Guide to the best table tennis balls

Guide to the best table tennis balls

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.

 Competition balls

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.

Buy in UK | Buy in USA

Joola Flash 40+

Very good quality table tennis ball. I would say it is possibly a tiny bit slower than the Nittaku Premium 40+, but really not that much difference. Again, the bounce is consistent, it’s easy to spin and is pretty durable too. I have been alternating between these balls and Nittaku Preimum balls when training over the past few months. Both are very good choices.

Buy in UK | Buy in USA

Xushaofa 40+

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.

Buy in UK | Buy in USA

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.

Buy in UK | Buy in USA

Training balls

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



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)

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…

You can sometimes find quite good deals for table tennis balls on Amazon (UK site | USA site), so worth checking here too.

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About Tom Lodziak

I’m a table tennis coach based in Cambridge in the UK. As well as coaching I also write table tennis articles and make table tennis videos. Read more about me.

9 thoughts on “Guide to the best table tennis balls

  1. So then I should buy and train with old celluloid balls? The difference would be so small that I can overlook it? (Or is this only on the robot?) I thought that the spin difference would affect my play to the degree that I should try to not get too used to the old “spinny” ball.

    • I think players at a professional level notice a big difference between the old balls and the new balls. But at an ameteur level, players don’t notice such a big difference. Ideally you should train with the balls that you play matches with. If you just need a few balls to train with, then go and buy the new plastic balls. If you need to be 100+ balls for a robot or multi-ball training, then the celluloid balls are still much cheaper.

    • You could try selling on the Table Tennis Daily website, but I’m not sure they would be worth anything!

    • I have to admit that I have not tried Gambler 40+ 3 star, so can’t comment on whether they are any good or not.

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