NewIsland Phoenix Review

August 14th, 2014

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.

01

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.

02

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.

Turning

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:

in_02

in_03

in_01

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 16.99, but at time of writing is on sale for 9.99, a real steal for a cube of this quality.

Rubik’s, the Company

April 27th, 2014

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.

A Brief List of Products Facebook has Taken From Me

March 26th, 2014

Over the years I have had the unusual misfortune of having products I like and use get acquired by Facebook. Sometimes good things come out of these deals, but often they do not. Here is my brief list.

Daytum

A good lifetracking web app that had a really nice iOS app. At least until the team/co-founders were acquired. The web app continues to function, but the iOS app, which was my sole and preferred method of data entry; is no longer supported and crashes on start up. I know of nothing on Facebook’s end that came from this deal.

PushPopPress

Mike Matas, the original designer behind iOS, brought us a fresh digital look into books and publishing. They go acquired in 2011 by Facebook after their first book “Our Choice” by Al Gore. The team at Facebook moved on to create Paper, which I have yet to try but is claimed by many to be good. Let’s remember that Paper took roughly two and a half years to make after the acquirement of PushPopPress.

Oculus VR

I was pretty skeptical when I saw their Kickstarter in Summer 2012. Then I heard about a couple of my friends who got them and liked them. Now, where I work there are a few laying around and we have some plans for them in our interaction framework. They got acquired by the blue empire today and I can’t help but feel betrayed.

My first reaction was that it was some joke, or that it was a different Oculus. Then surprise. Now frustration and a little anger. What are they going to do with this if anything at all? Are we going to see some odd byproduct creation several years down the road like we did from the PushPopPress team? Or nothing, like what we got from the Daytum purchase. They’re either going to kill Oculus or turn it into something the original Kickstarter backers didn’t want. I really hope they don’t eff it up either way.

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