Ping pong balls, or table tennis balls, are a key ingredient in having a high-quality game of ping pong. They can also be used for other games such as beer pong, but we’re going to focus on the ping pong side of things. Welcome to this ping pong balls buyers guide.
There are a number of characteristics that determine which ping pong ball should be purchased. Factors such as material type, size, star rating, and even color will have an impact on ball choice.
This guide will look at four attributes, namely: Material, Size, Star Rating, Color, and Skill Level.
If you’re looking to get ping pong balls, we’ve reviewed some of our favorites – which are ideal for recreational play, as well as competitive play.
1 – Material
There are a few options when it comes to materials, such as:
This is seen as the highest quality material for table tennis balls and is approved by the ITTF. Polystyrene balls are now the main balls used in official events – which may be an enticing factor.
Another benefit of these balls is that they are more environmentally friendly than other balls, which is definitely necessary in today’s conditions.
Celluloid-made balls are lower-priced and tend to be lighter. They are also less durable to polystyrene balls, and because of this, they aren’t really used in competitive events.
However, if you’re on a tighter budget, these balls are definitely not a bad option, as they still perform on a decent level.
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) balls are a new kind of ping pong ball. They are much more durable than other balls, and have comparable attributes to the polystyrene ball, such as bounce.
These balls are easier to make, but do have a slight defect, as they are worse for the environment than their competitors. These balls are yet to be approved by the ITTV.
2 – Size
Over the past few decades, the table tennis ball size has changed from the standard thirty-eight millimeter ball, to the bigger forty-millimeter ball. This has now become the go-to size for tournament play.
There is no significant impact of a change in ball size. Apart from maybe being able to see the ball better onto the paddle.
3 – Star Rating
This should be the first thing you look at when buying new table tennis balls.
Each type of ball will have a rating, determining overall quality and bounce response. The more stars a ball has, the higher the quality you’re getting.
Professional players will only really play with 3 star rated balls, as this brings out the best in their performance.
There are three different ratings:
- 3 star
- 2 star
- 1 star
We’ll give a quick overview of each:
These balls without a doubt offer the best quality. Due to their firmness, they offer the ideal amount of bounce, as well as providing the truest result off the paddle.
Three-star balls are ITTV approved and are used in competitions.
These balls are the most expensive option out of the three, for obvious reasons.
The main difference between two-star balls and three-star balls is in the firmness. Two-star balls are slightly softer, which means the bounce of the ball isn’t the best.
These balls are ideal for more recreational play, and wouldn’t be used in competitions.
Two-star balls are slightly cheaper than three-star balls, but are comfortably more expensive than one-star balls.
These are comfortably the softest balls out of the three, and should only be used for recreational play.
They’re also the cheapest of the three.
4 – Color
This isn’t a hugely important factor, however, it may be easier for players eyes to follow a certain color.
For competitive play, only orange or white balls are used. These have become the standard color.
For recreational use, players can find balls of any color.
5 – Skill Level
Choosing a ball that doesn’t match the skill that you have as a player will definitely have an impact on your performance.
One mistake that players make is practicing with a lower star ball. This can lead to a player struggling to adapt to a higher star ball when playing a different opponent.
If you’re a player looking to take your game to the next level, it is vital that you practice with higher-quality balls. This will help with the overall feel for the ball, and players can work on different kinds of shots – which may be useful in more competitive play.
If you’re looking to get the best ball possible – chances are you’re going to look at a three-star rated polystyrene ball. These balls provide the best overall quality and can make a huge difference in the level of a game of ping pong.
If you’re a less serious player and looking to play at a recreational level, 2-star and below rated balls are probably your best bet. These balls are also more affordable, so it won’t cost you much to get table tennis balls covered.