The 7 Best Ping Pong Paddles (Reviews & Buyer's Guide 2019) | PPB

The Best Ping Pong Paddles for 2019

best ping pong paddle

Expert: Kevin James, Last Updated: 25/06/2019

"Kevin, which is the best ping pong paddle?" - This is the most common question asked to me at my club.

My answer remains the same -"It depends". Cos, it really does.

From your age to physical build, skill level, playing style, and budget, the paddle of your dreams depends on a combination of these factors and more. And there is nothing like the BEST ping pong paddle; it's all about choosing the RIGHT paddle, which can complement your skill.

And I can tell you, there is no one, standard process of selection. What works for someone may not work for you, and vice-versa. What makes it even more difficult is the number of paddle brands that are out there, and then a dozen of different paddles that each one makes. This leads to the classic problem - The Paradox of Choice.

Then there are enough and more fake paddles in the market - the ones that flash the photos of top table tennis players like Timo Boll or Ma long, or go by the misleading names of Power Shot or Supreme Pro. So beware!

In this comprehensive guide, I will help you choose a ping pong paddle (officially known as table tennis racket) which accurately matches your skill level and requirements.

Points to consider While choosing a Ping Pong Paddle:

I can't stress enough that a paddle can either build your interest in the game or break it. So follow me and make the right choice.

Let's start the selection process by answering these four basic questions:

1) Your Age and Stamina level

2) Your Current Skill Level

3) Your Playing Style

4) Your Goals/Future Aspiration

I hope by now, you are in a position to accurately judge your current skill level and have a rough idea about the type of racket you should choose. Let's move to the actual selection.

In the next section, I've recommended the best table tennis paddles based on the player type and skill level. For this review, we'll be limiting the discussion only to ready-made paddles. 

To read more about our paddle selection process and criteria, refer to the in-depth guide (3000 words+) below.

Ping Pong Paddle Recommendations

Practice/Beginner

Product
Characteristic
Rating
Price
Well balanced paddle suited for both offensive and defensive play
All Round

Intermediate

Product
Characteristic
Rating
Price
Good spin, above average speed, great control
All Round- (Slower)
High speed, decent spin, good control
All Round+ (Faster)

Intermediate+  

Product
Best for
Characteristic
Price
Experienced players with decent technique
Great control, slightly on the Offensive side

Recreational (Set of 2/4)

Product
No. of Paddles
No. of Balls
Our Rating
Price
4
8
Top Choice
4
6
Pro Pick
4
6
Budget Pick

In the next section, we'll be discussing in-depth about each of the recommended ping pong paddles, including the pros and cons of each.

Practice/Beginner Paddles

Palio Master 2

Rating: Speed = 8/10, Spin = 9/10, Control = 8/10


{All-round, heavy spin, medium fast, and superb control}

Suitable for: Beginners, and Improvers

Palio Master 2 Review

Product Specification:

  • 5-Ply Blade
  • Medium-hard rubber
  • ITTF approved CJ8000 rubbers on both sides
  • Weight: 195 gms
  • Handle Type: Flared

Pros
+ Superb control with great combination of power and spin
+ The 5-ply blade offers fantastic feedback of the ball
+ Rubbers ​are replaceable
+ Good construction quality

Cons
- The case provided is average

Palio Master 2 Review

If I had the option to start my table tennis journey again, I would definitely pick this paddle as my goto choice. An excellent practice paddle, by all means, offering amazing control and power.

This racket has been built from grounds up, taking into account the needs of the budding players. If you're starting to get serious, then racket may very well be an ideal choice for you.

The 5-ply wood blade packs in plenty of power and offers a fantastic feeling of the ball, which is very important for the new players. The CJ8000 rubbers are lively and grippy, allowing you to hit the ball with good speed and spin. You would be pleasantly surprised with the amount of spin you can extract from the racket. The smashes are deadly, if you hit them right!

The flared handle is quite comfortable to hold and grip. A complimentary blue zippered case is provided along for safe storage.

With the all-round playability and fantastic build quality, the Palio Master 2 paddle is our top choice for beginners and improvers.

Intermediate Paddles

Killerspin JET600

Rating: ALL- (Speed 8/10, Spin 9/10, Control 8.5/10)


{Well balanced, greater degree of control, good spin and decent speed}

Suitable for: Advanced beginners to intermediate players who prefer spin over speed

Killerspin JET600 Table Tennis Paddle Review

Product Specification:

  • 6mm thick 5-ply blade
  • Comes with ITTF approved Nitrx-4Z rubber on both sides.
  • Handle Type: Flared
  • Weight: 180 gms

Pros
+ Impressive spin
+ Balanced racket in terms of spin, speed and control
+ Value for money
+ Excellent construction quality

Cons
- Lacks power 

Killerspin JET600 Review

The racket offers fantastic control, ideal for players who like to chop, push and block. However, it does lack a bit of power and for the drives and smashes you need to put in extra energy. 

Although the Killerspin JET600 is an all-round racket, it's more on the slower side, offering better control and spin capabilities. It is well suited for players who like to do spinny serves, deep chops, blocks and occasional opportunistic smashes.

The soft and flexible 6-ply blade offers excellent control while the Nitrx-4Z 2.0mm high tension rubbers are grippy, offering superior spin characteristic. At the same time, you'd be surprised how easy it's for you to block the opponent's shots.

Intermediate players would definitely feel the difference in the amount of spin and speed they can put on the ball. Beginners who're just starting would love the fact how controllable this racket is.

To summarize, the Jet600 this is ideal for serious beginners and intermediates alike. Go for this, if you're looking for a paddle which offers good control, high spin and reasonable speed.

STIGA Evolution Performance-Level

Rating: ALL+ (Speed: 96 Spin: 94 Control: 90)


{All round, high speed, decent spin and good control}

Suitable for: Beginner to intermediate players who prefer speed overs spin

STIGA Evolution Performance-Level Table Tennis Racket Review

Product Highlights:

  • 6-ply light blade, 6.5 mm thick
  • Medium-hard 2.00 mm thick ITTF approved rubber
  • Handle Type: Concave, Lightly flared
  • Weight: 170 gms

Pros
+ A well-balanced racket, suited for players who like to play an aggressive game
+ Great for playing controlled yet aggressive shots.
+ The lightest blade in the category
+ SDT tech absorbs vibrations and transfers energy out of the paddle making the racket lighter and improving overall performance.

Cons
- Does not come with a carrying case.

STIGA Evolution Performance Review

Looking for some extra speed? Well, then the Stiga Evolution would not disappoint. The lightweight 6-ply blade is stiff, packing in enough power for aggressive shots while at the same time easy to control. The ITTF approved 2.00mm thick rubber is grippy and spongy, letting you put a decent spin on the ball.

Stiga Evolution performance is an all-round+ paddle which slightly favours offensive players. You can hit hard smashes, topspin and drives with ease. New players may find the paddle but uncontrollable due to the increased speed. But don't worry! You'll get the hang of it after a couple of sessions.

The blade comes with Shock Dispersion Tube (SDT) technology. A hollow composite rod runs through the centre of the handle which disperses the vibration and energy generated on ball contact, out of the paddle. As per the manufacturer, this improves the overall feel and speed of the racket. Personally, I couldn't find much difference. But one thing is for certain; this makes the racket lighter.

The handle of the racket is lightly flared and very easy to grip.

To summarize, STIGA Evolution Performance is an excellent paddle for players who're looking for a faster setup but do not want to compromise on the control.

Intermediate+ Paddles

STIGA Pro Carbon Performance-Level


Rating: OFF (Speed: 99 Spin: 100 Control: 80)

{High quality racket for Intermediates and advanced players}

STIGA Pro Carbon Performance-Level Table Tennis Racket Review

Product Highlights:

  • 7-ply composite blade, 5 layer of balsa wood and 2 layer of carbon.
  • 2.00 mm thick S5 rubber ITTF rubbers on both sides
  • Handle type: Concave and gently-flared
  • Weight: 176 gms

Pros
+ Excellent racket for intermediate to advanced players
+ Huge sweet spot
+ Very fast, medium spinny and fairly easy to control
+ Great for long distance as well close to the table play
+ High throw angle

Not so good for
- Chopping - Due to the stiffer blade, deep chops won't come easy. Good enough for shallow chops though.

Stiga Pro Carbon Review

This paddle has all the attributes to suit the needs of intermediates to advanced players. Its fast, spinny and rewards proper technique. By no means, you will see a drastic change in your game just after using the paddle. But if your technique is right or you're working on improving it, this paddle can do wonders for you.

The blade is 7-ply with 5-layers of balsa wood and 2-outer layers of carbon fibre. The carbon layer provides extra rigidity and stiffness which makes the paddle fast and responsive.

It comes with 2.00 mm thick S5 rubbers on both sides. The rubber is fast and the top sheet is non-tacky but grippy. You can pull off, a good amount of spin out of the racket. Due to the high throw angle, the balls generally follow a higher trajectory after leaving the paddle.

Due to the large sweet spot, balls hitting the edge or lower section of the paddle still gets returned with sufficient force. While the shots hitting the top and centre section, travel insanely fast.

The curved gently-flared handle makes it easy to hold and grip the paddle for long hours.

To summarize, I feel Stiga Pro carbon is an excellent racket for intermediate to advanced players. The all-round playability of the paddle along with superior performance makes it an ideal choice.

Recreational Paddle Set

JP WinLook (Set of 4)


{Top Choice - High quality paddle set}

JP WinLook Ping Pong Paddle Set Review

Product Highlights:

  • Includes for four 5-ply paddles and eight 40mm balls
  • Built as per ITTF standard (but not approved)
  • Comes with a zippered carrying case 
  • Weight: ~156 gms
  • Warranty: 6 months

Pros
+ Value for money. Good starter kit for beginners and recreational players
+ Includes four paddles, eight balls, and a zippered carrying case
+ Well-built, and balls are of good-quality
+ Great customer support

Cons
- None!

JP WinLook Set Review:

Are you looking for a Ping Pong Paddle Set? Go for the JP Winlook set, it's a no brainer. The price point is spot on, the quality is decent, and on top of this, the customer support is excellent.

The set includes four good-quality 5-ply paddles and eight 40mm tournament quality balls. The handles are flared to provide you with a comfortable grip.

Finally, this set comes with a blue zippered case, which makes storing and transporting the paddles and balls easy.

I think recreational and casual players would be hard-pressed to find a better-value set than this.

Upstreet Ping Pong (Set of 4)


{Budget Pick}

Upstreet Ping Pong Paddle Set Review

Product Highlights:

  • Includes four 5-ply paddles and ten 3-star 40 mm balls
  • Weighs around ~160 gms
  • Handle type: flared

Pros
+ Includes four paddles and ten 3-star (40mm) balls
+ Balls are of good quality
+ 12-month replacement warranty against manufacturing defects

Cons
- Does not include a carrying case

Upstreet Paddle Set

If you're on a budget, then the Upstreet Ping Pong paddle set may be ideal for you. The quality is slightly lower than our top pick - JP Winlook, but the pricing is a killer. At the time of writing this review, the product was available for $20.99.

The paddles are quite sturdy and play pretty well. The balls are of good quality and have a good bounce. The only thing which I found missing was the case. Not a deal breaker considering the price point.

Finally, it comes with a twelve-month warranty, and the company's customer service is pretty supportive. I think beginner and recreational players would surely enjoy fun ping pong games with this value for money set.

Killerspin JET SET 4


{High quality + Durable construction}

Killerspin JET SET 4 Ping Pong Paddle Set Review

Product Specification:

  • Comes with four 5-ply paddles
  • Six three-start 40mm balls
  • Gently flared handles provide a comfortable grip
  • Weight: 160 gms each

Pros
+ Superior construction quality
+ Overall a great set for casual and recreational players

Cons
- Does not include a carrying case

Note: Some of the online reviews mention about the poor quality of the paddle but those reviews date back to 2015-2016. The manufacturer has greatly improved the quality since then.

Killerspin JET SET 4 Review

This set is a lot better in terms of quality compared to the other sets we've reviewed. Its constructed with high-quality 5-ply wood. The rubbers are of decent quality, which allows you to try different spin strokes.

Ideal for kids and beginner players who're starting out with the sport. Due to the rigid construction, these paddles can handle a higher degree of abuse.

Each paddle weighs just 160 gms, allowing your young ones to also experience the game. Moreover, the anti-slip flared handle is very comfortable to hold.

Although this is the costliest of all the sets we've reviewed, the superior construction quality justifies the price difference. If you're looking for top quality beginner set than the Killerspin Jet Set 4 bundle would not disappoint you.

Selecting the Right Table Tennis Paddle

Regardless of whether you're a pro or a beginner, a racket affects how you play on the court. So choose a racket which truly compliments your skills is very important.

In this buyer's guide, I will be sharing what factors you need to account while choosing a table tennis paddle.

How a paddle impacts your game and overall learning curve?

Skill Level

The first step is to determine what is your current skill level. You may think you are an intermediate table tennis player but are you?

Let's find out:

1) Recreational (Just starting out with the sport)

You play table tennis for fun with your friends or colleagues during parties. You've no intention to take the game seriously.

What to look for: Look for cheap and sturdy ping pong paddles (less than $20). Avoid anything costly.

Recommendations:  JP WinLook (Set of 4)

2) Absolute Beginner/Starter (Playing experience 0 to 6 months)

You may have just started with the sport or have played a couple of times. You find table tennis exciting and are looking for a racket to practice and improve your game.

What to look for: Look for rackets which offer better control. A typical bat should be neither too fast nor to spinny.

Recommendations: Palio Master 2

3) Intermediate (Playing experience 6 to 24 months)

You play often and are planning to take your game to the next level. You can hit the ball over the net consistently and can play a decent rally. You can smash balls which have enough bounce on it. You can play forehand/backhand strokes, but you may prefer one side over another.

You may find it challenging to play against players who put a lot spin on the ball.

What to look for: Look for a well-balanced racket which offers a decent amount of spin and speed. 

Recommendations: STIGA Evolution Performance and Killerspin JET600

4) Advance (Playing experience 24 months+)

You have been playing table tennis for quite some time and have excellent control, spin and power in your strokes. You can loop, chop and put a heavy spin on the balls.

What to look for: Based on your playing style (offensive or defensive), choose a racket.

Recommendations: STIGA Pro Carbon Performance

It is very important to judge your current skill level because it would ultimately determine the kind of table tennis racket you should use.

Buying the most expensive racket which does not match your skill level may worsen your game rather than improving it.

Racket Ratings - Demystified 

Table Tennis Racket Performance Ratings

Rackets come with three performance ratings - Speed, Spin and Control. There is no global standard for these ratings, and each manufacturer has its own way to calculate them. So you can't compare ratings of Butterfly rackets with Stiga or vice versa. But comparing ratings between the same manufacturer can give you a relative idea about the attributes of the paddle.

But again, I would like to mention that there is no way to prove these ratings are correct. And you would need to take the word of the manufacturer and hope they were honest enough!

Generally, manufacturers rate the rackets on the scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 100.

Let's analyze each of the parameters in details:

Speed

This refers to the amount of speed with which the ball shoots back after hitting the racket. It is the direct result of the sponge thickness, stiffness of the blade and rubber surface. 

With the same amount of power (how hard you hit the ball), paddle with higher speed rating will be able to impart more speed on the ball.

SpongeThickness

The speed of the racket is directly proportional to :

Sponge Thickness - The sponge thickness is the primary factor which decides the speed rating. Thicker sponge plays a lot quicker while the thinner sponge is ideal for controlled shots. 

  • Up to 1.3mm - Good for defensive players who prefer control over speed
  • 1.5 mm to 1.7 mm - For all-round play suited for both offensive and defensive players
  • 1.9 mm - For offensive players who play attacking game. Results in less control

A general rule of thumb: Thicker sponge plays faster (more speed) and thinner sponge play slower (more control)

Blade layers - The construction of the blade also impacts the speed. Blades are made up of number wood or composite layers sandwiched together. Typically blades are either 5-layer or 7-layer.

The more the number of layers, the faster the racket will play. Using composite materials like carbon or aluminium makes the blade stiffer, and that means higher speed.

Summary: Offensive players should look for higher speed rating while defensive players should look for lower speed ratings. All round player should look for something in the middle.

Spin

This refers to the number of rotations you can put on the ball. It depends on the rubber's top sheet and sponge density. Generally, the top rubber can be either tacky (or sticky) or non-tacky (non-sticky). Tacky rubbers tend to grip the ball and thus can impart more spin while non-tacky rubbers would need more amount of brushing to produce the same amount of spin.

Similarly, softer sponge increases the dwell time as the ball sinks in more. This further increases the amount of spin you can put on the ball.

To Summarize:

  • Tacky rubber + Softer sponge = High Spin
  • Non Tacky rubber + Hard sponge = Low Spin

The impact of blade and sponge thickness also plays a minor role in generating the spin. But the effect is minute.

Control

This is one parameter which is highly subjective and actually cannot be measured.

The way I see it is:

Control is inversely proportional to speed and spin rating, i.e. higher the speed or spin, lower will be the control and vice versa.

By control it means if you intend to place the ball somewhere on the table, how comfortably can you do that.

Summary: If you're looking for a racket that offers the right amount of control, look for paddles with medium speed and spin rating.

Playing Style – Defensive, Offensive, All-Around

Broadly speaking there are three types of table tennis players:

  • Offensive
  • Defensive
  • All-Round
Offensive

Offensive game is all about attacking the opponent right from the start. This gameplay involves a lot of smashing, looping and counter drives.

The players need to be quick on reflexes and require a great amount of endurance. 

Generally, offensive players play quite close to the table.

Common Strokes: Smash, Counter drive, fast loop, topspin

Recommended Rating:

  • Speed - high (90+)
  • Spin - medium (80 to 90)

Configuration:

  • Blade: 7-Ply or 5-ply composite
  • Sponge: 2 mm+
  • Rubber: Non Tacky, tensor
Defensive

Defensive players tend to slow down the game by blocking and chopping the opponent's return. The aim is to frustrate the opponent, forcing him to make a mistake.

Defensive players usually play a bit away from the table.

Common Strokes: Chop, block, lob

Recommended Rating:

  • Speed - high (75+)
  • Spin - medium (90+)

Configuration:

  • Blade: 5-ply 
  • Sponge: 1.3 mm to 1.5 mm
  • Sponge density: medium (35 to 42 degree)
  • Rubber: Tacky or non Tacky (personal preference)

Here is an excellent video of two players with exactly opposite playing style - Offensive (Ma Long) vs. Defensive (Joo Se Hyuk):

All-Round

This game style involves a mix of both offensive and defensive gameplay. Depending on the circumstance, the player can either choose to attack or play control shots.

Beginners and intermediates should start with a slow all-round racket. This gives them the option to learn and practice a wide variety of strokes in a controlled manner.

Recommended Rating:

  • Speed - High (80+)
  • Spin - Medium (80+)

Configuration:

  • Blade: 5-ply or 7-ply
  • Sponge thickness: 1.60 mm to 1.90 mm
  • Rubber: medium-hard (tacky or non tacky)


Materials

The construction of a table tennis racket may look quite simple - there is a wooden (or composite) blade, and two rubbers pasted on both side. Simple right?

No!

The science behind how the materials react to speed and spin is quite complex.

While beginners to intermediates, may not be able to observe much difference between the materials. But as you progress through the game, you would start understanding how the minute changes can make a huge difference in your game. 

1) Rubber

Table Tennis Racket Rubber

A paddle consists of two rubbers - red and black, pasted on either side of the blade. The rubber can be either inverted pimples (most popular) or pip style (short or long).

The most common type of rubbers is the inverted pimple. These rubbers have a smooth top surface. The pip-style rubbers have pimples on the top surface which either be short or long. The pip rubbers are mostly used in the backhand, but some of the players also use them on both sides.

Rubbers can be characterized based on:

  • Top sheet (tacky, non-tacky) or pip (long or short)
  • Sponge thickness
  • Sponge density or hardness

The top sheet of the rubber decides how much spin you can put on the ball. The tacky top sheet can produce heavy spin but this also makes the rubber susceptible to opponent's spin (challenging to return). Non-tacky rubbers can put relatively less amount of spin on the ball, but they're less susceptible to the opponent's spin.

Defensive players tend to use long pips and anti-spin (which reverses your opponent's spin) rubbers for better control. While the short pips are great for blocking but require higher skill for accurate ball control.

Sponge thickness and hardness decides how fast the ball would bounce back. Higher thickness/density means the ball would return faster. Offensive players generally use 2.00mm thick sponge with a hardness rating of 50.

For beginner and intermediate players, it's better to stick to sponge thickness of up to 1.7 mm and hardness of up to 40.

2) Blade

table tennis racket blade

The blade is the part of the paddle on which the rubbers are pasted. All wood blades are constructed with multiple layers of wood plies glued together. While in the composite blades, additional layers of carbon or its derivative are added. 

Generally, the softer the blades (wood), offer better control while harder blades (carbon layer) offer more speed.

Impact on the racker performance based on the number of layers:

  • Higher number of plies makes the blade is stiffer, which is ideal for offensive shots.
  • Less number of plies makes the blade more flexible, which ideal for defensive shots (block, chops etc).

Beginners to intermediate players should stick to wooden blades, although more advanced players often prefer this type as well. Wooden blades offer good feel and feedback of the ball.

Composite blades are stiffer and thus reducing the dwell time with the ball (or the time that the ball stays on the blade). These blades are generally difficult to control but offer massive speed upgrade. Most of the offensive players play with composite blades.

3) Handle

Table Tennis Racket handle Type

The way you hold your racket determines whether you need the short or long handle.

In Penhold grip, the thumb and index finger are on the front side of the racket, and the rest fingers are on the other side (refer to the image above). For penhold grip, short handles are suitable.

In Shakehand grip, you grip the handle as if you are shaking someone's hand. For shakehand grip, long handles are suitable.

The penhold is generally considered an eastern style, while the shakehand is usually considered a western style.

Further, the shape of the handle can be flat, rounded, or flared. Flared handles are the most common because they make it easier for players to keep a comfortable and tight grip without sending their racket flying across the room!

To Wrap it Up

Just remember a racket is as good as the player using it. Practice, Practice and Practice - That's the ultimate mantra for improving your game. A racket does play an important role in your game but I would suggest not to get swayed away with trying too many options. 

Pick a decent ping pong paddle, practice hard and enjoy the beautiful sport.

Help Us Improve

While writing the review, we analyzed the top ping pong paddles currently available in the market. But we may have missed some. If you would like to suggest a racket which you've personally tried and tested, we're all ears.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Kevin James
 

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