With three kids in their prime Lego years, we have amassed a considerable collection of bricks. However, while we do have some motorized components, we don’t have any illuminated gear. I know Lego does sell an LED kit, but we haven’t invested in one and, at least from what I can see, the functionality seems rather limited. So when I was contacted about reviewing a Laser Pegs building kit, I felt it was worth looking at.
The concept behind Laser Pegs is having a series of clear plastic pieces (pegs), each enclosing a LED, making for brightly illuminated models. Since the plastic is clear, you can see the circuit board, LED, resistor and wiring within. Each is also marked with an indicator showing the LED color, so you can color coordinate where appropriate. One piece is connected to a power source, then others are illuminated by virtue of being connected to the powered piece. Each peg has one or more male and female power connections and fit together rather like hooking a device to a power adapter. There are ten basic shapes to choose from, ranging from a simple straight peg to hub pieces that can have multiple connections. There’s also a globe/wheel shape. The relatively small variety of shapes available and the large size required to fit the electronic guts within does limit the realism of any creations. Building with Laser Pegs is less like building a Lego model than completing a puzzle – if you’re familiar with those water pipe connection games, you’ve got the basic idea. Most of the pegs are even pipe shaped. You can make rudimentary models (the one pictured is a “bug”), but ultra-realistic Lego-style models are not what Laser Pegs are about. The review kit included 72 pieces and came with a battery-powered base. An AC adapter is available and probably a good idea as these LEDs can drain the batteries fairly quickly, especially with larger models.
In terms of quality, Laser Pegs seem to be a little hit-or-miss. Each piece has to be molded in two pieces in order to insert the electronics, and the join between the two was imperfect on several of the pieces in my kit. I suppose if any split apart completely, they could be glued back together easily enough, but these clearly are meant to be static display models and not something that is sturdy enough to see active play use. There were also a few rough plastic edges and some of the connectors were a little tight, while a few were on the loose side. While stringing a series of pipe-style connectors together is easy enough, we found that building 3D models was trying, primarily because pieces must be joined in multiple dimensions and that can take some coordination and pre-planning in terms of assembling components. If fits aren’t snug, the circuit is broken and everything downstream of the break will fail to light. This can require some troubleshooting, which is a good skill to have, but does have the potential to frustrate younger kids. The recommended age is seven and up and that’s probably about bang on, at least for simple models.
Once you have a model assembled and connect it to a power source, then it certainly does light up a room.
A variety of kits are available, ranging in price from $24.95 to $99.95 (the 72 piece kit I was sent is available on Amazon for $44.95) and the Laser Pegs web site also sells popular pieces a la carte if you want to build up your parts bin.
Disclaimer: Laser Pegs supplied a kit for review purposes.
[This post originally ran in 2011]