(3/10/16) - In the modern era of Table Tennis, far too many casual players insist that all balls are equal. While at a level where you're not really spinning the ball too much, it really doesn't matter if you're using one star balls. However, once you have progressed you'll start to note the inconsistent shape and bounce.
The lack of durability in cheaper balls is also noticeable at a higher level. Especially with the ITTF decision to jump to plastic balls in July 2015, it can be difficult to decide which brand of generic sphere to purchase. With this guide, I hope to advise you on the best Table Tennis balls currently available.
Before we begin however, let me quickly prime you on ball classifications. Balls are graded from one to three stars, with the trio of sparklers symbolising that the ball meets official ITTF regulations for tournament play. These are objectively superior for matches or any activity beyond training exercises. Two and one star balls are very similar, and should reasonably only be purchased in bulk for coaching. If you're just looking for training balls, Stiga 1 star balls or even Dunlop balls are probably your best bet. (This is the one and only time you ever buy equipment from Dunlop.) One important thing to note is that the balls you buy in sports stores that don't have a rating are bad. They have had no quality assurance, are wildly inconsistent, and are as fragile as a newborn.
The laws of Table Tennis state that you can use either plastic or celluloid balls for play. If you plan to participate in tournaments, I recommend looking up which type of ball the local leagues use, as the two materials handle very differently. Plastic balls are slower and don't hold spin as well as celluloid balls. These were adopted by all ITTF events in a desperate attempt to make rallies longer. Plastic balls also break significantly faster than their celluloid counterparts, which is something to keep in mind if you are particularly budget conscious.
Butterfly's G40+ three star balls are their much anticipated entry into the line of plastic Table Tennis balls. Since their release, they've been met with significant critical acclaim from players. Aiming to replicate the feel of older balls, Butterfly pride themselves on their consistency, hardness and roundness.
The only criticism I have of these balls is that they reportedly break a good deal quicker than most others.
One key thing to note is that these are unlikely to be adopted for the ITTF for international tournaments as they are faster than most other plastic balls.
Nittaku Premium 40+ Japan plastics have been a standing favourite of the Table Tennis community since the introduction of plastic balls back in July. More durable than a good deal of the competition, these balls are also very consistent. Part of the reason these balls are so popular is that they have been adopted for the upcoming 2016 Olympics. Various Olympian athletes have also endorsed these balls.
The only downside is that they are a good deal more expensive than their competition.
Xushaofa’s Seamless Ball Factory has been churning out large quantities of a new type of ball. All celluloid balls and most plastics are construdcted from two halves glued together, leading to there being a seam. Currently, there is only one factory producing these balls, so almost any brand of seamless ball is identical. Brands that produce seamless balls include (but not limited to):
These balls are a lot more durable and floaty than the competition, however they pay for this with consistency. The manufacturing process for these balls is still the subject of refinement, so sometimes only half of your balls will be viable for serious play, though most defects are removed at the factory.
Butterfly's 3 star balls are extensively used across Great Britain for almost all the major national leagues. Adopted by the ITTF Youth World Championship in 2003, they have been used in every subsequent tournament.
Good quality, consistent balls. You won't find cheaper 3 star balls from a major brand anywhere. You really can't go too far wrong.
Nittaku Premium 3 star balls are much loved companions of the older generation of Table Tennis players and Nittaku knows it. These balls are a lot more durable than the rest of the competition, which is one of the key selling points of this ball.
However, quality comes at a price. Just like their plastic counterparts, these balls are a lot more expensive than the competition, which can be a turn off.
Written by: Stuart Johnson