Sunday, August 7, 2016

Thunderclap v2 review

It's been a while, hasn't it? I wanted to keep writing the Mega post part 2, which had a lot more cubes, but most of them were older ones and it got quite repetitive. If people ask for it I might finish it, but I probably won't otherwise.

In the meantime, today we'll be looking at the Qiyi Thunderclap v2 (albeit a bit late). The successor to a very popular cube, this cube was hyped beyond belief. It costs $9 from most US sellers, which plants it in the semi-budget tier of cubes.

I loved the Thunderclap 1 - despite the lower score I gave it in my mega post, it ended up becoming my main. In anticipation, I preordered all four versions of the Thunderclap 2. Unfortunately, my first impressions were not good at all - you can read about them in my reddit post.

However, I've heard from many it becomes better after break in. I went and did 200 solves on it completely dry, then relubed it and have since done about 300 more. I think I'm ready to give my proper review of it.

(This is a rather long review - scroll down to the "Should I buy this cube" section for a TL: DR.)

Look and Feel

First off, let's talk about the look and feel of the cube.
Thunderclap v1 on left, v2 on right. Shameless Mystic.

It certainly looks quite a bit different from the Thunderclap 1: it adopted the squared off corners of more modern cubes, and shaped the stickers accordingly. The centers are more octagonal than before, and the edges are now rounded on the bottom. 

In terms of colors, the stock stickers on the stickered versions have identical shades to the Thunderclap v1. The stickerless version has a brighter green as opposed to the paler green on the v1, a brighter yellow, and a darker blue and slightly darker red. All of the colors on the stickerless seem more vibrant and less washed out than the Thunderclap 1's colors.

It weighs noticeably more than the v1, coming in at 85g for the stickerless version and 88g for the stickered version, as opposed to 77g for the stickerless and 80g for the stickered for the v1. It makes a higher pitched, more clacky sound than the v1, similar to the X-Man Tornado, and as I'll get into later, the similarities with the Tornado don't end there.


The Thunderclap v1 was a smooth, slightly clicky cube. The Thunderclap v2 has quite a different feel: similar to the Tornado, it's much slower, even when lubed, much more bumpy, and much more clacky. It's also tensioned much looser out of the box, which makes it not quite unstable as the GTS or the Gans is but very flexy when corner cutting.

The Thunderclap v1 would pop when tensioned as loose as the v2 is, but I haven't experienced a pop on the v2 yet and it corner cuts very well, so I haven't felt the need to tighten it.

The v1 had a very light feel when turning. The v2's turning feels much heavier even if when tuned almost as fast - there's seemingly more weight distributed into the pieces rather than the core and the centers, which combined with the extra weight gives more momentum to each turn. This is again very similar to the Tornado's heavy turning feel.

It's a very odd feel if you're used to the Thunderclap v1, and I certainly don't like it nearly as much. You could get used to it or even like it over time, especially if you haven't used the v1 before, but otherwise don't go into it expecting the same thing.

It would be a rather nice feel if you like the Tornado, and in fact I know someone who loved the Tornado and now loves the Thunderclap v2.

Corner Cutting

Max corner cutting: 55 degrees
Effective corner cutting: ~45 degrees
Max reverse cutting: 35 degrees
Effective reverse cutting: ~27 degrees

Impressively, this budget cube is part of the small but growing club of cubes that can manage full cutting - there is not a single angle on this cube that it can't corner cut. Corner cutting is snappy and reverse cutting is smooth up to about 20 degrees, after which it starts to feel snappier.

No complaints here. It easily matches high-end cubes like the Yuexiao or the GTS.

Anti-pop and anti-corner twist

Anti-pop is excellent. I can't get it to pop no matter how roughly I turn.

Anti-corner twist...well. On the stock tensions it's definitely more difficult to corner twist than the v1, but it's still rather easy. I've had it happen during solves, especially on one of my G perms.

That being said, ever since my turning style has adjusted to modern cubes (interpret: gotten rougher) I've managed to corner twist every one of my mains except my Weilong GTS during that G perm. That suggests that the Thunderclap v2's anti corner twist is still rather good, but the GTS's anti corner twist is just truly excellent. 


Since this is a full review and not just a first impressions, I'll be pulling this apart and taking a look at the inside.

v1 on the left, v2 on the right. Stickerless for contrast.
Overall, everything looks very similar internally. The centers are cut a little more, presumably to prevent catching on the squared corners, but have the same large cap design where the cap almost wraps around the entire center piece (which helps prevent caps dropping). This means that the caps are actually a friction surface, so they should be seated properly or they will interfere with turning.

One thing I've seen a lot of people ask is how to get the caps off. Some people suggest taking a screwdriver and prying them off, but I don't think this is a good method since the leverage angle is wrong and you could end up scratching the plastic. Instead, what you should do is pinch around the whole cap (ideally with the entire layer taken out, but if your fingers can jam in the florian holes that could work too) and pull the cap straight up.

v1 on left, v2 on right.
The v1 and v2 edges look very similar. The overall design is almost identical, but the v2's surfaces seem just a bit more angular and sharper.

v1 on left, v2 on right.

Several differences here. The obvious difference we already knew about was the inclusion of squared edges. If we take a look the surfaces, the shoulder is also shaped slightly differently. However, the big internal difference is the unified corner foot, another inclusion from the Tornado. According to Qiyi, this helps smoothness and reduces friction stemming from that seam on the v1's 3 piece corner. 

This has raised a bit of confusion about how you're supposed to take apart the corner. You can no longer just pry it apart, since the stalks of three corner pieces are bound together inside the foot.

There's actually a fifth piece inside the foot (a bit hard to see on camera). According to a video about the disassembly of the Tornado, you're supposed stick something inside the hole and pull or pry out the inner piece, after which you should be able to push the three corner pieces out from the foot.

v1 on left, v2 on right.

Screws. Not too much to say here. The v2 has a shorter spring with more coils, but I can't feel too much of a difference in stiffness.

I haven't tried swapping springs, but I've heard that it doesn't make much of a difference.

Update: I now have tried a spring swap. On the v2 side it made practically zero difference - still heavy and bumpy turning. On the v1 side it actually made the cube faster and more flexible at comparable tensions to before.

So given that the internals are so similar, what accounts for the different feel? I'd guess that it's a combination of a few things:

1. Heavier factory lube.
2. The slightly more angular edge surfaces.
3. The squared corners.
4. The looser tensions, which are made possible by the slight redesign.


Objective score: 10/10

Honestly, I can't find anything objectively wrong with this cube. It full cuts, which is a big achievement in its own right. Anti-pop is excellent and while it does get corner twists, so does the Yuexiao, so I have to attribute that to my turning style and not the cube. Build quality is excellent, so in all objective regards it's easily on par with all of the flagship cubes from Moyu.

It sells for just $9 on most US based stores, just over half the price of most Moyu flagships. For the price the performance is absolutely excellent.

Subjective score: 6/10

I loved the v1. Because of that, out of the box the v2 felt rather awful, and while it has significantly improved with break in, it's still heavy and bumpy like the Tornado rather than light, fast, and airy like the v1. I don't like the feel of the Tornado, and I don't like the feel of the Thunderclap v2.

Should you buy this cube?

Hate to start this section off with a cliche, but depends.

1. If you have a Thunderclap v1 and like it, and/or have an X-man Tornado and hate it, don't buy this cube. It feels too unlike the v1 and too much like the Tornado.

2. If you have an X-man Tornado and like it, buy this cube. It feels very similar but corner cuts a bit better, and it's much cheaper.

3. If you have neither cube and don't know what you like, I'd actually say go with a Thunderclap v1. The v1 is a more neutral feeling cube rather than being on the bumpy and clacky side, and probably fits more people's preferred feels better.

Of course, if you like owning every 3x3 like I do you can just buy it anyways. It's just $9, after all.

Thanks for reading! If there's any 3x3 you'd like to see a review of, drop a comment below or on reddit and I'll try to oblige!