Survey of clone brands

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If you have an interest in LEGO knock-offs like Blox, Best Lock and Sluban, you'll find the latest update of Anthony Tomkins's Communist LEGO: a review of Chinese clone brands document worth a read.

Anthony goes out of his way to acquire and evaluate the rubbish, a tough job for sure and rather him than me. The document includes 18 new reviews, including PeiZhi, OKer, KIDDIELAND and other total wastes of plastic.

38 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm not quite sure where you stand on clone brands, Huw, That was a bit too subtle for me.

Just read through the article. It's a hoot. Very amusing style.

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By in Singapore,

I've actually gotten some of the Chinese-made sets myself, over the years, and have to say their quality has improved tremendously since first hitting the market. Bought my first two sets in a store in China almost ten years ago.

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By in United States,

toplel @ the second image (Manufactured Illegally?)

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By in Canada,

I recall reading an earlier version of this document and find it informative and amsuing. I have never bought anything other than Lego; not even Magabloks. Besides Meagbloks I've rarely seen any other clones available in Canada. Living in Canada I don't know what the availability of Lego is like in other countries, so perhaps there is a higher demand/competition for clones. China definitely likes to make ripoffs and I would love to see Chinese knock offs marketed as Communist Lego in the US; I'm sure we'd see block burning (equivalent of book burnings).

I do digress that if a clone offered something worthwhile that Lego was unwilling to produce then it could possibly appeal to me.

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By in Australia,

I actually think that MegaBloks are some of the worst.

I gotta say, though. I own one of the Enlighten engines (the yellow Union Pacific engine), and maybe I was lucky enough to buy a good one, but I'm really happy I have it. The quality is 95 percent what you'd expect from Lego -- at a cursory glance, you'd think it was Lego. And in terms of cost -- $15 for a Union Pacific engine, or hundreds for the Maersk set or the Horizon Express or whatever? That's a pretty easy choice. I bought it *because* it was so cheap, and I fully expected it to be awful -- and I was *so* impressed with it.

Like I said, maybe I just got a good one, but I'm very glad I bought the Enlighten engine. It's gorgeous, and it looks fantastic in my city alongside my other engines.

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By in Italy,

man i LOVED this article back then, so funny and informative. it's fantastic to have more to read on it :)

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By in United Kingdom,

Good to see a company like Star Diamond being so highly rated. Hopefully we'll see others of similar quailty coming out of China in time. I'm a huge fan of Lego, but a bit of competition will hopefully be a big factor in stopping Lego from raking off too much of our cash!

And what I'd really like to see is a company that makes beautiful models and goes head to head with Lego at the top end of the market. I suspect it's not practical with current production methods, but who knows what will be possible with a hi-res ABS printer in a few years time?

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By in United States,

I'm glad you agree that these are all total wastes of plastic Huw :)

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By in United States,

I have built two clone brand kits...one was the Burj Al Arab Hotel of Dubai by Dr Luck (Ligao) and a Gandalf Arrives copy by Cogo. "Gandalf Arrives" was actually Gimli Arrives and the box was merely a photoshopped version of the original Gandalf Arrives box. The piece quality was just awful (fitting together was a major pain and did not always happen) and the colors did not match what was shown on the box. The Burj Al Arab Hotel was quite good. Piece quality was good, not on the same level as Lego, but up there, the build was enjoyable, and the model looked very good at the end.

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By in United States,

I've come across some of these pieces in bulk boxes I have bought on eBay. I gather them all up and throw them away, most parts are clearly inferior on sight, and the minifigs plainly suck. Some of the real MegaBloks, like black 1x8 bricks, seem comparable in quality and I even wind up using one now and then when I don't realize what it is.

What I really want to know about are those clones of the licensed minifigures you always see on eBay (search: lego minifigure series lot). Sellers from China will have a lot of 6 or more minifigs, often the Marvel/DC Super Heroes. The minifig stands might say "ShengYuan" on them. Anyway, the buyers seem satisfied enough if they actually receive them. Anybody have experience with them?

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By in Malaysia,

The Star Diamond sets seem to have a very high score. I recently bought a Star Diamond yellow school bus which for some reason has a Harry, Ron and Hermione clone with a driver for only RM 20. Bought it from Tesco Mutiara Damansara, Malaysia. The best part was that after it is assembled the differences in the shade of yellow is very minimal and not as noticeable as the 2013 yellow cement mixer and even my MK2 mobile crane. So basically this RM 20 brick clone is better than my RM 800 MK2 mobile crane when it comes to the consistency of the brick color. Shame on Lego for not maintaining the quality of their products!

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By in United States,

@TitanArch

The "ShengYuan" clone minifigs look and feel very good. I have seen all of them (that they had available as of Nov 2013) in person, out of the box. Never bought one, as I was only interested in the Iron Patriot clone, and did not want to buy 480 at 2 RMB each in Yiwu. Saw them for sale on the street in Shanghai, Taipei, and Hong Kong as well, but to get the Iron Patriot clone you had to buy a set of about 6 minifigs.

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By in United States,

An American company, Oyo, actually makes NFL (American football), NHL (hockey) and MLB (baseball) minifigures. While they're not Lego quality, they are decent and of course if you're a fan of one of those teams, worth checking out. They don't make sets, just figs.

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By in Singapore,

Is KRE-O from Hasbro considered a Lego clone brand? I thought Hasbro is one of the largest toy company in US?

To be fair, I did encounter Lego bricks that are more loose than normal, and many of them are found in the Ninjago series.

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By in United Kingdom,

Click Brick are no longer using Star Diamond bricks, but having them made in the UK as far as I can tell. Quality is almost as good but the parts catalogue is tiny at the moment. Star Diamond seem to be trying to discourage people from subcontracting them so they can concentrate on selling direct.

Also, the cheapest way to get Star Diamond sets seems to be through A2Ztoystore (certainly cheaper than the prices listed in the document), but you have to choose carefully to optimise the shipping cost.

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By in United States,

Very interesting piece. Thanks for posting this!

I'm one of those filthy infidels who enjoys LEGO as well as other brands, and this is chock-full of information and pretty handy for knowing what to expect when I find some new and bizarre brand. I'm constantly surprised at how much some of the other brands have been improving...and also constantly dismayed at how some brands continue to be just plain awful (I'm looking at YOU Best-Lock!)

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By in Australia,

I have bought and been given as presents a few clone brands. I find Sluben the best if I were to purchase a clone brand. But nothing beats the look and feel and fit of Lego no matter how much an attempt has been made to create it like Lego.

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By in United States,

I think the quality of Kre-o is better than the article claims. As far as bricks go, I think it's on par with Lego. The design is not there yet. My experience with MegaBloks has been worse. But World of Warcraft line of Mega Bloks is still a lot of fun, and my kids enjoy playing with it. They also like the one Skylanders set we have. Enlighten trains are kind of fun and much cheaper than Lego, but the quality of color and of bricks is no better than Mega Bloks, maybe worse. Enlighten minifigs are awful.

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By in United States,

Huw, a total "waste" of plastic is not much of a statement. Brands, such as Mega Bloks, are starting to almost compete to Lego's standards of quality. The Call of Duty line, for example, has highly detailed figures, plus a plethora of nice sets that go well with then, such as the AGR or Predator Drone. With Halo 5 and Black Ops 3 coming out later this year, they will see a rise in their sales. Lego is still top quality and works the best, however their product staff and board is doing a rather terrible job. They are turning down great themes that would attract a lot of customers. For example, I know about 4 people who would buy a UCS Sandcrawler or GLaDoS in a heartbeat. Also, I am glad that they are remaking some past Lego sets, but they really need to stop becoming EA and Activision in this predicament. 25$ for a Eta-2 Star Fighter is outrageous, especially when in 2005, it was 20$, with a vulture droid. Yes, I know it is of higher quality, but that doesn't mean it should be more. In conclusion, Huw, calling these clones trash may apply to their quality, but their differing array of marketing is something Lego should not underestimate.

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By in United Kingdom,

An excellent, readable and well written report - thanks for sharing !

I'm not sure I'd agree with the comment above that Mega Bloks "are starting to almost compete to Lego's standards of quality" - certainly not in my experience - but I've been surprised at the quality of Cobi elements that I found in a big bag of loose 'LEGO' sourced from a charity shop so all clone brands are clearly not born equal.

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By in United States,

@Blockland, I do believe a UCS sandcrawler is in the works for this year.

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By in United Kingdom,

@DrDaveWatford - Cobi are pretty good. Some things they do better than LEGO - they have many styles of SNOT elements and were making 1x2/1x2 brackets before LEGO - but some are just annoying (their wheel holders, for example, are almost-but-not-quite compatible with LEGO wheels and vice-versa).
However, I've bought some of the stuff they make for Character Building recently and the quality doesn't seem to be quite as good as sets I bought under the Cobi name a couple of years ago. I think they've switched from Polish to Chinese manufacture and it shows.

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By in United States,

@Blockland:

"Lego is still top quality and works the best, however their product staff and board is doing a rather terrible job. They are turning down great themes that would attract a lot of customers. For example, I know about 4 people who would buy a UCS Sandcrawler or GLaDoS in a heartbeat."

How do you know they aren't already working on a UCS Sandcrawler, but aren't going to tell you about it or accept a random CUUSOO model of it?

Portal was an interesting idea, but the audience is pretty small - the franchise is nowhere near as popular as Halo or COD. Certainly a smaller audience (and a less kid-friendly audience) than Back to the Future or Ghostbusters, to name two CUUSOO sets they have accepted.

"25$ for a Eta-2 Star Fighter is outrageous, especially when in 2005, it was 20$, with a vulture droid. Yes, I know it is of higher quality, but that doesn't mean it should be more."

2005 was 10 years ago. Just by straight-up inflation, USD$20 in 2005 is now worth USD$23.86. That's not even counting the significant increase in petrochemical prices over and above inflation.

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By in United Kingdom,

I've never undestood the hate for Mega Bloks, especially ever since they've really started to try and be different from Lego. Offering super-articulated minifigs and more model-like sets for collectors.
I love Lego, and it will always be the original, but I wish people wouldn't be so dismissive of other brands that are taking the same system and doing something different with it. Obviously the knock-off bricks that don't stick together are a waste of time, but the ones that actually work aren't!

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By in United States,

It depends from brand to brand. BTR has been the best as far as quality, but several large parts prove useless . Best Lock is cheap and of acceptable quality, and I have many of those in the bin. Mega Bloks, it seems equips their firefighters better than Lego. Mega Blocks has an accurate fire ax, K-12 saw, sledge hammer, and "Jaws of Life".

I've noticed that several Mega Bloks elements aren't compatible, like clip and bar elements and their wheels and axles

The first Best Lock sets I owned were nothing like the modern ones, and were awful. Now they're pretty good as far as quality.

Many clone brands make stuff that Lego doesn't and many of those parts are particularly useful.

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By in United States,

@polarscribe
"Portal was an interesting idea, but the audience is pretty small - the franchise is nowhere near as popular as Halo or COD. Certainly a smaller audience (and a less kid-friendly audience) than Back to the Future or Ghostbusters, to name two CUUSOO sets they have accepted."

I'm pretty sure on average more kids are familiar with Portal than either Back to the Future or Ghostbusters. The only reason those sets got selected out of the bunch is because it aimed at AFOL growing up in the 80s. Also, Portal is one of Valve's best selling games, right behind Half Life [Gordon Freeman is obviously kid friendly], and their fan base is as die hard as it gets. Yes, it isn't as popular as CoD or Halo, but that doesn't mean the fan base is terribly small. I guarantee a good chunk of people would be willing to buy a scaled GLaDoS.

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By in New Zealand,

I think Huw needs to clarify where exactly he stands on the clone brand issue ;)

Seriously though, my pet peeve regarding clone brands is people selling them on Trade Me (New Zealand's version of e-bay) and referring to them as "Lego" or using the term "Lego" in the auction title (e.g. "Lego-compatible"). I hate having to wade through all the clone brand rubbish while searching for Lego sets for sale.

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By in Australia,

This report is a clearly a labour of love! It's MASSIVE!

I've purchased a few clone brands and they vary in quality. However, what is apparent comparing Clone Brands to Lego is just how expensive Lego is. Clones with a similar parts count go for a fraction of Lego's costs. Of course, I understand Lego has R&D, better quality, is running a global operation. But it also has to pay for advertising, marketing, larger logistics. Etc.

It's also interesting to note that Lego is increasing production in China.

I hope that clone brands get better in quality and in doing so, challenge the Lego dominance and that Lego prices come down to reduce wallet hurt. :)

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By in United States,

Communist LEGO? You mean one of LEGO's 100% Chinese sets?

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By in Canada,

I'm not sure if the author will read this. I'm also not sure if there are other errors because I only read the Best-Lock reviews (its the only off brand I've ever personally seen) but in the swat section it says

"The skin pallor was vaguely flesh coloured which made all three figures unsitable for the Zombie Army."

I think unsitable should be unsuitable?

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By in United States,

I bought KRE-O U.S.S. Enterprise because too bad LEGO doesn't make Star Trek stuff. Also, at the time, Amazon had it 50% off. As expected, the quality is not as good as LEGO, but not too shabby either. I have to say I love the finished model. It displays nicely with my LEGO Space Shuttle and my Star Wars fighters.

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By in Germany,

Loved the original, loving the update. Nuff said.

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By in United States,

"I'm pretty sure on average more kids are familiar with Portal than either Back to the Future or Ghostbusters."

I'm pretty sure not. See below.

"The only reason (BttF and Ghostbusters) sets got selected out of the bunch is because it aimed at AFOL growing up in the 80s."

And their iconic vehicles made for very marketable, recognizable and displayable sets. Portal doesn't have an iconic "thing," except maybe the Portal Gun... and you can't make a set out of a minifig accessory. Also, both Ghostbusters and BttF have been staples of television showings, meaning that younger audiences have been introduced to them.

"Also, Portal is one of Valve's best selling games, right behind Half Life [Gordon Freeman is obviously kid friendly], and their fan base is as die hard as it gets."

You're way overestimating the saturation of Portal - which, between the two games, has sold about 9 million copies worldwide. Not nothing, but Call of Duty has sold something around 150 million. The two franchises are not even in the same postal code as far as marketability and interest goes.

And Gordon Freeman/Half-Life is not remotely "kid-friendly" - the Half-Life series' fanbase skews very much to the older gamer set, particularly given that most of today's kids were either in diapers or not even born the last time a Half-Life game was released. (Yeah, good going with that "episodic gaming" thing, Valve.)

"I guarantee a good chunk of people would be willing to buy a scaled GLaDoS."

Obviously, the folks at LEGO thought differently.

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By in Ireland,

Picked up a Weagle set the other day and it was rubbish, especially the minifig:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/duq/12530793614/
Every now and then when I see one of those sets I get one just to see how bad they are. It's worrying though that in my local toy shops, Toymaster and Smyths, the clone brands are gaining shelf space. Not yet at the expense of Lego but they're definitely selling...

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By in China,

I want that author can review Ausini train sets(http://003.tsdn.net/en/ProductList.aspx?Class1=17) and a new brand named Gudi, it is said its quality is near Star Diamond.
Then in china, there are two parts supplier, the Wange and ShunLeKang, I also hope author can review them.
By the way, Ligao is changed to Wange.

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By in United States,

@polarscribe
1.I don't know where you live, but if you were to ask a kid on the street what Portal was, they would probably have some knowledge of it. Not to mention, what would be wrong with a mid-sized Portal gun of some time, it would be a nice display piece.
2.I wasn't even comparing the sales of Portal and Call of Duty. Not to mention, that is all 10 games combined most likely. Also, wasn't Minecraft at around 5 million sales when it was accepted by Cuusoo?
3.You obviously don't understand sarcasm.
4.I'm sorry, but this is probably the same group that has decided to release a Snowspeeder every, what, 2 years? I mean yeah, they can make a decent Snowspeeder, but is that it?

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By in United Kingdom,

Well, a lot of interest in my ramblings.

'KillDeer' has noticed the deliberate mistake (erm... my proofreading is not excellent).
'Duq' has solved the mystery of "OKer" - it's Weagle! Yes, Weagle are the worst clone manufacturer out there. Block Tech must rebrand them here and go to great lengths to erase the name...
Ausini train sets do look interesting, but sourcing them in the UK is really hard. And they'd have to change the zombiefigs. The Ausini flowers are excellent.
'Thrund' is correct - Click Brick now use Cobi (the studs have 'c b' on them) and have the new Cobi 'gorillafigs'. Cheap site for Star Diamond noted - thanks.
Oxford Toys are one of the original clone brands - just Korean, not Chinese. They make Kre-o which presumably has enough differences to Lego to be legal. And it's partly made in China anyway.
As for the definition of 'Communist Lego', my preamble says that the Airfix Quick Build is the only brand reviewed that is not made in China. So us Brits win.
And I did enjoy making the 'Go Home' horsebox stickers... Why do Olivia and Emma look so at home in an M1?

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