NewIsland Phoenix Review

This is my first stickerless cube, I normally I would not have gotten it because of its stickerless. I have a policy of only reviewing WCA legal cubes, while stickerless cubes are not currently allowed in WCA competitions, there is a chance that they will be legal in the 2015 regulations. Given this, when NewIsland offered me to try their new cube, the Phoenix, I decided to give it a shot, making the gamble that I’ll be able to use it in 2015. The stickerless nature of the cube didn’t provided anything new but the internals and turning mechanism did, I quickly discovered this is a very different cube from what is already out there.


About NewIsland or: how a new cube company emerges

(You can skip this part but I think it’s a rare insight into a cube company) I’ve been wondering a bit about how a company starts making cubes, I’ve been in contact with NewIsland and out of curiosity I asked them a little more about themselves. To paraphrase, NewIsland is a new cube brand based in ShenZhen, China, previously their factory made other toys like yo-yo’s and snap bracelets. Recently, they reached out to some cubers in China to design some new cubes and we’re starting to see those now. They added that while there are a lot of cube companies in ShenZhen, their manufacturers are in other cities. This adds a level of quality assurance since they’re manufacture and sell the cubes themselves. Anyway…

What Comes in the Box

  • Cube, prelubicated I’ve been told with D39. The lubricant was a minor irritant for me, it could be the D39 or it could be that I’m more used to less toxic stuff.
  • Instructions, in relatively good English.
  • Felt bag, just barely big enough to hold the cube.

Colors and Stickerlessness

When standstill, the colors look nicely balanced, I particularly like the brightness of the blue. But when you start turning faster the warmer colors (yellow, orange, red) blend together just enough to cause some confusion from time to time, often in the form of improperly placed F2L pairs. It’s not a show stopping issue though.


The stickerlessness of the cube adds some attributes I did not expect. First the shape of the cube is more, well, cubic. There is very little bevel on the cube leaving your hands to occasionally catch an oddly sharp edge. Compared to many other cubes around these days, this is abnormal, I might posit that cubes are becoming more and more bevelled.

The other attribute stickerlessness adds is a lack of friction, without stickers to grip, there is just the cube. This has led to fumbling the cube a few times, I believe it could also be from lubricant getting on the surface of the cube, but enough wiping down of the surfaces has somewhat negated this belief. Like the colors, these are not show stopping issues.


The turning is smooth and relatively quiet. It turns definitively better than any other cube I’ve tried. This can lead to very very fast times, but also a loss of control during a solve. Combine this with the fumbling attributes mentioned above and a good solve can quickly turn south due to ambitious fingers.

The faces cut in both directions at a fairly high angle, I don’t think I’m able to do Y perms on many other cubes faster than I can on this cube.

Internal Structure

The structure is what you should come to expect from modern cubes, with a few variations. Here are a few pictures:




Manufacturer’s note: plastic is made of ABS material a non-poisonous material which the color would never fade from.

Wrap Up

Ultimately stickerless cubes are not legal under the WCA. So keep that in mind when buying this. I’ve been in contact with the makers and they’ve confirmed that a stickered version is coming. If you’re already fast, and you like stickerless cubes the NewIsland Phoenix is for you. Otherwise, you might want to wait at least until a stickered version comes out, I don’t think this is a good cube for beginners. You can get the NewIsland Phoenix from Amazon for 11.99.

(Edit Jan 2, 2015): There is now a stickered version of the cube available through Amazon here.

Rubik’s, the Company

Rubik’s is a company who holds the rights to the singularly most popular toy icon in history. Given the cube’s new found popularity over the last 10 years, the problem has been presented to them of how to build on top that success. Responses to this problem include the Rubik’s Revolution, the Rubik’s Slide, the Rubik’s TouchCube, the Rubik’s 360; and now, most recently the Rubik’s Light.

I have had the same reaction to each: ridiculous, silly, laughable. (I’d say the one exception is the Mirror Blocks.)

I can imagine or hope that they are trying to solve this problem somehow. 2008 was the year the cube’s popularity exploded, I have this Google Trends lookup and a spike in my YouTube video views to support this. By happenstance at the US Nationals 2008 I briefly talked with a pair of very out of place people who were from Rubik’s. Their purpose there was to investigate their product’s popularity and figure out how to bring it more mainstream. The conversation was brief, and as far as I can tell since then they’ve failed.

When the whole time, all everyone wanted, was a decent 2×2-5×5. Believe it or not Rubik’s used to hold that market. Then Eastsheen came along. They did some innovation and made a 2×2 that didn’t pop, a 4×4 that was smooth(er), and a 5×5 whose pieces wouldn’t break. V-Cube also made a huge impact, cube sizes greater than 5×5 were something that Ernö himself once said were impossible. Cubesmith came up and made stickers people loved! A few years later every cube that’s in competitions are not Rubik’s cubes and the products that Rubik’s make, including their classic 3×3, have been turned into a running jokes by the community.

Rubik’s can bring themselves back up, they can be a new force to be rekoned with. In addition to the above I have this to tell them directly: Stop focusing on gimmicky or digital spinoff products. Focus on the niche market you could have. Make a cube that is as fast as any generation of Dayan cube. Do what you did with the Mirror Blocks, remix your classic puzzle, (just look at what’s coming out of Meffert’s these days). Do one or both of these well and people will start listening, buying, more.

54.6mm FangShi Shuang Ren Review


My first impressions said a lot in the video review of the FangShi ShuangRen. It’s my hope that these post impressions say just as much. It’s a really good cube, stands as a testament along how far cubes have come in the last five or even three years. I cannot open this cube up and as a result it does not pop.

A Bit of History First

There have been cubes that do not pop in past, the name “DIY New Type A” comes to mind and I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this remembers it. The “new type A” couldn’t pop but was pretty atrocious. The edges had these planks on them, a bit like the Alpha V but longer. These planks were separate from the edge and would come off easily, and you had to assemble it yourself when you first get it. If you assembled it correctly and the planks stay in, the cube could not be popped, but one of those planks fall out and you could have a mess on your hands to take the edge out and repair it. Believe me, it was awful and I haven’t seen one since.

The Rest of the Review Now…

I can confidently say that the FangShi is nothing like that. The Fangshi works like a charm. The turning reminds me a lot of a ShengShou 4×4 or 5×5, very smooth, no catches. Corner cutting margins are not the same as you would get on a Dayan cube, but they’re still very acceptable. The one annoyance I have is the size actually, it’s just that much smaller that my fingers collide too much. I can still get good times despite this, but I have to make a small adjustment every time I start a session with it. There is also a 57mm version of the cube I would be interested in trying.


A comment on the video clearly explained how to take the cube apart. The insides are very complicated and it’s soon apparent that a lot more pieces make up this cube than you think. Pictured below are the edges, the corners, and a all three parts of a corner. I believe this is the first time I’ve used this phrase for a cube, but it is beautifully designed, truly built inside out.

edges corners coner-dis

Overall the cube makes you wonder how much better it can get than this, but we’ve all thought that at one point or another I’m sure. This would be a good cube for any level of cuber to get, and I imagine it would last them a long time. You can buy it at Lightake for $15 and shipping is free.

Dayan PanShi Review


The PanShi is a combination of daring and lazy. On one hand they were trying to make some thing new and better. On the other hand you can see exactly how the designers just copied the ZhanChi CAD file and made a few small modifications. These modifications include wider “wings” on the edges, and a higher “lip.” Both do a really good job of keeping the pieces from popping, but at the expense of wide corner cutting margins and hence speed.

ZhanChi corner on the right, PanShi on the left.
ZhanChi corner on the right, PanShi on the left.
ZhanChi edge on top, PanShi edge on bottom.
ZhanChi edge on top, PanShi edge on bottom.

This doesn’t mean it’s a bad cube. I can certainly get sub-15 times on it, however not very consistently. (For context I consider myself to average a mid-14 with a ZhanChi). I’ve been trying to get better at blind solving and I think this is a really good cube for my practice. It’s hard to make accidental moves on it and the sides click in such a way that is very distinct. It gives the same kind of good feeling the clicks from a mechanical keyboard give, that is I get tactile and audible feedback from a turn.

You can see the mechanisms that keep the edges in here.
You can see the mechanisms that keep the edges in here.

I can see this being a really good cube for people still over 25-30 seconds. It encourages clean turning, and it doesn’t pop as frequently as a Rubik’s brand might. However in the end this is a prime example of the innovator’s dilemma, it just doesn’t stand up to its predecessors at all.


The Dayan PanShi can be bought on for $13.08 USD and they have they have free shipping anywhere in the world.

The stickers are actually pretty nice.
The stickers are actually pretty nice.

42mm Dayan ZhanChi Review


I said it twice in the video review: it’s just a ZhanChi. But when you hold it and play with it, it feels like so much more. I imagine it has something to do with our perception of small things being cute? The stickers are pretty decent actually. Historically DIY’s specialty cubes from China have had really bad greens, yellows, and oranges.


It’s not a main cube, you’d be crazy to use this as a main cube. The ergonomics of it just don’t work either, my thumbs end up feeling tweaked after a short session with the cube. One thing I didn’t mention in the video review is how you physically have to push less, to be precise: the arc length your finger travels to turn a side is shorter.


If you’re looking for a good small cube, this is most likely your end all solution. The 42mm ZhanChi can be bought at for $8 and the ship anywhere in the world.


Presenting FiveTimer for Android

cubeI’ve been wanting to port FiveTimer to this platform for a while and it’s finally here. It has all the features that it has in iOS:

  • Scrambles for all WCA puzzles.
  • Puzzle support for all WCA puzzles, 2×2-7×7, Megaminx, Pyraminx, Square-1, and Clock.
  • Hold to start or tap to start.
  • 15 second countdown.
  • Export full session, current, or best average of five or twelve.
  • Session saving and restoring between puzzle.
  • Arbitrary puzzle profiles.
  • Contrasted, minimal interface.

So it’s a port, (ok minimal mode is missing). Same old same old right? Features that are not in iOS:

  • Session exporting. In iOS you can only email the session, in Android you can send the session string to any app that will receive it. My favorite is Dropbox in this instance.
  • Drop to stop. Kind of a silly name in retrospect, but if your device you’re timing with is on a table, you can slam the cube down as if you’re timing with a stackmat and the timer will stop. This uses the device’s accelerometer to detect a sudden Z change and stop the timer. I’m really psyched about it. The tweet above was an accidental reference to this. Wait until you see a video, you’ll be wowed I’m sure.

It’s $0.99 on the Google Play Store. I feel like some one is going to complain instantly in their head about the price to which I have this response. It’s a dollar, you pay once, you own it forever, you’ll get all future updates, you can use it whenever you want, you can uninstall and resinstall it indefinitely. Consider for a second the things you buy which cost more and you get much less out of, a candy bar, a soda, a movie ticket. It’s just a dollar. Thanks, I hope you enjoy it.

What’s New in FiveTimer 1.2


(cool, the title rhymes) So there’s a lot less that I had hoped would be in this version as described in this post, but significant enough to push a version+0.1 release. Here goes:

  • New icon – yeah the old one was not so great, I think this one is at least a little better.
  • Support for iOS 6 – iOS 6 changed a lot of things under the hood, even without some of the added features this was very important.
  • New screen resolutions, iPad compatible – I never got complaints or requests for this but it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do.
  • New Feature: Minimal Mode – I’m very excited about this. The idea behind this mode is that you should only focus on the current solve on hand, there have been countless times where I have the intention of doing an average but because I get a bad start I just keep deleting and resetting. Now you can hide the controls and just do solves, if you mess up or are curious what your average is, you can always bring the controls back up.
  • Support dropped for iOS 3.2 – i.e. dropped support for 1st generation iPod touches and iPhones.
  • Bug Fixes – The standard deviation that was written in emails was for the entire session not that set of times. The start or stop button would not properly bind on first install. iOS6 bug fixes, it just really changed things.

The best part is FiveTimer is still just 99¢ in the iOS App Store. I have plenty of ideas for 1.3, including one more mode, 15 second countdown, and a few more. As always if there’s a feature you want to see send me a message here. Enjoy.

Montage and Thoughts on US Nationals 2012

This was the easily largest US Nationals ever, and in one of the most visible venues possible, Las Vegas. From all the great cubers from around the world and the country, the excellent competition heat system, and the prize money in $2 bills, simply put the competition was one of the best I’ve ever been to. I was skeptical about how the competition would go since it was announced, and nothing is perfect, below is a small list of what I think worked well and what didn’t.

  • Lighting, I didn’t think it was the best, I asked other people and no one else had complaints about it, so it’s probably just me.
  • Expensive stuff, a ATM ate my debit card the day before I got there so I was paying for everything with the cash I had and a credit card. Food was unexpectedly expensive, you always hear about Subway’s $5 footlong subs, in Las Vegas they’re $10 footlongs.
  • Venue layout, the side rooms were just in the right place, the tables in the main room were laid out such that spectators could easily watch, competitors could wait behind the stage, and others could congregate around the circular tables. The side stage too was in a good place.
  • Seminars, I only went to one of these, there were about three every night though, in the one I did go to the person speaking delivered information that cannot be directly found anywhere and was thus very helpful and insightful, I hope they do these again.
  • Heat System, they did this at US Nationals 2011 in Columbus, OH. It’s essentially the smoothest way to handle a large number of competitors. The staff is comprised of judges, runners, scramblers, and recorders. judges stay seated, while runners call people and run cubes to and back from the scrambler’s table where they’re scrambled. When an average is done the runner takes the scorecard to the recorder. It worked great in 2011 and worked even better here, so much so that some events even went ahead of schedule.
  • Age limits, if you’re under 21, what you can and cannot do in Las Vegas is limiting. I thought this would be a short coming of the venue, but for the younger cubers seminars and cube mettings through the night took care of this. For the older cubers though, there were a few days where hangovers definitely affected some performances.

World Championships 2013 will be in the same city July 26-28th. I will not be going as I will be in a different country. I’m not too disappointed about this, there will always be more World Championships, and one trip to Las Vegas in a lifetime, being the city it is, is enough for me.

ShengShou 7×7, Non-Pillowed Cube Advantage?

Dan Cohen made this post in the speedsolving video section of a simple 7×7 single solve with the ShengShou 7×7. The time of the single solve was 3:17.05, three seconds under the current world record average and four seconds above the single solve world record. I’m not typically someone who is vaguely interested in the 7×7 event but this one sparked my interest simply because the 7×7 Dan is using is not pillowed. Compare these times to his in the wca database, his official single and average is 3:44.xx and 3:57.xx respectively. So if you’re following he got a single time on video 30 seconds under his normal average and uncomfortably close to the world record (uncomfortable if you’re Lin Chen)!

I think this is saying something more. Not just about the new 7×7 and ShengShou’s big cube innovations, but about pillowed vs non-pillowed cubes. This 30s jump for Cohen could easily go to show that pillowed cubes are generally slower. Although it’s a jump with only one firm data point, think to your own experience with non-cubic cubes (weird wording but you get it right?). My experience at competitions with pillowed 3x3s haven’t typically resulted in faster times and the pillowed V-Cube 2×2 wasn’t that much faster for me. The curved sides on the V-Cube 7×7 may feel better in your hands, an experienced cuber just dropping 30s in a solve says something huge, nay, screams it. The 7×7 world record is going to plummet this summer.

Further Reading/Viewing:

V-Cube 3 Extended Review and Follow Up

Remember this is all just for the flat version of the V-Cube 3. I got the V-Cube 3 and I was really hopeful for it. I really like the 2×2 and 5×5, also the times I’ve tried the 7×7 I was pleased. Unfortunately the 3×3 category was already take from them by Dayan and others. The 3×3 category is no market for any company to just throw in their take on a 3×3, however with the popularity of V-Cubes I don’t think they’ll suffer a loss from making this cube.

Video: My V-Cube 3 Unboxing and Review

The cube is o.k. there are pros, but equal cons to its performance and design. It can actually be kind of fast, you just have to be careful with it, because if you’re too fast pops are almost inevitable. Cons are easier to pick out in this case. The cube’s problem primarily extends from how it’s built, again the robustness of the edges and corners does not help it be smooth. At least it’s adjustable (hey there’s a pro), but any more loose than what I have it at now and I think it would pop a lot more. However almost no cube’s design flaws are incurable, I think the robustness of the pieces hold great potential for cube-modding. Think about it, the pieces are perfect cubes which become so easy to modify a newbie could do it.

I mentioned in the review that it didn’t come lubricated, once I lubed it up with silicone spray, it wasn’t hat much faster. This could be due to the plastic or maybe I just didn’t put enough in. I suspect a combination of both.

Finally it seems I got the “wrong” version of the V-Cube 3 as far as speedcubing goes. It also comes in a pillowed version and an unassembled DIY version. Good reviews have been coming in for the DIY version however! I now regret my quick purchase of the cube the day it came out, I usually prefer DIY kits anyway. Seems like this time around the difference between the two was more crucual than expected.

Can we have a v-cube 4 now?

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