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As a returning cuber from 2008, hardware sure has come a long way. (Hardware appreciation/retrospective)

Joined
Sep 25, 2008
Messages
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WCA
2008FAIL01
Thread starter #1
For some background & context, I cubed competitively at around 2007-09 and competed in 3 competitions in those years. My skill level is pretty unremarkable though. (Average times at that time period: 3x3 sub-18, 4x4 sub-1:20, 5x5 sub 2:15, 6x6 sub-4:00 and 7x7 sub-6:30)
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Cubing hardware at the time was expectedly ancient & primitive, popping was a real threat even for 3x3s, they also don't reverse corner cut at all. (Imagine a Rubik's brand 3x3 with adjustable spring tension, that was already a "good" speedcube for 08-09). The 3x3s didn't really have a named manufacturer, instead we simply refer to them as Type I, Type II, Type A etc. I remember owning a prototype 3x3 (as I'm friends with local shop owner), its big feature/gimmick was that its cubies were totally enclosed! Space age technology right? For reference the world record average at 2008 is 11.28 by Yu Nakajima.

Many 2x2s & NxNs didn't even feature springed centers/core, and have practically zero corner cutting (Eastsheen, anyone remembers them?). The Rubik's 4x4 & 5x5 does have some corner-cutting, but they were a lottery draw in terms of quality and you need to get lucky, as well as great setup skills to have a decent performer. Moreover it was not rare to see an NxN cube completely disintergrate in your hand if you pop it, and I meant "less than 60% of the cube remained in your hands" type of pop.

I still remember V-Cubes being a really big deal when they started out with their V-Cube 5, 6 & 7(the pillowed one), as it was the first time a cube larger than 5x5 was mass-produced. The V-Cube 5 was also the first "decent" (at the time) 5x5, only because it featured springs! V-Cubes were basically the first big cubes which can "corner cut" and are still "stable" (at the time). I think it was also V-Cubes who popularized the conical+tabbed internal design for NxN cubes which are widely used now by many manufacturers.

(Another interesting note was that at the time, the V-Cube 6 has a abyssmal center layer anchor system which gave it horrendus turning, and the trend of 6x6 hardware being worse than 7x7 seemed to continue even in modern cubes?)

As V-Cube did not release a 4x4 design, we were still lacking a decent 4x4 at the time. I remember collaborating with the shop owner and modding an Eastsheen 4x4 to feature springs. It was decently quick (as Eastsheens were generally fast stock), the springs added some corner-cutting but turned the cube into a grenade when it pops (which are likely if you are not cautious). We also did the same mod on an Eastsheen 2x2 and that cube actually turned out decent, probably due to the 2x2's much simpler mechanism.
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I decided to try out new technology and hardware in 2014, and I bought a set of Moyu 2x2, 3x3 and 4x4 (AoSu vanilla, not GT or GTS or GTS M or anything). They were already amazing compared the the 08-09 hardware. They only lock-up or corner twist when pushed too far. (Lock-ups and corner twists were both not a thing in 08-09 because the cubes just exploded instead). That 4x4 was also the first time I can turn a big cube with near 3x3 speed with no worry of popping into a DNF.

I would say the 2x2 & 3x3 were already dream like levels of great in my 08-09 mindset, with the 4x4 being better turning than many of the 3x3s of that era.
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I bought new hardware again in 2016 and this time I focused on big cubes, got a YuXin 5x5 and 6x6 as well as a Moyu 7x7 (AoFu). The 5x5 was silky smooth with good corner cutting, with comparable overall turning speed with the Moyu 4x4. The 6x6 though I'm not a big fan of, as it felt squishy and much more prone to pops and lock ups compared with smaller order big cubes. The 7x7 was a noticable improvement over the V-Cube 7 in that it was faster and smoother, although corner cutting and stabilty were still similar.

IMO turning of 4x4 and 5x5 already matches or even exceeds 3x3s from the 08-09 era, plus with lower risk of pop & lock-ups. The gap between 6x6 and 7x7 is smaller now, but still noticable.
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In the recent week I once again grew interested in new hardware, which lead me to splurge on a whole set of the best new-age magnetic cubes. They arrived today and I am utterly impressed and wow-ed by how nice they turn.

The Gan 356X and Valk2 M are insane, nuff said.

The Moyu 4x4 and 5x5 are on another level compared with 2014 & 2016 tech, I can confidently match my 3x3 PLL fingertricks & speeds with them, they are also completely stable (within my abilities) so I have zero worry of popping and locking-up with them now.

The X-Man 6x6 and 7x7 have reached YuXin 5x5 levels of smoothness and stability, which are great since that means I don't have to slow down my turning with big cubes now. The 6x6 is still a tad bit behind the 7x7, but the are both so good that it dosen't matter.
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Another interesting point to make is that all these cubes already turn amazing out-of-the-box (again within my knowledge and skill level). They are nicely pre-lubed, and their great designs enable them to perform great without much setup apart from simple tensioning.

This is a vast improvement over 08-09 hardware, when most cubes were "bad" (by modern standards), did not come with lube, and manufacturing variations meant the same cube model could perform wildly different from one another. As such knowing how to properly choose and set up a cube could make an enormous difference on how well your cubes turn, regardless of how much money you could spend on good cubes. (They all costed similar anyway, until V-Cubes came over which were noticably better but were also more expensive).

I understand the craft of lubing and setting up cubes have also improved drastically over the years (the cubicle labs/angstrom lubes and setup is a rabbit hole I don't want to dwelve into heh), but the common baseline for all cubes has risen so much higher. The out of the box performance is so great nowadays that I find it unnecessary (at this time) to explore the depths of detailed lubing & setup. The hardware playing field is much more even now provided that you have sufficient funds, but cubing (at least for WCA events only) is not that expensive of a hobby.
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Magnets seems to be the most recent "big thing" in cubing hardware development, I am quite interested in how the development/evolution of magnet cubes took place. Everyone feel free to fill me in on that!

I still have a few of these "ancient" cubes lying around, anyone interested in taking a look at these "historic cubing relics" let me know and I can share some pics of them!

Let us look forward to what another 10 years can bring us in the future! What do you guys think could be the next big thing in hardware?
Cheers and I wish everyone improvements on both your skills and hardware.
 
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Joined
Jan 15, 2019
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#3
10 years later, there will be a system similar to gan in which there are no screws, or even speed cubes with magnetic core! 45degree of reverse corner cutting, people use cubes with tiles or stickerless instead of stickers.

do you think China will continue to lead the speed cube market 10 years later?
 
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Joined
Jan 4, 2019
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#4
Basically, Chris Tran and cubicle labs played around with magnets in cubes. The first magnetic cube released by the company was the weilong gts m, and then th valk m. Soon after gan released the air um as collaboration with cubicle labs. The rest is history. J perms video on the best speedcubes of 2018 explains it very well.
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2019
Messages
350
Likes
50
Location
Hong Kong
#5
Basically, Chris Tran and cubicle labs played around with magnets in cubes. The first magnetic cube released by the company was the weilong gts m, and then th valk m. Soon after gan released the air um as collaboration with cubicle labs. The rest is history. J perms video on the best speedcubes of 2018 explains it very well.
do you have a link of the video?
 
Joined
Jan 4, 2018
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2016TUDO02
YouTube
PapaSmurf Cubes
#9
This is the first thing about magnetic cubes. And I agree, cubing hardware has come a long way. Even since when I started (late 2014) cubes are so much better. Moyu were the best cube manufacturer, and by today's standards, those cubes are terrible. Amazing and insightful post to those of us who have taken good hardware for granted.
 
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