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Posted by Steven Wintringham on



In Phil’s last post, he recommended getting a timer to help you prepare for competitions, but why? High quality timers can cost as much as a main-worthy 3x3, and csTimer does pretty much the same thing, so is it really necessary? It really depends on the person, but there are a lot of benefits that come with having a timer. The most visible benefit is that a dedicated timer helps you get used to the competition environment. Using both hands to start and stop the timer feels very different than using a spacebar or stopwatch, and the time that it takes to pick up the cube before making your first move can give you a better idea about what you would average under official conditions. If you don’t plan on competing, getting a timer is less important, but it can still be fun to time your solves using official equipment, and the mat that is often included will help protect your cubes (and desk) against drops. If you are just doing individual solves instead of using a program to track your averages, a dedicated timer will also free up your computer or phone screen so you can use them for other things while you solve.





TL;DR: If convenience is the most important factor for you, get the SpeedStacks Gen4, but if you prioritize reliability, the Gen5 is a better choice.


SpeedStacks timers are the best choice for most people because they are the only ones allowed at WCA competitions. The two models that are available right now are the Gen4 and Gen5. Both are available individually or as a bundle with a mat and carrying bag, and both are powered by two included AAA batteries. Individually, the Gen5 is only a dollar more than the Gen4, but the difference is slightly larger for the bundle. The most obvious differences are the appearance and the two extra touch-sensitive pads on the Gen5, but neither of these will make much of a difference with normal use. Appearance is completely subjective and the extra pads are intended for cup stacking rather than cubing. The biggest practical difference for cubers is the functionality of the buttons. The Gen4’s buttons are always active and activate immediately when they are pushed. On the other hand, the Gen5’s buttons are non-functional for three seconds after stopping the timer in 2-pad mode, and after that, must be held down for a fraction of a second before the timer resets or turns off. While this can be annoying while you are drilling algorithms or trying to do a lot of solves quickly, it prevents accidental resets that could cause you to lose your times entirely. The last notable difference between the buttons of the Gen4 and Gen5 timer is the durability. Gen5 buttons are reinforced, so they last longer before the covers wear out and allow the mechanism underneath to show through. 

Aside from buttons, the other difference that you will encounter while you are cubing is the amount of time that you need to hold your hands down before the timer starts. Both have a green light to indicate that you can lift your hands, but the Gen5’s light takes marginally longer to turn green. This may sound unimportant, but if you are used to practicing on a Gen4 and go to a competition that uses Gen5s, you may DNF some solves by not holding your hands down long enough to start the timer. This happened to Harsha Paladugu last year, most likely costing him the Pyraminx world record single. 

The other differences between the two generations of SpeedStacks timers are very minor and are unlikely to change how you use them, but I will still mention them. The first is the way that they attach to their compatible mats. The Gen4 slides onto the pins from the side while the Gen5 snaps on directly on top of them. This makes the Gen4 easier (and quieter) to attach to and remove from the mat, but it is held in place less securely. The Gen4 can store up to three times in its memory, but the labels for the times are in terms of cup stacking events. The process used to save times is also cumbersome. Very few people used this feature, so it was removed from the Gen5. Finally, if you want to plug your timer into a display or computer, the Gen4’s port is on the front while the Gen5’s is underneath. It is easier to plug in the Gen4, but the Gen5 is much less likely to come unplugged accidentally. It is also important to note that the space for the cord is small on the Gen5, so you need a very specific cable, but the one that we offer is compatible with both generations. However, please keep in mind that both of these timers occasionally malfunction when plugged in, so we typically recommend typing in times manually.





If you want a timer that has extra features and don’t care about using official equipment, there are some good options from GAN. The GAN Smart Timer looks and feels similar to the Gen4, but it offers Bluetooth functionality and can connect to the CubeStation app and csTimer wirelessly. It is a little bit cheaper than the SpeedStacks offerings, but it uses four AAA batteries instead of two and does not include batteries. If you want a SpeedStacks alternative, though, we recommend GAN’s Halo Timers. Compared to SpeedStacks timers, they offer a slimmer design, better build quality, and an internal battery that can be charged with a USB Type-C cable. The Smart version offers Bluetooth like the original GAN timer and can store 10,000 times internally. If you use it with the CubeStation app, you can also customize the lighting settings. The Standard Halo Timer doesn’t have these advanced features and can only store five solves, but it still has high build quality and a rechargeable battery. The YJ pocket timer is our final offering, but we only recommend it for very specific use cases. In order to be as small as possible, it uses light sensors instead of physical pads to start and stop, so it is less reliable than any of the other timers and is only really useful for traveling.





If you are looking for a timer to use for competition prep, the SpeedStacks Gen5 is the best option for most people. The Gen4 has less controversial looks and is easier to use in some cases, but I don’t think the losses in reliability are worth the trade-off. If you care less about using official equipment and you want some extra features, it is also worth looking into GAN timers. I hope that this helped you make a decision, and if you have any other questions, you can ask our customer service team at or me personally at

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