Saturday, October 29, 2016

A poem...

Karl Zhao
My man
He and his pet cube frolick
At five in the morning
Tired, but still busy
Wow

By: A friend

I'm having a lot of fun writing for Speedcubeshop, which if you don't have the link yet, is here. It's a great platform to write on and I love the integration with the site. Speedcubeshop has been wonderful in working with me to make sure everything goes smoothly and helping me with ideas for other content, as well as some other projects that might come soon.

Stay tuned to both! Hopefully I'll have some interesting content for both soon!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Proud to announce...



Starting very soon, I'll be writing for Speedcubeshop on a blog right on speedcubeshop.com!

As I've already mentioned before, Speedcubeshop is an amazing site and business. Their prices are good and their selection is wide, which is a very good thing in and of itself, but that's not what makes them special. Their customer service is beyond any other business I've ever known - packages are almost always shipped same day as long as you order before the cutoff, emails are replied to often instantaneously, problems are resolved extraordinarily fast, and throughout the entire process you're usually talking to Cameron Brown, the owner and face of the shop, directly. I've never heard any negative feedback towards Speedcubeshop, not 6 years ago when I was still cubing, and not since 5 months ago as I restarted.

What's more, Speedcubeshop is involved directly in the community, to the extent where Cam often comes and chats with us on our r/cubers Discord server directly. Everything just feels so personal. When you order from Speedcubeshop, you don't feel like you're ordering from a store; you feel like you're ordering from a member of the community who wants just as much as you do for your order to proceed seamlessly and quickly and for you to receive excellent products.

Starting soon I'll be working directly with Speedcubeshop and writing for them. Reviews for new products will now be sponsored by them, which would let me publish much more easily and make sure all of you are up to date on the latest puzzles. Cameron was kind enough to offer me a blog right on the site, which could create some interesting possibilities of integrating reviews right into product pages, which hopefully might simplify the selection process for all of you. :)

Of course, you all may have concerns - wouldn't me writing directly for them bias the reviews? Well, I don't intend to change anything about my analysis of the products I'm reviewing - if I don't like a cube I will still say I don't, just as I will say I like a cube if I do. The same objective metrics will still be there, as will my subjective opinion. Of course, working with Speedcubeshop it would make no sense for me not to suggest purchasing from there - but know that I do this not just because of my affiliation, I do it because I genuinely believe it's the best option.

What's to become of this blog? Not sure yet. I'll probably still write a few reviews here and there, depending on the cube and the content. I might also delve into a few DIY projects, and anything I think of that would be out of place on the Speedcubeshop blog, such as a cube review of a cube they don't carry, will end up on here.

I couldn't be more excited to start this endeavour with Speedcubeshop! I'm sure this will be a great thing to all of us, whether that's me as a writer, Speedcubeshop as a cube shop, or you as a faithful audience.

As a final note, I want to say a sincere, heartfelt thank you to everyone who's read my blog. Over the past few months this blog has grown larger than I ever thought it would, and that is what has allowed me to do everything I've done and gain the opportunity to work with Speedcubeshop. None of this would have been possible without you! :)

I look forward to seeing you again soon, whether it's on this very same blog or on speedcubeshop.com!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

MoHuanShouSu Chufeng review

And finally, we arrive at the last of the Moyu trio, the MoHuanShouSu Chufeng.


It didn't feel right until I completed the set. Let's see what we've waited all this time for.

Background info

The Chufeng is a new 3x3 from another new Moyu subbrand, MoHuanShouSu. It was teased in a prototype video nearly 5 months ago, and we've barely heard a peep out of Moyu about it, right up until its rather sudden release.

It does seem rather odd that Moyu chose to release all three cubes in its recent cycle (the Mars, the M3, and the Chufeng) nearly simultaneously - isn't there the possibility of one of the three eclipsing the rest? We already have two of the three done, so we'll see soon enough.


Look and Feel


It's...uhh...another Moyu 3x3, I guess. Not too much has changed.

You still get the classic rounded square centers, bread edges, and squared off corners. This time, it seems the corner is much more rounded and less squared off than most recent Moyu releases, but that's about it. It's still a nice, solid feel in the hand.

Sticker wise, the cube still uses the classic Moyu color scheme, but thankfully it's using the far more durable sticker stock of older cubes like the Yuexiao rather than the measly GTS sticker stock. These shouldn't chip or fade for a while yet. As per usual, Moyu has them cut perfectly to fit the Chufeng's pieces and they look very good applied.

The cube, stickered up, weighs a moderate 84.6 grams. It makes a loud, very clacky sound with just a bit of hollowness.


Setup

Again, this is another cube that Cameron from Speedcubeshop sent to me used - to what extent, I don't know. It may have been set up before I received it. I loosened it just a hint and lubed the core with weight 5 and the pieces with weight 3, and have done about 350 solves since.


Turning

This is another heavy, clacky turning cube. The turning as I received it was rather slow, and after lubing it sped up slightly but not too much. The main characteristic, as already mentioned, is that the layers feel very heavy and have a lot of momentum behind each turn, and on every turn there's a noticeable clack as the pieces hit each other. However, it's not bumpy like the Mars is - in fact, the layer turns are quite smooth.

While it's not exactly unstable, it's less stable than a lot of other recent 3x3s such as the Valk or the M3. Yet, it was supposedly designed to be a stable cube - more on that later.

I like light turning, airy cubes. As such, it's not a turning feeling I particularly enjoy, but I don't hate it either. I just tolerate it, and I suspect quite a few others will do the same.


Corner Cutting

Max corner cutting: ~50 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~43 degrees
Max reverse cutting: ~36 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~35 degrees

Corner cutting is not great, and is quite a bit behind the full cutting beasts of today's market. It manages to score a respectable number in effective reverse cutting, but that's its best metric.

Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

Anti-pop is fine, as would be expected of any modern cube. Corner twists are a bit problematic, though. Despite the supposedly squared off corners and the good anti-corner twist shown (or faked) in the prototype video, corners are very easy to twist by hand and do twist occasionally in rougher solves. My standard anti-corner twist stress test results in a twist nearly every time.


Internals


If you look closely at the center cap, you can notice it's actually wider than the rest of the piece. It seems the cap actually fits over and around the rest of the piece, instead of sitting flush as usual. Since the cap is the only point of contact between the center and the pieces, it should serve to lower friction.

Classic Moyu blue core as usual.



The edge piece. Nothing too crazy. It has a curved torpedo, which I don't believe I've actually seen before - most are just flat.

The corner piece, complete with the rather rounded "squared off" corner design. It has a shoulder and a nice unified corner foot, which I've found does indeed help with smoothness of turning.

Do you notice that bulbous protrusion above the shoulder? Or the round groove in the side of the edge?

Well, assembled in a cube they fit together like this.
The idea is that no matter where the corner has turned, it's always pressed into that round groove, which in theory should support the cube and keep it very stable. In practice, however, while it is decently stable, it doesn't seem to work as well as simply a flat corner and edge.

Magnetizing potential and magnet placement

Yep, can be magnetized. Magnet placement could be as so.
The problem, as with the Mars, would be the heavy turning of the cube. Heavier cubes tend to drown out the snappiness of the magnets so the effect might not as be as apparent as lighter cubes.


Conclusions

Objective score: 7/10

Again, it's not a bad cube. (I seem to be saying that for a lot of cubes lately.) It just falls behind in corner cutting and anti corner-twist, and its internal design seems to be overthinking the stability issue.

Subjective score: 7/10

I don't like it as much as I do tolerate it. The heavy turning feel isn't for me, and neither is the stability.

So how does the Chufeng stand in the trio? Well, true to the prices, I'd say the Mojue M3 is easily the best, and the Chufeng and the Mars are roughly equal but quite a ways below the M3. The Mars performs a bit better but many people seem to hate the feel, myself included. The Chufeng performs worse but has a more acceptable feel, even though it's not quite good yet.

I've heard a spring swap with the GTS makes it both perform and feel better. I haven't tried it yet, and it wouldn't make for a valid review, but it's definitely in my plans.

I haven't talked pricing yet. The Chufeng comes in at $2 cheaper than its cousin, the Mars, at a price point of $12 for US sellers. So far, this isn't a price bracket that's been widely explored yet. It should be noted that the Shengshou Fangyuan is actually $3 cheaper and performs slightly better, and to most people would feel better as well. I'd suggest you look into that option as well if you're considering the Chufeng.

Let's wrap it up.

You should buy this cube if:
  • You like heavy, clacky cubes
You should not buy this cube if:
  • You like light, airy, or smooth cubes
  • You need corner cutting or have a rough turning style

Bit of a let down to end the trio, I suppose. Ah well. 

If you do decide to buy the Chufeng, it's priced at $11.95 at Speedcubeshop. If this review helped you decide at all, please consider using my affiliate link to purchase it. It does help out a lot in letting me get more reviews out.

As always, thanks for reading! I hoped this helped, whether it was to convince you to purchase it or steer you away from a potentially bad purchase!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Litu CR3 review

We've seen a lot of new 3x3s out lately, especially the trio from Moyu. I thought I'd take a step back and look at a more obscure release from a more obscure company.



This is the Litu CR3, a new cube that is both pretty interesting as a cube and interesting as a release. 

Background info

The Litu CR3 is a new 3x3 released by a new player in the cube industry, Litu. Litu wasn't a cube maker before; rather, it seems they were a Taobao shop that made custom stickers and force cubes out of big cubes and other puzzles. They must have recently decided to jump into the 3x3 market and put out a new cube with a new design.

Only, it appears it didn't really go so well. They put a product listing up on Taobao (with an awful product picture) and it seemed for a short while, it was available for sale. Soon after, however, the color options were removed and replaced with a "Suspended Sales" option, and the price was increased to 999 Yuan - $150 USD. Basically, they don't want you to buy and if you do they won't ship. Even a few that were bought before the change were not shipped.

My guess is that as a new manufacturer their inexperience led them to some production issues. They claim that they should be able to ship the remaining orders sometime this month, so hopefully that means they can get back on track with production as well.

Packaging

I thought this deserved its own section because the packaging was, well, different. Instead of the typical cardboard box, plastic box of the GTS, or even the nice box/stand of the Gans cubes, we get this.


Isn't that adorable? The way the string sticks out from the top, the perfect positioning of the ears above the cardboard face - everything is just bunny themed. It's clever too; rather than including a bag awkwardly stuffed in the box (as in the case of the Thunderclap v)1 or just straight up giving up and packing a bag with the cube (as in the case of the Gans Air), Litu decided to turn the bag into the box. Much less awkward.

Just not sure what to do with that adorable paper wrapping.

Inside the box, er, bag, we get the cube itself and a cute little screwdriver.




Look and Feel

The Gans Air, a very light cube, is 73g. The Guanlong, which is even lighter and feels positively papery, is 66g.

This cube is 57g.

Wait, what?

After double checking the scale and my senses multiple times, I can say that, indeed, this is by far the absolute lightest modern standard sized 3x3 in the world. I practically don't feel it when I pick it up and I can actually blow it around without much effort.

Now, I absolutely hated the papery feel of the Guanlong. You'd think I'd hate this cube as well, right?

Surprisingly, no. I don't know how they managed to do it, but it feels far more solid than the Guanlong and almost as solid as some far heavier cubes, like the Thunderclap. The weight itself still makes me a bit nervous, but besides that the plastic feels fine.


Onto other aspects - the cube looks like a typical 3x3 nowadays, with squared off corners, bread edges, and a square but rounded center. It honestly doesn't look to different from a lot of cubes like the Yuexiao or the Valk, except that the stickers seem a tad smaller and don't cover as much of the piece.

The stickers use the Valk color scheme - pretty standard half bright with darker blues and more vibrant oranges. Nice. However, while I haven't gotten any chips since I'm fairly careful with my stickers, I'm guessing the vinyl used is of lower quality since there was a fair amount of adhesive residue on the outside of the stickers.

It's 56mm and makes a loud, swishy, clacky sound. Check out my video if you want to hear it for yourself.

Setup

Evened tensions, wiped lube, and lubed with weight 5 on the core and mixed weight 1 and weight 0.7 on the pieces. Being such a light cube, I felt light lube could bring out the airyness more.

Nothing too crazy. It didn't need too much setup, and didn't change much from setup.

I've done about 300 solves on it so far. A bit of the scratchiness wore away, but not all of it, and besides that it hasn't changed much with break in. It's possible that all of the scratchiness will wear away with time.

Turning

Being such a light cube, it does make sense that turning is very airy and has almost no momentum. Turns are instantaneous to start and stop. However, it isn't quite the fastest cube; while it is very fast, it's still a bit behind cubes like a loose Gans Air, and remains fairly controllable at its speed.

Turning is quite bumpy, especially if the layers aren't perfectly aligned (which happens a lot). There is some scratchiness left, but as I said it might wear away with even more time.

The big problem with this cube's turning is that while it's not too flexy, it's still very unstable and doesn't like maintaining a cube shape. It stays with two corners pressed together and does not spring apart again, which is quite reminiscent of what the Gans 356S and S v2 would do.

That instability causes no small amount of lockups, at least for me.


Corner Cutting

Max corner cutting: ~49 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~42 degrees
Max reverse cutting: ~37 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~33 degrees

This cube does not full cut, sadly, and out of all of the recent cubes I've tested it's been the farthest from it so far - 3 degrees. Of course, in practice this is inconsequential, but it does stop it from earning a perfect score.

I will note that out of the box corner cutting was rather hugely inconsistent due to inconsistent tensions. There seems to be a very tight range of tensions where corner cutting is maxed out on this cube, and if you're outside that range the cube will either not cut or flex into a lockup.


Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

Anti-pop is fine, as is expected on any modern cube. However, this one does have a bit of trouble with corner twists. It's still more difficult to twist a corner on this cube than any cube without squared off corners, but it happened a bit during solves, and even worse, I didn't feel it happen. With practically any other cube, I'd get a bit of feedback that just indicated I had a corner twist, which wasn't present here.

More points off, I'm afraid.

Internals


We have a bit of an odd and cheap looking core here. While the design isn't exactly unusual, the core seems to be molded from the same lightweight plastic the rest of the cube is molded from, though in a matte finish. This contrasts with the typical nylon core of cubes of old or even the new blue or green Moyu/Qiyi cores.

It does make me question the integrity of the core, but it hasn't failed yet.


Very simple looking edge piece with a small edge base and a long, thin torpedo. Nothing unusual here.


Another simple corner design, even simpler than a lot of corners like the Valk or Yuexiao corners. The base is flat and thin, and is not unified as the Valk's or the Yuexiao's are, which is a shame because the unified feet does seem to help a bit.

Through the holes, I saw something a bit unusual. Take a look.



It really does seem like this cube was designed for weight savings in every way possible. While most cubes have huge friction fits that extend across the entire corner, this one just has two tiny pegs plus two more little pegs for alignment at the top and bottom. They can barely even be called friction fits; there isn't much friction.

Now, as a word of caution, it seems this cube really does not like having its corners disassembled. Despite the friction fits not having friction, the three corners were firm and took a lot of effort to pry apart, and there were a lot of snaps and pops along the way. The inside smelled rather strongly of acetone, so my guess is that they used it to melt the friction fits just enough to fuse them together, since they don't stay together on their own. This isn't a process you can easily replicate at home, so you'd have to find some other way to stick them together if you do decide to pry them apart.

Magnetizing potential and magnet placement

Yes, this cube can be magnetized, and because of its light weight I suspect it could change the feel quite a lot. However, keep in mind the difficulties I mentioned with disassembling the corner. It would take a lot of work to magnetize this cube and carry a lot of risk, since you'd likely break at least one corner and even if you didn't, you'd have to attach them back together.

Conclusions

Objective score: 6.5/10
Despite how excited I get about new and especially limited releases, I have to say, this cube wasn't the best. It's unstable which leads to a lot of lockups. Corner cutting really is fine but is still off from full cutting, which is needed for a perfect score, and corner twists happen with little indication that they did.

It's still not bad per se, which would be something like the MF8 Square-1 v3, but it's not good enough to earn a high score. Just an ordinary 6.5.

Subjective score: 4/10
I do not like this cube at all. It does luckily feel more solid than a Guanlong, but the weight still does make me nervous. It's far too unstable and has too much of a scratchy, bumpy feel while turning. 

The disassembly process is something else that draws ire with me, even though it may not be relevant to most. Glued pieces? Really?

My times gain roughly 4 seconds on this cube, and even going through the Ao100s I did with this cube to bring it to 300 solves was a bit torturous. It's going to become just a shelf piece and a novelty cube for "wow look how light this cube is".


You should buy this cube if:
  • You're a cube collector and want rare cubes
  • You want the lightest cube in the world
  • You like very unstable cubes
You should not buy this cube if:
  • You want a cube that has good performance
  • You want a solid feeling cube
  • You want a stable cube
  • You want a cube that feels smooth or clicky and not bumpy
Well, there it is. I guess it's my first formal critical review.

Despite my excitement for it, I did not like the CR3 at all, unfortunately. I'm still going to keep and cherish it since it was one of the first and as of today one of the only ever made, but I doubt I'll use it much or ever main it for some purpose.

No Speedcubeshop product link for you guys today, unfortunately. We'll have to see if the CR3 does end up getting past its production hurdle and making it into America. If you want to see more reviews like this, please consider using my affiliate link for anything else you might need! It helps me out a lot in getting more reviews out.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the final review of the new Moyu trio, the Chufeng!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mojue M3 review



So this is a bit unexpected. Chufeng was released first, so I should have written a Chufeng review first, right?

Due to the infinite kindness of Speedcubeshop, I managed to get samples of the Mojue M3, the Chufeng, and the Weilong Square-1 early. Out of the two, I like the M3 a bit more than the Chufeng, and you know what? It's not even shipping to most yet. So I'll enjoy this by making an early review. :D

I think this is a very slightly pre-production cube, possibly one of the ones Speedcubeshop was sent to review. Because of that, some things may not stay entirely consistent with the production version. I'm planning on getting a production version as well, so if anything major does change I'll update the review.


Background Info

As you've probably heard, Mojue is the new Moyu subbrand formed when the Cyclone Boys designer joined Moyu. Cyclone Boys hasn't really been known for making high-performance speedcubes in the past. While their cubes weren't bad, they could never quite keep up with modern trends.

This cube hopes to overcome that legacy, and judging by the way it's priced, it's solidly a flagship. No question about it. Unfortunately for it, it enters a market dominated by a trio of extraordinary cubes: the Valk, the Weilong GTS, and the Gans Air. They're not going to be easy to beat.


Look and feel


Let's talk about the stickers real quick. On first glance, they look like GTS stickers - and that's because they are. I compared the templates and this one in fact uses straight GTS stickers. This is further suggested by the telltale white lines around the red and orange.

However, I have reason to believe that these will not be the stickers shipped with the final production cube. Moyu generally shapes their stickers very well to each cube, but in this case, the stickers don't really fit. The corners are sharper and more square than the GTS, but the sticker is still just as round, and the edge is flatter but the sticker is still more rounded. Another thing is, it's not uncommon for production processes such as this to finalize the sticker design last, since that's one of the most variable factors between designs and other stickers could easily be substituted in short term.

In other ways, of course, it looks just like modern speedcubes. 56mm, rounded centers, squared corners, and "bread" edges (a fun term a friend came up with). It makes a high pitched clacky sound, less hollow than the GTS.

Somehow, stickered up it weighs just 74 grams - less than even a stickered Gans Air. I didn't even notice until I weighed it, and I'll get into why soon.


Setup

As usual, I evened out the tensions (which were already quite even when I got it). I loosened each screw a quarter turn, then disassembled, lubed the core with weight 5, and lubed the pieces with weight 2. I have done about 400 solves on it since.

It's important to note that Cameron over at Speedcubeshop may have already set up the cube before me. After all, the cube was sent used and without a box. Either way, I did set it up again to suit my turning style.


Turning

The Mojue M3 actually turns very much like a GTS. It's similarly clacky, slightly flexy, and fast, and has a bit of the same crunchy feedback from corner cutting (not as much, though). The thing to note, and what really confused me, is that whether you turn it or hold it in your hands, it definitely feels slightly denser and more solid than the GTS - there's almost as much momentum in every turn as a Meiying.

Yet, it weighs 74 grams. How come?

I like the turning feel. It's a welcome change from the Valk's silky smoothness, and it's nice juggling between the two.


Corner cutting

Max corner cutting: ~51 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~42 degrees
Max reverse cutting: ~37 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~30 degrees

Note here that the cube actually is capable of full cutting, but to get it to do so I had to loosen the tensions beyond what I'd consider reasonable. Unfortunately, it fell behind a bit on more reasonable tensions, both in missing out on full cutting by 2 degrees and by having rather poor effective cutting.


Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

Excellent and excellent.

that was easy


Internals

Nothing too special here. Again, we see that signature Moyu blue core.

Let's just take a look at the center real quick...

Yup, there it is. As already mentioned in the Fangyuan review, this center also has its corner near the base jutting out.

Still not sure what this is for. Stability, maybe?


The edge. Very simple design, a bit of a wide, flat groove on the side.

Hooray for simple designs. Cuts down on my writing.


The corner. It has a shoulder and a long center stalk rather than tapering down and flaring out like the Valk or the Yuexiao, but it does this with very simple geometry. No crazy curves or bumps like the Thunderclap.

Rather than rounding the corner base, Mojue has elected to make it...
...very sharp.

Does this hurt corner cutting performance, as some have speculated? Not as far as I can tell.

Overall, nothing too crazy in terms of internals.

Magnetizing potential and magnet placement

I've started including this section now, just to satisfy the needs of the magnetizers. This cube shouldn't be bad to magnetize at all. You'll need to split apart each edge and corner, and offset the magnets within them, but placement looks pretty easy.

Here is a possibility.
As to how the cube would respond to magnets, honestly, I have no idea. It seems the cubes that are the most responsive are the lightest and airiest cubes, like the Gans Air. This cube is even lighter than the Air, but it certainly doesn't feel light.

Guess someone will have to try it to know.

Conclusions

Objective score: 9/10
Normally I would have taken off more for how poor the effective cutting was. However, I did find that on looser tensions they improved a lot, as did max cutting up to full cutting. I'm only taking off one point total here for corner cutting.

A very good score, actually. Very close to the Valk.

Subjective score: 9/10
I like the feel a lot - more than the GTS because of the solid and dense feeling. The weight suits me, as does the speed. The problem I have with it is that the poor effective cutting does lead to some lockups sometimes, but it doesn't happen often.

I'm not quite sure if this can become a competitor to the Valk as my main, but it can certainly come very close.

So how did the former Cyclone Boys designer do? In my opinion he shows a lot of promise as a designer, and could come out with some very good cubes in the future. As of today, his one offering is already very good, just a tiny bit lacking on the performance side of things.

I'll be very interested to see what comes out of Mojue in the future.

You should buy this cube if:
  • You liked the Weilong GTS
  • You like light feeling cubes
  • You like dense feeling cubes (yes, contradictory, I know)
  • You like clacky, crunchy cubes
You should not buy this cube if:
  • You did not like anything described above
  • Corner cutting is important to you
HUGE thanks to Speedcubeshop for letting this review happen. Cam allowed me to procure the M3 early, letting me get this review out to you guys faster.

If you want to buy this cube, Speedcubeshop sells it for $17.95. If you feel that my review helped you come to your decision or helped in some other way, please consider using my affiliate link. It helps me out a lot and lets me get these reviews out to you guys faster and more easily.

Thanks for reading! This one was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you guys enjoyed reading it just as much!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Speedcubeshop affiliate link

What? karlzhao314 is selling out?

Well, I guess some would say it that way.

I really enjoy playing with puzzles, especially new releases, and I enjoy writing reviews about them. It's great knowing that my reviews have helped people choose their perfect cube, and that other content like my magnetic GTS tutorial has helped people create their own magnetic cubes, whether it's a GTS or some other cube.

Unfortunately, when you buy a lot of cubes like I do the costs add up quick. The solution is to not buy so many cubes, but that means less reviews. So I've created a Speedcubeshop affiliate link in hopes that it could help offset those costs and more easily get me new puzzles to review for you guys.

Speedcubeshop is a truly lovely site run by a very active member of the community and one of the coolest people I've ever known. Their prices are great, especially with a few of the 10% discount codes that are perpetually active. What really makes their site special, however, is the extraordinarily high standard of customer service - nearly every order is always packed and shipped in the same day, and any customer support questions are responded to in unbelievable speed - I've had emails that were responded to in literally 30 seconds.

So if you haven't used Speedcubeshop before, try it out! You will almost certainly find it an amazingly fast and enjoyable experience. And if you enjoy reading my reviews, please consider using my affiliate link - it doesn't cost anything to you and really does help me write more reviews.

karlzhao314's Speedcubeshop affiliate link

I'll let all of you pick what puzzle to review, no holds barred, if the link turns out to be effective.

Thanks for reading and thank you very much if you do use my link!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Senhuan Mars review


Looks like we're getting another wave of cubes. Moyu slowed down a bit on the 3x3s ever since the Weilong GTS half a year ago, and now they're catching up with not one, not two, but three new sub-brand 3x3s.

I have with me here today the Senhuan Mars, one of the three and the earliest to be released. Let's hope it turns out to be something good.

Background

The Senhuan Mars is a new 3x3 from a new Moyu subbrand, Senhuan. Recently the trend towards 3x3 releases seems to be simply putting cubes up for sale immediately with little to no warning, so this cube was another one that popped out of nowhere and simply started being sold on zcube.

One sharp-eyed friend, /u/ParadoxWatermelon, noticed that the Mars's internal shots looked strikingly similar to the Tanglong GTS renders from a while back. In fact, they were nearly identical save for a few minor differences. Could this be Moyu's revival of that project?

The cube actually costs a bit less than current flagships. Even though the trend with the newest releases has been an increase in price, with the $26 Gans Air and the $20 ($25 MSRP) Valk 3, the Mars only costs $14 from US sellers.

Despite the lower cost, it's oddly enough packaged in the Weilong GTS packaging, whereas the Chufeng, a similarly priced release, has a more standard cardboard box.


Look and Feel


Could you tell at a glance which cube is the Mars?

There are minor differences, such as the slightly more narrow edge stickers and the sharper corners, and of course, the signature white lines around GTS stickers, but otherwise this is a very similar looking cube to the GTS. Without having two of them side by side I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.

It's a 56mm cube, as expected, and weighs in at a pretty hefty 91.5 grams. I believe this is the second heaviest cube I own, only coming second to the Aolong GT. It makes a loud clacky sound, similar to the Weilong GTS but higher pitched.


The stickers are the standard Moyu shades again, but thankfully they seem to be cut from the far superior sticker stock of cubes like the Meiying or the Yuexiao rather than the frankly awful stickers of the GTS. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the orange on the older and better sticker stock is a bit paler and less vibrant than the one used on the GTS, but I'd take that over chipping, peeling, and fading to red any day.


Setup

Out of the box this was a heavy turning cube. I did a few dozen solves just to get a feel for it, and then evened out the tensions as well as tightened each face a full turn. After a few more solves, I did the standard full disassembly and wipedown, then lubed the core with weight 6. I decided to use weight 5 on the pieces this time since from experience I know that heavy turning cubes tend to become uncontrollable for me if I use light lube.  I have since done approximately 400 solves to break in the lube, but overall the feel has not changed much since it came out of the box.


Turning

For some reason I had a feeling this was going to be another crunchy cube like the GTS. My suspicions weren't wrong; this is a very crunchy cube, even more so than the GTS. Turning is heavy, which makes it feel slow even if it's lubed to be fast. It's also very bumpy, even during single face turns, and more so during fast or spammy algorithms.

At reasonable tensions it's very flexy, again, more so than the GTS. This leads to quite a few lockups that has the entire cube flexing out of control.

If anything, it actually reminds me a bit of the Thunderclap v2, which was unfortunately not a cube I enjoyed. It has the same bumpiness and slow, heavy turning feel, and just feels a tad bit faster.

Sadly, I don't really enjoy the turning of this cube either.


Corner Cutting

Max corner cutting: ~52 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~45 degrees
Max reverse cutting: ~37 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~36 degrees

Out of the box, corner cutting was rather bad, since the tensions were so loose it would flex into a lockup on most cuts. After tightening, corner cutting improved drastically into solid "high end cube" territory, though it doesn't quite full cut.

Reverse cutting is pretty good, especially effective which is only a degree off from max. I have a theory as to why this is that I'll get into in my internals analysis.


Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

On stock tensions, it popped quite a lot. They weren't random pops either: you could try to force a reverse cut in a way that would have it pop nearly 100% of the time. After tensioning, that issue has all but gone.

Anti corner twist is similar. After tensioning, the corners are quite difficult to twist by hand, and don't twist during my corner twisting stress test (the G perm which I still have not bothered to learn the name to).

No marks off here. I do wish stock tensions were a bit better, though.


Internals

Here we'll see if it does in fact look like the Tanglong GTS.

Sorry, no bright colors for contrast this time. :(

First thing we see is that the designer went rather groove-crazy on the edges. I count 7 concentric groves on the edges. Besides that we appear to have another simple design, though the sphere formed by the corner and edge locking feet is pretty small, similar to the Gans cubes.

Tanglong-like? Ehh, not as much as Gans-like.



The corner piece has a very clean and simple design. There's exactly one groove on the corner foot, and besides that there's pretty much nothing going on.

Here we do find one major difference from the Tanglong GTS renders though: the corner foot is molded into the corner piece. The renders showed a separate corner foot, similar to what the Fangyuan uses.

Now, remember what I said about its excellent reverse cutting? I think the geometry of the corner is a huge factor in it. The corner is very tapered and rounded, and should clear pretty heavy reverse cuts completely fine. The drawback is that there is less of a friction surface to keep the cube stable, which does start to show in its instability.
The edge piece. Again, another clean, spartan design.

We all know where that rotated torpedo and the tiny locking feet come from. This is the closest I've seen to a straight Gans knockoff. Again, the feet are molded straight into the edge piece rather than being a separate piece as the early Tanglong GTS renders showed.

The grooves should eliminate friction between the corner and the edge, but it seems to me there's already too little friction due to the corner's small friction surface. It's probably also contributing to the instability.

Oh, something else. My magnetic GTS tutorial got pretty popular and nowadays everyone is magnetizing every cube, so I thought I should take a look at how this cube might magnetize.

What?!

Well, this cube happens to have slots that are designed to keep stickerless caps pressed together, only they're not used for anything on the stickered variant since the caps are one piece. I happened to discover: a 5x3mm disc magnet drops perfectly into the slot. There's no play at all.

Don't get me wrong, this will still take superglue and patience to fully magnetize. It should just make magnet placement a hell of a lot easier.

There is a snag though; the corner caps are impossible to get off. I spent half an hour trying various ways to pull, pry, or just generally get them off, and it literally feels like the plastic will break before releasing the corner cap. Yes, I tried multiple corners.

I honestly cannot tell why, since judging by the zcube internal photos the corner caps are just simple friction fits. I just hope someone a little stronger or a little smarter than myself can figure it out.

About magnetizing, though: I'm not convinced this cube would take magnets well. I've found the effect of magnets can be felt much better through light, airy cubes like the Gans Air and heavier turning cubes tend to drown them out. This is quite possibly my heaviest turning cube besides the Aolong GT, so magnets may have almost no effect on it.

Conclusions time, I guess.


Conclusions

Objective score: 9/10
It's a good cube, as we've come to expect of new releases. It corner cuts well and resists pops well, and seems to be pretty well designed. However, I'd still have to put this cube a tier below the kings such as the Valk, since in the end it's still missing that degree to full cutting.

Subjective score: 6.5/10
I don't like it. It's too heavy and slow turning, just like the Thunderclap v2, and I've never really been for the bumpy or crunchy feel. The Weilong GTS was about at the edge of my tolerance for crunchiness, so this cube pushed past it.

You should buy this cube if:
  • You like heavy, slow cubes
  • You like crunchy or tactile cubes
You should not buy this cube if:
  • You do not like anything said about this cube :P
  • You are a new cuber on a budget
That last point might need a bit of explaining. After all, this is a cheaper cube than flagships, right?

Well, personally I think both the Fangyuan and the Thunderclap v1 are still more well-rounded and enjoyable by all cubes. Unless you know you would enjoy a slow, heavy turning feel I think it's safer to go with one of the two mentioned above rather than the Mars. Not to mention, they're cheaper as well.

If you do decide to get the Mars, you can get it from Speedcubeshop for $13.95. If you enjoyed reading this review, please consider using my affiliate link to purchase it - it costs nothing and helps me out a lot in writing more reviews.

Anyways, that wraps up another cube review. I'm sorta simultaneously looking forward to and not looking forward to the Chufeng and the M3, since I heard the Chufeng is a lot like the Tanglong, but I will try to get those reviews out dutifully as well.

Hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The DIY Magnetic GTS (and a tutorial)

On Thursday, September the 22nd, thecubicle.us just announced the Cubicle Labs Weilong GTS M, Pretty damn cool looking cube, it had integrated magnets and promised snappier motion and better stability.

I do understand why they did this. They claim to have spent hundreds of dollars on research and labor is expensive, so obviously they wouldn't sell it for the same price as a typical Premium cube. Even so, the $50 asking price is just too far above the budgets of many, many cubers, mine included.

I remembered that night that out of sheer luck, I had a pack of 50 4x2mm magnets I bought for a 3D printer related project earlier that I never started. (Sorry if you've been waiting for that, by the way. I might still get around to it at some point.) They seemed to fit the GTS corner pieces fine, and since I had a few extra throwaway Weilong GTS's I made one the next day.

Thoughts on it? Well, it's certainly a good cube, and exactly what I expected out of it. When you get close to completing a turn it wants to snap the turn into place, and when you're starting a turn there's more resistance. That certainly makes it more stable than a typical GTS, which made it very good for OH - I mained it for OH during Slow N' Steady, when the day before I was dead set on the valk.

Besides that, though, it's still just kinda like a GTS. Same speed, same crunchiness, slightly reduced flexiness. The snap is really only apparent when you're turning slowly, and during high speed while you can notice a difference in stability you generally won't feel the snap. Same way the snap of the magnetic pyraminx is also kind of drowned out in high speed.

I do have to bring up: I used N35 rated magnets, which are the cheapest, because that's what I had lying around. Chris Tran said he looked for the magnets that were the strongest for the weight, meaning he probably used N50s which should be stronger. In fact, I felt Waffo's magnetic GTS during SNS, which he requested specifically to have weaker magnets put in it, and it felt almost identical to mine. Because of that, I'll say this is in absolutely no way representative of what a real GTS M might feel like. I'd also recommend that if you want to do this project yourself and want to match the GTS M, you should opt for N50 or N52 magnets instead.

Without further ado, the tutorial.

Tutorial


(I'll update this tutorial after I get another set of magnets in, and can make another magnetic GTS. Until then, you'll just have to live with pictures cobbled from pictures of a normal GTS and pictures of my finished magnetic GTS.)

DISCLAIMER: This is a DIY project involving superglue and high performance Rubik's cubes, which generally do not mix. If you're not careful there's a very real chance of you getting superglue on the friction surfaces, resulting in you altering your cube's feel or worst case even gluing two cubies together. As such, I cannot take responsibility for any damage you may do in an attempt to follow this tutorial.

Materials needed:
  • 1x Weilong GTS, or any other cube you'd like to modify
  • 48x neodymium disk magnets at 3-5mm diameter and 1-3mm thick
    • We suspect thecubicle used 4mm diameter and 2mm thick magnets rated at N50, but this is not confirmed. Obviously a larger magnet will be stronger, as will a higher N number. Pick your own if you don't want to use thecubicle's.
    • I used 4x2mm N35s since that's what I had lying around, but it's a tad too weak.
  • Liquid superglue (do not use gel)
  • Basic disassembly tools
Procedures:
  1. Disassemble the cube and remove all of the caps.
  2. Note that in the corner pieces, on each of the three sides, there's a flat surface divided by a ridge (highlighted in blue), and the surface drops off into the slope at the back (highlighted in green). You want the first magnet to rest against both the ridge and the slope. Put a dot of superglue just between the two features (highlighted in red).
  3. Place a magnet against both the slope and the ridge. An easy way to do this is to tilt the corner piece and drop the magnet in carefully, letting it slide down to rest between the two features. Wait until the superglue bonds.
    • Do not do the other two magnets of that corner just yet. It will be difficult to begin with since the magnet you just placed would be attracting it, and you may reverse the polarity on the other magnets. We'll ensure the polarity is correct later.
  4. Place an edge piece against the side of the corner piece with a magnet, align it properly, and drop a magnet into the edge. The magnet should snap to the inside surface of the edge in its correct position. Note this position.
  5. Remove the magnet and put a dot of superglue roughly where the magnet was, highlighted in red (this does not need to be exact). Drop the magnet back into the edge and if all goes well, the magnet will snap right onto the dot of superglue. Let it dry.
  6. Flip the edge over so the side without the magnet is touching the corner. Repeat (making sure the new magnet doesn't snap to the other magnet already in the edge instead of the corner). You now have a finished edge piece with which you can make corners with!
  7. Twist the unfinished corner so a side without a magnet is touching the edge. Do the same thing: place a spot of superglue where the magnet should go, and drop in the new magnet, and wait for it to dry. Using the magnetism of the edge to attach the second corner magnet ensures its polarity is correct. Twist it again, and repeat for the third and final time. You now have a finished corner with which you can make edges!
  8. Repeat for every remaining edge and corner, using finished edges and corners as guides. To speed up the process and keep the magnets in place as they dry, start reassembling the pieces without a core. The attraction between the magnets will keep them in place as they dry, and you end up with a cool looking centerless cube.
  9. Reassemble, lube, and tension to your liking.
  10. Use that $200 vinyl cutter I'm sure you have to make a cool logo for it. Or, ya know, don't.
You now have a magnetic GTS!

If you found this tutorial helpful or enjoyed reading it, please consider using my Speedcubeshop affiliate link to get a GTS to magnetize or any other cube - it helps me out a lot in writing more reviews or getting other content like this tutorial out.

I hope you enjoyed reading! Good luck on your journey to getting a magnetic GTS!

Pre-publishing "update": 

Phil Yu posted a writeup on Cyoubx's Friends defending the GTS M a few days ago. In it, he mentioned several people were reverse engineering the GTS M and that people had already replicated it, which was likely addressed at me. In it, he basically says he believes it is inappropriate for us to use a BOM to suggest his version is overpriced.

To make myself clear, at one point, during the excitement of having successfully completed a magnetic cube, I did in fact think Thecubicle's version was overpriced. However, since then I've thought it about it a bit more. Thecubicle's version is more than just magnets and a cube: the product itself has the same tensioning, lubing, and pretty flawless stickering any premium cube has, but it also has magnets that are likely placed and attached far more precisely than my hastily superglued version, and on top of that it has the the original experimentation and development that Chris Tran did to create and perfect their cubes. I did suggest that it shouldn't have taken hundreds of dollars of resources to create one, since cubes are cheap and magnets are cheaper, but company time is money. As such, I think $50 is perfectly justified and it's a matter of consumer choice whether or not you want to spend that money for a cube.

Sorry if this isn't up to my usual standard of work, I just wanted to be the first to get a writeup about an aftermarket magnetic GTS out so I threw this together very hastily. :P

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Valk 3 review

Hi everyone! As promised, the Valk 3 review came very soon after the Fangyuan review.

I've been looking forward to this one for ages, both before and after I got the cube. Unfortunately, I'm writing this after being awake for 35 hours, so due to my tiredness this review might not be as lively as usual, and I apologize if it isn't. :P Let's jump right in.

Background Info

The Valk 3 is the newest cube from Qiyi, developed in cooperation with Mats Valk, the cube's namesake. Mats didn't actually design the cube; as far as I can tell he simply tested it and approved it to have his name put on it. It's squarely aimed at the top dogs of the market, with an MSRP of a rather Gans-like $25 and an actual selling price of $20, which is by no means low.

Qiyi kind of failed to deliver on the Thunderclap 2 - while some people liked it, it was nothing like the original Thunderclap and disappointed many who were hoping for something similar, myself included. This is a chance for them to earn some favor back in the eyes of the cubing community.

One thing I'm curious about is whether Valk is just a model of a cube or a subbrand of Qiyi, like X-man. If it's a sub-brand, I'm highly interested in what cubes may be coming next out of Valk.


Box

Yeah, not very important, but I just want you all to appreciate the beauty of the Valk 3 retail box. Reviewers received their Valks in a Tclap 2 plastic box, so the retail box was not shown.




Folks, this is how a $25 cube is packaged. As it should be.

(These two photos specifically are not mine. They were taken by /u/keponii and used with his permission, because I couldn't take any that could come close. :P You can check out his Youtube channel here. He's a talented pianist and photographer, as well as a fast cuber, and I highly recommend you go take a listen.)


Look and Feel


Many people have noted that the Valk 3, at least visually, shares many similarities with the Yuexiao and the Meiying. It goes beyond the general trait of squared corners: all of the pieces are very similarly shaped to Yuexiao and Meiying pieces. The stickers are a bit smaller than Yuexiao stickers, though, which are practically full-fit out of the box.

Speaking of stickers, the stickered version's color scheme is Mats Valk's color scheme, which happens to be the same as the Gans half brights. You can see it here. About the stickers themselves - Qiyi made a pretty big deal about how the new stickers are only "0.13mm thick" and super durable, but as far as I can tell they're just typical Oracal stickers that I could cut myself for a few cents per sheet.

The stickerless version comes with the bright, vibrant Thunderclap v2 stickerless shades. Very attractive and excellent contrast.

The cube measures 55.5mm, which some have speculated to be a reference to Mats' 5.55 world record. It's just a tiny bit smaller than most cubes, which should make it very good for OH. It weighs a moderate 82 grams and feels very solid in the hand, and it makes a moderate volume clacky sound.


Setup

Er...nothing.

I didn't set this cube up at all. I'm reviewing it entirely out of the box, just after 500 solves. I didn't feel the need to improve it any further than it was out of the box.

That isn't to say every Valk will be this way - some people I know who got Valks had to loosen them a bit to achieve its full corner cutting potential. Most already agree that it's very good out of the box, though.


Turning

The Valk is a very fast cube out of the box, near or possibly even above Thunderclap level (it's been forever since I've unboxed one). Somehow it remains more controllable than every other cube at its speed I've encountered, leading to a truly enjoyable solving experience.

It has a very smooth turning feel, and has just a hint of momentum behind its turns. It's just slightly clacky, enough to provide some tactile feedback when you complete a turn, but it's not clicky.

I've heard a lot of people compare it to a Meiying. I can see the similarities - namely, the speed and momentum behind each turn, as well as the clackiness - but to me the Meiying has always been a bumpy cube and the Valk is much smoother.

It's a superbly enjoyable turning feel and has instantly become my favorite. 


Corner cutting

Max corner cutting: ~52 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~48 degrees
Max reverse cutting: ~38 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~36 degrees

Corner cutting results are very impressive. As expected, the cube full cuts, but that's not the impressive part. The impressive part is that effective cutting is a whopping 48 degrees - farther than some cubes can max cut. Effective reverse cutting is similarly impressive, at 36 degrees.

There does seem to be some variation between individual Valks, though, probably due to tensions. As I've mentioned, someone I know had to loosen their Valk a bit to improve corner cutting, and my stickerless Valk's effective cutting is far less impressive at less than 45 degrees.


Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

Anti-pop seems kind of pointless at this point: it's a given that any modern top-of-the-line cube will never pop. The Valk is no exception.

Anti-corner twist is the one that some cubes are still iffy on, but luckily for the Valk that's not an issue. Surprisingly the corners are actually somewhat easily twisted by hand, at least relative to other high-end cubes, but I cannot for the life of me get them to twist during a solve. I've tried every alg I know (including the nasty G perm) as sloppily as I can, but I can't even come close to actually twisting a corner. This is Gans Air and GTS level anti-corner twist.

No points off here.


Internals

As I'm sure many of you have seen, Moyu posted several pictures on their Facebook showing the similarities between the Yuexiao and the Valk. I'm not going to be doing the same thing, since you've already seen them. :P Instead, let's just take a look at a few honest-to-goodness internal shots.
Stickerless for contrast
Here we see the trademark Qiyi green core, as well as what looks like a very very simple internal design. We've seen a lot of those lately; it looks like the crazy curves and bumps and ridges of Thunderclap-esque cubes are starting to go out of fashion.

The center caps on this, for once, aren't Qiyi's weird full center-piece covering caps. They're just typical flat caps this time. Note that the flange on these caps is very deep, so instead of prying a corner up you should probably try to get your fingernails under two corners of the cap and pulling it straight up.

One last thing about the center: it's stalkless. What does this mean? Well, when you take apart the cube, it looks like this.


The caps pop off by themselves. Don't lose them!

Here we can see another feature exclusive to the Valk: rather than using the standard cylindrical springs that go inside the shaft for the screw, the Valk uses conical springs. I'm not entirely sure what the advantage to this is, but it's not hurting so I won't complain. Apparently it does make the cube difficult to tension, though.

You know what else is difficult? Reassembling the cube, on account of the stalkless centers. It's not quite as difficult as the Gans cubes, but it's still more difficult than it would be if it had center stalks.

A good method I learned from CrazyBadCuber is to instead of assembling it LBL, build a 2x2x2 block first, expand it to 2x2x3, and finally expand it to F2L-1 (if you don't mind the cubing terminology). The 2x2x2 block stabilizes all three of the centers involved, which you can then utilize to start building into the other blocks.


This is an edge piece. Another rather simple design, except that Qiyi went rather groove-crazy with it: there are 3 individual grooves on each side Also to note is that as far as I'm aware this is the first edge to implement Qiyi's idea of unified feet, which in theory perform better since there's no seam on the feet, but can still support stickerless as opposed to a capped design.

The corner piece. Immediately we can see a feature that was indeed carried over from older Moyu cubes and more recent Moyu subbrand cubes - that hole under each corner "squared corner". To my understanding that hole creates extra clearance between the corner and the center, leading to better reverse cutting. 

Again, we see the unified corner foot we've been seeing in a lot of Qiyi cubes lately. It's white on the stickerless, but of course on solid colored cubes it's the cube's color.

Funnily enough, Yuexiao corners work in the Valk. Just goes to highlight how similar they are. Unfortunately, apparently they don't work very well and somewhat damage the cube even after you've swapped them back out (I didn't try it but I heard the account of someone who did), so I would not suggest trying it yourself.

And that's it for internals. It's just another very simple mechanism design with unified feet and some striking similarities to other cubes.


Conclusions

Objective score: 10/10
Again, if a cube is flawless I can only give it a 10/10. This one objectively is. It turns well and doesn't catch, full cuts with some of the most impressive effective cutting I've ever seen, doesn't pop, and somehow doesn't corner twist at all. It's quite possibly the most technically advanced cube I've ever seen, going head to head with the Gans Air. A 10/10 is well deserved here.

Subjective score: 10/10
I am in love with this cube. It does everything right for me. As I've said before, there are very few cubes that I actually like - most of the highest-end cubes, and a lot of my previous mains, are cubes I can get fast times with so I tolerate. This cube I fell in love with straight out of the box. There is literally nothing wrong with it for me.

I've been getting my best times and my fastest alg executions on this cube, and on the 19th solve I broke my PB single. I see this cube being my 2H, OH, and BLD main for a long, long time.

You should buy this cube if:
  • You want to try what is possibly the best cube ever made to date
  • You like fast, smooth cubes
  • You appreciate high end design - that box is a work of art
You should not buy this cube if:
  • You can't or don't want to spend $20 on a cube
  • You don't like fast, smooth cubes

If you decide to get the Valk (and you probably should :P), you can get it from Speedcubeshop for $19.95. If my review helped you make that decision or you enjoyed reading it, please consider using my Speedcubeshop affiliate link to purchase it. It helps me out a lot in making other reviews just like this one.

Honestly, for what is in my eyes the best cube ever made I thought this review would have been more difficult to write. Ah well, it was still a lot of fun and you guys get to read it sooner. 

I hope this was helpful in deciding whether or not you want a Valk, even though the whole thing was basically just me telling you to get one :P As for what comes next, I don't actually know. There might be a brief lull with no cubes being released, so maybe I'll dive into the past and bring up a few Alphas or older Dayans.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my work!


Shengshou Fangyuan review

Welcome back! The Gans Air review came just a week ago, and I plan on posting the Valk 3 review very soon - as in, sometime later today soon. While it's fun reviewing uber-high end cubes, I do want to give more segments of the market some coverage - so today, what I have for you is the new Shengshou Fangyuan.

There hasn't been much coverage of this cube, and I've only seen one or two full reviews. Hopefully that changes soon, since I believe this cube deserves a lot more attention.

Didn't mean to advertise. Whoops. This review was not paid for or in any other way influenced by SCS.

Background Info

The Fangyuan seems to be Shengshou's attempt to catch up to Moyu and Qiyi in terms of 3x3s. It draws a lot of design cues from recent cubes like the GTS and the Gans's, such as the squared corners and grooves on the corners.

Despite the sophisticated design, it's priced at only $9 from US stores, placing it right into the mid-ranged cube category, head to head with the Thunderclap. I'm very interested in seeing how it stacks up.

Now, to me Shengshou 3x3s have always been a few years behind the highest end cube available at their release, seemingly because Shengshou decided to shift their focus to other segments of the market. Because of that, the Fangyuan really came out of nowhere, which wasn't made any less surprising by the fact that there was no announcement or post on social media, it just kinda appeared on zcube.

Oh well. Even if Shengshou hasn't been known for making the best cubes, if the Fangyuan is good I'm not complaining.

Look and Feel

Moyu, is that you?



The cube looks and feels very much like a Moyu cube. It's shaped very similarly to recent Moyu cubes such as the Yuexiao, a trait it shares with the Valk, and even has completely identical stock shades. A welcome departure from the older Shengshou style: I adore squared corners and large stickers.

No logo, as per usual with Shengshou. I added the SCS logo myself.

It measures 56mm and weighs 88 grams, a bit on the heavy side, and feels very nice and solid in your hand. Not like a budget cube at all. Judging by the feel, if I didn't know the price, I would have guessed it's a high-end cube, which I suppose it is for Shengshou.

You can take a listen to the sound from this short clip I've uploaded. That video did highlight something interesting: there was quite a bit of squeaking from the cube out of the box, especially during fast algorithms like E-perms. It did go away after setup, though.


Setup

Factory tensions were a tad on the tight side. I evened them out to a good average then loosened each face a quarter turn - a half turn and the cube started losing corner cutting ability drastically.

After a few solves, I disassembled the cube and lubed the core with weight 5, of course being careful to remember my tensions. I then lubed the pieces with a moderate amount of weight 1, and have done approximately 450 solves of break in since.

I have seen several mention that the Fangyuan gets better with GTS springs. I may try it at some point, since I do have several spare GTS's, but at this point a spring swap would take too long and doesn't make for a valid review anyways.


Turning

Out of the box, the Fangyuan is a bit on the fast side. With setup, it did get quite a lot faster, almost as fast as my set up GTS's. It has a bit of a heavy turning feel - there's a lot of momentum in each turn, similar to the Xman Tornado or Thunderclap v2, probably due to its weight. I don't mind it nearly as much as I do with the Xman or the Thunderclap v2 and in fact rather like it, since despite its momentum it's still fast and not nearly as bumpy.

As for the turning feel, it's smooth and has a bit of a hard plastic feel, even after lube. I thought it was pretty similar to the feel of Shengshou Legend, just a bit softer and slower. It's a very stable cube and isn't very flexy, which leads to very few instability-related lockups.

Catching isn't a problem like it is with the Gans Air. Very few catches or lockups in general.


Corner cutting

Max corner cutting: ~51 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~42 degrees
Max reverse cutting: ~37 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~35 degrees

Easily into high-end cube territory. It doesn't quite full cut like modern top-of-the-line speedcubes do, but it does come very close, being only 2 degrees off. Disappointingly, effective forward cutting, or my metric for how far a cube can cut without having to force through it with a lot of effort, is a bit low compared to the max cutting, but it's far more than enough for most people.

The Thunderclap, which is what I consider this cube's closest competitor, performs about the same, with a little bit more in effective forward and a little less in effective reverse. They're about level with each other overall here.


Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

As we'd expect popping is not an issue for this cube. I'd say it resists pops even better than the Thunderclap, which surprisingly did pop once on me throughout my months of using it.

Anti-corner twist comes out as a good this time, just missing excellent. The corners are squared and they do take a fair bit of force to twist by hand, unlike the pyraminx tips that are Thunderclap corners. (For the uninitiated that just means they're very easy to twist). Unfortunately, I do get twists during that one pesky G perm, so I can't give it full marks on anti-corner twist.


Internals

Not too hard to disassemble, as far as modern cubes go. Turn 45 degrees and twist an edge as usual.

So it does take after Moyu after all. I can already see some of the design choices are quite similar to Moyu's style.

In any case, it has a pretty simple internal design - wait, what are those centers?


Do you know what this reminds me of? The Mojue M3, which will apparently have similar center corner-flange-thingies.

I have to wonder what they do. I can see how the flange on the GTS helps with its reverse cutting, but by my logic these corner flanges could only hurt reverse cutting.

Oh well. I guess this is just another case where I'll have to assume Shengshou (and Mojue) knows what they're doing and I don't.


This edge piece is interesting. On the surface, it's just your standard speedcube edge, simple design, no ridges. What's interesting is that instead of going with your typical 2-piece construction of either two halves to facilitate stickerless or an internal piece and a cap as has been the case with recent Moyu (not sub-brand) cubes, Shengshou made a 3-piece edge. The two internal pieces are friction fit together, and a cap is snapped over them. (Yes, snapped, not friction fit. It's a snap-on cap.) I can't see the advantage in this. Maybe it's simply easier to produce for some reason.

Shengshou does appear to be gearing up to release a cube called the Pearl, which seems almost identical to this cube except that the edges are 2-piece and the corners are typical 3-piece, allowing for stickerless.

Another interesting design choice. It's not shown in this picture, but the corner stalk and foot is actually a separate piece from the corner's friction surfaces. They're also snapped in, and if you take off the cap you can release the stalk and foot from the rest of the corner piece.

Speaking of the cap, it's just a tad too loose for my liking. I doubt it will come off during solves, but I've had a few solves where a noticeable gap started forming between the cap and the corner.

That about wraps up the internals part of the review - simple mechanism, interesting implementation. Time for the conclusions.

Conclusions

Objective score: 8/10
It's an excellent cube, especially for the price. It doesn't catch or pop, doesn't corner twist often, and corner cuts very well for a cube of its class. I took off two points for what may seem like petty reasons: it's 2 degrees off from being able to full cut, and it did corner twist on that G perm. 

The reason I'm taking off points for seemingly such inconsequential things is somewhat outlined in my last blog post - since cubes do not have much I can score them on, I need to be pretty harsh on what I can score on. This is to make sure the best of the best don't get the same score as a second tier cube that happens to be very good. Even so, I consider 8/10 to be a very good score.

Subjective score: 9/10
I like it a lot. It joins the small rank of cubes whose feel I actually like rather than tolerate (Thunderclap v1 and Valk besides this cube), and I get good times on it. My only minor issue with it is that it's just a tad too slow for my liking, but while I would have liked for it to be faster I don't find myself noticing the speed often.

You should buy this cube if:
  • You like smooth, heavier turning cubes
  • You're looking for a first speedcube - it's cheap and has a nice and neutral feel, so chances are you'd like it
You should not buy this cube if:
  • You do not like anything I said in this review
  • You like stickerless - wait until the Pearl is released
The Fangyuan is a truly excellent cube for its price and could be the Thunderclap killer. It's more technically advanced than the Thunderclap and costs the same, so it could easily be the cube to take over the $8-$10 segment of the market, widely considered a sweet spot for price/performance. If only it could get a bit more exposure!

If you decide to get the Fangyuan, you can buy it from Speedcubeshop for $8.95. If you found my review helpful at all, please consider using my Speedcubeshop affiliate link to purchase it. It costs nothing extra to you and helps me out a lot in writing more reviews like this.

As always, thanks for reading! The Valk review will probably be later today, so check back soon!