick and was always around to save the day with a tool or an electric shock. That is, until BB-8 came on to the scene in Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
R2-D2 vs. BB-8: What’s the Difference (And Who Is Better)? Due to his extended range of motion and versatile tools, BB-8 is much more useful. R2-D2 may have good qualities, but BB-8’s assortment of functions and ability to travel over different terrain make him the better droid.
While BB-8 is an incredibly handy and cute droid, R2-D2’s importance to the Jedi Order and to the Rebel Alliance cannot be diminished. Both of these little droids are faithful to their causes and have a lot to contribute.
Range of Motion
One can tell a lot about a droid just by looking at it. In the cases of R2-D2 and BB-8, there are some very clear differences. BB-8’s ball and dome design makes him well adapted to any kind of planet he might find himself on. Whether he is on the ice planet of Hoth or the mineral world of Crait, he can scoot along just fine due to his design.
R2-D2 on the other hand, uses wheels and legs to get around, and he cannot get around as quickly or as easily as BB-8 can. Were R2-D2 to get lost on the forest moon of Endor, he would have a hard time navigating the woodsy terrain. BB-8 would have no problem getting around with his spherical body and lightweight, aerodynamic form.
There is another important detail when looking at the range of motion of the two droids. BB-8’s design is such that it is more or less impossible to flip him over. No matter which part of himself he lands on, he will always be right side up. In contrast with that, R2-D2 seems to have a hard time staying right side up throughout all of the movies he appears in. He is always tipping over at inopportune times because of his top-heavy composition.
Another important difference between the two is that BB-8 is quite a bit smaller in stature than R2-D2. This also contributes to his expert-level maneuverability. With less mass to move around on different types of uneven or hostile terrain, he is able to move faster and with more control. His low center of gravity makes it difficult for him to be pushed off course on almost any kind of land. As we know, R2-D2 doesn’t exactly have the same freedom of movement.
R2-D2’s large, bulky design, combined with how heavy he is, creates a droid that can serve a fairly singular purpose. He can fix starships such as the X-Wing during battle, but when it comes to running away from enemies or zig-zagging around blaster shots, he is just too large and slow to be successful at it.
R2-D2’s height is about up to the waist of an average human. BB-8 is more around knee height. This makes BB-8 indispensable during hand to hand combat. It is always better to be low when there are blasters and lightsabers flying around, so he is better equipped defensively to survive in battle, and the droid that survives is the one that is able to help the good guys in the end.
Both of these droids have impressive abilities when it comes to starfighter combat. The thing that perhaps binds them the most in the Star Wars universe is the fact that they are both Astromech droids. Astromech droids are utility droids that are almost exclusively used to repair starships before, during, and after combat. R2-D2 and BB-8 both have the ability to extend mechanical arms with tools attached from compartments in their bodies, making them handy in a pinch when battling the Empire.
BB-8 is first introduced in Episode VII: The Force Awakens as the Astromech droid for the X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron. This is a primary job of an Astromech droid. They are often seen sitting in the back area of an X-Wing fighter, out in the open vacuum in space. This is to allow the droids access to the outside of the ship to make repairs when necessary. If a starfighter is in a battle, odds are that it’s going to end up taking some damage sooner or later. This is why having an Astromech droid like BB-8 or R2-D2 is crucial to an X-Wing pilot.
R2-D2 and BB-8 appear to have similar abilities when it comes to repairing starships mid battle. Thanks to their retractable arms that can manipulate a variety of tools. This allows them to make quick repairs and get shields back up on the X-Wings should they get hit with a TIE fighter’s blaster.
Droids in general are programmed to do their tasks no matter what might get in their way. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have thoughts on the situation, and both of these droids have big personalities. Even though the audience can’t understand them, the way other characters react to their beeps and boops lets us know that they have a lot to say.
BB-8 has a personality that is not unlike an energetic puppy dog. He is eager to please and is more than happy to be doing his duty in the name of the galactic resistance. He still voices his opinion, though, especially when it comes to the right mechanical choices to make on an X-Wing fighter during battle. When this little droid knows best, he will speak (or whistle) up.
R2-D2, on the other hand, is not as much of a people pleaser as his more modern counterpart. He is steadfast and when he is given a mission, nothing will stop him from delivering. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. R2-D2 has been given orders by Princess Leia Organa to deliver her message to Obi Wan Kenobi and he is determined to get it to him before Uncle Owen erases his memory. In fact, his conviction is what gets Luke Skywalker involved in the saga in the first place!
There is no more iconic duo in the Star Wars universe than R2-D2 and C-3PO. Just thinking about the very first installment of the saga elicits an image of the two droids rolling and tottering along on the desert planet of Tatooine. Much of that first film is told through the eyes of R2-D2 and this was no accident. George Lucas actually modelled the droids after characters from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, which is told through the eyes of two lowly peasants.
R2-D2 is incredibly loyal to his partners in adventure. He stops at nothing to get Princess Leia’s message to Obi Wan Kenobi, he shuts down the trash compactor and saves the gang on the detention level of The Death Star, and he puts C-3PO back together after The Battle of Geonosis. Any one of these things would be enough to prove the little droid’s dedication to his partners, but all three combined makes him an absolute hero to them.
BB-8 has all the same abilities as his fellow Astromech droid, but since his first appearance has not shown the same kind of dedication and humanity. That is not to say that he isn’t reliable and dependable on the battlefield. He manages to get Poe out of many jams and is entrusted with things that could end up being make or break for the rebels.
Astromech droids are designed to be intergalactic mechanics. They have knowledge and skills relating to starfighters and all kinds of different machinery. This can come in handy when travelling from planet to planet at lightspeed. Especially when your business has a lot to do with smuggling plans and overthrowing an Empire. When the odds aren’t always in your favor, it’s important to have friends and droids that can handle a wide variety of technologies.
R2-D2 displays a vast knowledge of computer systems and automation mechanics across the galaxy. He has the signature retractable arms that come standard on all Astromech droids, which are stored in recessed compartments on his body and can be equipped with different tools and keys. These are often used to hack into computer systems or open doors that are locked. They are also used to reach out and fix things on the exteriors of the X-Wing fighters during battle. All in all, this is an ideal feature for a mechanic droid to have.
BB-8 is essentially an updated version of R2-D2. They have many of the same features and abilities, and both serve essentially the same function within the hierarchy of the Rebels. However, BB-8 has the added ability to shoot out retractable, vine-like arms that allow him much more mobility and accuracy when it comes to intricate work on a starfighter or computer system. This feature makes him much more versatile in his mechanical functions.
Presuming that droids have the same abilities to learn from experience and mistakes in the same way that we humans do, it’s an important consideration when ranking these two. While BB-8 still has a long story to be told, so far he has not had the same wide range of experiences all over the galaxy like R2-D2 has. This could prove to be an important sticking point when deciding which droid would be more of an asset.
There is no denying that R2-D2 has been around the block as far as his experiences with the Jedi and with the Rebel Alliance. He has been present for some of the most key moments in the entire Star Wars saga including the destruction of two Death Stars. The only way he would not be able to hold on to this vast array of knowledge and experience would be if his memory was wiped. However, unlike his pal C-3PO, he doesn’t allow that to happen and even backs up 3PO’s memory just in case.
BB-8 simply has not had the same life that R2 has. He has mostly been relegated to be in the service of Poe Dameron. While that has certainly seen him on some wild cosmic adventures, he has not been present at and involved in some of the most iconic moments in Jedi history like R2 has. Who knows what the future will bring for him, but as it stands he has a ways to go.
When engaged in a star fight or a hand-to-hand lightsaber battle with an enemy, maneuverability is going to be a key factor. Astromech droids need to be able to adapt to all kinds of conditions and problems when they are in the heat of the astronomic battlefield. Being agile could be the edge that a droid and its human master need to live to see another adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
This is an area where R2-D2 simply cannot compete. His bulky design makes him slow and not especially well suited to some of the situations a Jedi could end up in while fighting the Empire. He does have some specialized tools that allow him to move around in ways that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to. He has been shown using rocket boosters to escape from dangerous situations and has a specially designed hook that allows him to climb up stairs.
BB-8, being a slightly updated version of R2, has a lot more options for getting around when action is needed. His long cable arms allow him to make all kinds of adjustments and fixes on an X-Wing during a battle. He is not limited to how long his mechanical tool arms can reach. His ball and dome design also makes it so he can keep up with Poe or Rey during a hand-to-hand battle and be of more use than standing by and watching the events unfold helplessly. He is designed to help in any kind of enemy encounter.
Droids learn by sub-programing that changes based on their experiences and knowledge that they gain. While this isn’t directly related to intelligence, how it is applied later on could be an indicator. How a droid reacts to certain situations and is able to make quick decisions is an important factor when looking at its intelligence.
BB-8 is a faithful companion to Poe and follows him into battle no matter what the consequences might be. He is shown to be able to think quickly and make moves such as dropping a stalactite on top of Agent Terex and saving Poe’s life.
R2-D2 is more than just a faithful companion, despite his lack of agility and battle-ready equipment. He is able to think quickly and hack into computer systems such as the one on the Death Star in order to manipulate it. He is able to problem solve in real time and shows enough outside the box type thinking to be useful despite his design flaws.
If droids are like computers in the Star Wars universe in that everyone has one and they are essential to the functions of everyday life, it must be a fairly special thing for any one of them to become famous throughout the galaxy. There are so many droids that it would take an incredibly important feat to gain anything resembling a legacy. The droids of Star Wars are so much more than just talking computers. They are heroes just as much as Han Solo or Luke Skywalker.
BB-8 is still new. He was only introduced in 2015 and could still have many adventures ahead of him. He has been entrusted with plans and been around to help the Resistance on some important missions, but as far as his legacy in both the Star Wars universe and the pop-culture lexicon, he still has a ways to go before he matches R2’s icon status.
R2-D2 has been present and contributed to some of the most important battles and uprisings in the entire universe. He was one of the original instigators of the saga and is perhaps one of the most famous robots in all of pop-culture history right along with his talkative pal, C-3PO. He accompanied Luke Skywalker to the Dagobah system where he began his Jedi training and saved the lives of the adventurers many times. These actions alone secure his legacy as an unshakable figure in the series.
The Final Word
Both of these Astromech droids are practical and useful in their function and design. Some of their attributes are more useful than others, though. Based simply on his design and his speed, there is nothing that R2-D2 can do mechanically that BB-8 cannot also do. R2’s legacy might be more colorful and exciting, but there are plenty more Star Wars adventures down the road, and many more opportunities for BB-8 to secure his legacy. The force is with both of these droids, and their galaxy-wide adventures are far from over.