New chess clock review - ZMF Tap n Touch

lasertswift

ZMF Tap and Set Chess Clock Review

I recently bought the new Tap n Touch chess clock by ZMF and thought I would write a quick review…

It is made out of plastic but feels fairly sturdy.  Not as sturdy as a Chronos, but acceptable.  What is weird is that the back is open.  See the pictures.  That just seemed… Odd.

FRONT

BACK

UNDERNEATH

The on/off switch is located underneath the open back and feels flimsy.  I feel like it will break fairly easily but I could be wrong.  Time will tell.  It takes 2 AA batteries, but the battery compartment is also very flimsy and feels like it will break easily too.

It comes in a touch sensor or button.  I got one of each.  Both the touch sensor/button feature a black case with red sensor/buttons.  They also have red LED lights.

The screen is LCD and is very clear although the numbers are very fine whereas the Chronos numbers are very bold.  It shows if there is an increment/delay and it also shows which period you are in for multiple time periods.  It only shows the moves if you pause the clock.  One thing I do like is that if you pause the clock it shows whose turn it is for when you resume unlike the Chronos.  See pictures.

PAUSED

You can set it for sound or no sound but the sound on was so quiet I at first thought it was broken.

You can have 3 different times stored in memory.  The tap n set function works very well and is very easy to set with no manual needed.  That option is very cool which is, of course, the selling point of the clock. 

Seeing that it is half the cost of the Chronos I feel like it is worth it as long as the flimsy parts don’t break.  Again, time will tell.

Let me know if you have any questions.

D8Reptile
I also received one. So far it seems pretty good. The only issue I have with mine is that it doesn’t sit flush with the table. It’s a tiny bit unbalanced. It actually rocks back and forth, ever so slightly, when pressing on it.

The only thing I could discern is that it’s either a tiny bit warped or the rubber feet are slightly different sizes (unlikely the feet).

Overall seems pretty good but I’m trying to figure out how to get it to sit flush to the table.
BonTheCat
D8Reptile wrote:
Overall seems pretty good but I’m trying to figure out how to get it to sit flush to the table.

A piece of chewing gum!

 

Micahsmith

When the clock is paused, are you able to re-start either players side of the clock when unpausing the clock? You can on most clocks (unfortunately you can't on the VTEK 300, which I consider to be the best clock despite this flaw). If you can't re-start either players side of the clock when unpausing the clock, here is an example of a problem this can create. Player A makes an illegal move and presses his side of the clock. The clock is paused and two minutes are added to Player B's time. Now player A has to go back and make a legal move but there is no way to immediately start Player A's side of the clock when unpausing the clock. You have to unpause the clock and quickly press Player B's side of the clock to start Player A's side of the clock again but this will mess up the time if increment is being used and/or mess up the move counter if the move counter feature is on. 

Only showing the number of moves made when you pause the clock seems to be a rather poor feature to me. On a lot of clocks, you have to press a button on the clock to see the number of moves made which is annoying but at least the clock will still run when you do this. The Chronos Clocks can be set so the number of moves made is always displayed on the screen but if you set it this way for delay time controls, you won't be able to see the delay countdown which is much more important to see. The Excalibur Game Time II can be set to do it the best way in that it can be set so the clock always show the number of moves made on the screen AND shows the delay countdown. The VTEK 300 can also be set to do it in a very similar way to the Excalibur Game Time II in that you can set it to show both the number of moves made and the delay countdown on the screen, although not at the same time. For the player whose turn it is, it shows the delay countdown and then the number of moves made after the delay countdown is over. For the player who turn it isn't, it always shows the number of moves made. 

Another issue with the TAP N Set clock is that it can't be set to have the increment or delay only on the sudden death time control (such as a 40/90,SD/30 game with a 30 second increment only on the sudden death time control) like you can on most clocks and there are tournaments that use a time control with the increment or delay only on the sudden death time control. 

ShelbyLohrman

The question I have always wondered about it is 2 fold.

1)  This is set by using an app on your phone.  With all the new USCF rules regarding phones in the playing hall, this seems to beg for someone who set his clock before the round to get a penalty when they forget to turn their phone off.

2)  Since this is SO EASY to set with the tap of a phone...is there a possibility for cheating to occur?  I have seen people set one of these things in under a minute.  With the END problems and everything else going on...how long till something like this is embroiled in controversy?  I know Roberto and he always makes great products, but all it takes is 1 time...

 

Shelby

Fish-Killer

Either player can start the clock when it's paused. The number of moves are always shown in the display.

Micahsmith
Fish-Killer wrote:

Either player can start the clock when it's paused. The number of moves are always shown in the display.

 Do you mean that either players side of the clock can be started when the clock is unpaused?

Your statement "The number of moves are always shown in the display." contradicts what the original poster wrote when saying "It only shows the moves if you pause the clock." Would be good to get know which statement is correct.

Another question about this clock. Does it show tenths of a second once a player goes under one minute like the other ZMart clocks do? Is there a way to remove the tenths of a second display if you don't like seeing tenths of a second (you can't do this on the other ZMart clocks)? 

 

Micahsmith

Anyone know the answers to the questions I asked?

hersco

OK, I purchased some of these clocks for our club.  Micahsmith, here are your answers.

When the clock is paused, pressing either sensor (or presumably either button on a model with buttons) starts the other player's clock: the clock can be unpaused with either player to move.  If it is unpaused in a way that changes whose move it is, that is counted as a move for the other player.  For example, if a player makes an illegal move and presses the clock, after the clock is paused and the time is adjusted, when the other player presses the clock to restart it, the clock counts it as a move for both players.  When the time is being adjusted, it is also possible to adjust the move counter, so that it will be correct when the clock is restarted.  If there is a delay, then when the clock is restarted, the player whose clock is restarted gets the benefit of the delay time, whether that was the player on move or not.  This is not the case when there is an increment.  In that case, when unpausing the clock, the increment is only added if the player whose clock is started was not previously on move.

Here is what is shown by the two small digits on the right side of each player's display when a move counter is being used. 

  • If there is an increment, those digits show that increment when the clock is running (and they do not change).  (Note: This last statement was incorrect: see correction from Fish-killer below.)  When the clock is paused, after a few seconds those digits change to show the move counter.
  • If there is a delay, then during the delay period, those digits show the time left in the delay period (both sides show the delay time counting down, not just the side of the player whose clock is running).  When that delay time is up and the player's main time starts running, those digits revert to the move counter for both players.  In this case, pausing the clock doesn't change the display: if the delay period is still running, those digit continue to show the delay time remaining, even though the delay period is restarted as soon as either player's clock is pressed.  If the delay period is over, those digits are already showing the move counter.
  • When there is neither an increment nor a delay, those digits show the move counter.

Tenths of a second are always shown when a player's time goes below one minute.  I do not believe it is possible to change this setting, and I do not see any reference to it in the manual that comes with the clock.

Fish-Killer

"If there is an increment, those digits show that increment when the clock is running (and they do not change).  When the clock is paused, after a few seconds those digits change to show the move counter."

Hersco, when there is an increment and the time is running, the two small digits change to the move number after 4 or 5 seconds. I just tested it with my clock. The move counter has to be enabled in the phone app otherwise it won't do it.

 

 

Micahsmith

Thanks for the replies hersco and Fish-Killer. I have purchased one of these clocks and it should arrive in a couple of days. I'm really looking forward to receiving my clock.  

The fact that the number of moves can be displayed on the screen essentially all the time is a nice feature this clock has that most other clocks don't. On most clocks, you have to annoyingly press a button for the number of moves to be displayed on the screen (and the number of moves will no longer be displayed once you stop pressing that button) and I don't think I've ever seen a player press a button on the clock during a game to see the number of moves made. 

It's also good that it can show the delay countdown in digits followed by the move counter on the screen at all times. The VTEK 300 is the only other clock I am aware of that can also do this. On the Chronos clocks, you have to choose between setting it in a way that shows the delay countdown or setting it in a way that shows the move counter, you can't get both!

It's also great to know that you can start either players side of the clock when un-pausing the clock. The VTEK 300 suffers from not being able to do this!

Personally, I really like seeing tenths of a second once my time goes below one minute so I really like this feature on the Z-Mart clocks but I wish there was a way to take the tenths of a second display off as I know some players don't like seeing tenths of a second. 

hersco

What do you know, you're right, Fish-Killer!  Thanks for the correction.  I edited my original post to refer to the correct information.

Micahsmith, I think the clock looks pretty nice, though I haven't actually played a game with it yet, and my phone is old enough that the app won't work with it.  Still, I am expecting that at the club, where we generally need to set a bunch of clocks to the same time control, we will really appreciate being able to use a phone (at least one person at the club has downloaded the app).

hersco

Micahsmith, you wrote:

On the Chronos clocks, you have to choose between setting it in a way that shows the delay countdown or setting it in a way that shows the move counter, you can't get both!

On my Chronos, (I have the smaller model, which I believe is the GX model), if I choose mode TC-2 and set a delay, then for the player not on move, it always shows the move counter.  For the player on move, it shows the delay countdown until that countdown hits zero, and then it shows the move counter.

hersco

Oh, and while I'm at it, I will reply to ShelbyLohrman.  As far as a player forgetting to turn his/her phone off, I would hope a TD would exercise discretion before imposing a penalty, though of course, it is the player's responsibility to turn the phone off.  As for cheating during the game, in order to reset the clock, a player would have to make contact between the phone and the clock, and the clock would vibrate and buzz when this happened, so I think it would likely be noticed.  Furthermore, someone can correct me if I am wrong about this, but I think the phone only works to set an initial time control, not to change the times during the game.  I suppose I could preset my phone to with a time control of 20 minutes for me and one minute or 30 seconds for my opponent, but again, I think this would be harder to get away with than one might initially suspect, especially since the vibration could well give it away.

Micahsmith

I received my Tap N Set clock yesterday and unfortunately I quickly discovered a number of serious issues with the clock.

1) If both sides of the clock are pressed at about the same time (something which can easily happen in time pressure situations) the move counter jumps way up. For example, the move counter might jump up from move 6 to move 13 just by both sides pressing the clock once at about the same time. Due to the clock thinking 7 moves have been made, it adds seven times whatever the increment is (if the clock is set for increment). 

2) If both players base time is less than one minute, there is no increment or delay, and both sides of the clock are pressed at about the same time (again, something that can easily happen in time pressure situations), one or both of the players time might spontaneously jump down. For example, one of the players time may spontaneously jump down from say 24.6 to 17.8.

3) For increment time controls in the "add-after" method, if you press your clock in-between a number that ends in "0.1" and "0,0"  (such as in-between 20.1, twenty seconds and one tenths of a second, and 20.0), the clock will add one second less than it should. For example, if you press the clock in-between 10.1 and 10.0 and the increment is five seconds, it only adds four seconds to your time.

4) For delay time controls, If you press your clock when your base time ends in a ".0" (such as 20.0-twenty seconds and zero tenths of a second), the time will jump down to 19.0 and on your next turn once your delay time runs out, the clock will add 0.9 seconds (i.e. jump up from 19.0 to 19.9).  

5) For time controls without increment or delay or time controls with increment in the "add-before" method, if you press your clock when your base time ends in a ".0" (such as 20.0-twenty seconds and zero tenths of a second), you lose an extra second. For example, If you press your clock at 20.0, the time will jump down to 19.0 (if you press your clock at 20.1, it will stay at 20.1.). If you press the clock when you have 01.0 (one second) left, the time will jump down to and display "00.0" but the zeros won't flash (when a player runs out of time, it shows "00:00" and the zeros flash) and when it's your turn again, the time will increase to "00.9" (or if the clock is set for increment in the "add-before" method, it will add "00.9" + plus whatever the increment is).  

6) For delay time controls, if the clock is paused during a players turn and then simply un-paused with the same player on move, the player gets the full delay time again.

All of the above is what happens with the button version of the clock at least. I’m not sure what happens with the touch sensor version of the clock but I’m assuming something very similar happens.

ShelbyLohrman
hersco wrote:

Oh, and while I'm at it, I will reply to ShelbyLohrman.  As far as a player forgetting to turn his/her phone off, I would hope a TD would exercise discretion before imposing a penalty, though of course, it is the player's responsibility to turn the phone off.  As for cheating during the game, in order to reset the clock, a player would have to make contact between the phone and the clock, and the clock would vibrate and buzz when this happened, so I think it would likely be noticed.  Furthermore, someone can correct me if I am wrong about this, but I think the phone only works to set an initial time control, not to change the times during the game.  I suppose I could preset my phone to with a time control of 20 minutes for me and one minute or 30 seconds for my opponent, but again, I think this would be harder to get away with than one might initially suspect, especially since the vibration could well give it away.

Hersco,

I am talking about in major tournaments like the World Open with long time controls where one of the player might be away from the board.  How noticeable would it be then?  Doing it while both people are on the board would be quite obvious.  Say someone goes to re-fill their water.  A re-set could be done in no time with this clock compared to any others on the market.

The USCF pretty much banned "END" devices (electronic notation devices) just because of the chance that someone could reprogram the device to allow cheating.  How is a device like this any different in terms of ease of cheating?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that anyone will or should cheat with this product.  I am saying the ease of programming this product allows the ABILITY to cheat if so inclined.  If Electronic notation devices are banned, should this item be treated any different?

There needs to be a way to have a "TD LOCKOUT" or a notice on the screen that the time has been altered.  When something is this easy to use, they need to have safeguards.  That is what I am saying.  All it takes is 1 person that tries to cheat with this think or someone getting accused of it and this product gets vilified.  

 

As for the problems that Micah has found...those are HUGE.  When those get fixed, what happens with all the clocks already on the market?

 

Shelby Lohrman

Micahsmith
ShelbyLohrman wrote:

As for the problems that Micah has found...those are HUGE.  When those get fixed, what happens with all the clocks already on the market?

 

Shelby Lohrman

I'm wondering the same thing. I had high hopes for this clock. i can't believe US Chess made a clock with this many issues the "official" clock of the United States Chess Federation. I wonder how many of these issues are present on the other Z-Mart clocks? I know that number 4 on my list at least used to be an issue on the ZMF II.   

hersco

Micahsmith, first off, nice job testing it.  I hadn't really put the clock through the stress tests that you subjected it to (not that anything you did to it should be all that "stressful" or difficult to handle).  The only issue of yours that I had caught was #6.

I ordered the sensor model, but I no longer have easy access to the clocks:  I have delivered them to the club, and I do not know when we will meet again, since it looks like we are going to suspend in-person meetings for at least a few weeks.  Otherwise, I would try to reproduce your issues.  I suspect they are on the sensor model as well.

With your issues #3, #4, and #5, I suspect they are not just issues when a player has less than one minute: it may be that we can only notice them as issues when a player is below one minute and the clock is showing tenths of seconds.  I do agree that all the issues you bring up are troubling, at the very least.

Shelby, I am not suggesting that you are advocating cheating, and you are absolutely right that my focus was on using the clock for small club tournaments.  Of course, cheating at a national tournament or another high-prize event is a much more serious matter.  Honestly, I am not sure how easy or hard it would be to get away with something.  As I said, I do not think one can use a phone to add or subtract time to the clock; one can only use a phone to set the initial time on the clock.  Adding or subtracting time has to be done manually, similarly to how it would be done with any other digital clock.  Maybe I could still cheat by using the phone to reset an initial time in which you are down to 5 seconds, but it might be obvious that this has been done, especially if the time control in use has a move counter (the reset time would show that no moves had been played).  In this case, a TD lockout feature doesn't help; from the clock's perspective, the time wasn't changed; a new game with a different time control was started.

I had a friend who once played blitz against the hustlers in Greenwich Village in New York, back in the days of analog clocks.  One of them cheated by surreptitiously reaching behind the clock and moving the hands during the game.  I wonder if it would be as easy to cheat with these clocks or any clocks by resetting the time manually as it is to reset one of these clocks using a phone.  As I said, I don't know the answer, and you are certainly justified in bringing up the issue, given how different the interface on this clock is (when using a phone) from every other clock on the market.

We did find another weird issue: when we used the phone to set a time control with time odds, e.g. one player had one hour and the other had two hours, it would not let us include an increment, and after that, it seemed confused about other time controls we tried to set.  We were able to set such a time control manually, and after we manually set a time control without time odds, we were able to use the phone to set other time controls.

Micahsmith
hersco wrote:

Micahsmith, first off, nice job testing it.  I hadn't really put the clock through the stress tests that you subjected it to (not that anything you did to it should be all that "stressful" or difficult to handle).  The only issue of yours that I had caught was #6.

I ordered the sensor model, but I no longer have easy access to the clocks:  I have delivered them to the club, and I do not know when we will meet again, since it looks like we are going to suspend in-person meetings for at least a few weeks.  Otherwise, I would try to reproduce your issues.  I suspect they are on the sensor model as well.

With your issues #3, #4, and #5, I suspect they are not just issues when a player has less than one minute: it may be that we can only notice them as issues when a player is below one minute and the clock is showing tenths of seconds.  I do agree that all the issues you bring up are troubling, at the very least.

The manufacture of the clock told me that issue #1 on my list only occurs on the button version of the clock. Due to issue #1 only occurring on the button version of the clock, I'm assuming issue #2 only occurs on the button version of the clock as well.  

You might be right that #3, 4, and 5 aren't just issues when a player has less than one minute. #2 however seems to be only as issue (at least on the button version of the clock) when the player has less than one minute. 

The manufacturer told me they have now fixed issues #1 and #4 in my list above. I'm currently working with them to fix the other issues. 

Micahsmith
hersco wrote:

Tenths of a second are always shown when a player's time goes below one minute.  I do not believe it is possible to change this setting, and I do not see any reference to it in the manual that comes with the clock.

I actually discovered a situation where the clock does not show tenths of a second (not sure if it was intentional or not). If one of the players runs out of time and the other players time was at least one minute, once that players time falls below one minute, it doesn't show tenths of a second.