June 6th, 2024
Basilio Noris

The best budget smart cube available, and the software is actually good!

  • Weight & feel – Average weight (83g), solid 
  • Turning Speed – Moderate to fast and smooth
  • Corner Cutting – Perfectly workable, can adjust spring stiffness to improve
  • Magnets – No auto-align, but medium strength that balances well to avoid overshoots
  • Lockups – Sometimes : the cube is relatively tight and the travel distance can’t be adjusted
  • Sound – Reasonably quiet
  • Looks – without the logo it would be virtually indistinguishable from the QiYi M Pro, with the beveled center caps and rounding of the edges inner side. The logo is very meh.
  • Plastic – Solid and stiff, glossy and perfectly fine  
  • Similar-feel cubes – QiYi M Pro, Moretry Tianma
  • Price – 20$
Finally a true “budget” smart cube?

QiYi has been doing a lot of things right lately, and now they’ve decided to dabble in smart cubes, and surprisingly they aren’t doing it the wrong way!

The QY SC-S (known in stores as QiYi Ai, for some reasons), is likely my favorite smart cube that costs less than 100$. Calling it budget at its ~15$ price tag would not be faire compared to normal speed-cubes, but compared to all the other smart-cubes in a similar price range it has a couple of big advantages.

1) It doesn’t suck.

Most smart cubes tend to be locky, bulky, slightly janky cubes, that are mostly ok if you evaluate them as SMART-cubes, but not if you were to apply the same criteria you’d use for a SPEED-cube. There’s a couple of exceptions (the “works half the time” Moyu AI, and the “wallet-blasting” Gan 12 Ui come to mind), but usually if you pick up a smart cube you’re not expecting to get your usual averages since they might be good, but they aren’t speed-cube good. The SC-S is a speed cube. Mind you, not a top-of-the-line speedcube (this is no 12ui), but it’s a very solid speed cube with good turning and control, decent customisation (more on this later) and overall feel of a speedcube you might want to pay 15$ for. It’s not as light to turn and as forgiving as the QiYi M Pro, but it feels pretty dang close.

2) The software doesn’t suck

This is probably the part I’m most positively surprised by : imagine a cubing app that doesn’t want to look like the user interface of a mmorpg (thank you Gan Cube Station), nor a kiddies iPad app (you’re welcome, Rubik’s connected), or a colourful punch in the eyes that only works if you can manage to understand how to log in (oh… Moyu… you rascal).

This app is rather minimalistic, very easy to register and log into, Has clear sections dedicated to the things you want to do with a smartcube most of the time (which is, for the vast majority of people, to just time yourself and sometimes compete), a nice stats page that is not too noisy and loaded with visual stuff, and without requiring you to have a top of the line smartphone to run a glorified timer without lagging.

Imagine my surprise when the thing is also able to analyse roux solves.

And yes, the stats charts could be better, the “estimated ranks” could cover geographies outside of China, and it would be great if the Roux analysis went a bit deeper than a single split of 4 steps, but if I’m complaining about this it means that the giant list of typical complaints one has for smart cube apps are simply not relevant here!

With that said, there are a couple of drawbacks:

The firmware / API are closed and difficult to reverse-engineer, which means that you won’t be able to use this cube with your favorite cubing apps. This might be solved with time, but for now we’re stuck on their system.
[UPDATE!] The brilliant mind of Flying-Toast (u/This_Hippo on reddit) has been able to reverse-engineer the protocol, so now support for it has been / is being added to all your favorite timers! 

The batteries are non-rechargeable. That’s not a deal breaker nowadays, with likely hundreds of hours of cubing before I’ll need to swap batteries, but if you’re planning on using this for 5 hours every day then that might be a turn-off.

The customisation is ok but not stellar : no way to adjust travel distance, so you’re stuck with changing the spring compression, which is ok, but it really limits the range of possible feels you can achieve. The factory settings are a bit stiff, but at least they have borrowed the spring compression ring with coloured dots from the Tornado v3, so you can actually SEE what settings you’re at and can easily loosen it a bit.

Magnets are perfectly fine, plastic feels ok and it’s blessedly NOT frosted, and overall if I had gotten this as a speedcube I’d have said “eh, it’s ok”, but might have suggested something different for the same price. Except it’s a smart cube, and if I compare it to the Gan I carry (S), or the Moyu AI, this is simply a better cube for 1/3 less money.

So… should you buy it?

If you don’t have a smart cube I’d say absolutely. If you DO have a smart cube and it’s a Gan 12 Ui (fp), then why are you even here? If you do have a smart cube but it’s another one, then… it really depends on how much you use your smart cube. If you use it on a daily/weekly basis for comps or training, then this is probably a great update that will cost you half of what you paid for your current cube.

A note: this cube was generously provided by SpeedCubeShop.com, which is kind enough to send me cubes for testing as long as some of you use the code SCDB when purchasing from them. So if you’re buying a cube and you want to get it decently quickly, consider making your purchase using [This link]. That will send some love our way and let me keep doing this!

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