Apple Music Karaoke Mode Musk Briefly Not Richest COVID Variants Call of Duty and Nintendo 'Avatar 2' Director 19 Gizmo and Gadget Gifts Gifts $30 and Under Anker MagGo for iPhones
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you
Accept
Why You Can Trust CNET
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

A smart Rubik's Cube has become my 2020 fidget toy

The Rubik's Connected Cube trains you how to play and, even better, solves itself.

rubiks-connected-1
A phone-paired Rubik's Cube is a lot more fun (and comforting) than I imagined.
Scott Stein/CNET

I had a Rubik's Cube as a kid. Yeah, who didn't. I also had almost all the Rubik's puzzles: a 4-by-4-inch cube, and several versions of Rubik's Magic. But that original cube, while it always made me dream of other dimensions, also fried my brain. I never learned to solve more than a couple of sides, even with books to study. I gave up, and accepted the scrambled colors.

When I heard there was a Bluetooth-connected, phone-paired Rubik's Cube, designed for speed-cubers to time their fastest solving runs, I shrugged. I can't even solve one slowly. But I was wrong, so wrong. The connected cube is brilliant, and it's become a comfort blanket. It's a Cube That Solves Itself. Its extra training modes and mini-games make this one of the best surprise holiday gifts I can think of.

GoCube, the maker of Rubik's Connected, introduced its first connected cube years ago, but I missed the boat on that one. The first GoCube ($80) has a cradle charger and is a bit more fancy-looking, while the $60 Rubik-branded Connected Cube is less expensive and has a plug-in dongle-charger that charges up the cube (lasting weeks so far on a charge). The GoCube and Rubik's Connected Cubes both pair with a phone, connecting with an app that turns the cube into a motion-sensitive, connected toy.

rubiks-connected-2

Some of the connected minigames the Cube plays, by turning it while paired via Bluetooth.

Scott Stein/CNET

The Connected Cube feels just like a regular Rubik's Cube, with smooth turning mechanisms and sticker-applied colors. The app knows how many turns your cube has been through, and all you have to do is line up the center colors to match an on-screen illustration. Then select the "solve" button, and instructions pop up. Follow them, and your cube is back to perfect form like magic.

That sounds like cheating, but it's also part of the learning process. Another subsection of the app goes through learning how to solve the cube, teaching step-by-step turn algorithms. This process still fried my brain, but I'll keep trying.

rubiks-connected-3

Scrambled cube, connected app, instant turn-by-turn instructions to get it back to perfect. (I'll learn properly next time)

Scott Stein/CNET

The app also has some clever mini-games, using the turning cube to play games like some sort of Rubik's controller. There's a Guitar Hero-like rhythm music game, a Simon pattern-matching game and a few others. The app also is a gateway to register speed runs for cube solving, and games aimed solely at time-testing those skills.

I don't know if I'll really use the app with the Connected Cube forever, or if I'll lose interest. But the real point is, it's sort of like smart training wheels. It's an educational app for your Rubik's Cube. Eventually I might go it on my own, or follow YouTube videos and blogs. Consider the Connected Cube a special sort of smart instruction set.

It sits next to me now as I'm writing this. Fully solved. I know I can mess it up again at any time and still get it back to normal. It's comforting. If only the rest of the world were like this.