Hardware in 2015
When I started speedcubing back in 2015, competitions didn’t allow stickerless cubes. I never found out the reason but I heard that stickerless cubes perform better than stickered ones. Later that year using stickerless cubes in competitions was made legal. There wasn’t a lot of good speedcubes to choose from and everyone was using the same cubes, especially for higher-ordered puzzles like 7x7. 3x3 cubes had more options, relatively, but it was nothing compared to today.
The cubes weren’t that costly and the performance of budget cubes and flagships was a day and night difference. Some cubes performed terribly, but cubers came up with ways to modify and make the puzzles corner cut better and improved the performance. It was a lot of work to make your speed cube your own and viable to use in a competition.
Hardware in 2022 - A new era of speedcubing hardware
In 2022, there are a LOT of different options for all puzzles and events. Everyone is using different cubes for different events. There is a huge advancement in the technology of these speedcubes. Pretty much every cube corner cuts at least 45 and even past the standard mark. There is a whole new system to adjust the tensions of your cubes as well. And of course, the cubes now have magnets in them.
While the speed cube market has evidently made a huge leap since I started cubing, the performance of the speedcubes now has peaked, more specifically the 3x3 puzzles.
3x3 PUZZLES: PEAK IN PERFORMANCE?
In my opinion, the performance of the 3x3 cubes is now starting to peak. Talking specifically about 3x3 cubes, magnets were introduced in 2016, by a cuber and scientist named Chris Tran. And 1 year later everyone was using magnetic cubes. And another year later, cubes had the new tensioning system as well. Most of the advancements were made by 2018. Since then, there haven’t been any advancements in the performance of 3x3s as such.
The budget cubes perform just as well as the flagships if not better. The only difference Is that every cube has a different feeling and it is now up to the cuber which cube they want to use. The performance isn’t any different. The latest introduction to cubes is the maglev system, basically replacing springs with magnets and I personally believe it hasn’t made a difference either.
2x2 PUZZLES: MORE OPTIONS THAN EVER
Let's talk about 2x2s now. One of the best 2x2s to this date (to me) is the Old Plastic Dayan 2x2 which used to be the favorite and go-to option back in the day. The soft feel and smooth feel of the cube with a very good flow made it the best 2x2 cube on the market. However, the plastic was changed after a while, and the performance wasn’t as good.
Now there are much more options for cubers to pick from, and 2x2s also have magnets with them. The performance of the hardware of this event has pretty much plateaued as well. The cubes don’t pop, lock up, and are near perfect.
BIG CUBES: BIGGEST JUMP IN PERFORMANCE
4x4 - 7x7 PUZZLES
Coming to higher-order puzzles like 4x4 and above, there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. Big cubes have improved a ton since 2015. In the early days of my cubing journey, Shenghshou Big cubes were the most famous and probably the best choices for 4x4 and up. But in order to have the max performance of these cubes, they had to be modded by the cuber themselves to get peak performance out of it, which took a lot of time, effort, and paper.
Like the 3x3s, big cubes also have magnets in them, which adds a lot of stability to the cubes. The overall design has been updated and is much more modern than before. The designs nowadays allow for far better and easier corner-cutting paired with a smooth and slick feeling cube, which doesn’t require a lot of work in terms of setting up the puzzle. That being said, the bigger cubes are still not perfect and have a lot of room for improvement.
The extent of customization that can be done on bigger cubes is nowhere near the 3x3s. Adjustable spring compression, adjustable magnets, and much more work that has been done on the 3x3 puzzles can be implemented on the bigger cubes as well. Though it may be much more time-consuming to only produce and manufacture big cubes with so many customizable options, it may be time-consuming for the cuber to actually tune the cube with all the options they get. So the question of will these additions be an asset or just turn out to be counterproductive is one that we’ll find out when the cube manufacturers test it out first.
SIDE EVENTS: MORE OPTIONS AND GREAT PERFORMANCE
As I’ve already covered 2x2,3x3 aka the standard Rubik’s Cube and 4x4 puzzles and up, that leaves us with the side/non-NxN WCA events like Square-1, Megaminx, Skewb, Clock, and Pyraminx. I am not an expert in these events so I’ll just compare the hardware that used to be and the hardware we have now in 2022. I’ll talk about the hardware of these puzzles briefly one by one :
- Square-1: The hardware of this event back in 2015 (when I started cubing) was terrible. It was challenging to not only tune the puzzle to your liking, but you’d actually have to learn to turn the puzzle in a way it won’t pop or just explode on you. Fortunately, that is not the case anymore. The hardware in 2022 is pretty much competition-ready right of the box which is a massive improvement from before.
- Megaminx: The Dayan Megaminx and Shenghshou megaminx were the two popular options back in the day both had to be modded and set up to enhance their performance. Megaminx nowadays are pretty much competition-ready out of the box as well!
- Skewb: Skewb hardware wasn’t that bad back in the day if I recall correctly, but again, mods and adjustments had to be done to get the best out of it. Skewbs today perform really well and can easily handle harsh turning styles.
- Clock: Clock, just like Square-1, has to be the event that used to have the worst hardware. The only good clock was Rubik’s Brand which was extremely difficult to find at that time. Now there are Clocks available in the market that are really good and don’t put you through pain to make them turn better.
- Pyraminx: Pyraminx is one of those events which didn’t have a lot of problems in the hardware, at least for that time. With the addition of magnets and updation in hardware, the hardware is amazing now.
I would like to make it clear that I don’t have a lot of experience in the non-NxN department of hardware, but I feel all the hardware of the events above can be improved upon and hasn’t reached close to being perfect like 3x3 and 2x2.
These were my two cents on the cubing hardware in the year 2022. Thanks for sticking this far and for the read!