Buying table tennis balls should be an easy task. But alas not! There are loads of different types of ball available – competition balls, training balls and cheap ‘just for fun’ balls. Some balls are made of celluloid. Other balls are made of non-flammable plastic.
So which are the best balls to buy? In this blog post, I’ll give my views of a variety of different balls and give specific recommendations on the best competition and training balls you can buy. I also give recommendations on which balls to buy for casual play.
Changes to table tennis balls
There has been two significant changes to table tennis balls over the past 20 years. In 2000, the size of the ball was increased from 38mm to 40mm. The size was increased to make it more appealing to spectators. The larger ball is slower and spins less, which in theory should mean longer rallies, but I’m not sure this has ever been proven.
Then in 2014/2015, the material used to make table tennis balls changed from celluloid to a non-flammable plastic (often referred as “plastic balls”, “poly balls” or “40+ balls”). These balls are a tiny bit bigger than the 40mm celluloid balls, but the main difference is the type of material they are made from.
At first the quality of the new plastic balls was very poor, which led to quite a lot of frustration and anger in the table tennis community. But over the past four years, the quality of the new plastic balls has improved a lot.
There was a lot of concern that the new plastic ball would have a big impact on the game. But this hasn’t really happened. Professionals are still playing in the same attacking way. And after four years of using the plastic ball, the best players in the world are still the same. At the amateur level, I don’t think most players have noticed much of a difference at all.
If you are playing table tennis competitively (or are aspiring to do so), then you should definitely be using the new plastic table tennis balls. The easiest way to identify if you are using the new plastic balls is that it will have “40+” printed on the ball. The + symbol indicates it is the new size. If your ball just says 40 or 4mm, without the + symbol, it will most likely be the old celluloid ball. So make sure the balls you buy have the 40+ symbol.
So what are the best competition balls to buy? I’ll start with a disclaimer. I haven’t tried all the different plastic balls. So if a ball isn’t on my list below, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad ball. It may be that I haven’t tried it. But I have used all the balls listed below and I am very happy to recommend. You may also want to read my article “10 best competition table tennis balls of 2018“.
Nittaku Premium 40+
This is by far my favourite plastic table tennis ball. I first played with this ball in a tournament in 2016 and instantly liked it. It felt very much like playing with the old celluloid balls again. For the past two years all teams at my club (Cambridge-Parkside) have been using Nittaku Premium table tennis balls in league matches. The bounce is consistent, you can easily generate spin and they rarely break. If you want to buy competition quality balls, I fully recommend Nittaku Premium.
Xushaofa isn’t a familiar table tennis brand, but their plastic balls have become popular because they were probably the best quality of the first batch of plastic balls. They are still very good to play with, although other mainstream table tennis brands have caught up with Xushaofa now. The Xushaofa 40+ is very close in quality to the Nittaku Premium ball. Either ball is a good choice.
Double Fish V40+
This was the ball used at the Team World Cup in London in 2018. At the event, I purchased a few balls and have been using them in training sessions. My verdict? Very good indeed. The quality is as good as Nittaku Premium 40+ and Xushaofa 40+. It has a good consistent bounce and I haven’t broken one yet. Another ball I highly recommend.
I bought a batch of Butterfly plastic balls (made in China) in 2015 and wasn’t really happy with the quality. They felt very soft and slow to play with. However, the new Butterfly G40+ balls (made in Germany) are a big improvement. The ball is harder, faster and more durable. They do seem to make a slight metallic sound when the ball hits the table, which doe put some people off. But the quality of the ball is good and you soon get used to the sound.
If you are serious about improving, it’s useful to have a big box of training balls. This will help you to be more efficient during training sessions (less time picking just one ball off the floor). You can do multi-ball training. And you can improve your serves a lot with solo service practice. (Read more about the benefits of owning a box of training balls in my article ‘Why you need a box of training balls‘).
In an ideal word, you would train with the same quality balls you play competitive matches with. But using a big box of competition quality balls for training is quite expensive. And if you play at an amateur level, I don’t think it’s necessary.
There is a lot of decent quality training balls available (recommendations below), which are much more affordable and perfectly decent for doing training drills, multi-ball and service practice.
Here’s a few recommendations for table tennis training balls you can buy. I have used all of these over the past year in my coaching sessions and with my robot and I have been very happy with the quality and durability of the balls for training purposes…
Table tennis training balls
- Tibhar 40+ SL basic training balls
- Xushaofa Premium 40+ Training Balls
- Butterfly Training Table Tennis Balls
- Butterfly Training Table Tennis Balls
- Xushaofa Seamless Poly Table Tennis Balls
- Sanwei ABS 1-Star ABS Training balls
Alternative affordable option
Finally, if you’re in the UK and not fussed about whether your training balls are celluloid or the new plastic material, you should consider Cornilleau Pro Table Tennis Balls. I used these for many years (less so now). These are good quality celluloid training balls. You can buy 72 balls for a really good price and they are very durable. I have balls which are three or four years old and have been hit thousands of times and they still haven’t cracked.
Balls for casual play
If you only play for a bit of fun, then it’s not essential that you play with the best quality balls. And it doesn’t matter if the ball is celluloid or the new plastic material. My only word of caution is that you should avoid the really, really cheap balls. These don’t have a very good bounce and break easily.
If you just want to buy a few balls, with good durability, a consistent bounce and a reasonable price, any of these will do the job…
Recommended balls (UK)
- Joola Coole Table Tennis Balls
- Cornilleau Expert table tennis balls
- Dunlop Club Match table tennis balls
Recommended balls (USA)
BEST-SELLERS: Also, take a look at my list of the most popular table tennis balls purchased by readers of my website.
Where can you buy table tennis balls?
You can buy table tennis balls from any dedicated table tennis shop. Take a look at my list of table tennis shops to find a shop near you…
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