March 8, 2012

Zen Magnets vs. The NeoCube

The NeoCube (left) and Zen Magnets (right)
Way back in October 2009, I wrote about a set of spherical magnets called The NeoCube. Recently, the folks over at Zen Magnets set me two sets of their magnets, so that I could compare Zen Magnets vs. NeoCube. Zen Magnets claims to have superior dimensional tolerance, coating, and strength, so I tested each of these. I didn't expect to see much of a difference: I was quite happy with my NeoCube magnets, so could Zen Magnets be that much better?

Upon very close inspection, it is noticeable that Zen Magnets does have a smoother coating. From a distance, they look quite similar though The NeoCube looks a bit darker.  After having NeoCube for years, I haven't had any trouble with chipping, the difference is likely only aesthetic, and even then it is quite hard to see.

The NeoCube (left) and Zen Magnets (right)

Since I couldn't find my calipers, I performed a test of the dimensional tolerance described in this video, a rather amusing video from Zen Magnets in response to Bucky Balls' voicemail threat of legal action over Zen's claims of superior quality. Definitely worth watching! Bucky Balls is another brand spherical magnet set that I haven't tried.

In this test of dimensional tolerance, I didn't notice a difference between Zen Magnets and NeoCube. For this test, we're looking for whether the magnets are in a straight line in this stick formation. Both looked quite straight, with only minor deviation.

The NeoCube (left) and Zen Magnets (right)


I should also note that NeoCubes are slightly smaller (4.8mm vs. 5.0mm), though again this difference is only barely noticeable if you have the magnets right next to each other. When you string them in a line, these differences add up, so you can actually see that a string of 100 NeoCubes is a bit shorter than 100 Zen Magnets. Similarly, in a cube formation they are slightly different sizes.

The NeoCube (left) and Zen Magnets (right)

Finally, I tested their strength both through the test suggested in the video above and also by testing how many of my business cards I could stack up and still have one magnet support another one below it. Somewhat surprisingly, in both tests, the results were identical.


The packaging on Zen Magnets is quite nice, with a little embroidered velvet bag and PVC card that helps you manipulate the magnets more easily. They also offer an option with a small gift box, that includes a nice instruction sheet, microfiber cloth, and metal building platform. The NeoCube comes in a blister pack, which isn't quite as cool. The packaging doesn't really matter much to me though, since I'd rather have them out in the open rather than tucked in a bag or box. The PVC card is quite helpful though!

In conclusion, I think you'd probably be happy with either of these brands, since playing with spherical magnets is a blast and the amount of fun you have won't likely be impacted by the minor differences I found. Zen Magnets do appear to be superior at least in terms of their surface coating, so I'd probably go with those if all else were equal. However, there is some difference in the price, NeoCube is a bit cheaper, so it is a tough call.

Here's The NeoCube website and Zen Magnets website. Check out the Gallery section at Zen Magnets, it is pretty impressive! Also check out Gabriel's review of Zen Magnets.

15 comments:

  1. I have some BuckeyBalls, but nothing else to compare them too. But I will try some of these tests. How many business cards did you get up to?

    ReplyDelete
  2. 57, but it depends on the thickness of the cardstock. I compressed it as much as I could for the test, it was about 3/4 of an inch. I'll be interested to see your results!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rube, your testing methods leave much to be desired.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hahaha! Okay. First, you don't lay the rigid stick on a flat surface to observe its straightness - it needs to be held so that some of it is unsupported and rotate it so see how/if it changes. Second, you can't assume that there's a linear relationship between mass and magnetic strength. The Zen are bigger in 3 dimensions and so using the same test to compare the relative strength yields meaningless results. Finally, see the chart on this page:

    http://zenmagnets.com/index.php?p=1_9_Oversize-Sale

    A large standard deviation will prevent some shapes from working and definitely precludes any large build.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Per your suggestion on the rigid stick test, I just repeated the test by holding the stick horizontally in my hands and also by having it protrude off of the edge of a piece of glass. Again, I don't notice any significant difference between Zen and NeoCube. Both had comparable slight curves on 3 out of 4 sides of the stick.

    Regarding the strength of the magnet, you didn't offer a suggestion.

    I can't verify your statement that a large standard deviation will prevent some shapes from working. Can you suggest something that I can try to build with both that won't work if the standard deviation is too large? I only have one set of NeoCubes so it can't be anything large builds, unless somebody wants to send me more to test.

    I'll see if I can measure them while I'm home for Easter, I know my father has a micrometer somewhere. However, unless I notice a difference when building with it, I don't think it really matters.

    ReplyDelete
  6. According to the chart, your "balls" are about a third better than buckyballs, of which I own one set. I can only really speak to the comparison of buckyballs and zen magnets, of which I own five sets.

    That said, the buckyballs are terrible. Certain shapes (see the quasi-crytal on you tube) don't want to fit or don't fit tightly. Larger builds often have sections that are relatively unstable, and with low-toleranced magnets, may not be workable, or just look bad.

    With the rigid stick test, the difference between buckyballs and zen is huge. You can see how it would affect builds of all sizes, since the stick is wobbly and crooked, whereas the zen are straight and stiff. But you claim not to be able to tell a difference, so maybe that 30% or so better standard deviation is enough. If that's the case you probably wouldn't be able to tell a difference, especially with one set of magnets.

    I would be interested in any measurements you might take to see if they fall in line with the chart that zen magnets came up with. Zen has a new product called neoballs that are colored and have the same st. dev. specs as your neocube, and so if your results are typical they might be worth checking out.

    My reason for chiming in on these blogs is that I've found there to be a ton of misinformation regarding zen magnets and buckyballs, in particular. (There's a reason I own a set of buckyballs, and it isn't because I like buying inferior crap - I was duped!)
    I'll point out that my buckyballs still have an important function beyond their comparison to zen magnets... they're the ones I let friends play with.

    p.s. the magnetic strength with respect to mass could be figured out with lots of math that I don't think either one of us is willing to do considering that they are obviously very close...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dise any one kno the strengh of zen magnets and ningbo balls ? I think ningbo balls are N35 but what strength are zen's and do they have a triple coating that's shiny ?

    ReplyDelete
  8. With so many out there I have 3 sets but , 2 are badly chipped and there 2 sets mixed up and 1 set is better qualiy , it has a shinny coating and seems stronger but can't remember what brand they were as a friend got them on his card 4 me , dose anyone kno what are the next best to nano dots ? As there twice the price of the other brands and 3 times more than cheaper makes ? I just want to kno what will last linger has a better costing and what strenghth are zen's ? And if zen's are the same as ningbo balls ? As they have 3 coatings ???

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mike is just another zen magnet employee trying to boost there product, if you just want to have fun any brand will suffice however if cost is not an issue I would recommend nanodots

    ReplyDelete
  10. It is funny how zen magnets keep bashing buckyballs though on YouTube and blogs

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nikky, I'm not sure of the strength, but it seemed comparable between Zen Magnets and NeoCube. The coating did seem more durable for Zen, though it is really hard to see the difference unless you look quite close.

    Rob, I agree that it probably doesn't matter much, but the YouTube videos were pretty amusing!

    ReplyDelete
  12. We pneumatic products manufacture several products, including solenoid valves,air control valves, piston air cylinder, Pneumatic Air Filter and some pneumatic accessories. Most of goods are exported to USA, Europe and Asia. And they are widely used on electronic, pharmaceutical, food processing, packaging, medical and automotive industries. Visit: www.xinyipneumatic.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. This might be a silly question, but where can I get a card just like that one? Zen magnets are now so so expensive.
    My email is randomimagi@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm not sure where you can get a plastic card like that, but you could probably make one out of a piece of plastic packaging. Just file it a bit if the edges are sharp.

    ReplyDelete

Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

Related Posts with Thumbnails