What cube to get for speedcubing

Since the last time we already know where to buy the Rubik's cube and how to take care of it. As a stand-alone sequel I would also like to write about a cube suitable for speedsolving (as known as a speedcube).
In 2004, when I started with a Rubik's cube speedcubing, there were only a few puzzle manufacturers on the market. Nowadays the situation is completely different. Speedsolving is dynamically growing hobby and currently offers countless amount of puzzles, which are being produced by dozens of companies (at least in the case of a 3x3x3 Rubik's cube).
The purpose of this article will be an attempt to introduce the system and order for particular types of a 3x3x3 Rubik's cube (any puzzle in general). Ideal situation would be if a potential customer could buy a custom-made cube and exactly to his/her liking.

On this page you will find answers to the questions:

  • are all the cubes / puzzles the same?
  • what are choice criteria and what cube to get?
  • is it somehow possible to improve the cube?

Are all the cubes / puzzles the same?

Maybe it happened to you too - you have chosen the goods and after paying you found out that it's actually not a great deal. I'm not saying you'll prevent it at buying a Rubik's cube, however, after reading the following text I believe you'll come up with an idea which cube is suitable just for you. After all, nobody wants to buy a pig in a poke.

Nowadays the market, especially abroad one, offers to get a large number of cubes varying not only by producer, but also by material quality, inner mechanism, price, properties in short. Although the 3x3x3 Rubik's cubes made by different manufacturers may look the same at first glance, they are not the same.

The first thing I do when someone asks me "what cube you should recommend me?" is that I answer using a counter-question "what will be cube's purpose?". If you want to use the puzzle as a paperweight or a distracting element in a collection of trunk-up pink elephants, the one for a few bucks will be sufficient. If the intention is to get a cube for speedsolving, you should pay attention to some factors at buying.

What are choice criteria and what cube to get?

I can think of two approaches when buying a cube and not knowing which one to get: first option is to buy all available cubes on the market and personally try which one suits you best. The second option, in contrast, is to purchase one (two, at most) cube in accordance with a "I am satisfied with the best" statement. Nevertheless, as it has been already pointed out in the article about where to buy a Rubik's cube, the "best" cube does not exist - it always depends on the preferences and expectations of individual cubers.

Even though I think the first approach (which is, however, money-consuming) is more suitable, I am a sympathizer of the second approach (which is, however, time-consuming). I'm not just buying 20 cubes and giving 18 of them away somewhere to the shelf. I purchase one or two cubes and use them until I buy some new ones.

Perhaps it would be useful to the reader if I recommended him/her some cube suitable for speedcubing. But I won't do that. Why not? Firstly, I don't know much about it (it could end up with a bad recommendation) and secondly, a popularity among speedcubers is changing almost as often as manufacturers are able to produce the cubes. And it's quite frantic pace - the same manufacturer can produce more than three versions within a year. However, not always it is true that the newer version is automatically better than the previous one. It is definitely wrong to say that the more expensive cube = better cube (whatever is meant by a word "better" here).

Personally, I give a great importance to the recommendations when buying new cubes. But not to those made by manufacturers / sellers, since they are only trying to sell the puzzle - thus they advertise a banner of how brilliant the puzzle is. Bad properties are somehow forgotten to be mentioned by them and useful comparison among other cubes is also missing (it applies to most of sellers). Therefore, a review made by a person who is actually manipulating with the puzzle - a speedcuber - is far more benefical to me.

Practically it looks something like this: at first I find cca. 10 fastest speedcubers according to the official WCA statistics (I give greater importance to an average solve because lucky case plays a big role in a single solve - which means that good result can be achieved even with bad cube combined with great luck). Then I'm looking for what cube brand is being used by these TOP cubers. They commonly have a YouTube account where their videos are uploaded. It is sufficient to write speedcuber's name and let's say the time found in the WCA statistics, it usually spits out something. If you put TOP speedcuber's name alone into the search engine on YouTube, some video will be found for sure. I'm looking through the video description and seeking if an information about which cube brand has been used is included. Quite often it is right there.

Theoretically it may happen that all of these 10 selected cubers are using 10 different cube brands. However, more probably there are at most 3 of them the same - I consider these 3 cube brands as "the best" ones. As long as I'm on YouTube, I'm searching the keywords such as "cube X", "cube X review", "cube X comparison" or their combination (cube X is, of course, replaced by the cube brand I found in a TOP cuber's video description).

Naturally, cube reviews and comparisons can be also found in a written form on the web-sites. The biggest advantage of video compared to the text I find in a possibility to directly see a "cube in action". Therefore, English couldn't be the biggest problem for non English-speaking people when viewing the video. Moreover, they can try to search a query in another language. Together with the size (3x3x3 cube is being standardized) I am most interested in these properties in a review:

  • turning layer smoothness – the cube should have smooth inner faces, so that undesirable rubbing or lock-ups would be eliminated
  • ability to prevent POPs – POP refers to the situation in which a cubie "pops out" of the cube, which basically means discontinuing of a solve for some time (and putting a cubie back in). The most common cause for a POP is layer misalignment and an effort to execute next move. Another reason may arise from incorrect tightening of the screws in an axial cross - in other words, if the cube is loose or not tighten enough. You can prevent POPs in several ways: from tightening of axial cross' screws through putting an insert/torpedo into cube's inner mechanism to proper alignment of layers after executing the move
  • corner cutting – it is a useful cube property, especially for those who turn fast and inaccurately so the misalignment of layers before each move can occur. After executing the move either a POP can happen, the layer can be locked-up during its movement, or the layer can be turned as planned (in such a case the corner cutting happens). Corner cutting for modern cubes allows to have angular difference between the layers about 40 degrees while executing the move. "Reverse corner cutting" is introduced for a situation in which we want to execute inverse move with angular difference between the layers
  • speed and stiffness - I wouldn't recommend too fast cube especially to cubers who are not sub 1 minute. That's because the cube can be uncontrollable (i.e. too fast) for them, resulting in a worsening of case recognition before executing an algorithm (it means the cuber makes long pauses between the moves, which is, in terms of time, generally considered as worse scenario compared to slower but fluent execution of moves)
  • cube material – it would be better commented by a folk having a big cube collection. It seems to me that the plastic isn't the same for all speedcubes. Some is pleasant to touch, the other is kind of cold. A video doesn't help here, it must be tried out personally. It's similar to the stickers - some are worn away immediately, the other are in a good condition for years
  • clicking and chattering – it's not a rule that chattering cube is a bad cube. Personally, I prefer quiet cube over noisy one. However, I don't mind the clicking mechanism in case of some puzzles (which aren't being used in competitions)
  • overall feeling – all basic factors mentioned above (plus some others) form an overall feeling. A video doesn't help here, you need to have physical cube. Everyone's taste differs.

Then I'm skimming through a list of e-shops offering puzzles - cube wikipedia seems to be a good source to me, not to mention a lot of information regarding speedsolving can be found there. It is usually up-to-date since the web-sites are being maintained by speedcubers themselves. After choosing the cheapest items (and free shipping, ideally) I'm ordering the goods.

If something is unclear to you prior to buying and you would like to ask about something not mentioned in a video, go to specialized discussion forum. Mostly there is a good-natured person who will answer your question satisfactorily.

Is it somehow possible to improve the cube?

It may happen that after arriving and taking the cube out the box, it has completely different properties than the ones shown in a video. In most cases it is due to the fact that the cube in a video has already been improved (adjusted) somehow. It deals mainly with an application of lubricant into the inner mechanism, or tensioning (tightening / loosening of screws). Nowadays, unlike the former times, we barely encounter a situation in which it would be necessary to rub off the inner surface of cubies, or, contrariwise, to put some inserts into the cube to prevent a POP.

If you plan to attend the Rubik's cube-solving competition, I recommend you to pay attention to some cube-related adjustments. Not all improvements are actually allowed and the competition organizers might not have let you to compete at all. Not permitted techniques generally include a production of such a puzzle which would give you an advantage in comparison with other competitor's puzzles. Transparent puzzle or disproportionate increase in thickness of the stickers can be mentioned as examples.