I have thought about rounding up the four ultrabudget cubes before, but it never seemed fair because in my opinion the Guanlong, despite being the first of the bunch, just wasn't quite on the same level as the other three. With the recent release of the MoFang JiaoShi MF3, this is the perfect time to do a roundup!
YJ saw an opportunity in late 2014 and decided to release a cube that positioned itself unlike any other in the market: the GuanLong sold for just $3.95, a quarter of the high-end MoYu cubes and half of other YJ budget cubes, like the YuLong and ChiLong. Surprisingly to all it retained many speedcube features and even performed like one, with a fast and fluid feel and good corner cutting. This cube was an excellent choice for mural builders, cubing classes, and just beginners overall because of their astonishingly low price.
Fast forward two years and we find that ShengShou, QiYi, and YuXin have all decided to jump in on the market with the Legend, Sail, and Fire respectively. Despite the GuanLong's continued popularity, these new three are widely regarded to perform better than the GuanLong and YJ steadily lost followers.
Now Moyu has decided to jump back in the game with a new ultrabudget from a new subbrand: the MoFang JiaoShi MF3. Priced at the same $3.95, Moyu hopes it can replace the GuanLong and reestablish it as the king of that segment of the market. So let's see how each cube stacks up to each other!
MoFang JiaoShi MF3
The new kid on the block. The MF3 retains much of the GuanLong's characteristics, including the geometry, but adds grooves on the edges and increases the weight from 66g to 79g. It also feels more solidly constructed and less flimsy, a welcome change. It looks virtually identical to the GuanLong, and being a budget cube, it does not have squared corners.
It is not available in stickerless, sadly, unlike the GuanLong.
It has the same swishy, smooth turning as the GuanLong, but the extra weight does make the turn a bit heavier. Of course, this isn't too much of a problem when the GuanLong's turn felt positively papery. It's a bit unstable and retains its shape when two corners are pressed together, but you'll notice this seems to be a theme among all of the cubes we're looking at.
Corner cutting extends to about 47 degrees, 43 of which can be cut with ease. Reverse cutting only extends to about 29 degrees, but this is respectable for a cube of its tier. It doesn't pop and surprisingly doesn't corner twist much despite the lack of squared corners, probably due to the large corner base and the tight tensions I have it set on.
Overall, it's a pretty strong cube for the price range and a welcome improvement over the GuanLong. It performs better, feels better, and is more solidly built, and can definitely stack up to the other cubes in its market.
For many, this was the cube that replaced the GuanLong. It arrived a year after at the same price point, but performed better and felt higher-quality. It's also 79g, but has more weight distributed into the pieces, a big reason for the better feeling build quality, and the pieces resemble flagship pieces more with the thinner corner base, edge feet, and torpedoes. Confusingly, there seemed to have been two different versions of the Sail released, one with a fold molded into the corner base. I don't know why this is and they feel identical to me.
Again, this is not available in stickerless.
Turning of the Sail is a bit heavy but still fast and smooth, but if you turn slowly you can actually feel a bit of bumpiness. Despite that, it's a very fluid feeling cube and strings together multiple fast moves well. It's also a bit flexy, but it's controllable enough that if you're not looking for it you likely won't find it.
Corner cutting excellent, reaching up to 50 degrees and cutting 45 with ease. Reverse cutting is strong as well, reaching 32 degrees. Unfortunately, due to the larger Florian cuts QiYi has made to facilitate the corner cutting, corner twists can happen, especially on looser tensions. They're not common, but they appear more often than on the MF3 or the Legend.
Overall, another excellent choice for the price. It's one of the best performing cubes you can get for $4, and has a fluid, agreeable feel. No wonder people loved it so much!
It's worth noting that while some people have said the Big Sail is just, er, a big Sail, I think they feel quite a lot different. The smaller Sail is softer, bumpier, and more fluid, whereas the Big Sail is harder, smoother, and clackier.
The only ultrabudget available in stickerless (besides the GuanLong), it actually slots in at a dollar more than the other choices. The YuXin Fire resembles the GuanLong quite a lot with fatter corner bases and edge feet, and even has a similar weight, at a very light 67 grams. For some reason, it doesn't feel nearly as flimsy (though that could just be mental.)
The Fire is a tad slower than the other ultrabudgets and turns with a soft, smooth feeling. It doesn't feel as fluid, however, because its instability makes it miss some reverse cuts.
Corner cutting is again, excellent, sharing nearly equal stats to the Sail. It hits 50 degrees forward cutting and cuts 44 of that with ease, and even exceeds the Sail with 33 degrees of reverse cutting. Unfortunately, it shares a problem I had with the YuXin 3x3: a lot of larger reverse cuts take a lot of effort to snap into.
It doesn't pop, but does corner twist slightly more easily than even the Sail. Funnily enough, this cube, which is the easiest to corner twist out of the four, still corner twists less than the QiYi Thunderclap. QiYi, what exactly happened? :P
Another solid choice for the price range - this cube performs very well and has a distinctive, soft feel, as well as a very light weight. Just be a bit careful, as in the wrong hands this cube can be a bit locky.
One of ShengShou's entries into the modern speedcubing market. The Legend adopted the thinner feet of the Sail and higher end speedcubes as well as the former's very simple, smooth piece design. It weighs 79g (again?) and feels a bit light in the hand for some reason, but still solid enough.
It's very fast, the fastest out of the bunch, and has a hard, smooth turning feel with a very hollow sound. It's also the most stable out of the bunch, despite its speed, and doesn't flex or misalign much during solves at all.
Corner cutting is a bit weak, sadly. It only hits 45 degrees max, and drops that down to 36 degrees effective. Reverse cutting is also weak, at 25 degrees max. Luckily, it doesn't pop and is practically impossible to corner twist at my tensions.
In the end, this cube is probably the one I'd recommend the least. Despite its modern design and enjoyable feel, the performance is just not there and the corner cutting causes quite a few lockups for me. I'd still take it over a GuanLong, but I'd take any other cube in this comparison over a Legend.
Which one should you get?
Sorry to disappoint, but I don't have a definite answer for you. :P
I think the Legend is out of the running. It's still a great cube and performs very well for $4, and it could suit you quite well if you're a precise turner and like fast cubes. For everyone else, though, I feel that the better corner cutting and fluidity of the other cubes provide more of a benefit.
Out of the other three, though, all of them are excellent choices for the money. The MF3 is a tiny bit behind performance wise, but it brings back the familiar GuanLong feel and excellent build quality with it. The Sail has a very fluid feel and excellent performance, and the Fire shares that performance but has a different, softer feel and comes in stickerless (though it costs a bit more).
Especially for beginners I'd lean just a bit towards Sail because of its universally enjoyable feel and controllability, but you really can't go wrong with any of them. They all have their own merits and are all great cubes in their own right, and it really just comes down to which one you think you'd like!
That concludes this Battle of the Budget Cubes, as well as my semi-review of the MF3. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed and found some useful information that might help you decide!
MoFang JiaoShi MF3 3x3x3 ($3.95)
QiYi Sail 3x3x3 ($3.95)
YuXin Fire 3x3x3 ($4.95)
ShengShou Legend 3x3x3 ($3.95)