Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Kyu Review: The GoBox

For playing Go away from home, our most pragmatic options are smaller and lighter traveling sets which often consist of folding or roll-up boards combined with synthetic stones. I still have my Myung-In magnetic set for studying in the car while waiting for ChiyoChan to exit from classes.

But for some occasions, nothing really beats the aesthetics of playing on a full-sized table board with hefty 9mm stones pulled from a wooden bowl. It feels right. It feels traditional. That's why many of us pine for thick wooden table boards and for floor gobans, as large and pricey as these sometimes are.

Of course, the question becomes, how to safely tote your costly 22.2 pounds of gear with you when you want to play with these away from home. Yellow Mountain Imports's answer is the GoBox; an 80cm x 60cm x 18cm foam-padded ABS case with wheels (product link and specifications).

It is currently offered at an introductory retail price of US$98 but I had seen a couple of units auctioned on their eBay site last week at starting bids of about US$50 (probably as promotional auctions).

The GoBox has foam padding that is 4cm thick around the perimeter of the board. The padding on the bottom is 1.5cm thick. The padding on the top is about 4cm of egg-crate shaped foam. This image shows my goban inside the box; sitting just slightly below the top of the foam. As always, you can click on these images to enlarge them.

The GoBox comes with extra foam pads in case you want to add these to the bottom or carry multiple thinner boards (sandwiched between the foam). I think the 1.5cm of base padding in the case is enough since the weight of the board is displaced over a larger surface area. If you want, you can place up to 2cms of extra padding below the board. This raises the goban above the foam edge, as shown in the image above, but it still fits just fine when the case is closed.

My preferred configuration is shown above, with a 0.5cm pad between my regular goban and my 13x13/9x9 combo board. This allows me to take everything. Besides the space for the goban and bowls, there's a 9.5cm(L) x 15.5 (W) x 7.5cm (D) cutout section in the foam. This can probably be used to carry a game timer.

The case is meant to be wheeled about. The Gobox has a handle covered with a ribbed rubbery-plastic for when you may need to carry it.

The egg-crate foam on the top of the case does an excellent job of holding everything in place while providing protection. I tried shaking and jerking the case as violently as I could while it was fully-loaded (right-side up, sideways and upside-down) to see if the bowl lids might come loose and spill the stones. The lids stayed shut and my combo board didn't shift from its position.

As I had mentioned back on January 16th, I had placed felt liners on the insides and tops of my bowls. This is a good idea to adopt when you're transporting your stones in the bowls as it keeps the former from shifting too much and it reduces the stone rattle.

I plan on using my GoBox to transport my gear for matches with friends and, when I can, public exhibition games to help promote Go.

One question that comes to mind is whether the GoBox could be used to transport gear when traveling by air. It's too large to qualify as carry-on luggage and so it would have to be checked-in. I would have some reservations about doing this because of current security regulations and the latches on the case.

In the US, all checked-in luggage must remain unlocked unless they use special locks that are approved by the Transportation Safety Authority. The GoBox uses latches that use what looks like a universal latch-key; but I'm sure there will be TSA inspectors and check-in specialists who won't know that. My fear is that you would be required to submit it to the carrier with the latches unlocked. Checked-in luggage takes a lot of abuse and the only thing that would keep your contents from spilling out might be two unlocked flip-up latches.

I don't expect to take my Go gear by air so this isn't an issue for me. As it is, the GoBox nicely fits my needs for transporting my set to venues where I'd like to share the fun of playing on a full-sized equipment.


At 12:10 AM, July 19, 2006, Anonymous Obi-chan said...

Hi! Picked your blog link up from the RBJ forums, and I've been learning Go on my own for some time too. Your blog content is pretty impressive - I'll be visiting frequently from now on :)

At 7:57 AM, July 19, 2006, Anonymous ScatCat said...

Nice to hear the GoBox is such a winner. I was lucky enough to win one of their introductory auctions and can hardly wait for mine to arrive. =D

I am still a little concerned about stone rattle. In your opinion could slate and shell be safely carried in lined gosu? I look forward to our next match Chiyodad. Ttfn!

At 8:20 AM, July 19, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello Obi-Chan,

Nice to see another RBJ person! Hope you find some of the info in my blog useful.

Hello ScatCat,

I lined my bowls with thick felt to keep the stones from scuffing the insides of my bowls and to minimize rattle. The felt, of course reduces the space in the bowls (thereby reducing the stones' movements).

As an extra measure, you could fill the remaining empty space with cotton or foam (cut-up the extra foam liners or chunks that come with the GoBox) and stuff these between the stones and the lid. I have no Consumer Reports lab to fully test this solution but I think it should work.

At 4:43 PM, July 19, 2006, Anonymous Yellow Mountain Imports said...

Hi All,

I recommend the use of these luggage straps for the GoBox if traveling by air:


I always use one of these in my regular air travels with my luggage.


At 4:57 PM, July 31, 2006, Blogger phosphere said...

I find the handle on the side could have been better designed to support the weight involved: 35lbs for case, board, & stones. Rivets into plastic not enough; should be belt around case or such. Side handle pulls side open a little when lifted; would not rely on handle alone to support weight. X-Large bowls prevent tight closure; I'm hoping time (with weights on cover) will compress sponge enough for better fit.

Good for home storage, or roll to car trunk: would not use for train, or plane.

At 5:24 PM, July 31, 2006, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

I hadn't noticed that until you pointed it out.

At a certain weight, the lower-section of the side which is attached to the handle will pull away from the top section. You could even exacerbate the problem when walking (because momentum would create a greater pull force).


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