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 five years, the quality of the new plastic balls has improved a lot, especially with the latest ABS material.

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. 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 2019“.

JOOLA Prime 40+

This is currently my favourite 3 star competition table tennis ball. I started using JOOLA Prime in May 2019, after my visit to German Bundesliga club ASV Grünwettersbach. JOOLA Prime uses ABS material, which offers offers improved roundness and durability. You can generate loads of spin. I think we have got used to the new balls being slower and less spinny, but when playing topspin attacks with JOOLA Prime, the ball really does kick off the table. Spin is back in town! JOOLA Prime is hard, fast, spinny and durable. A quality ball.

Buy in UK | Buy in USA

Nittaku Premium 40+

This is also a high quality 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. Between 2016-2019 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

Double Fish V40+

Many players consider this the best 40+ ball on the market. Previously only available for major Pro Tour events the Champions Edition is now available for League play. The surface of Double Fish 3* balls is very grippy, which means you can generate lots of spin when looping, chopping, flicking or serving. Highly recommended.

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



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.

About Tom Lodziak

I’m a table tennis coach based in Cambridge in the UK. I have 70+ free table tennis lessons on my popular YouTube channel. I also have 150+ coaching articles to help you improve your table tennis skills. You can read more about my background on my About Tom page.

22 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.

    • You can get orange 40+ training balls, but haven’t seen any orange 40+ 3 star competition balls yet. Hope they come back too!

  2. Many years ago (40!) my mother bought us kids a table tennis set which came with several balls. Now each set of balls were different, there were 3 different types of balls almost like a soft medium and hard ball. Im sure if my memory serves me right they were classed as 1 star 2 star and 3 star…..the 3 star which seemed to be the hardest of the 3 sounded like china hitting the table and the bounce was brill….Are these hard balls available now and have you got any idea what i am on about?
    I have explained this to others and they didnt have a clue (hoping you will) I am sure they were a dunlop balls as back then you could only get branded items and they were of the highest quality. We had many many years of fun with that set, and have recently bought a replacement set but the balls that came with it are absolute rubbish.
    so i am wondering if these different hardness in the ping pong balls are still available

  3. Do they make “slow” balls for children. In tennis you can buy balls that are larger and don’t move as fast so they are easier for children to hit. Is there anything like this in table tennis balls?

    • I’m not aware of “slow” balls you can buy. When coaching kids, we try to hit the ball at a slower speed, which makes it easier for them to hit.

    • if you want a slow ball then buy the cheapest balls going they really are rubbish and are very slow….you may find cheap balls in the cheapy shops or look for the ping pong balls that are in pet shops for cats they are usually cheap and low to play with

  4. Plastic ball is “about the same”? Professional players haven’t been affected that much? Amateurs don’t notice a difference? WTF… You’re kidding, right?

    • Yes of course. Professional players have needed to adapt to the new plastic ball. But players such as Ma Long, Xu Xin, Timo Boll, Vladimir Samsonov and many others were best in the world before the 40+ ball and still best in the world after the introduction of 40+ balls, so clearly hasn’t made that much of an impact. Honestly, at amateur level I don’t think most players can really tell a difference between the 40 and 40+ balls. Plus the latest ABS balls play very similar to the old celluloid balls. The difference is now very small.

  5. Dear Sir,

    I don’t expect my comment to remain posted for long but this is the most straightforward way to communicate the factual error that you’ve referred to twice which only served to perpetuate something that is actually false and untrue. Hopefully you will update the text above to be true to life and correct, and possibly help diseminate and correct a simple misunderstanding that has become widely accepted as fact and held to be true.

    As a product designer and believer in standards, the ITTF has defined the dimensions and specifications that a ball must fall within for it to be approved for use in ITTF sanctioned play as codified in the Handbook. The relevant section has been turned into a 6 page leaflet available online here:

    “The Laws of Table Tennis relating to the ball are as follows:
    2.3The Ball
    2.3.1The ball has a diameter of 40mm and a weight of 2.7g.
    2.3.2The ball shall be made of celluloid or similar plastics material and shall be white or orange, and matt.”

    [Note that there is only size regardless of the material the ball is made of. Slight variations in size due to the manufacturing process must fall within the margin of error prescribed as follows:]

    “B.3 Size Conformity
    The minimum diameter of every ball must be at least 39.50mm, and its maximum diameter must not exceed 40.50mm.”

    [In addition, the stamp marking the ball is likewise defined:]

    “C.1 The Stamp
    The stamp on the ball must include the following four components:
    •The ITTF Approval. This may be indicated by the initials ITTF or ITTFA, by “ITTF approved”, or by the ITTF logo.
    •the trademark or brand name
    •the inscription “40” or “40mm”
    •the name of the country where the company headquarters are registered, or the expression “made in …”

    [As is the packaging]

    “A.4 Packaging
    The balls must be packaged appropriately, e.g. in paper or plastic boxes or in a blister pack. The wording used on this package has to contain “40” or “40mm” in order to clearly distinguish the 40mm balls from the 38mm balls.”

    You are correct to advise that the “+” of “40+” or “40+ mm” appearing on the stamp does denote a ball made out of newer plastics rather than celluloid – “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 [sic], without the + symbol, it will most likely be the old celluloid ball.”

    It is quite difficult to ascertain what kind of plastic something is made of purely by inspection. Because the newer plastics are more consistent from lot to lot, the balls that are made from them will also be more uniform in size and shape which means that they will play more consistently than those made from celluloid so it is in the manufacturer’s own interest to distinguish their plastic balls from the celluloid balls in the marketplace which is where the “+” comes in.

    The + denotes the better material choice, an improvement over the status quo.

    Your statement regarding the change in material is correct but the reference to size is not true – “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.”

    It is a myth that these balls are any larger than the regulation 40 mm ± 1 mm size. This is a result of reading the + literally as “plus/more than” instead of taking it as a symbol that it is “new/improved” ie not celluloid.

    Formerly balls were 38 mm and when they were increased to 40 mm, the newer larger balls had to be labelled with “40” or “40 mm” in order to differentiate between the two sizes as they look practically the same size. With the introduction of newer plastics, those made of celluloid still bear the same “40” or “40 mm” stamp with the newer plastic balls (same 40 mm size still with new material denoted by “+”) with stamps that show “40+” or “40+ mm” with the latter being read as “40 plus mm” rather than the “40 mm plus” it is intended to be which when stamped as “40 mm +” is clear but not if the unit of measure is dropped. The confusion lies in how the the stamp is read with the first part a size label, followed by a identifying mark (or not).

    Most are familiar with “925” being the mark denoting Sterling Silver and so a 40 mm ball made of sterling silver would read “40 925” or “40 mm 925” contrasted with a ball made from lower quality silver that would show “40” or “40 mm”. This is easily seen using another typographical mark – in lieu of the + (plus) substitute ™ (Trade Mark) to have 40™ and 40 mm™ with the presence of ™ making the 40 [mm] sized item “trade registered” when read and understood figuratively and not literally as “40TM” (For-ty Tee- Em).

    • PS the change from celluloid to newer plastics was driven by the relative instability of celluloid rather than its flammability as the newer plastics will also melt and burn with enough heat.

      Celluloid absorbs and retains moisture whether that be the humidity it draws out of the air or if it happens to be in water.

      That said, the weight of a celluloid ball can be made heavier which causes it to play slower.

      Additionally, the absorption is not necessarily uniform, so a ball left standing in water will be heavier on that side which will cause the ball to move irregularly and unpredictably. Holding a ball with sweaty fingers in specific spots for a short period of time would give that player an advantage, especially at higher levels of play.

      This is the biggest reason for the changing the composition of the ball material and for no other reason since any new plastics used must still act in the same way as defined in the Handbook re size, shape, weight, bounce, etc…

  6. Hi – thanks for all the useful info (for my son – he’s the TT player).

    I have a slightly unusual request: can you recommend any TT balls at all that don’t have any ink/printing on them?

    Our son and his friends also play for fun on a tabletop table in the kitchen at home, but the balls leave ink prints on the walls when they get hit at speed! They don’t have to be ‘amazing’ – just not ‘rubbish’.

    Any suggestions welcome and appreciated.. thanks

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