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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!