Best Ping Pong Paddles (Reviews & Buyer’s Guide 2019)

best ping pong paddles

Expert: Kevin James, Last Updated: 09/04/2019

"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 Ball or Ma long, or go by the misleading names of Power Shot or Supreme Pro. So beware!

I can’t stress enough that a wrong table tennis racket can either build your interest in the game or break it. So follow me and make the right choice.

Before we go ahead with the selection, here are a few point things you should know:

How a paddle impacts your game and overall learning curve?

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

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 would in a position to accurately judge your current skill level and have a rough idea about the type of racket you should go for. So now let's move on to the actual selection.

In the next section, I've recommended the best table tennis paddles based on the player type and skill level. All the rackets in the list are more or less suited for all-round play. For the purpose of this review, we'll be limiting the discussion only to ready-made paddles. 

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

Table Tennis Paddle Recommendation

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 rackets including the pros and cons of each.

Practice/Beginner


Palio Master 2

{All-round paddle, heavy spin, good speed and superb control}

Suitable for: Beginner, Improvers and Intermediate level players


Palio Master 2 Review

Product Specification:

  • 5-Ply Blade
  • Medium-hard rubber
  • ITTF approved CJ8000 rubbers on both sides
  • Speed = 8/10, Spin = 9/10, Control = 8/10
  • Weight: 195 gms
  • Handle Type: Flared

Pros

+ Great paddle for learning all types of strokes especially great for topspin and looping.
+ Superb control, a little bit faster and spinnier compared to peers in the same price range.
+ Tacky/Grippy rubber produces a good amount of spin
+ The 5-ply blade offers fantastic feedback of the ball. You would know how hard you hit or spin the ball.
+ Rubbers can be peeled and replaced.
+ Good quality construction, rubbers are durable

Cons
- The free case that comes along could have been better.

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. This racket has been built from grounds up, taking into account the needs of the budding players. If you're starting to get serious about the sport, this racket won't disappoint you. 

The 5-ply wood blade gives a good feel of the ball which is very important for the new players. The CJ8000 rubbers are lively and produce a good amount of speed and spin on the ball. You would be pleasantly surprised with the amount of spin you can put on the ball with this racket. The smashes are deadly if you hit them right! 

Overall this racket offers nice control, feel and feedback. You can definitely use it to learn all forms of stroke play. The handle is flared and quite comfortable. A blue, zippered case is included to keep the paddle safe in between uses.

This is a serious paddle which can compete with any sub $100 blades. With its all-round playability and fantastic build quality, Palio Master 2 is our top choice for players who are looking to learn and improve their game.

Intermediate


Killerspin JET600

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

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


Killerspin JET600 Table Tennis Paddle Review

Product Specification:

  • 6mm thick 5-ply blade
  • medium-soft rubbber
  • Comes with Nitrx-4Z rubber on both sides. The rubbers are 2.0 mm thick and approved by ITTF.
  • Handle Type: Flared
  • Weight: 180 gms
  • Speed 8/10, Spin 9/10, Control 8.5/10

Pros
+ Well suited for players who like to spin and shoot hard smashes.
+ This paddle is slightly on the slower side but offers superior control.
+ Requires slightly more power for offensive shots
+ You can block your opponent shots with ease
+ Very balanced racket in terms of speed and control
+ Ideal for beginner to intermediate players, who're looking to improve their game
+ Excellent construction quality

Cons
- The wooden blade (not the rubber) is light and is susceptible to minor chipping if it accidentally falls or hits the table. It's not a con as per se but the attribute of the blade. 

Killerspin JET600 Review

Personal Review:

I played with this racket for a couple of sessions. This racket is great for blocking drives and smashes. However, It does lack a bit of power and for the counter drives and smashes you need to put in extra energy. You can chop and push with ease on this setup.

This is an all-round racket which means it can be used for both defensive and offensive play. However, this racket is a bit on the slower side thus offering better control. It is well suited for players who like to put a lot of spin on the ball, do deep chops and when the opportunity arises hit some hard smashes.

It is constructed with a soft 6-ply blade which is quite flexible. This flexibility constitutes towards better control of the paddle. It is coupled with Nitrx-4Z 2.0mm rubber on both sides. The high-tension rubber comes with grippy top sheet. The rubbers grip the ball well, thus offering superior spin capability. 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 out, would love the fact how controllable this racket is. 

To summarize, this is a great racket for serious beginners and intermediates alike. Go for this, if you're looking for a paddle which offers higher degree of control, good amount of spin and above average speed.

STIGA Evolution Performance-Level

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

Suitable for: Beginner to intermediate players who're looking for a light paddle and prefer speed overs spin


STIGA Evolution Performance-Level Table Tennis Racket Review

Product Highlights:

  • 6-ply light blade, 6.5 mm thick
  • medium-hard rubber
  • 2 mm thick ITTF approved rubber used on both the sides
  • Handle Type: Concave, Lightly flared
  • Speed: 96 Spin: 94 Control: 90
  • Weight: 170 gms

Pros

+ A well-balanced racket, suited for players who like to play an aggressive game. It's quite fast and offers decent amount spin.
+ Great for playing controlled yet aggressive shots.
+ The lightest blade in the category
+ STIGA Shock Dispersion Tube absorbs vibrations and transfers energy out of the paddle. This makes the racket lighter and improves overall performance.

Cons
- Does not come along with a carrying case.

STIGA Evolution Performance Review

Looking for some extra speed? Well, this racket would not disappoint you then. The 6-ply blade is light but packs in a lot of power. Coupled with 2.00 mm thick rubber, this racket is fast and yet easy to control. 

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

The blade comes with Shock Dispersion Tube technology. A hollow composite rod runs through the center of the handle. The tube 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 could not find much of a difference. But one thing is for sure, this makes the racket definitely lighter. 

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

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

Intermediate+


STIGA Pro Carbon Performance-Level


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 mm thick S5 rubber used on both sides. The rubbers are ITTF approved.
  • Handle type: Concave and gently-flared
  • Speed: 99 Spin: 100 Control: 80
  • Weight: 176 gms

Pros
+ Great racket for intermediate to advance players who are looking to step up their game.
+ Very forgiving. Your mishits may still be landing on the table due to the larger sweet spot, thanks to the 7-ply blade.
+ The paddle rewards good technique. It is fast and spinny which also makes it a bit difficult to control. But if you have a good technique or are working on it, this racket won't disappoint you.
+ Great for playing away from the table. The 7-ply blade coupled with 2 mm rubber has sufficient power for long distance play.
+ High throw angle. The ball takes a higher trajectory after hitting the racket.

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

Stiga Pro Carbon Review

This paddle has all the attributes to suit the needs of intermediate to advance players. It is fast, spinny and rewards good 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 wood and 2 outer layers of carbon fiber. The carbon layer provides extra rigidity and stiffness. This makes the paddle fast and responsive. 

It comes with 2 mm thick S5 rubbers on both sides. The rubber is fast and the top sheet is non-tacky but grippy. You can pull off some good amount of spin out of this. Due to the high throw angle, the balls generally follow a higher trajectory after leaving the paddle.

It has a large sweet spot. Balls hitting the edge or lower section of the paddle still gets returned with sufficient force. While the balls hitting the top and center section travel insanely fast. 

The racket’s concave, gently-flared handle makes it very easy to hold and grip for a long period of time.

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 (Set of 2/4)


JP WinLook (Set of 4)

{Top Choice - Best quality paddle set in this price range}


JP WinLook Ping Pong Paddle Set Review

Product Highlights:

  • Includes for four 5-ply paddles and eight 40 mm 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 beginner and recreational players
+ Includes four paddles, eight balls, and a zippered carrying case with a handle
+ Well-built, and balls are good-quality
+ Great customer support

Cons
- None!

JP WinLook Ping Pong Paddle Set Review:

Looking for a Ping Pong Paddle Set? Going for JP Winlook set is a no brainer. The price point is spot on, the quality is good and on top of this, the customer support is excellent. 

The set includes four good-quality 5-ply paddles and eight 40 mm 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 very easy.

Great for recreational and beginner players, we think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-value set.

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 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 carry 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.

{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 beginners 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 definitely 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 various spin strokes. 

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

Each paddle weighs around 160 gms. Your young one would definitely find it easy to hold and play with this paddle. Moreover, the anti-slip flared handle is very comfortable to hold on to.

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

Selecting the Right Table Tennis Paddle

Choosing the right racket is a very important and crucial task for any table tennis player. After all, it's going to impact how the player progresses in the sport and will greatly impact the learning curve. 

In this buyer's guide, I will be sharing the technical aspects of the table tennis paddle selection.

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 socially whenever your friends come over or during parties. You have no intention to take the game seriously or competitively.

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

Recommendations:  JP WinLook (Set of 4)

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

You may be starting out with the sport or have played a couple of times. You find table tennis interesting 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 play a decent rally. You can smash the balls which has enough bounce on it. You can play forehand/backhand strokes but you may prefer one side over another.

You may find it difficult 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. You have good control on placement, spin and power. You can loop, chop and put 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. So identify your skill level honestly.

Rackets 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 and 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 actually 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 is returned 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 thinner sponge is ideal for controlled shots. 

  • Upto 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 even more 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 is either tacky (or sticky) or non-tacky (non sticky). Tacky rubbers tend to grip the ball and thus you're able to impart more amount of spin. While non-tacky rubber, 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 play a minor role in generating the spin. But the impact 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're intending to place the ball somewhere on the table how comfortably can you do that.

Summary: If you're looking for a racket that offers a good 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 Around

Offensive

This gameplay involves a lot of power, speed and spin. The players play a very attacking game and a lot of smashing and looping is involved. The players need to be quick on reflexes and require a great amount of endurance. Offensive game is all about attacking the opponent all the time.

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 opponents return. Primarily defensive players do a lot of chopping to cut the pace of the ball. The aim is to get the opponents to make the mistake first.

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)

All-Round

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

Beginners and intermediates should ideally start with slow all around racket. This gives the players 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 table tennis racket looks 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 are constructed and interact with one another is very complex. A table tennis racket is one of the most complex sporting equipment.

As a beginner player, you may not be able to observe much difference. But as you progress through the game, you would start understanding how these 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 either be inverted pimples (most popular) or pip style (short or long).

The most commonly used rubbers are inverted pimple. These rubbers have a smooth top surface. Pip style rubbers are generally used in backhand but some of the players also use them on both sides.

Rubbers can be characterized on the basis of:

  • 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. If the top sheet is tacky, it would mean you can put a good amount of spin on the ball. But this also makes the rubber susceptible to opponent's spin (difficult to return). Non-tacky rubbers can put relatively less amount of spin on the ball, but they get less impacted from the opponent's spin.

Long pips and anti-spin (which reverses your opponent’s spin) are usually used by for advanced and professional players. It provides more control to defensive players, albeit with practice. Short pips are good for blocking, but also require a higher skill.

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

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

2) Blade

table tennis racket blade

The blade comprises of the handle and the part of the racket that’s beneath the rubber. It’s made of multiple layers of wood and sometimes includes layers of composite materials. The softer the blade (wood), the more control you’ll get. The harder the blade (carbon layer), the more speed you’ll have.

Impact of the number of layers in the blade:

  • More number of plies would mean the blade is stiffer. This is ideal for offensive shots.
  • Less number of plies means the blade is more flexible. This gives more control and is suited for defensive shots (block, chops etc).

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

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

3) Handle

Table Tennis Racket handle Type

The way you hold your racket will determine 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 the image above). The handle of penhold racket is short.

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 of holding the racquet, while the shakehand is generally considered a western style.

The shape of the handle can be flat, rounded, or flared, but there are also some other unorthodox styles. Flared handles are the most common though because they make it easier for players to keep a comfortable, tight grip without sending their racket flying across the room!

To Wrap it Up

Just remember a racket is as good as a 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 just enjoy this 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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