Reviews of Chinese clone brands

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I am sure that most of us here do not soil our hands with clone brands and would never allow our precious LEGO collections to become contaminated with cheap rubbish made in the far east.

That said, I suspect some of you share my fascination with clone brands, if only to think 'how on earth are they getting away with making such blatant copies of LEGO sets/parts/minifigs/artwork, or whatever.

If so, you'll find a document created by Brickish member Anthony Tomkins entitled Communist LEGO, a review of some Chinese copies an interesting read. Anthony has tracked down and imported a dozen or so different brands and written reviews comparing them to LEGO. Most are absolute rubbish, but it seems there are one or two that are not that bad and better that M??ab???s, which, actually, I guess isn't saying much, is it? :)

69 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Lego already produce some elements in China. And they have announced a new official Lego factory is being set up there soon. One of the challenges western companies face in China is is official knock-offs. After the sanctioned production run is over, the staff run a few hundred thousand parts for other customer, who may well be current (or future) clone brans. So elements from the genuine find themselves headed for the non-genuine channels. It blurs the line between the genuine and the knock-off.

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By in Switzerland,

I've bought ninjago knock-off figure in Shenzhen and was really astonished with quality. I literally can't tell the difference. My guess is that figure is produced in lego's plant and packed in rubbish package. Based on this we can expect in few years some surprising moves from china's manufactures.

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By in Australia,

I know there's a Lego-clone from China, I think, that does trains (ie, knock-offs of some of Lego's past train sets, and some original ones too).

But the thing is, they're really quite good. I bought a yellow and grey Union Pacific engine, and not only was the quality really good (not Lego, but pretty high), but it looks absolutely gorgeous in my Lego city, and doesn't look out of place alongside all my genuine Lego trains.

Plus -- and this is an important point -- hundreds of dollars for Emerald Night or the Maersk engines, but $15 (and free shipping) for the Union Pacific knock-off. It's a pretty easy decision to make, you know?

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By in United Kingdom,

Very interesting article! I first saw it when it appeared in the Brickish journal.

On the RoW list, the author should have included the Spanish brand Exín Castillos. They used to produce well designed and made castle construction sets. Their bricks were slightly larger than TLG's so weren't compatible, but the peg-and-socket design was the same.

They never produced minifigs as far as I know and their castle sets were pretty expensive. I think they ceased trading a few years ago, but I could be wrong about that.

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By in Slovakia,

2 weeks ago I bought the complet KRE-O Star Trek line and what I can say is just - PERFECT ! The quality of bricks, quality of package, QUALITY OF SICKERS (!) - all very good ! And the price for KRE-O sets is 1/3 of LEGO sets.

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By in United Kingdom,

This makes me ill .

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By in United Kingdom,

A good read. But those clone brands deserve to be in an incinerator: Yuk!

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By in United States,

@hmnicoll: Agreed. :(

@KLF: I don't think that KRE-O is a "clone" - I'm pretty sure that they're a "legitimate" brand - much like M@@a B@@ks, they just go for different intellectual properties than Lego does.

It's too bad that cracking down on these clones would be a big legal mess (probably why TLC doesn't want to do it). The Hero Factory and Bionicle clones that I've seen have been rather sickening.

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By in Netherlands,

@Zatth: I do think that KRE-O is a clone, since the blocks fit on LEGO blocks. If they did not use the LEGO blocks as a reference and came up with their own brick building system, then I would could them legit.

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By in Guatemala,

Got to say that I completely agree with you on this one Huw:
"most of us here do not soil our hands with clone brands and would never allow our precious LEGO collections to become contaminated with cheap rubbish" :D

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By in United States,

Why all the bias toward Mega Bloks? Get some of their Halo or Skylanders sets and you will be blown away. The quality is mostly the same as LEGO and the figures are way more pose able. The brand new Call of Duty line is just the icing on the cake if you want some good quality military block sets.

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By in United States,

I've been getting those small Kre-O 'minichangers' for a while. They're of good enough quality to keep me coming back, certainly...

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By in United Kingdom,

I got some mega bloks when I was younger I used to think it was old LEGO because of it's bad quality, I also got a Kre-O optimus prime figure in my doctor who magazine, Guess what, I hated both of them.

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By in Slovakia,

And what about Mega Bloks Pro-Builder quality? The sets (Space Shuttle, etc.) looks great!

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By in United States,

First their communism, now this? Oh God I fear for China

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By in United States,

I think the main reason why LEGO cannot stop these clones is because these copies of LEGO sets have to be stopped by the Chinese govt, which is notorious for saying 'what infringement?'
That is how they get companies to play ball, I think they say 'build it here and maybe the counterfeiting stps'.. that and if you want to sell in their country you have to build it in their country and share the tech behind it.
I think part of the reason why companies that are legit like MB have less quality is because while they can copy the brick, they cannot copy the formula to make the bricks. That is why the quality suffers IMO.
But in China they can basically reverse engineer it and make a counterfeit and basically their govt will let them do it.. Why? Cause it makes their govt money.

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By in Singapore,

That was a really informative and funny article. Loved it.

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By in United Kingdom,

Please can everyone stop with all the profanity? Especially the M-B word!

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By in United States,

My friends got me some when they were in china. It's a spider man set, but titled "supermanspider". I opened the box to look at the pieces in the bag, and quality is the wrooong term. I promptly put it back in the box, and on a shelf to look at and giggle occasionally. We coined the term "bootlego" to describe them. They pop up at the swap meets here in San Diego too.

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By in United States,

I always am a bit embarrassed by some LEGO discussion groups' taboo on discussing clone brands. It just makes us look elitist and insular if we try to pretend that the LEGO brand exists in a vacuum or wasteland. The truth is, clone brands (including disreputable bootlegs and knock-offs) are important to understanding the LEGO Group's context, particularly in markets like Asia where the LEGO brand has struggled to get a foothold.

Certainly I have never known a clone brand with comparable quality to actual LEGO bricks, but with that said, they are not trying to compete with LEGO in terms of quality, but rather in terms of price, and in some markets where the reputation of the LEGO brand as a quality life experience for kids is not as well-known, that strategy works quite well.

Personally, I think the only clone brands that are truly reprehensible are those that directly copy specialized LEGO elements where they are not obligated to do so. The one in the picture that accompanies this news article is a good example of that. There are plenty of ways to make vehicle mudguards without plagiarizing the LEGO Group's own design.

It worries me that a brand as shameless in its plagiarism as Star Diamond is also one of the only ones that seems to nearly measure up to the LEGO Group in quality. Part of me thinks that the LEGO Group will want to keep a close eye on the dealings of this brand in case they become a meaningful threat. Then again, the higher quality evidently also comes with a higher price — even higher than LEGO prices for a comparable vehicle! Hopefully the higher prices will cause the brand to sell poorly so they are not rewarded for their terribly unethical business model, and never become a major competitor for the LEGO Group even in developing markets. It hurts a bit to say this of a high-quality building toy, but if you want to compete with the LEGO Group on quality, you don't do it by directly stealing their part designs.

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By in United Kingdom,

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in the long-term. This is just an example of a huge issue in East-West trade, there was a Top Gear episode a few years ago where they drove some shameless Chinese clones and found just about every one of them to be dreadful.
Will quality improve? And what happens if it does and these shameless clone brand start to stray into the territory of the real brands where copyright lawsuits become worth the effort?

If China does genuinely want to engage with Western companies and compete in worldwide markets, what part will all of this play? Surely it will be a huge embarrassment for China, that for a long time now so many Chinese companies have have flouted copyright laws without even pretending to try and abide by them the way the rest of the world has to. If that has to stop that would have a monumental effect on their economy.

(^^I absolutely love the term "bootlego" - I hope that catches on!)

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By in Netherlands,

@Aanchir: terribly unethical? Lego did the same with Kiddicraft, they copied their design, so the LEGO brick itself is a clone product.

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By in Canada,

I don't think Lego feels threatened from clone brands in China. I've only seen the "direct" knockoff brands on Ebay, and they're often listed at a fraction of the price any Lego set here would go for. That's not to say that these clone brands are being manfactured any cheaper or with less quality, rather it shows how little demand there is and how small the market is outside of China. So for Lego, this isn't another competitor trying to take their market shares in American markets or European ones either. It's already been stated that the Factory in China will be for production into the Chinese markets. Something tells me Lego isn't going to go on the offensive and try taking these brands to court like they did the American counter-part Mega Brand. I don't think any of these clone brands really dominate the untapped toy market in China like Lego began to here in 2007.

I've got no problem with other people buying clone brands so long as they don't try a year later to sell me something on Ebay listed as either "Lego" or "mostly Lego". And they always do, which is why I don't buy bulk lots anymore!

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By in United States,

There's "Super Blox" sets here in the US, with set designs that are just slightly modified versions of older LEGO sets - I got a Super Blox "Space Battle" set that awkwardly mashed up the old micro scale LEGO Discovery ISS model with some poorly built original models at minifigure scale. The minifigures themselves were nearly identical to the Jubilux space minifigure, but with more yellow colored skin and no bumps on the knees (same printing though).

I'd say these take the cake for worst clones though:
http://www.reasonablyclever.com/boots/lego/index.html

Especially these sets!
http://www.reasonablyclever.com/blog/2009/05/toybox-of-fail-ice-chariot.html
http://www.reasonablyclever.com/blog/2009/05/toybox-of-fail-forest-spadecar.html

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By in United States,

Mr. Tomkins realizes that he has to burn his hands off, right? They have become tainted with this well written, and thorough mission to review... *shudder*... the competition.

In all seriousness though. This was a very interesting look into what Lego...er... "competes" with, and to be honest, I had no idea this many clones even existed. Very informative.

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By in United Kingdom,

Anyone seen the Blox pick a brick 'wall' in Wilkinsons? The one in Sheffield has six different bricks to choose from (all 2x4). Complete with copied PAB cups. Double face palm.

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By in Netherlands,

If LEGO isn't more carefull, these brands (especially star diamond) will be better than LEGO. All LEGO sets I have bought in the last year had different colours yellow in them! I think LEGO is getting sloppy.

And if the reviewer hadn't given lego 110% for design (which is off course most of the time very good with LEGO), it wouldn't have finished first.

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By in United States,

I accually have some Enlighten Lego sets. I found them in an antique store in Wisconsin. I bought four $5 army sets, the other sets were thngs like space, pirate, etc. You guys need to Google "Lego Enlighten 813" The set is almost identical to Lego's Indiana Jones River Chase!

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By in United States,

The only clone brand I still try and buy given the opportunity is Tyco, a US brand owned by Mattel that stopped production about twenty years ago. They were nearly parallel in quality to LEGO (excepting their mini people), and their plates were 1/2 the height of a brick, as opposed to LEGO's 1/3 height plates.

I still find those plates useful when integrating a Technic build with normal blocks, because of that extra 1/6 to fill gaps. Problem is that most of them are yellowed from being old, and have teeth marks from when I was a kid. So, I tend not to use them much anymore.

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By in United States,

Lego has always been top of the lead, and of the best quality. However, Lego is starting to lose themes, and become overall lazy with their sets. Not to mention, their customer support is awful. If anything, Lego needs to start taking some new licenses, such as Portal, and they need to start pumping out high quality sets.

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By in United States,

BTR, Hasbro's first Lego-like building toy was just as good as LEGO, and was licensed with Tonka, GI Joe, and Transformers. Kre-o, is Best Lock like in quality , and nowhere near as good.

I often buy clone brands, as they are cheaper and good parts stock builders.

Admittedly, I bought a Mega Bloks set for its fire and rescue tools that looked way better than what Lego does. The $10 set that I bought had a one-tank SCBA (however, I couldn't use it with minifigures as the part was made to fit in a hole on the back of a Mega Bloks figure), a sledgehammer, a fire ax, a realistic K-12, and a hydraulic cutter (for those wondering, Mega Bloks makes a hydraulic spreader as well).

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By in United States,

Interesting reviews... The Star Diamond brand doesn't sound too shabby. Though has anybody here heard of DeCool? It's a Chinese clone brand that takes LEGO sets practicly PIECE-FOR-PIECE, changes the color, the name of the set, and they put it on the shelves! Really the only clone brand that I think needs to be stopped. The others... I'm OK with, I guess.

@Blockland, can you explain Portal to me? I've never heard of it since the project on Cuusoo reached 10K, and ever since then I've heard a lot of people say that it should be made.

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By in Denmark,

I'll stop complaining about the LEGO prices for some time now, promise!

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By in United Kingdom,

^lol! Absolutely, though can I make an exception for the expensive Jabba the Hutt sets? ;)

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By in United States,

To date Lego's main defense is that they Fanatically protect their brick molds. Western countries have stiff punishments for stealing IP "out of the trash" nowadays right down to employees responsible for the tools recycling. Knockoffs can re-engine molds from bricks, but that's way harder than getting real "marked for destruction" molds off the garbage truck. Moving to China, the WILL lose control of OFFICIAL LEGO Trademarked molds themselves. THAT is when they are going to have to fight extra hard to keep the brand reputation.

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By in Canada,

I was picking hotwheels out of a bin at WalMart - 1$ each. And that price is common. For a heavy, awesome Metal car with great workmanship. I then went to the Minifigures - picked out 16 and extras - and realized the whole time. 1$ for metal , and 3.50 for a little piece of plastic.

I haven't found a china clone brand that compares yet - But as mentioned above - when you can get a train for 15$ with free shipping, vs 100$ or a couple hundred for a Maersk . . . and tha train still looks wonderful in your lego city . . .

it's tough.

Once Lego opens a place in China - there will be some going out the backdoor unless they have a non-chinese Lego employee watching over everything.

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By in United Kingdom,

Has anyone seen the Stargate sets produced by Best-Lock? I've read a few reviews of the sets and they look terrible, with some hilariously bad-looking minifigs. Although I'm a big Stargate fan, I'd never spend my money on one of those sets. Horrible.

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By in United States,

These represent a croud that has read through this entire article: X_X x_x X_X X_X x_x X_X x_x X_X X_X x_x X_X.

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By in Taiwan,

Good review. I don't hate Mega bloks, who is at least a formal brick brand and not a copy-cat. My concern is their products don't show much playablity and compatibility, and each licensed theme can't be put together. As a HelloKitty and Smurf lover, I just think giving licenses to them is a kind of waste.

I appreciate those Chinese brands who are brave enough to make original things like three kingdoms, military or girl themes (princess castles, ice cream truck and cafeteria) that TLC don't do. For the rest copy-cat things, they just make me ill. It's more horrible to see them put in some local Taiwan toys stores with Lego products.

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By in United States,

@Coson: The Portal project was put on hold, and it further more, undecided. Lego would make a very good business decision to try and get licenses for the project. Just look at the Minecraft sets, they sold wonderfully, which only supports the fact that Lego should be getting for themes for their products.

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By in United States,

Has any one ever got a tmnt megablok before? ever since I got all the tmnt sets I've been confused about what I've wanted my dad put my tmnt in a case so I can't play with them.

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By in United States,

Im suprised Kre-o (or however you spell that) isnt on that list...

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By in United Kingdom,

@coson
i've seen pictures of Decool stuff and they even copied the batman ultra build and called it
Bat hero :(
Also they copy Chima and Ninjago figures.

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By in United Kingdom,

I find it surprising that value for lego is 100%. How is value even measured? It says it is ... "Value - the overall cost of the set compared to what is in the box"

Yet on one review there is the line ... "The bad fit of the wheels and the terrible minifig made this poor value compared to LEGO."

So I assume value is based on a subjective view of quality, not quantity of parts (and part type) in the box.

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By in Indonesia,

How amusing would it be if LEGO used this article as a "hitlist" of clone brands to crack down?

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm pleased to see that one of the brands has the name "Kazi".

From the review (in the link above), it looks like they're using the term descriptively.

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By in Italy,

These are some models on the site of Star Diamond: http://www.lhtoys.com/en/types.asp?types=04
There are many good ones, and you can also see some new moulds, parts not present in lego but rather useful.
Military and "Firehouse" series are quite impressive. The "Blocks Deformation Soldiers" are fantastic models too, with a fantastic translation of something that should probably be "transformation".
I'm actually tempted to buy one

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By in United Kingdom,

Well curiosity got the better of me lol I just ordered the 82102 bus in yellow from ebay under the M.Y brand £7.49 posted.
I have tried Characater building kits and the Kre-o only because Lego had not got the licence for Dr Who, transformers and I wanted a tank. Its interesting seeing how the other half do it and makes you apreciate Lego even more!.
Ps please do not delete me for my sins. ;-)

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By in United States,

I think there is a difference between 'clone' brands and competitors. There are the few Chinese brands out there who offer a set and package it in such a way as to try and confuse the consumer into thinking they are buying Lego. City and Ninjago are the two themes that come to mind. However, when a 'clone' brand offers a set that is in no way a resemblance of a Lego set how can one call it a knock-off of LEGO (Enlighten Tank, anyone)? While the brand may have similar stud and tube type of construction that doesn't mean they ripped-off LEGO. Let me give another example. The first 'car' was invented in 1894 and it had 4 wheels and was self-propelled with it's own engine. Now how many car manufacturers are there who offer a 'car' with 4 wheels and it's own engine? Are all of them a knock-off of the original? In my opinion, unless the competitive brick brand is trying to deceive the consumer into thinking they are buying a LEGO set then they are simply free-market competition who are competing with LEGO on price. I am a huge LEGO fan but I feel I get to enjoy many other themes outside of LEGO since I frequently purchase these other brands such as: Cobi, Enlighten, Mega Bloks, Kre-O, etc.

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By in United States,

@Blockland, thanks, though can you possibly explain what Portal is? Like is it a movie? Is it a game? Thanks ;-)

@Patch22, yup, they have have copied Chima renaming it "Legends of Ghima" and "Legends of Chim". They have also copied TMNT, Bioncle and Hero Factory (renaming it "Hero 3-Star Soldiers).

:-(

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Portal's a game, and I'd have thought google could tell you all about it far better than the comments on here. ;)
And Legends of Ghima and Chim? It does make you weep inside doesn't it! I wonder what these clowns would have to do before they actually felt embarrassed about it.... Let's hope it doesn't ever find its way onto any shelves outside of China.

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By in United States,

^Yes it does make me weep inside. Normally I'm OK with LEGO clones (such as M*** B***s), but when they literally take the exact design, no so much! I've seen some pictures of Jay's Storm Fighter changed white for the Chima eagles, and the Samurai Mech turned gold so that it can be used as a lion

X_X
/|\
/\

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By in United States,

@Zipsforbananas Wait, Legend of Ghima, you have got to be f***ing with us.....
@Coson, I highly suggest you buy Portal 2 on Steam, while it is on sale.

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By in United Kingdom,

Portal is a tremendous game. One of the truly creative ones of the past few years or so. I don't need to see it in LEGO though.

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By in United States,

How could he overlook Wange Toys? Though it looks from their website that they may be focusing solely on their Duploesque line now. Setting aside competition with LEGO, I bet the competition AMONG these Chinese brands in their domestic market is brutal. There must be casualties and new entrants all the time.

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By in China,

I live in Shanghai, and occasionally my boys get fake Lego given to them as presents. Mostly it's just thrown straight in the bin (as it's absolute rubbish), but I have kept a couple of Ninjaman Spinner sets, as they are an exact copy, including packaging (and reasonable ones at that) of the real thing. Only difference is the name Ninjaman and not Ninjago on the packaging.

On my next visit to the UK, I'm going to drop them off at a Lego brand store for them to on-send to Lego head office, but I doubt the Lego Company will be able to do anything to stop these fakes, as in reality, the Chinese authorities have no interest in stopping Chinese companies stealing IP from non Chinese companies.

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By in United States,

@Sabreman64 Several weeks ago I picked up a Stargate Best-Lock set at Target out of curiosity. My fingers still hurt from trying to snap the pieces together! Truly awful stuff.

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By in Denmark,

@rherberg I have found two variations of: red, orange, yellow, medium blue (the awful cheep translucent one), tr. bright orange (been around since 2005), lime green, and I think my new 31006 has two different whites.
On top of that, clips has been made in hard plastic since 2008, and they can break easily if you aren't careful, and then there is the cheep gold and rock monster paint. One of the police badges gold paint from my "60007 High speed chase" wasn't intact the day after I got it.

I wonder if the Diamond Star minifigures are better quality than LEGO's Chinese figures.

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By in United Kingdom,

Well my Star Diamond 82102 bus came today. I have Assembled it and was astonished at the quality which is very good. All parts present in good condition no deformed pieces and are colorful and bright.
Clicked together nicely albeit the plastic does seem a little harder therefore sharper.
Instructions are like Lego instructions, presentation was good, slide out cardboard tray like the old 1980's days of lego so you could disassemble and put it back in for safe storage.

Minifigs also very good quality compared to the usual clones.
I compared one with the series 11 policeman as that was at hand and could see subtle differences i.e shoulders more square hands and head deeper yellow but the print is good.
Both legs were black theres no seam down the sides of the leg's on Star Diamond and where it says lego it says Star.
One thing that did surprise me is the Lego policemans's S11 head has no safety wholes in its top while the Star Diamond minifig did, I thought all lego minifig heads had holes in now to help with the choking hazard danger. I will have to inspect my others.

To sum this up I was very surprised at the quality offered for such a low price.
It will be interesting to see how the plastic components age compared to Lego, I will probably purchase the Star Diamond Tank next.

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By in United States,

I cried it was so funny.

I have played with many different M B sets. They all stink.

I think they might look good in the dark as the author suggests. :)

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By in Malaysia,

Over here where Lego is a premium, the clones are flooding the market. Some of the clones I see on sale so far:
1) Single minifigure packs which consists of a single minifigure, some weapons, trading cards etc. Everything from Chima, DC Superheroes, Marvel Superheroes, TMNT, Star Wars, even friends minfigures are not spared.
2) Direct knock-offs of Lego sets. I bought a Bela Ice Dragon just for curiousity and to compare with my actual Ninjago Ice Dragon. The quality was not acceptable though.
3) Original sets with original designs. Like some of the military sets produced by these clones where Lego will never do.

As for quality, I agree that Star Diamond's quality is top notch. I bought a tank set that can also be build into a robot, similar to Kreo TFs and the quality did not disappoint.

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By in United States,

Questions left hanging over at the forum http://www.bricksetforum.com/discussion/comment/226580/#Comment_226580 --

1) Does anyone know whether Star Diamond kits ever contain SNOT gender-bender type parts, similar to the Cobi ones pictured earlier in that thread?

2) How does Cobi part quality compare to the other reviewed brands?

I haven't ever seen either of these brands in stores here in the US, at least in my area.

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By in United States,

^ Same two questions for Wange.

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By in United States,

There's a lot more clone brands than I thought.

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By in United States,

If folks want to make an original creation based on a similar system that is fine. Exact or close copies of pieces and sets make me want to puke. How can anyone say looking on a neighbors test and copying their answers is not cheating!!! I hope countries that don't punish this sort of IP theft receive some sort of major consequence.

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By in United States,

@brickmandan, I, and the majority of the LEGO community, whole heartedly agree with you.

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By in Bolivia,

The new "Ninja" NinjaGo boot legs have very evilly good quality. Better than megabloks and KreO (not that big of an accomplishment). It is making my life HELL in the local flea market, because it has become hard to tell real used NinjaGo from the bootlegs. I used to be able to tell any boot leg minifigure just by looking at it. In the case of the ninjas, it is harder. Although I learned that the gold color is slightly different.

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By in United States,

This was an awesome lot of fun to read! Kind of a coincidence that I just got a couple of KRE-O sets to review from the new CityVille line. I guess KRE-O was not included in the Chinese LEGO list because it is from South Korea, not China.

Anyway, I summerized my thoughts on the sets here: http://thebrickblogger.com/2013/10/kre-o-cityville-invasion-introduction/

The micro-kreons are very cute and completely compatible with LEGO (see pictures at above link). Also there are many useful minifigs parts, accessories, weapons, and unusual elements that coudl come very handly...(c:

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