Pros: Includes motor. Hybrid of plastic and metal pieces
Cons: This is the largest set you can get. Wish there was a larger.
Also known as Erector or the older Meccano, Brio has apparently purchased the rights to sell these metal construction sets as their own. In fact, many of the metal pieces are still stamped with the Meccano name (No need to get new presses I guess just to change the name).
As a child growing up in the 70s, I remember that Meccano erector sets were huge. The most popular sets at the time were just simply numbered 1 to 10, 1 being the smallest set and 10 being the largest. 10 was the dream set and included thousands of pieces. Ive recently seen a Meccano set 10 for sale on Ebay for over $3000US as it is now a collectors item.
Times have changed and maybe its because modern Western society is no longer as strong in its manufacturing but there is no way you can now get anything as large as a Meccano set 10, or even a set 8 (770 pieces) for that matter. Ditto for LARGE scale plastic models that are only being manufactured by Japanese companies now.
What have we now?
What we do have now are the remnants of a once very popular construction toy. This Brio Erector Best of 50 models is the largest offering now with 605 pieces. (Yes, we actually bought this for our child, not for me). Erector also offers Best of 10, 20, 30, and 40 kits. Unfortunately, buying the Best of 50 does not mean you can build all the models from the smaller kits, unlike the old meccano sets in which the larger set allows you to build all the models from the smaller sets.
Included are comprehensive instructions on color magazine-type paper on how to build these models. Each step lays out the number and type of pieces required.
There are however, two significant improvements over the old Meccano sets:
The inclusion of a motor to power your models. This motor can be powered by 2 or 4 AA batteries depending on the amount of power required by a particular model. You had to purchase motors as an accessory with the old Meccano sets. Make sure you always have fresh alkaline batteries though. Some of these models connect so many gears and rubber bands that they grind the motor down to a halt if youre using weak batteries.
The introduction of colorful plastic pieces also gives added dimension to your models.
One gimmicky feature which I dont really think is needed is a power screwdriver. The hex-key screws are so small that this drill doesnt really save that much time. I would have preferred another 100 pieces and the ability to build another 10 or 20 models.
Another notable improvement is the use of hexagonal bolt heads instead of the old slotted bolts. The older meccano sets used to have all the bolts, nuts and smaller pieces stored in harder plastic containers with hinged covers. For pieces that small, the hex-key heads dont slip off the as easily.
This set packaged them in NON-resealable plastic bags. I have no idea how you (let alone an eight year old) are not supposed to lose any of those miniscule pieces once you put a hole in the bags to open them. My wife got the idea of using small transparent medicine containers to store the pieces. I strongly recommend that.
Although this set is recommended for children ages 8 to 13, some steps really seem to take quite a lot of dexterity. This is definitely a toy for the child who has gotten bored of his legos and knex sets. Our child isnt even close to 8 years old yet (okay so maybe this set is for me temporarily) but hopefully by that age hell be able to master this stuff.
We purchased this set off www.willygoat.com at a very reasonable price of $83.49. Its expensive compared to knex or lego but there is absolutely no comparison in their sophistication. For the aspiring child civil engineer, the Best of 50 should keep them occupied until something larger ever comes along.