With Ultimate Collector Series and recent 4+ sets for younger builders aside, LEGO Star Wars starfighters like X-wings and TIE fighters have maintained a consistent trajectory of higher and higher part counts (with correspondingly greater levels of detail) over the past 20 years. The latest LEGO Star Wars sets move the part count in the opposite direction, with 75301 Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter including 474 pieces with four minifigs (US $49.99 | CAN $69.99 | UK £44.99) and 75300 Imperial TIE Fighter including 432 plus three figures (US $39.99 | CAN $49.99 | UK £34.99). We’ll compare these January 2021 starfighters with the 2018 LEGO X-wing and 2018 TIE Fighter.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with early copies of these sets for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
The boxes & packaging
The first thing that struck us when we picked up both boxes was how much smaller they are than the fairly large LEGO Star Wars sets we typically focus on reviewing. Received from LEGO in Denmark, our copies of the sets have the European packaging, which typically omits the part count, so the box size was our first clue that these are substantially smaller sets than the two previous versions of the same vehicles.
The parts for the X-wing come in four numbered bags (with interior bags for smaller pieces), while the TIE fighter comes in just three bags.
Livery details on the X-wing are nearly always stickered, so it’s no surprise that the X-wing set includes a sizable sticker sheet. Although the sticker sheet was loose in the box, it arrived none the worse for wear. (The TIE fighter does not feature any stickers.)
New LEGO elements
New parts are always an exciting part of cracking open a LEGO set at the beginning of a calendar year, when LEGO typically releases the sets that include parts created using brand new molds. The X-wing and TIE fighter include several new parts that custom model builders are sure to appreciate. New bracket pieces merge a 1×2 plate connection in the middle of a 1×2 brick with a Technic pin hole (resulting in a 2×2 footprint one brick high). A piece that feels like it should have always existed — but never did — is the new 1×1 brick with a Technic axle hole.
The X-wing’s engine’s avoid both large wheels and the old-style engine pieces in favor of a piece that is essentially the front part of the old engines chopped off — the diameter is identical, and the new piece also has studs on the inside.
Finally, the TIE fighter includes large, 6×6 modified plates, which have five holes in the middle that support full Technic pins on the underside. This feels like a slightly juniorized piece that avoids the more complicated connections between pylons and solar panels on earlier LEGO Star Wars TIE fighters. It will be interesting to see how LEGO uses the piece elsewhere. Regardless, it seems like a piece that will provide interesting structural opportunities for builders.
The build: X-wing
With only four bags for the whole starfighter, the X-wing build goes fairly quickly. The fuselage forward of the cockpit uses the same basic technique we’ve seen in several of the previous LEGO X-wings, with the sides of the fuselage converging toward the nose, and a central core that supports that supports the upper surface of the fuselage. However, previous X-wings have used a Technic axle with half-pins to hold the upper skin, while this version uses regular bricks.
One of the first places the lower part count becomes evident is in this forward fuselage and nose. The fuselage is much thinner vertically than earlier X-wings, which I’ve described as “chunky” (positively for the classic T-65 Rebel X-wing and less so for the streamlined T-70 Resistance X-wing). While I appreciate the nose cone built sideways, it also means that there is no bottom half to the nose — it just ends in a flat area that lines up with the underside of the fuselage.
After building the forward fuselage, the S-foil mechanism comes next, built entirely from Technic liftarms. The build is similar to the inner functional blocks of much larger all-Technic LEGO sets like the amazing 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS, so don’t be surprised if you make a mistake or two — I applied the stickers incorrectly after misinterpreting the 3/4 3D view in the (obviously) 2D instructions.
The sides of the main fuselage are built studs-out with large panels, which provide structural integrity around the S-foil mechanism, which fits over the Technic axles that extend between the cockpit and rear fuselage.
Nearly all LEGO sets are modular in one way or another, often connected by Technic pins that sometimes allow a bit too much flex between the sub-assemblies. That’s not the case here, with the four wings in particular attached using 3L Technic friction pins to connect to the S-foil mechanism, allowing essentially no looseness in the attachment.
The build: TIE fighter
The TIE fighter has even fewer pieces, which come in just three bags, two of which simply build the identical solar panels. The cockpit pod includes some key Technic pieces for sturdiness, but in general attaches outer detail to brackets facing outward.
Despite the parts for the solar arrays being in bags 2 and 3 (thus built in sequence), the left and right panels are actually identical. The only difference in parts between the bags is that the third bag includes the spring-loaded missiles.
One major complaint from a part selection standpoint is that the paired 1×2 tow-ball connection pieces remain “color-locked” (the element only available in one color), in light and dark gray. This means that there is a single 1×2 dark gray section at the very front of both edges of the solar panels. There is no alternate solution here using pieces from your own collection, since the tow-ball connection is structural. It ruins the aesthetic of the thin gray edges of the black panels.
The finished models
Even if the Millennium Falcon is arguably the most recognizable vehicle in the Star Wars universe, no two vehicles are as iconic a pair as the Rebel X-wing and Imperial TIE fighter. The last time the pair were released at the same time was back in 2018, with the two coming a few months apart as the TIE fighter was supporting Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s great to see the pair side by side again.
Before comparing it directly with the 2018 X-wing (or reference schematics), the new X-wing feels proportional, its scale centered on the new-style cockpit canopy and age-old white wedge plates for the wings. With a subtly tapered nose, detailed laser cannons, engines featuring new parts, the new starfighter features all the key details one expects in a LEGO Star Wars X-wing.
My one complaint about the basic shape of the new X-wing is that, as I mentioned before, the gray nose cone seems half-built. Well, it really is only half-built, since it has the correct angles only on top, but a flat underside. Similarly, the reduced height of the forward fuselage doesn’t allow the forward landing gear to flip up into the fuselage, requiring you to remove it manually instead.
Quibbles with the nose aside, the tail end of the fuselage is especially great, using studs-out greebling to achieve a degree of detail never before seen in a LEGO X-wing. The gray greebling is bracketed by white vehicle roof panels, providing excellent contrast that’s a remarkable improvement over every previous LEGO X-wing.
What truly sets this new X-wing apart, though, is the totally new S-foil mechanism we encountered during the build process. Rather than flipping a lever on top of the fuselage or turning a knob at the rear, which then turned interior knobs that pressed the wings apart against pressure from rubber bands, a much more subtle gray button on top activates the complicated interior mechanism, swinging the wings into attack position.
The movement is incredibly smooth, and the wings open quickly to the right angles with neither too little or too much pressure needed on the button. Even this middle-aged adult LEGO collector found it irresistible to swoosh the X-wing around a bit by holding it from the rear and pushing the button in mid-flight without breaking the fighter’s arc through aerobatic maneuvers.
Closing the wings on several of the previous LEGO X-wings meant flipping the lever back or activating a peg on the underside of the fuselage. In either case, the rubber band tension was released, and the wings flipped closed with a loud “CLACK!” That’s not the case with the new X-wing, whose wings slide closed smoothly and quietly, although you have to close them yourself — no lever or peg. The upper wings serve as a counterweight to the lower wings, and there’s only a slight natural gap when the wings aren’t supported on the rear landing gear.
The smaller scale of the new starfighters becomes more obvious with the TIE fighter, with its short pylons and small solar array wings.
If the X-wing “feels” proportional, the wings of the TIE fighter certainly do not. Anybody who’s seen a squadron of them scream past in any Star Wars movie (or gotten embarrassingly blown to smithereens by one in Star Wars Squadrons…) will see how squashed the solar arrays are.
But like the X-wing, the back end of the TIE fighter gets an enhancement, replacing the stacked radar dishes with a panel that allows for a bit more detail.
The 2018 X-wing included 731 pieces and the 2018 TIE fighter included 519 pieces (both previous versions included the same number of minifigs). If the part count and build process didn’t prove the point, seeing the 2021 versions alongside their 2018 predecessors shows just how smaller both of the new starfighters are.
The X-wing is about four studs smaller in both directions. The difference in proportions becomes more obvious alongside the previous X-wing, which I still feel is close to perfect in many ways.
The new TIE fighter, on the other hand, looks much smaller than the “ideal” version from 2018. Not only are the solar arrays the wrong shape, they’re radically smaller, making the new version stand far shorter than the 2018 version.
The new TIE fighter feels almost like an adorable “chibi” version next to its older brother, since the cockpit pod uses the same canopy and top hatch elements.
These major differences notwithstanding, both starfighters incorporate a number of improvements over the larger 2018 versions, and we’ll return to the benefits of the smaller scale at the end of the review.
The X-wing includes four figures: Luke Skywalker in his Rebel pilot gear, R2-D2, Princess Leia in her A New Hope robes, and General Jan Dodonna (appearing in LEGO minifig form for the very first time).
Siblings (oops, spoiler — sorry) Luke and Leia are not new minifigs. Princess Leia with proper robes instead of white legs first appeared in the $200 75244 Tantive IV last year, but having her available in a much less-expensive set will make many minifig collectors happy. This version of Luke has appeared in three recent sets, none of which featured the dual-molded helmet that appeared on him in the 2018 X-wing set.
General Dodonna appeared first in A New Hope in 1977 and later appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016 (played by a different actor). The LEGO Star Wars design team has slowly worked their way through the Rebel Alliance command staff over the past 20 years, so it’s surprising that Dodonna had never been released as a minifig until now. He wears a nearly floor-length trench coat over standard Rebel officer fatigues, and the trench coat design extends from the minifig’s torso down onto the legs. It’s still rather disappointing that LEGO has not produced cloth trench coats.
Each of the three minifigs features double-sided heads with the usual wry/sarcastic or serious expression on one side and excited/angry or scared expression on the other.
The Imperial TIE fighter set includes three minifigs: TIE pilot, NI-L8 protocol droid, and stormtrooper. The TIE fighter pilot minifig is identical to the version that appears in the 2018 TIE fighter set, while the generic stormtrooper features the new dual-molded helmet. Although subtle, the “Death Star droid” features new printing around the midriff compared to the nearly all-black version included with the UCS Death Star playset.
Interestingly, the stormtrooper and TIE pilot feature different head prints, rather than the generic trooper face.
Conclusions & recommendation
As a straight one-to-one comparison, it’s hard to argue that these two new versions of the iconic X-wing and TIE fighter are inherently superior in design terms versus their larger predecessors from 2018. But there is much to love about both, not least of which is the radically improved S-foil mechanism on the X-wing. But perhaps what makes both of these sets actually great — shaping and scale issues notwithstanding — is their lower price point. Bear with us here for a moment…
Even though we here at The Brothers Brick write for our fellow adult LEGO builders and collectors (along with those who appreciate the amazing work these builders do), much of LEGO’s product lineup is intended for kids, not adults. But as each iteration of LEGO Star Wars vehicle designs have become better, it has come at a literal cost — higher and higher prices to support higher and higher part counts for more and more detail. Many of the most iconic LEGO Star Wars vehicles have become so detailed that they’re out of the price range of the average 9-year old on a budget. And without the $80 X-wing next to it, the new $50 X-wing still looks pretty cool.
The lower price point doesn’t necessarily translate quite so well on the TIE fighter, but what X-wing is complete without an Imperial adversary? So LEGO has produced a $40 TIE fighter to accompany the $50 X-wing.
What’s great for adult builders is that both sets include the same number of minifigs as their 2018 counterparts, with one brand new and one redesigned figure between the two sets to make minifig collectors like me satisfied. Similarly, both sets provide the “core” unique parts necessary to build larger, better-scaled versions with common parts from your own collection, like black plates to enlarge the TIE fighter solar panels and white plates to lengthen the X-wing’s wings. Or even better, just take the amazing Technic S-foil mechanism and build your own from the ground up otherwise.
Today’s young builders are tomorrow’s adult hobbyists, enriching and diversifying the global community of LEGO fans. Sets like these lower the barrier to entry for budget-conscious builders of any age — not all of us can afford the latest Ultimate Collector Series sets at $700. With that view toward future inclusivity in mind, I’m always happy to see LEGO provide well-designed, iconic Star Wars vehicles at a lower price point.
75301 Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter includes 474 pieces with four minifigs while 75300 Imperial TIE Fighter includes 432 pieces with three figures. Both sets will be available beginning January 1st, 2021 from the LEGO Shop online (X-wing: US $49.99 | CAN $69.99 | UK £44.99; TIE Fighter: US $39.99 | CAN $49.99 | UK £34.99), Amazon.com, and other retailers, as well as from third-party sellers on sites such as eBay.