magna tiles vs off brand
Creative Play Ideas,  Imaginative Play,  Learning through Play

Which Magnetic Tiles Set Should You Buy? (updated Nov 2022)

As a parent I’ve purchased many toys over the years. And I’ve also given away many toys as my children have lost interest or outgrown them. But when I purchased our first set of magnetic tiles, I realised that they were different, and I want to share why.

Bottom-line: In this magnetic tiles comparison, we conclude that the best magnetic tiles you can buy are Magna-Tiles brand. They are strong, durable, and a fantastic open-ended toy that really encourages imaginative play. However, there are plenty of generic alternatives if you don’t have the budget.

Magnetic Tiles Comparison – What is the best set of Magnetic Tiles?

The world of magnetic tiles can be confusing. I know when I made my first purchase I was unsure where to start – there are so many options of magnetic tiles to choose from. So I want to make it simple by giving you my thoughts on the two brands that we own and have tried out.

OUR TOP PICK ->  Magna-Tiles Metropolis Set (110 pcs)

The table below will explain why we made that choice. But the short version is that, whilst Magna-Tiles are more expensive, the quality and durability is well worth it.

Magna-Tiles brand vs Generic alternative:

Magna-Tiles – Metropolis Set (110 pcs) Generic Brand (100 pcs)

c. £100 – £120

c. £20 – £50
Number of Pieces 110 pieces 100 pieces
Strength Able to create large and tall structures with these Magna Tiles that hold together well. (See large castle below) Able to make simple structures, however if too large it may collapse as the magnets are not strong enough to hold really large creations.
Colour and design Colourful tiles with lines that make beautiful patterns in the light. Brighter in colour with less lines running through, so a clearer tile.
Variety This set comes with a range of varying pieces – steps, a spinning piece, a wheel base, an arch, 2 large square bases, a rectangle, a door and some curved tiles. This set comes with windows and some half pieces with castle-like details. But only 36 squares.
Durability Still looks brand new after months of active play. Magnet strength still the same as new. Paint and colours have started to fade after 2 months. Magnet feels weaker.
Compatibility Works with other brands and tiles. Works with other brands and tiles.
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The above table is based on the exact products mentioned. There will be differences depending on which set you decided to purchase – but this gives a good overall indication of the differences between the two brands, and what you are paying for.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the pros and cons of these two Brands to find out which would be best for you to purchase:

Magna Tiles vs Generic Brand Alternatives

Cost – You get what you pay for

The cost of the Magna Tiles is obviously a lot greater than the alternative Actrinic Brand. And that’s for good reason. They are stronger, sturdier, and overall a better quality. Although there is nothing wrong as such with the Actrinic Tiles, the magnets do rattle a little inside the plastic shell (this does not affect their use it is just an observation of how they are made)

Number of Pieces – What do I get for my money?

These two sets obviously do not have the same number of pieces in – at the time of purchase this was the biggest number of tiles I could get on a budget. However it is clear to see that you get a lot more tiles for your money with the cheaper alternative brand. And trust me when I say you can never have too many tiles!!

In the Magna-Tiles Metropolis Set, you get 56 squares and in the Generic set you get 20 squares – when purchasing a set it is a good idea to check out how many squares you get as these are the staple pieces to a lot of buildings, especially for little ones. (Side note – There are other square tiles too, such as windows and doorways to consider)

Strength – Are some magnetic tiles stronger than others?

When it comes to Magnetic tiles, this is the most important factor for me. Magnetic tiles are not all as strong as each other – and from the two brands that I have tried, and the reviews that I have read, you are effectively paying for stronger tiles.

We have been able to build much larger buildings with the Magna Tiles because they don’t collapse so easily. That is not to say that you cannot build with the cheaper alternatives, you can, and for small toddler built shapes they are just fine, but you will not be able to build the giant structures you see on the box, quite so easily. And that can be very frustrating for a toddler.

building towers with toddlers

Colour & Design – What’s the difference?

In many ways, most magentic tiles look the same. But they are all made slightly differently with contrasting internal structures and colour transparency.

Honestly, I wouldn’t get too hung up on this aspect. The Magna Tiles have a lot more lines running through them as part of their structure – this makes beautiful lines and shadows in the sun.

In contrast, the Actrinic brand has a clearer tile with less lines and a brighter colour to their tiles making them pop a little more in my opinion.

Neither affects the play in any great way, they are just beautiful in their own unique way!

Variety – How creative can you get with Magnetic Tiles?

For this magnetic tile comparison, I compared the two sets we have personally purchased, however, in terms of purchasing choice – there is more variety with Magna Tiles. They have more one off pieces that can be used in making unique creations (we recently made this roundabout as part of a playground  using the spinning piece from our Magna Tiles set)

easy magna-tiles ideas

Ideas – What can I build with Magnetic Tiles?

The beauty of Magnetic Tiles Play is that it is so open-ended. You can do anything you like with them, but there are also times when we need a little inspiration and some build ideas. So what do you get with each set to help inspire you to create?

You don’t actually get anything inside the Metropolis Magna Tiles set – which we were a little disappointed about. We don’t keep our magnetic tiles in the original box and that was the only place with visual ideas. You can download them on the website or even play for a book on their site!

The Actrinic set actually comes with a lovely little book with a range of ideas and suggestions, starting with some basic ideas and moving into more complex builds to try – this is great in my opinion!

If you are looking for some fun ideas then definitely check out the above Playground post (click on the photo) for a free printable download!

shadow play

Compatibility – Are these magnetic tiles compatible with each other?

The great things about magnetic tiles is that most of them work together. As they all contain magnets intended for building, unless there is a really big difference in size of tiles then you can combine sets easily for bigger and more varied builds.

We use our two sets together and have had no problems, and I have done a bit of research and found this to be the case for most brands such as Connectix, Picasso Tiles and Playmags

The great thing about this is, if you don’t want to invest so much in the beginning, you can purchase the cheaper version and see how you get on and then mix in better versions as you go. Like I said, you can never have too many magnetic tiles!

Which Magnetic Tiles should I purchase?

Taking into account all of the above information, I would highly recommend the Magna-Tiles Brand for its strength and variety, it is worth the money!

However if you are on a limited budget and you are feeling unsure, then the Generic Brand is a great place to start (or Children’s Hub in America)

If you are unsure about whether Magnetic tiles will be a great toy for your little one, then check out these commonly asked questions:

What makes Magnetic Tiles such a great construction toy?

You may be wondering if this is just another Duplo or Mega blocks alternative – and whilst it is a construction toy which has many benefits for children especially in the early years, it is quite different to the regular building toys

  • The simple tiles make it a fantastic open-ended play opportunity
  • The magnets make it really easy to play with, even for young toddlers
  • The transparency of the tiles make this a really fun way to build 3D structures

The best magnetic tiles make imaginative play so easy, and these sets help you do just that!

How to Play with Magnetic Tiles?

As I’ve said a number of times, Magnetic Tiles are great for open-ended play. But they are also such a great toy for structured play too.

Here are 4 awesome ways to play with magnetic tiles:

  1. Build 3D structures, buildings and objects either following set instructions, or get creative and build freestyle!
  2. Create 2D pictures using the magnetic tiles on a flat surface – a great way to do this is to use light to bring the tiles to life! Place on a window using contact paper to stick them to or lay them out on a light box for some beautiful effects
  3. Use them as part of small world play – combining magnetic tiles with other toys is a great way to encourage imaginative play
  4. Learn through Play – Use magnetic tiles as a way to teach your child colours and shapes, by sorting them and creating new shapes together
magnetic building toys
Playing with Magnetic Tiles on a Light Box

Why I love Magnetic Tiles for Creative Play!

There are so many reason why I love magentic tiles for creative play, but in essence this is why:

  • They are great for problem solving skills (figuring out which shape will go with which to make the next piece) which is an important stage of your child’s development
  • They are a great toy for developing those fine motor skills (hand/wrist muscle strength)
  • This toy will grow with your child! My kids are older and I wish I’d known about these years ago! As I didn’t have this toy when my children were toddlers so I asked around and found lots of people used these magnetic tiles from the age of around 18 months, with many introducing them much younger to familiarise them with the concept (always supervise)
  • They are great for encouraging imaginative play with children of all ages

Buy the Best Magnetic Tiles You can afford

To wrap things up:

Magna Tiles are worth the money in the long term, they are stronger and therefore easier to play with when building 3D structures – they will grow better with your child.

Cheaper alternatives do the job and are still a great toy if your budget does not stretch to the higher prices (they make a great starting point and cheap magnetic tiles is always better than no magnetic tiles in my opion!) – but as your child grows and wants to build more they may get frustrated with the strength of the tiles and collapsed buildings so if you can, I would recommend Magna-Tiles based on our experience with the two!

Most importantly, enjoy playing Magnetic Tiles with your little ones no matter which you go for!

Louisa | Mum’s Creative Cupboard x

PS – All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details