This is not a ranking! Rankings are always subjective and I don’t want to be that guy. What I can do and will do is sort compatible/alternative brick brands into 3 main groups: mainstream rival clone brands, Chinese clone brands and fake brands. I think it’s easier for everyone to follow like this and to be a little arrogant I think it’s the best way to put it.
Also, you will see a lot of highlighted text on this page. Those are links to brand sites and themes/series…at least for the ones I could find. The reason for that is for you to better understand what I’m talking about and see for yourself what those brands have to offer.
To start, first and foremost we have LEGO, naturally…this is the Numero Uno in terms of brick toys, no argue about that. Everything we’re gonna discuss here on Clonebricks.com is in relation to LEGO: compatibility, quality, price and availability.
Now, after the great Danes, we have a bunch of close competitors…I call them that because these companies distinguish themselves by the way they advertise, the way they market their products, the quality control that they have, the quality of their plastic and their set designs…pretty much all the stuff that LEGO does on a daily basis and these guys try to match up with. Also they sell, thus are legal so to speak, on western markets 🙂
Here’s my list of official rival clone brands:
COBI – Ranking the polish brand first place among LEGO’s major competitors may not come as a surprise for a lot of brick toy enthusiasts. The truth is COBI is a great product and is definetely worth a lot more attention than it gets. I mean, these guys have a huge selection of themes, the most interesting of all being their World of Tanks line, the Small Army WW2 and Small Army lines. They have aquired licences to make Jeep Willys, Penguins of Madagascar and Boeing sets, among others. Pricing is close to LEGO, so this is definitely a brand for brick toys fans, more than it is an affordable alternative.
OXFORD – They’ve been around for a long time now and established themselves as Asia’s mainstream brick toy manufacturer. The south-Korean toy company has some of the best bricks out there and of course a lot of interesting sets to prove they mean business. Their themes include Military, a Korean history line called General, Town and a lot more others (their site is kinda messy actually, especially the English part). They also produce the parts for Hasbro’s Kre-O, which is quite interesting. Like COBI, prices can be a little to high for budget brickers.
MEGA CONSTRUX/MEGA BLOKS – Mattel owned Mega Brands decided to split the iconic name into MEGA BLOKS, which is going to be a toddler and small children line of brick toys, and MEGA CONSTRUX, you guessed it, aimed at older kids and advanced builders…probably most fans will still refer to it as MEGA BLOKS, so I will to 🙂 This particular brand is well known for it’s highly articulated minifigures, which are the result of a long line of attempts to come up with a decent alternative to the LEGO man. Also, MEGA BLOKS are different to the game for their use of very specific parts! That caused many to argue whether they are a true brick toy brand or more like a mix between conventional and building blocks. They are responsible for some of the coolest lines out there, including HALO, Call of Duty, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Monster High. Also, not cheap!
KRE-O – The reason I put KRE-O in this list is because I think they have something going on…or had…don’t know what’s their status right now. They don’t have an official site, just a page on Hasbro’s site, so it’s rather difficult to find all their products in one place. Like I’ve mentioned before, OXFORD makes the bricks for KRE-O, but the design and sets are 100% original and really cool if you ask me! Their minifigures are called Kreons and are a mix between LEGO’s bricky and MEGA BLOKS’ highly articulated designs. Their series include Transformers, GI Joe and Dungeons and Dragons. For the newest mainstream clone brand, they’ve been selling their sets quite high, so this is no bargain either.
Of course, there are other brands you can find in super-markets and online in most western countries, like BEST-LOCK, IONIX, MCFARLANE, BRIC TEK and LITE BRIX just to name a few, but these are either bad quality or to small to matter and not really worthy of the rival status.
In the second part of my Brands list, I will talk about Chinese clone brands. These are the offstream brick toy brands, which if you live in a western country you may only be able to buy online. There’s little to no official information about these companies and how much they sell. These are the cheaper alternative to LEGO and come by the truck load!
ENLIGHTEN BRICK – It’s first on the list, but not because ENLIGHTEN is the best Chinese clone brand, but rather the oldest and possibly the most famous off all. It’s been around for as long as I can remember (so, that makes it 25-30 years old?) and it started out faking LEGO sets. Still has some bootleg versions of some really nice Pirates ships in it’s 2016 catalogue (which is also their first ever catalogue)! Fortunately, nowadays it focuses on original designs and has come up with some of the most jaw-dropping sets ever in the history of Chinese clone brands…if not the very best! Their quality has increased dramatically and now includes ENLI branded studs on their bricks. Combat Zones, Legendary Pirates and Space Adventure stand out among their themes, but Police and City are also very-very nice indeed.
GUDI – To this date, I still haven’t found the official GUDI blocks website, so all I can give you is a link to their Facebook page. The reason might be that it’s in Chinese and that’s one of the few languages I do not speak 🙂 Now, what’s to say about GUDI? Well, together with STAR DIAMOND, which is coming up next, this is the top level of Chinese clone brands. Plastic quality is the same with LEGO, studs marked GUDI, minifigures are excellent (although they are an exact replica of the LEGO minifigure) and their designs are some of the best. They have themes like Army, Earth Border (a futuristic military thingy), Star Cnntend Fnr Hegemnny (no, I’m not drunk) and City. Prices are really good for the quality you get.
STAR DIAMOND – Even before GUDI, there was STAR DIAMOND! In my opinion, they are the game changers. They were the ones who made it possible for a Chinese clone brand to sit at the same table with LEGO. We are talking top notch quality bricks and minifigures! STAR DIAMOND’s themes include a lot of Anime licensed? sets, like Seer, Balala The Fairies, GG-Bond and Robo Saviors, but also Kung Fu Panda and Dino Brick, which is Jurassic World inspired but still not a knock-off! Prices have been rising lately, maybe due to the licensing?, but they are still OK, considering the quality you get. Also, they mark their studs STAR.
SLUBAN – One of the few Chinese clone brands to officially sell it’s sets on western markets (UK, Germany, The Netherlands and others). Been around for quite a while and started out bootlegging OXFORD 🙂 Now, they have a more original line of sets, including a very original minifigure design. Their themes include Formula 1, Aviation, Army and Girl’s Dream. Quality wise SLUBAN is OK, above average, but bellow their prices. Probably, they have the best marketing of all Chinese brands 😉 They to mark their studs M38 for some reason…
WANGE – For yet another reason, this company sells some of it’s products branded DR. LUCK. The quality of WANGE has improved a lot and so have their designs, including their own and very interesting type of minifigure. Pirates, Building (massive Creator style buildings and monuments) and Power Machinery are probably their best stuff. Also, they have an interesting line of model-like aircraft sold under DR. LUCK brand. Pricing is very decent.
KAZI – Same factory/company makes KAZI and GBL clone brands and quite possibly the BOZHI fake brand. I find it weird that KAZI brick quality is doubtful, while GBL is among the best. KAZI themes include Military, Pirate and Red Alert, while GBL’s best is their Trains line. On their website there are links to World Of Warcraft and Starcraft themes, but the pages are empty to date. Both brands are quite affordable. Oh yeah, KAZI brands its studs KAZI while GBL doesn’t.
JIE STAR – Not one of the most common or well known brands, but among the better in terms of plastic quality. Their designs are very old-school and blocky, but would appeal to a lot of brickers I’m sure. Their most interesting series have to be Anti-Terrorism, Military and Girl. Minifigures are just not worth it, wouldn’t hurt them to improve on that. Might be related to SLUBAN, but the sets are completely different and also the plastic quality is just not the same. If you find this brand, you should get a good price on it.
AUSINI – If you’re into Chinese brick toys, you’ve probably heard about AUSINI before many of the above mentioned brands. Like SLUBAN, they somehow managed to enter western markets, so it is more widely available. I for one was never impressed with this brand, but there are many who regard it highly enough to be worth mentioning in this list. Their Gun Series is probably the best they have to offer, but many look out for AUSINI’s Trains as well. They also have a lot of Castle, Pirates, City and Army sets. Depending on where you buy it from, prices may range from cheap to not worth it.
XIPOO – These people need to learn english, Jipoo Toys Factoly :)) Very good quality, I would rank them just below GUDI and STAR DIAMOND. Not very popular yet, but there’s room for growth. Weihe Warrior, a STAR DIAMOND and KRE-O inspired Transformers series, Military and Beauty, an excellent girl’s theme, are their strong points. For the quality you get, prices should feel decent enough.
COGO – It’s a shame I must include this on the list, but a lot of people know it, so…Yeah, I call this brand plastic S.H.I.T. for several reasons: bad plastic of course, way to strong clutch, molding caused sharpness of parts and false advertising. I hate to be so harsh, but COGO do something about it man, you’ve been around way to long and haven’t improved a damn bit! More recent designs are cool, they even came up with a very nice minifigure (Playmobil looking), but all aspects I’ve mentioned simply make this brand not worth the buy. COGO has a wide range of series, including City, Trains, Castle, Pirates, Army, Girls and a very own design Chima like theme, called Brixbolt…probably their best stuff. No matter how cheap I find it, I would only buy COGO for reviewing purposes. Also, they are the same with LOONGON brand, if you happen to come across both at the same time.
WOMA – Also sells as JUBILUX and apparently draws it’s inspiration from older OXFORD sets 🙂 Quality is good, some would say surprisingly good. Their main theme is Military, but there are some nice SWAT sets in their Police series as well. Prices may be a little to high for a Chinese clone brand, but that depends on personal experiences I guess…you could find them really cheap 😉
WINNER – A more recent addition to the Chinese clone brands portfolio, WINNER is supposedly made by the same company that makes BELA, one of the main Chinese knock-off or fake brands. They have a theme called Journey To The West (based on the 16th century Chinese novel, also known as Monkey), a rather bootleggish Disney based series for girls named Snow White, another amusement park/city theme called Modern Paradise and a very awesome Military line of sets. The army builds heavily rely on specialized parts and that makes the vehicles look extremely realistic, almost model like. It’s not a cheap brand, but looks like a lot of fun and probably well worth it.
BANBAO – This one brand is also available in western markets. It is compatible with LEGO, but the height of it’s bricks is greater. Therefore, 2 standard 1 unit tall plates from each brand will not close down on each other with the LEGO one on top. Among their themes I would point out Eco Farm, Defence Force, Trendy City and remote control Super Cars. They’re not cheap and have a very childish looking minifigure, so maybe not that attractive for adult fans.
There are even more Chinese clone brands, like MEGABO (MGB), HSANHE, QIAOLETONG, OK, PEIZHI and others, but these ones are pretty much the most important. Also, there’s another category of brick sets I call Gray Area, which I’d like to talk about separately. These are knock offs with original design 😉 and are made by the main fake brands.
Speaking of fake brands, here’s my list of…well, fake brands…from China 🙂
BELA – If I’m not wrong, BELA was the first brand to fake Chima and Ninjago sets from LEGO. “Their” series also include Ninja Turtles, Space Fights/Star Wars, Scooby Doo, Friends, Supreme Heroes/Super Heroes, Romantic/Disney, My World/Minecraft, Let’s Go/Cars, Technic under several names, Fairy/Elves, Nexo Knight and Urban/City sets. Hope I didn’t miss any 🙂 They also make minifigure series for most of these themes. Brick quality is good but minifigs almost always suck. Comparing to the original, prices can be as low as 1/3, depending on how you have access to BELA’s sets. A sub-brand of BELA is JILEBAO and both might be made by PEIZHI toys factory.
LELE – Easy to confuse with BELA, LELE started by copying minifigures and moved up the ladder to now produce sets such as Star Wars UCS R2-D2. LELE’s sets series include Star Wart, Dinosaur World/Jurassic World, Ninja, Heroes Gathering/Super Heroes, My World/Worldcraft/Minecraft, Nexo Soldiers, Friends and Creators. They make minifigure series for all the above mentioned, except Creators, plus Cnima/Chima, The Simpsons, Castle, Ultra Agents, City, Sponge Bob, Lord Of The Rings, Lone Ranger, Galaxy Squad, The Lele Movie 🙂 and a handful of more original designs such as Army, SWAT, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Big Hero 6 and Unfold Knights/Tenkai Knights (they copied those from IONIX). So, yeah, that’s a lot of stuff! Minifigure quality wise they trail well behind better brands, but in terms of bricks they’ve improved a lot from their early stages. On average, a minifigure costs under 1$ on Aliexpress and you might get the UCS R2-D2 for about 80 bucks, comparing to the 400$ or more for the original discontinued version.
LEPIN – I’m saying maybe, but you know it’s 100% true, LEPIN is the most sought-after fake brand of today! A brilliant marketing strategy and a very high quality of bricks have turned LEPIN into a worldwide phenomenon. Needless to say, they make a lot of Star Wnrs/Star Plan/Star Wars sets, many of which are discontinued with LEGO, and Creators/Builders modular buildings, but their line-up of bootlegs also includes Technics/Technician, Nexu Knights/Next Cavaliers, Super Heroe, Ninjag, Friends, Ring Of Sorcery/Lord Of The Ring, Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Angry Birds, Mineeraft, even Chima plus a lot of exclusives and one timers. Many complain about missing parts and rubbish minifigures, but for the prices LEPIN sets retail a lot of people are also willing to take their chances. LEGO has issued a lawsuit against them, I guess we’ll have to see what comes out of it. I’m guessing nothing…
SHENG YUAN – Many consider SY to be the best bootleg minifigure brand. More recently, POGO and XINH get the spotlights, but SHENG YUAN still has the sharpest details, superior plastic and better quality control. I’ve literally bought hundreds of minifigures from them and I’ve had a miss print or a missing something like 4-5 times, which is remarkable for a knock off! Besides faking, they do a lot of custom minifigs, mostly Super Heroes, Army, SWAT, Pokemon and Clash of Clans. Bootlegged brick sets include series such as Heroes Assemble, Friends, Nick Knights, Space Wars, Ninja and My World/Minecraft; brick clutch can be a little to strong. SHENG YUAN also works a lot in the Gray Area, meaning they combine original designs and pirated themes. On average, minifigures cost less than 1$ a piece on Aliexpress if you buy an entire series (usually 8 pieces), while their original counterparts may go up as high as hundreds (for the Comic Con exclusives). Prices for sets may vary depending on how you can get them (online or physically). Almost forgot, SEMBO is a secondary brand of SHENG YUAN.
DECOOL – Fuller plastic colors than SHENG YUAN, but less good quality control. I’ve had missing legs, which can be a bummer for a fig like Nadakhan from Ninjago, missing hands (they don’t give away spare hands and other brands won’t fit, so you have to change the entire arm), loose joints and really bad or insufficient printing a lot of times. On the other hand, I did get extra parts on a few occasions, like a Loki helmet, a Thor hammer and a Super Girl hair piece, which you don’t see with other brands 🙂 I’m pointing out the negatives, but the truth is their minifigures (mostly Super Heroes and Ninjago) are the best LEGO replicas in my opinion. If you put them side by side with other brands, the chances are DECOOL resembles LEGO the most. They do a lot of sets, mostly Super Heroes, Technic and Hero Factory replicas, but have some original designs and ideas for Army and SWAT sets and minifigs. Quality of bricks is good, prices are the same with SY.
DUO LE PIN – Only been around for a couple years, but they came out strong, with some nice minifigure series and great quality. At first, they seemed to copy SHENG YUAN (yeah, you get that a lot in the world of bootlegs), but now they do their own stuff and it’s getting better and better. They have the habit of giving extra value to their fig series by adding a build to them (if you buy a whole set of 8 for example, you get parts in every box so that in the end you can build a huge spider or a mecha robot). So far they only make minifigure packs and small sets from themes such as Super Heroes, Star Wars, Army, SWAT, Friends, Disney Princess and Dragon Ball Z 🙂
BIG ELEPHANT – I think they are the most “original” fake brand out there. They work a lot on custom designs for their brick sets, which gives them more of a Gray Area status. Their series include Heroes Assemble, Chimn, Ninjagh, My World/Minecraft, Pokemon and Future Knights, but also Walking Dead and Ironman custom minifigure packs. Plastic quality is superior to both DECOOL and SHENG YUAN, but what they gain on that they loose in diversity. Their prices seem to be a bit higher than other brands, but that probably has to do with supply and demand.
POGO – Came out strong and seized a hungry for cheap custom and rare minifigures market. Unlike other brands, they release most of their new models one at a time, which is a smart marketing idea. Due to that, most shops on Aliexpress sell POGO figs by piece. They heavily rely on Super Heroes and Star Wars, but have copied The Big Bang Theory characters, The Beatles, rare CMF’s and Lord Of The Rings. POGO also came out with their own custom based Assassin’s Creed and Game of Thrones minifigures. They also do one or two copies of sets from LEGO Creator modular series. Quality is not as good as previous brands, but it seems to be catching up. Prices are ridiculously low, when comparing them to original LEGO or custom designs.
XINH – It’s been around for a while, bootlegging mostly Hero Factory, but got bigger more recently upon their entry into the minifigure mania. Like POGO, they also focus on Super Heroes and Star Wars, but have been making Harry Potter, The Big Bang Theory, Ghostbusters, Watchmen and Ninjago. XINH also makes some small brick sets. Quality was not that good but also seems to be getting better. They to sell by piece most of the times and you can get their minifigures for usually less than a dollar on Aliexpress, eBay and such.
The above are the better known fake-brands, but there are many others, like JR (Jin-Run, not that good), XSZ (decent), DOLL (quite good), YG (if you like Kre-O style Ninjago minifigures, quite good), JLB (rubbish), DARGO (bettering), ZIMO, SLtoys, CB, DIY and a lot more I hope we’ll discover together.