The Valk was arguably one of the most influential speed cube lines, named after speedcuber and former world record holder Mats Valk, in partnership with QiYi MoFangGe, advancing speed cube technology quickly within the NxN space. Unfortunately in 2022, the Valk line is being discontinued as Valk's contract with QiYi expires and the line is phased out in favour of Qiyi MoFangGe's other most succesful subbrand, X-Man Design, so let's reminisce and go over the history of the Valk line and it's impact on competitive speedcubing.
In the latter end of 2016, the Valk 3 3x3 was announced to the world by QiYi MoFangGe. Priced at $19.95 at SpeedCubeShop.com, the cube was produced by QiYi MoFangGe to Mats Valk's specifications, notably a smaller size of 55.5mm where the norm in 2016 for puzzle edge-to-edge length was 56mm - this change has proven to be a popular one, with many other manufacturers now adopting smaller 3x3 sizes than the then-standard 56mm. This 5.55 cm edge-to-edge was also a reference to Valk's first world record of 5.55 seconds set back in 2013. The puzzle was available in stickered and stickerless and has the hallmark Valk turning feel with a hollow feel and sound and snappy corner cutting. It is also known for being very stable, initially being released un-magnetised - but was offered in magnetic variants from third parties such as SpeedCubeShop.com
In 2016, Valk achieved the the second ever official sub 5 solve with a 4.74 second single in competition with a magnetised version of the Valk 3 - three years later releasing a magnetized version of the 2016 flagship.
QiYi also released limited edition standard Valk 3s in aqua blue and mint colored plastics.
The year after, QiYi followed up the Valk 3 with the Valk 3 Power, was released on the 6th of December 2017. The cube notably featured primary internals and filled in the gaps in the corner pieces of the original Valk 3. The cube had a capped design for the edges whilst the corners retained the split piece design of the original, and again had a unique, heavy turning feel. The cube was not as popular as the original Valk 3, with a lot of pros opting to continue to use the original Valk 3 despite the flagship's release.
[note about youtube announcement video chinese translations]
QiYi also released special 4.74cm editions of the Valk 3, to commemorate the 4.74 second former world records from Mats Valk, which included a stickerless, black plastic and pink plastic colors.
The first non 3x3 release from the QiYi MoFangGe subbrand, the Valk 2 was produced with input from former 2x2 world champion Antonie Paterakis, and prominently featured a new edge to corner magnetisation system unique to the Valk 2 2x2. It featured outstanding corner cutting and an edge-to-edge length of 51mm, slightly larger than the standard 50mm edge-to-edge length of 2x2s. This puzzle has stood the test of time also, with the current 2x2 world record from 2021 being set by Zayn Khanani with a 1.05 2x2 average, with the Cosmic Valk 2 M at time of writing.
It also featured the Valk Box, a large protective box for the cube.
The Valk 3 M, the original, was back, and in factory magnetic form. At $24.95, the puzzle was available to the same spec as the original Valk 3 M, just factory magnetized with relatively weak magnets, but still sported the fast, smooth and stable turning of the original 2016 version.
QiYi released their first Valk big cubes halfway through 2019, the Valk4 and Valk5 M. Both cubes were available in stickered black and stickerless, and priced at $39.95 and $49.95 respectively. Both puzles were very fast, had a compact design with the 4x4 at 60mm and 5x5 at 62mm, with the 4x4 interestingly coming in a regular magnetic and a strong magnetic strength option.
They also came with the same type of Valk Box that the Valk 3 Power M came with.
And in December of 2019 QiYi released their final Valk branded 3x3, the QiYi Valk 3 Elite Magnetic 3x3. In order to compete with the adjustable options that other manufacturers, namely GAN, were implementing, QiYi uniquely utilized four magnets within each edge piece that would result in magnetic attraction between both the edges and corners and the edges and the centers, with multiple centers being provided with the cube with magnets of varying strength. Whilst a bit cumbersome, this enabled adjustable magnet strength within the cube, with weak, moderate, and strong magnetic available through the interchangable center piece system. The cube then has a total of 96 magnets, and had buttery smooth turning. Despite these additions, some cubers still opted for the original Valk 3 puzzle.
Check out the full video