YJ Appari

July 4th, 2024
Basilio Noris

The ball-bearing stuff is dumb and utterly pointless. But it's by far the best 3x3 YJ has done in recent memory

  • Weight & feel – Heavy, with solid plastic 
  • Turning Speed – Moderate to fast
  • Corner Cutting – Perfectly fine, the auto-align from ball-core makes it very hard to need to corner cut
  • Magnets – They feel stronger than they are, but work pretty well for its speed
  • Lockups – They don't really happen 
  • Sound – Moderately loud, with something of a resonance from the hollow plastic pieces
  • Looks – Sharp, with very distinctive center caps that make it look different than the plethora of gan clones that abound nowadays
  • Plastic –Sharp, solid, and shiny
  • Similar-feel cubes – MoreTry Tianma, QiYi M Pro
  • Price – 15$
They tried to do something, they failed, and the result is a good cube!

YJ has been trying to come out with a good 3x3 for a long while. While they don’t do terrible 3x3s, they rarely do good ones. (The MGC Evos are nothing to write home about, but at least they’re not bad cubes). For some reason the YJ 3x3 engineering team lives under the impression that you need to add gimmicks and weird features to your cube to be able to make something great. If they had been coming out with the best cubes around for a while and wanted to try something different I could find no fault in that, but if most of what you do is not glorious, then maybe you could just try to have a look at what other people are doing and tell yourself “maaaaaybe it’s not such a bad idea…”.

While that is apparently not happening, at least it provides us with some fodder for questions such as “who thought that THIS was a good idea?”. The YJ Appari is no different, and this time around YJ decided that it was time to reinvent the wheel (almost literally):

For more or less as long as we’ve had springs inside our cubes, we had a very simple solution to avoid having the spring scraping against the head of the screw or the bottom of the center piece casing. Put a washer in it. For non native-speakers or clueless friends among us, a washer is that small, flat ring of metal that you usually put between a screw and a hole, or in this case, between the spring and the parts the spring will scrape against. This reduces friction and is a light, very cheap and simple solution that’s been around for the better part of a millenium (or at least since the 14th century).

Then someone at YJ must have asked “Can we reduce the friction on the washer?”, and instead of asking “But… why?”, or to be slightly more forgiving “Can’t people just put a drop of lube on the screw hole if they feel that it’s making noise?”, the rest of the team apparently said “oooh I know how, and it’s a marketable idea!”. The result is a ball-bearing system ON THE WASHER, that plays exactly zero role in the performance of the cube. Replace the ball-bearing system with a normal washer and you have exactly the same cube, minus a bit of doofusness. The idea is so brilliant that even YJ’s marketing team wasn’t exactly sure how to market it, and the final name and explanation of what the “speed micro-actuator” is supposed to be and do is baffling to say the least.

But despite all of this, the cube is, in fact, pretty good. It’s heavy for a modern cube, and while the plastic feels solid, the sticker looks like something from one of the really cheap cubes from 5 years ago. But the core-corner magnets are helping making it very smooth; the dual adjustment (screw + compression) let you play around with tension settings much better than on previous YJ cubes; the magnets, while somewhat clicky in feel, are not a barrier to turning fast if you want; the design is a bit different from most cubes, with concave center-caps that are not as ugly as they could be (EVO I’m looking at you); but more importantly, the cube performs really well. 

Most people might have to loosen the screws a bit from factory settings, but overall this is a cube that works very well out of the box without needing to break it in (just put some lube in it as this cube is about as dry as reading the contents of the almost-non-existent manual). But after minimal setup I got some pretty good averages within my first AO100, and once I got used to it I was able to get pretty close to my PBs. 

So at the end of all this, despite all its efforts to put a needless gimmick that has absolutely no impact on the performance of the cube, YJ finally HAS managed to make a good 3x3. The tweaks in design that the engineering team probably sneaked in by ruse or by error make this cube a somewhat heavy, but pretty good cube that will please fans of solid, slightly hollow cubes like the Tianma or M Pro.

Should you buy it?

If you’re tight on budget, or just want to have the best cube around and not try other things, then this one might not be for you. But if you are tired of getting slight variations on the same cubes and want to try out something new, or are a fan of YJ’s big cubes and want to support them, then this is not a cube that will displease you.

An important 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 my way and let me keep doing this!

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