Overdue Yan 3 3x3 review
I've already had people ask me why I hadn't reviewed the Yan 3 yet. In fact, I wrote a rather lengthy review on it a long time ago and it was just about finished, but due to a mistake on my part it wasn't saved D: So, now after finally rewriting the nearly 1500 words, here is the long overdue review of the Yan 3 3x3!
If we recall, the last three "flagship" level 3x3s from MoYu (the SenHuan Mars, the MoHuanShouSu ChuFeng, and the MoJue M3) had only a mild reception, and while they weren't bad cubes by any means, even the top of the line MoJue M3 didn't topple the reign of the (now approaching 1-year old) WeiLong GTS.
The Yan 3 is the newest cube from the newest MoYu subbrand, YanCheng, and judging by its pricing it doesn't seem to try to be a competitor to the WeiLong GTS like the M3 was. Instead, it wants to occupy the space in the market just below it. Judging by how good even budget cubes have gotten lately, it's going to be tough slotting in below the GTS but still maintaining an advantage over budget cubes, so let's see how well it does that. Who knows, it may even overtake the GTS!
If you weren't following the Yan 3 before its release, its naming was actually a rather humorous story. YanCheng originally wanted to name it the Swallow3. Unfortunately, too many people thought Swallow was the verb rather than the bird, so they were forced to rename it the Yan 3.
As always when a cube comes with unique packaging, I like having a look at it. The Yan 3 comes with a brown, oversized cardboard box, designed to apparently imitate a matchbox. I suspect this is to try to catch up with the Valk 3's classy, well designed box that was universally agreed on to be better than the WeiLong GTS's display box, which felt almost like a child's toy.
The cardboard and the design, as well as the plain black printing and the silver logo, give the packaging a nice, old-fashioned feel. However, I have to say the box does seem rather shoddily hand-constructed and in fact the sleeve doesn't quite fit tightly around the inner box. This is in clear contrast to the molded, perfectly shaped Valk box, where the unboxing experience feels a bit like opening a brand new phone. Additionally, the Valk's included materials are better as well - they included QR-code printed squares inside a folded paper sheath, whereas the Yan 3 only includes YJ's typical Chinese instruction manual.
That being said, the Yan 3's matchbox has one clear advantage over the Valk's box: it's easier to open!
Look and Feel
A lot about the Yan 3's look and feel reminds me of the YueXiao, having similarly shaped and sculpted external pieces as well as the Yuexiao's signature large stickers. The clear difference is that the Yan 3's squared corners are much more rounded, reminiscent of the ChuFeng's corners.
The cube weighs a fairly light 76 grams stickered (is it just me or have cubes been trending towards lighter weight lately?) It feels just a tiny bit rattly when picked up, but it's really not noticeable unless you're looking for it, and feels solid otherwise. It makes a hollow sound when turned, again reminiscent of the YueXiao, just not quite as deep.
The stickers have kept the MoYu stock shades, but using the old high-quality vinyl stock rather than the newer stock on the GTS - yes! This vinyl has slightly darker and less vibrant colors, but I'll gladly take it for the huge improvement in durability. Stickerless shades are MoYu's bright shades as usual.
This cube joins the ranks of the few that I felt were set up perfectly for me out of the box. Very impressive. I've done nearly 1300 solves on it to date (I've had this cube for a while), and the feel has barely changed, so I think I can review it with full confidence.
The Yan 3 is a rather fast turner, and despite rotating very smoothly it turns somewhat clackily and bumpily at speed. It flows very well between moves and lockups are minimal. It's also excessively stable and holds its shape even better than the Valk, approaching the legendary stability of the YueXiao. (That's another similarity to chalk up!)
Also similarly to the Yuexiao, it turns with a hint of a hollow feeling. It's denser, but not as dense as, say, the Valk.
I have to admit I'm slightly confused with how cube speed is defined nowadays. Nearly every review I've watched of the WeiLong GTS says out of the box, it's far too fast, but plenty of cubes released after the GTS I've tried have been faster. This cube again continues that pattern. So what actually is defined as fast?
I was on the fence about whether full cutting should be required out of a cube at this price range. Luckily, the Yan 3 made that easy for me - it full cuts!
Forward corner cutting reaches up to 52 degrees, and cuts 47-48 degrees of that with minimal effort.
Reverse cutting obviously takes the remaining 38 degrees, with practically all of it requiring minimal effort. This is on par with the Valk, the best corner cutting cube I've tested to date!
Full points here, obviously.
Anti-pop and anti-corner twist
Anti-popping should no longer even be a criteria, really. Modern cubes don't pop anymore - that's just not something they do.
Corner twisting is a different issue, and unfortunately for this cube the corners are fairly easy to twist by hand. However, it's not easy enough that I have any concern about twisting during a solve. I don't think I have to deduct any points here, but I will say the YueXiao does better in this regard.
Looks pretty much as we'd expect: another simplified, modern design with all the MoYu flairs present. We see the center flanges of the M3 make an appearance again, which I have yet to figure out the function of. MoYu's favorite ridged blue core is there, as usual.
You know, this has me missing the Alpha V ball core for some reason.
The edge piece. Despite how ordinary it looks, I find this to be one of the most interesting edge pieces I've seen in a while: it has a long, removable torpedo, just like the Dayans of old! Of course, I don't think removing the torpedo helps much.
There's a bit of a raised hump in the geometry further into the piece. mirroring the center flanges. Apparently those flanges helped enough that YanCheng had to go and put them on the edge piece as well.
Very MoYu-isn corner. It has a distinct corner shoulder and a rather large unified corner base, looking almost like a GTS corner with a simpler corner base. MoYu does love putting holes in their corners to increase corner cutting clearance, which they've done here again.
As already mentioned, the squared corners are more rounded than usual, though not quite as rounded as the ChuFeng's corners. Why? My guess is that since the cube came out so similar to the YueXiao, the designers were worried about the corner-on-center catching the Yuexiao experienced. Rounding the corners would certainly serve to alleviate that issue.
Are you kidding? This cube costs $12.95, or a full $4 less than the cheapest of the Big Three, the WeiLong GTS. It matches all three in performance and is just as enjoyable as any of them to use, and is honestly a flagship level cube in and of itself. This cube would not be uncomfortable in the $16+ price bracket.
Excellent value. Full points here.
Objective score: 10/10
Absolutely flawless performance, with full corner cutting, zero pops, and zero corner twists (provided you don't try to twist it on purpose). This cube trades blows with the best of them. When you consider its price and value, I don't think it deserves any less than a full 10/10.
Subjective score: 8.5/10
I haven't been a fan of the hollow feeling of the Yuexiao ever since I felt the dense clackiness of the Valk. That's the one and only thing stopping me from maining this cube. However, every other aspect about this cube I enjoy to no end: its speed, its stability, its flow, even the way those slightly rounded squared corners look.
MoYu has really outdone themselves, releasing a subbrand cube that not only feels and performs exceptional, but does so at a sub-flagship price. Some people started losing hope in MoYu after the lukewarm releases of the previous three 3x3s. I think the YanCheng Yan 3 sends a strong message that, no, MoYu has not forgotten how to make a good 3x3.
- Karl Zhao