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Review: 21050 Architecture Studio

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Review: 21050 Architecture Studio

Postby Staff » Mon Jul 29, 2013 2:17 am


QO5C2906


This set seemingly came out of nowhere. Either that or I haven't been paying that much attention. Soon after I posted about the LEGO Architecture event at select Barnes & Noble stores and the mysterious exclusive set they were touting was it pointed out to me that the set was 21050 Studio. It's exclusive to Barnes & Noble, so you can only buy it at BN stores and online right now until August 1 where it will be more widely available at Amazon, LEGO Shop@Home, and LEGO Brand Retail.



The event I attended was a low key affair, with at most 6-7 people including the lone store employee overseeing everything. There were copious amounts of white elements dumped into various cardboard containers and onto the table and visitors were invited to build anything their hearts desired. I built the following:


Photo Jul 25, 7 29 49 PM Photo Jul 25, 7 29 41 PM


Allow me a moment to diverge off topic, but there was an obvious difference in the pureness of the white ABS in the elements. Some elements were warmer, tinged with a slight orange or pink hue, and some were more cooler, trending towards a bluish tint. The photo below is unretouched directly from my iPhone. You can see the difference in the white between the 6x6 and 8x8 plates along with the rest of the surrounding elements.


Photo Jul 25, 7 19 55 PM


Quality control issues aside, the whole event was to drum up interest in 21050 Studio set, so I took the bait and took a set home. The cost was $149.95 for 1,210 pieces in a nice big box. I finally had some time tonight to crack it open and write up a review. Worth it?

Yes, worth it, for several reasons. But let me make one more comment about the quality control issue.

I ran into the same quality issues as I did at the pile of parts at the Barnes & Noble event. But it seemed a bit more severe with this set as color differences were found between elements of the same type where as at the store it was found between different elements. It could be the lighting in my living room, or my tired and dry eyes, but the first thing I noticed when dumping the parts out of the bags was that the white didn't seem so pure. It may be worth a call to Shop@Home just to let them know of the issue so that they are aware. It could be a sign of a bigger problem assuming that someone other than me sees the same issue.


QO5C2911 QO5C2909 QO5C2908 QO5C2907


Anyways, moving on. The box is white, reflecting the monochromatic selection of bricks inside. Every panel has some sort of graphic, including the very bottom that shows some models built with LEGO but with a disclaimer stating that the models are for inspiration only and cannot be built with the pieces inside the box. Kind of a tease if you ask me. Why not showcase models that can be built with the bricks inside? It seems like a missed opportunity to show the potential of the $150 dollar set.


QO5C2912 QO5C2915 QO5C2914 QO5C2913


Inside the box, the set's 1,210 pieces are split up into 15 bags. You also get a couple of sorting trays and a 272-page guidebook. The guidebook is thick and quite impressive. There is a MASSIVE amount of content. There are tons of tips on how to build architecturally with the set, covering concepts from scale to repetition to density and mass. You could easily spend hours just reading the guidebook and not pick up a brick. It sounds bad, but if you're the kind of person to appreciate architecture and design, you won't be bored one bit. Several architecture firms are featured in the book as well notable buildings from around the world. I haven't spent a lot of time reading the thing, just flipping through it get a sense of what is inside for the review and I don't think I even barely scratched the surface. I do wish the exercises were clumped together instead of interspersed throughout the non-building related content. It would make referencing the concepts easier if you ever wanted to go back.


QO5C2920


I think it's great that the set includes several sorting trays but it feels like it's barely enough. The pic above is a bit misleading as there were still a good pile of elements dumped inside the box. One of the side panels of the box shows all of the pieces neatly organized within the given trays, but look closer and you'll realize that the elements are mixed. It's not that big of a deal but to achieve the same level of organization would take some time and something you should do sooner or later. When I opened the box, I just ended up just dumping all of the pieces onto the table and went at it. There's something pure and nostalgic about just sitting in a pile of bricks and building what you can. But if you're serious about using the Studio set for its intended use, then the organization is necessary. It will make part hunting so much easier even if the sorting isn't as granular as can be.

Surprisingly, this set did not come with a new-style brick separator. I grabbed one from own stash to help remove separate some of the plates and tiles. Out of all the sets out there, this is one where including a separator makes the most sense.

The piece selection consists of mostly basic bricks and plates in varying sizes. You also get tiles and grille bricks for texture and trans-clear elements for window effects. Slopes of varying degrees are also present. I do wish the set included some more parts such as 4L bars, 1x1 hollow round studs, and 1x1 bricks with 1 stud on one side to start, but maybe perhaps there will be a follow up set to complement 21050 Studio. I'm not holding my breath though. If you want to read a more thorough breakdown of the parts, visit The New Elementary.


QO5C2923


The box is large and roomy, allowing you to store all of the pieces inside and because of it's fliptop design, you run no risk of losing any pieces as long as the box is kept upright. One thing LEGO could have done to really make the packaging super convenient is if they had a handle come out of the top with a double flip top lid. Carrying the box isn't easy as it is rather bulky and weighs a little under six pounds fully loaded.

All that aside, I decided to try and build something tonight for this review. I flipped through the book and came across a section titled Abstraction where you take an animal as a source of inspiration and design a building from it. They use a bird, and in four steps, go from concept to imagining your creation out in the real world. It's funny seeing the leap in design aesthetic between steps 2 and 3, but no matter, the message is the same. I decided to use a dog and rather than try and sketch build a dog from scratch, I just reached for the Target gift card model and use that as my inspiration.


QO5C2897


After a few moments, I abstracted the model a little further and created the following:


QO5C2898


I wasn't too thrilled with it and while I was shuffling piles of parts around, and this is where surrounding yourself with a pile of parts pays off, I slapped two quarter round pieces together and though "platform". I then imagined a cliffside mansion and came up with the following:


QO5C2900 QO5C2904 QO5C2903 QO5C2901


And this I'm satisfied with.

I think the biggest hurdle for anyone picking up pieces to build something using parts in this set is to grasp the sense of scale. One builder I saw at the event at Barnes & Noble grabbed several of the larger plates to use as a base. Instinctively I had a feeling that was the wrong approach. I picked up an 8x8 plate, and then looked the pile of parts, in particular a 1x1 round brick. Then it hit me and that 8x8 plate became palatial. After going through all of the pieces you get in the Studio set, the potential for designing buildings is limitless.

I see 21050 Studio as an adult version of a brick bucket. Remember as a little kid, you might get Salisbury Steak for a school lunch? 21050 Studio is like a good New York strip or ribeye. It is much more refined with it's all-white color palette with trans-clear pieces thrown in for window effects. With the guidebook in your hands and inspiration coming from just about anywhere, you're free to build just about any building. This set, out of all of the sets out there, made me feel like a kid again with its free build approach. You're not given an instruction book, just a guidebook. There is obviously a focus on architecture, and the elements you get are catered towards that style of building. Building a spaceship could be possible, but if you're doing that with this set, you're missing the point entirely and you could be spending that $150 on something more appropriate. But if you "get it", you just might enjoy the set.

I see 21050 Studio as an architect's tool as well. I can imagine it being useful for rapid prototyping and conceptualizing as long as the designer sticks to a small as scale as possible. The initial build should consist of a few basic bricks slapped together to get the general shape. Once that is built, you can refine that idea by substituting pieces and introducing more and more detail, like carving a statue out of marble, only your medium is LEGO. For serious architecture projects though, LEGO does have its limits so it may not be the best tool for the job. But it can be useful.

You may not be able to design the next Walt Disney Concert Hall, but it'll be fun trying. The $150 price tag may turn off most people but fans of LEGO's Architecture line or fans of architecture in general shouldn't shy away. Hopefully, the quality control issues aren't as prevalent as I presume them to be, but that shouldn't detract you from the overall experience of 21050 Studio. It's definitely a niche product for a niche market. That being said, parts monkeys probably won't see the value. From an economics standpoint, The New Elementary article breaks down its value against bricklink. You may be able to order a similar palette of parts for even less But aside from hard numbers, it's the experience you're buying and I can safely say it stands apart from just about everything else LEGO has to offer.

Buy 21050 Studio from Barnes & Noble today, or Amazon or LEGO Shop@Home starting August 1, 2013.


21050







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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby bruce n h » Mon Jul 29, 2013 4:46 am

Hey Ace,

Call me a naysayer, but I think you drank the koolaid on this one. How can you call this set 'worth it'? I priced it out on BrickLink and the parts come to about $85. I'd like to get the book, but I can't get over this mark-up. To me it only seems this set could be worth it for non-FOLs who don't know about BrickLink and don't know about the Pick-a-Brick walls.

Bruce
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby TheNewElementary » Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:17 am

Great review and I'm very happy to see more pics of the book contents.

I don't think you went off-topic :) - some folk have queried whether the current plague of colour differences are present in this set and yours is the first report I've found about this being the case. As TLG have no method of storing (and therefore packing) colour differences within each colour, it's unsurprising 21050 suffers the same fate - but as you point out, it's even more disappointing than usual given it's a supposedly monochrome set. From the few staff I've spoken to, TLG generally seem to be as horrified about the issue as AFOLs are - but it seems they're not so horrified that they can afford to lose lots of money weeding them out whilst they resolve the problem. I think all we can do as fans is regularly express displeasure to Customer Services.

Cheers for the blog link also!
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby TheNewElementary » Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:28 am

Oh... I have a question please. EB reported "Opening the box was a bit of a challenge since there were no punch-holes or flaps. The only way to open it would be to rip the cardboard partially" - is this the case??! Sounds like a nightmare for my OCD.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby DarthBuilder » Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:33 am

That is a shame that there are QC issues with the set. I did notice the color differences when at the Event but immediately dismissed it since all the parts came in bulk review bags. Assumed they were using junk bricks or bricks that did had not met standards. Seeing this within any set is unfortunate especially when white bricks are front and center.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby buriedbybricks » Mon Jul 29, 2013 7:47 am

bruce n h wrote:How can you call this set 'worth it'? I priced it out on BrickLink and the parts come to about $85. I'd like to get the book, but I can't get over this mark-up. To me it only seems this set could be worth it for non-FOLs who don't know about BrickLink and don't know about the Pick-a-Brick walls.


onions wrote:That being said, parts monkeys probably won't see the value.


You totally called it, Ace!
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby dWhisper » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:00 am

bruce n h wrote:Call me a naysayer, but I think you drank the koolaid on this one. How can you call this set 'worth it'? I priced it out on BrickLink and the parts come to about $85. I'd like to get the book, but I can't get over this mark-up. To me it only seems this set could be worth it for non-FOLs who don't know about BrickLink and don't know about the Pick-a-Brick walls.


That would be the (fairly vast) majority of FOLs, to be honest. The aftermarket exists for only a tiny bit of what is already a pretty small piece of the pie.

This is a toolkit product, and is targeted to a different type of buyer than normal LEGO products. While I don't care for these sets as an AFOL, I know plenty of people who don't care much about LEGO but like these. That's why they pop up in different stores and locations. From that point-of-view, they work quite well.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby onions » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:54 am

bruce n h wrote:Hey Ace,

Call me a naysayer, but I think you drank the koolaid on this one. How can you call this set 'worth it'? I priced it out on BrickLink and the parts come to about $85. I'd like to get the book, but I can't get over this mark-up. To me it only seems this set could be worth it for non-FOLs who don't know about BrickLink and don't know about the Pick-a-Brick walls.

Bruce


not to seem like i'm piling on, but i think as a more discerning segment of the LEGO market, we tend measure the value of a set based on price per piece more often than not. sometimes a set is just more than the sum of its parts and this is one of those times. sure i could go to bricklink, try and figure out the best way to buy all the parts, wait for invoices from most likely multiple sellers, pay, wait for the items to ship, figure out a way to store and organize the parts in a meaningful way apart from the rest of my collection, maybe save a few bucks and be done with it. or i can just buy this set. and calling me a kool aid drinker? clearly you haven't been on the ambassador forums ;)
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby onions » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:59 am

TheNewElementary wrote:Oh... I have a question please. EB reported "Opening the box was a bit of a challenge since there were no punch-holes or flaps. The only way to open it would be to rip the cardboard partially" - is this the case??! Sounds like a nightmare for my OCD.


This is HILARIOUS!

if you look at this picture, you can see the flap partially open on the left side of the box which is the front, and it flips up to this picture. it was held down by two pieces of tape that you normally see on the bigger sets.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby TheNewElementary » Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:11 pm

onions wrote:
TheNewElementary wrote:Oh... I have a question please. EB reported "Opening the box was a bit of a challenge since there were no punch-holes or flaps. The only way to open it would be to rip the cardboard partially" - is this the case??! Sounds like a nightmare for my OCD.


This is HILARIOUS!

if you look at this picture, you can see the flap partially open on the left side of the box which is the front, and it flips up to this picture. it was held down by two pieces of tape that you normally see on the bigger sets.


Phew. I can sleep tonight knowing no boxes will be harmed ;)
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby bruce n h » Mon Jul 29, 2013 7:34 pm

Hey,

If I could press my point a little bit more:

sometimes a set is just more than the sum of its parts


Of course I agree with this. There are many sets that are more than the sum of the parts. For instance:

-When the set itself is a learning experience in building. I've often said that the Dan Siskind Blacksmith Shop was my favorite castle set because in building it I learned so much. The same can be said about many other sets as well.

-When the set inspires builders to come up with much more in the same vein. Again I would point to the Siskind set; after that came out for the next year the Classic-Castle forums were dominated by MOCs of half-timbered town buildings reflecting the design style of that set. When the first factory sets came out, they inspired a lot of microscale building, etc.

-When the finished product is a beautiful display piece. I'm generally a parts monkey, and soon after building the official instructions I tear the set down and it melts into my collection, but, for instance, when I got the UCS TIE Interceptor, I kept that thing together for years - really until we moved across country and I tore it down to pack up my LEGO. Other UCS sets are like this, or the whole architecture line. I'm sure most of the people who buy the architecture sets put them together an leave them on display in their home or office.

-When the finished product is a fun play experience. This is more for kids than for me, with all of the emphasis on 'action features' in sets, but I have to admit that when I got the first X-Wing set I spent a lot of time swooshing it around my apartment.

-'coolness factor' - Sometimes the possession of a certain set is an achievement by itself, like getting some sort of exclusive like the ComicCon sets, or some other rare set, or a collector that wants to complete every set in a given theme, or getting some iconic set like the Yellow Castle or the Galaxy Explorer, or maybe some other reason, like getting the Market Street set in memory of Eric Brok, etc.

This set, though, appears to be precisely the sum of its parts. Aside from the book it is a box of basic bricks, with some sleek packaging and sorting trays (C'mon, Ace, you've been in the hobby as long as I have, and you're telling me you're impressed by some plastic trays - that don't even have lids? I'd be happy to give you for free the stack of ziplock brand disposable sealable containers I use for sorting.)

Above you say you might 'save a few bucks.' I also spent a long time comparing the parts list to Bricklink, and I strongly dispute the numbers in the article you cite. I got it to be around $85. Granted, that was grabbing items from any American store that had enough of that particular part, so I'm sure if I actually tried to order that specific collection of bricks, I'm sure I'd pay a lot in shipping fees from a ton of different sellers, but that's a bit beside the point. I've got a smaller collection than most AFOLs who've been in the hobby for ten years - a wife and kids, small living quarters until we finally bought a house, tight finances have all made me pick and choose my purchases. But I'm pretty sure I could approximate this set in gray from my existing collection (as a castler, I've got a lot more basic bricks, plates and slopes in gray and dark gray than any other color). And I think most AFOLs could do this much more easily than I.

Aside from the monochomicity (probably not a real word), and the book, I really see no difference between this set and anything listed under 'Bricks and More' on LEGO.com. Don't get me wrong - I love basic bricks. I really dislike sets that are overly dependant on specialized parts. But I really don't see the appeal of this set.

I should note that a couple of times above I've emphasized the book. From what I've seen, I do really want the book. If they had done this hard bound, they could have sold it on it's own for probably $50, and I'd be fine with that. I've built up a nice little LEGO library, and I'm a little annoyed that I can't get this book by itself.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby TheNewElementary » Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:04 am

bruce n h wrote:I also spent a long time comparing the parts list to Bricklink, and I strongly dispute the numbers in the article you cite. I got it to be around $85. Granted, that was grabbing items from any American store that had enough of that particular part, so I'm sure if I actually tried to order that specific collection of bricks, I'm sure I'd pay a lot in shipping fees from a ton of different sellers, but that's a bit beside the point.


Given I placed the figures in the context of being averages, obtained via BrickStore, I'm not sure the figures are strongly disputable :) I never claimed they could not be obtained more cheaply than the averages. No-one's claiming your figure of $85 before shipping isn't achievable. What would be most interesting would be for someone to run the inventory through atxdad's BL cost minimisation software.

But I agree it's "a bit" beside the point - and I included the figures primarily to call into question the lazy assumption that this set is poor value by the default of being monochromatic and carrying the Architecture brand. If I was going to spend time and money 'Bricklinking' a set, it sure as hell wouldn't be this one. Especially given that the book contains many examples using elements not supplied in the set!

bruce n h wrote:But I really don't see the appeal of this set.


What appeals to me (aside from the things you listed as appealing to you, but then discounted) is the return to core LEGO values. As you rightly point out though, that is probably not a strong case when faced with limited disposable income for what is essentially a luxury item.

bruce n h wrote:I'm a little annoyed that I can't get this book by itself.


I feel rather confident you'll be able to. If more folk are prepared to pay $50 for it I suspect that is attractive enough when combined with the value of selling or just using the parts. There may well even be a flood of used copies, once people have given it a try out!
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby wyldjedi » Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:47 am

I also agree with the idea that a set is more than the sum of its parts. I have had many sets bought in whole and as parted out and the whole set just feels more fun. However, I am at the stage in my Lego 'career' where I buy more bulk parts than pre-made sets so to me this is purely a parts pack to supplement other builds.

That being said, the QC issue bothers me. I have noticed in recent years that colors are sometimes off, even in the same set. This seems to happen more often with blue and green parts in my own experience but also with other lighter colors. I have seen a few instances of white parts being slightly off as well.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby Mathew » Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:01 pm

bruce n h wrote:I should note that a couple of times above I've emphasized the book. From what I've seen, I do really want the book. If they had done this hard bound, they could have sold it on it's own for probably $50, and I'd be fine with that. I've built up a nice little LEGO library, and I'm a little annoyed that I can't get this book by itself.


You spend a lot of time saying how you don't understand the point of this set yet you are willing to pay $50 for the book. Think of it this way: You're getting 1210 white bricks for $100 (less than .10 a piece) and a nice book for $50.

I almost bought two of these during the B&N BOGO 50% with the intention of selling one of the books for $50 and keeping the additional 1210 bricks for $25.

This set isn't really for the typical AFOL who is into minifigs and themed sets. It's for the wannabe architects who also like Lego.
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby bruce n h » Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:15 pm

Hey,

Just a couple more thoughts. I really don't want to spend a lot of time bashing any LEGO set.

First, I said that if this were nicely hardbound I could see maybe spending up to $50 on it. For comparison, the Cult of LEGO listed for $40. The Art of Nathan Sawaya is listed on his site at $25 (I think it's softcover). The upcoming book Beautiful LEGO is listed at $29.99. I think those are fair comparisons as books, particularly the Sawaya and Mike Doyle books are a little 'artsy' and less 'for the masses', as it were. The various DK LEGO books are generally about $20 or $25. So for a soft-bound Architecture book, I'd think that $30 to $35 would be more about the right price.

Second, and perhaps I should have made this very clear up front. I have an extremely limited personal LEGO brick budget, which means I pick and choose my purchases very carefully. My personal LEGO brick budget for the year is probably less than $200. Back when I first got back into the hobby I was a) a student, and b) in a very small apartment. So at some point I basically decided I have enough. I continue to buy things now and then as LEGO produces new parts and figs, or when I've to got a project that needs a particular part in quantity, or when a new set is just too cool to pass up, but my collection grows pretty slowly. Then, after my kids were born, I basically decided I'd rather buy stuff for them (and do exciting things like pay the mortgage). Yes, we get them LEGO, but it's mixed with other toys, and it's not that much. They don't really realize that Daddy has a big stash of LEGO out in his workroom in the garage. At some point they'll get it, but for now they're too young and would just scatter and lose it (and, of course, mess up Daddy's anal-retentive sorting system :D ).

So, anyway, why am I saying all of this? Basically I'm just saying that I am very careful about my brick purchases. I really never understand it when we see sneak previews of new themes, and people declare they're going to buy all of the sets and multiples of a couple of them. I'm sure I'm not LEGO's favorite customer - I'm incredibly brand-loyal (heck, I help run a LEGO forum and maintain ten(!!) LEGO-themed blogs), but don't end up spending much. That probably colors my response to new sets, particularly expensive ones.

Bruce
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Re: Review: 21050 Studio

Postby Mathew » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:32 am

Hey, I'm in a similar boat: Limited budget, small children, mortgage to pay etc.

Yet, I can also see why Lego released this set and why they priced it the way that they did. This is a pure Lego building set for older kids and adults who aspire to be architects or are interested in building in a architecture style. In fact when I was at B&N picking up the set an older lady was doing the same. I over heard her speaking to her husband how she loved building little houses with Lego but didn't like typical multi-colored bricks. So while, yes she could instead buy something like the Robie House and use the dark red bricks for her little houses, clearly she was intrigued by the packaging of the Studio set.
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Re: Review: 21050 Architecture Studio

Postby ranwanimator » Thu Aug 22, 2013 12:01 pm

I wanted to make a quick comment about the QC on the white. I've recently been to Legoland FL and perused their pick-a-brick wall. Unlike other locations, they group elements by color. I cannot describe to you the horror at seeing 3 completely different, and not even close, shades of white in parts right next to each other. There is a problem with their white production. You may not see it that well between individual elements, but when those elements are en masse, it becomes plain. I don't know if it's a batch issue, or a production location issue. Next time I go I'll remember to take a picture.
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Re: Review: 21050 Architecture Studio

Postby ikertxo » Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:01 am

Hello,

I received my order yesterday night. I am writing because I am really really disappointed :(

The reason I bought the Lego Architecture Studio is because bricks were marketed as white, very pure, and it was a super classy set. When I opened the box I discovered the bricks were not really white, they are tinted in some kind of orange-ish way, they look much more beige than white!. Not only that, there is variation of colour in the pieces, some are whiter than others, but in general nothing is really white.

I think there are quality issues related to this product, maybe because is the first batch of boxes released since August. I feel bad because I had to pay A LOT for this box, as I am in Europe (Belgium), and I paid 50 extra dollars for tax and customs. So final price for me has been 200 dollars… :S


Maybe it was only my box, and rest of boxes are whiter :((((
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