Do You Need a New Chess Clock? Review of the Vtek300
In popular culture, the game of chess is synonymous with high intelligence. Those of us who play the game often have our quiet suspicions about the accuracy of this, but it’s clear that clock manufacturers believe that we’re geniuses.
How do I know? Because it takes a bloody genius to program a chess clock.
The Vtek300 has one giant competitive advantage over any other clock on the market in that it has a menu. In theory, the addition of the menu should allow the clock to be programmed easily. So how easy does it make programming? Let’s run through the clock’s stats and find out!
Durability: 4 out of 5 Sherman Tanks: By far the most fun test for us to run was the durability test. To simulate realistic wear and tear, I put the clock in the back of my trunk on my way to an event in Minnesota. Keep in mind, I was starting from Columbia, SC. Then, I drove back. Shortly thereafter, I played a game of catch with a friend.
The clock held up.
It’s solidly made with a metal case, and certainly seems to take jostling in stride. While, unlike some of the elder Cronos models, it would not make an effective weapon in the zombie apocalypse, the Vtek300 is tougher than the light plastic DGTs.
Look 3 out of 5: Mona Lisas: What can I say, it looks like a chess clock. These aren’t supposed to be sexy, people. There is a bit of a lip at the bottom, which isn’t the most attractive addition, but other than that, it’s pretty much a chess clock.
Ease of Programing: 8 out of 5 Easy Buttons: This clock comes with an instruction manual. The only thing tough about the clock is how to turn it off. Look that one thing up (hold the center button and press the right button three times). Got that? Good. Now you can throw the instruction booklet away. The first game I used the clock in was a 2 phase 75 minute game with 30 second increment. I set it first try without having used the instruction manual. It really is that easy. Want to add extra time after completing a time control? Seriously, no problem. Fischer mode? Bronstein? All there. I gave this clock to a random person in my club to have them set for a blitz match. He navigated the menus like a champ . . . his only issue was that he couldn’t turn it off to try and select a new time control . . . but hey, I’d thrown away the instruction manual.
The menu is the feature on this clock, and that separates this product from any other clock out there. It is also easy for TDs to come and add time to the clock, which is nice when you are playing one of those kinds of players. One thing to note here, however, is that if you pick a time you don’t want, there is no way to go backward in the menu. One must turn off the clock and start again. That being said, that is the only suggestion I could come up with on how to improve the menu system.
Ergodynamics: 4 out of 5 Easy Chairs: This is a push button clock, and that automatically comes with some advantages and disadvantages. If you don’t press the button hard enough, you might not notice that your time is still ticking. This is very rare (happened to me only once) and is something that occurs with any push button clock. Of course, with the push button clock you don’t get that awkward loss of sensitivity you can get with the touch sensitive clocks.
The red light over the timer is bright and easy to see, allowing you to walk the room like a boss and still know when it’s your turn again.
Pricing 2 out of 5: Bill Gates: Clearly, if money is not an issue, this clock is a serious contender for your program. It’s ease of use and programming far exceeds any other device out there. However, if money is an issue, this clock is not cheap, running at around $149.00 or at $100 wholesale.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 Chess Clocks: This is a darn fine clock. It’s ease of use for Players and Tournament Directors is particularly nice. There are many things I’d like to be doing during a tournament: crushing my enemies, spotting awesome combinations, catching the eye of Hikaru Nakamura from across the tournament floor—but one thing I don’t want to be doing is fiddling unsuccessfully with cryptic clock settings. There’s enough stress in tournament chess without that.
Sure, we could ask that it be made out of metal for zombie smashing and have the neat neon light over the time control in case we have a vision impairment, but the only real strike against this clock is the price. Hopefully, after the device catches on, that price point will lower. If this clock is in your price range, then it comes highly recommended.