Are you looking to elevate your table tennis game or perhaps just show your love for somebody through a thoughtful gift? If you are anything like I was when I first started playing over 15 years ago, you might be thinking: “aren’t all paddles basically the same?”
The answer is no, BUT you are in luck: whether a beginner or experienced amateur, you really only need to look at a few key features when buying a new paddle, and in this article I’ll be walking you through exactly what you need to know.
By the end of this article, you’ll know the absolute best paddle for YOU and your needs, where to buy it, and what to expect from it.
How to Choose the Perfect Ping Pong Paddle (Including for Beginners)
There are a lot of great ping pong paddles on the market, but what is important is understanding what will make the best product for you. Nothing is worse than spending money on anything only to find that it does not fit what you need. With paddles, you must first understand your playing style and experience. Then you can understand what the differences in materials and construction in paddles will make in your game.
The primary factor in finding the right one is knowing what style of player you are. If you are a novice player, more likely than not, you are going to want a paddle that is more middle of the road and not made for any specific style since you are likely still developing as a player. As you mature as a player, you’ll be trying to find paddles that fits your playing style. You’ll be making decisions about the grip, whether penhold or shakehand, and if you are a more offensive or defensive player will come into play. Also, many higher end paddles give more power than inexperienced players can handle.
Many experienced players recommend, if you play at a table tennis club, to test out other players’ paddles as there are multiple facets of the paddle that are more for aesthetics and comfort than actual performance. Also, other players’ advice and experience can be helpful in determining what will work well for you. For example, if you were looking at the best ping pong tables, we have you covered here.
How Ratings Work
Performance is measured, depending on the manufacture, on a three component scale with either a 10-point or 100-point scale rating the power, control and spin of a paddle. There is some slight difference between manufacturers in what an individual rating might mean, but you can know what to expect when you see an 8 rating on power no matter who made it.
The first of these ratings, power, reflects not only the hardness of the material used in the blade and handle of the paddle, but the padding used between the rubber surfaces of the paddle and the blade. All blades are laminated wood glued together, sometimes with a thin layer of fiberglass or carbon fiber sandwiched between the layers to provide lighter weight and less absorption of energy. The power rating is more a measure of how much energy it absorbs when returning a shot. The higher the number, the less power it absorbs, providing a much stronger return. A drawback to a higher power rating is that it can come at the cost of control of shots and therefore less preferred by players with a more defensive style. Meanwhile, many offensive players look for paddles rated in the 9s.
Next is control, which reflects how true the paddle strikes the ball, as well as how long the paddle holds the ball when hitting it. This has more to do with the quality of the rubber, thickness of padding, and the direction the pips on the rubber face. With the right paddle you can perform trick shots that your opponents can’t defend
As a rule, the tackier the rubber, the more control you will have with your shots, allowing for better placement of returns. As well, a couple of millimeters of foam can provide a lot more control, usually at the expense of power though. Finally, if the face of it has the rubber pips facing outward, it gives you more grip as you strike the ball, usually at the cost of spin. Defensive players prefer high control paddles, although advances in construction have lead to a rise in the control ratings of all paddles.
Finally is spin. Spin again has to do with the quality and installation of the rubber, but also can be improved through a lighter blade. Many players, whether more offense or defense oriented in their styles, will look for paddles that provide spin as it can make returning their shots more difficult. Higher spin paddles will usually have the pips of their rubber facing the blade, allowing for the ball to be struck with a smooth surface. As well, they will be lighter weight, allowing you to have more fine manipulation of the paddle. Even then, most paddles with a higher control rating usually carry a similar rating in spin.
Through using these guidelines, you can find the best table tennis bat for you and understand the criteria we used in determining our top general choices.