Best Pickleball Paddles

An Honest, Helpful Guide To Finding The Best Pickleball Paddles

Welcome to the little experiment I’m doing to get the most accurate answer to the question I get all the time - “What are the best pickleball paddles on the market?”

Most sites on the internet are going to give you lots of options to choose from, but very few have actually purchased, played with and tested the paddles they're recommending.  I decided to do something a little different.  I sought out the very best pickleball paddles from the best paddle companies on the market today, actually bought ALL of them and played with them...extensively.

We’re talking about $100 to $150 dollar paddles from brands like Pro-Lite, Paddletek, Prince, Pro Kennex, Gamma, Wilson, Gearbox, and Engage.

I’ve bought and played with 20 paddles from these manufacturers in an effort to give you the most accurate and honest opinion.  I even consulted with 5.0 players and Tennis Pros turned Pickleball lovers to get their expert opinion as well

My hope is that after reading this, you’ve come away with a clear understanding of what pickleball paddle is best for you.

What is the best pickleball paddle on the market today?  Well, after playing with all these paddles extensively and getting opinions from pro players, I’d recommend two paddles right off the bat.  

If you’re a beginner, I’d recommend the Tempest from Paddletek.  It truly is the goldilocks of all paddles when it comes to power, spin and control for a new player.  If you’re a seasoned tennis player or 4.0 level pickleball player (or better), I’d easily recommend the Prince Response Pro.  These two paddles offer exceptional levels of touch, feel and accuracy.

Hands down, these 7 pickleball rackets made me a better player.

Editor’s Note: Scroll down to see my top picks from 2019 and earlier, I’ve kept those recommendations in this article so you can see the evolution of paddle technology over time.  As I update my list of recommended paddles for the year, I always keep last year’s update included so you can see paddle trends.  Scroll down for previous years.

The Best Pickleball Paddles For 2020 - Quick Breakdown

My Current Favorites

These 7 paddles represent, in my opinion, the best pickleball paddles on the market today.


I've included the type of player they're best suited for as well each one's on court strength.

Best All-Around Paddle

The Prince Response Pro
best pickleball paddle
*Offers the best combo of power, spin and accuracy I've ever seen!  Biggest sweet spot!
Best Pickleball Paddle For Beginners

The Paddletek Tempest Wave II
best pickleball paddles
*Offers the best level of touch and feel!
Best Pickleball Paddle For Beginners - Runner Up

The Engage Poach Advantage
best pickleball racket
*Offers incredible point and shoot accuracy!
Best Pickleball Paddle For Advanced Players

The Gearbox GX5
best pickleball paddles
*Great for tennis converts.  Offers incredible power and pop!
Best Pickleball Paddle For Advanced Players - Runner Up

The Pro-Lite Titan Pro
best pickleball paddle
*Offers incredible power, control and touch at the net.  Great for intermediate level players!
Best Graphite Pickleball Paddle 

The Paddletek Tempest Pro
best pickleball paddle
*I found that it had really great sensitivity and feel and lots of pop!
Best Budget Pickleball Paddle 

The Pro-Lite Rebel PowerSpin
best pickleball paddle
*Great spin, even better pop and really fun to play with!

Why Trust Me?

It's easy.  I actually bought and played with every single paddle on this list. You can trust me because won’t find a more comprehensive list of play-tested paddles on the internet.  

So, when I recommend a paddle - it’s because I’ve played with it extensively and have thoroughly analyzed its strengths and weaknesses. 

Aside from that, I’m a self proclaimed pickleball paddle junkie!  I love learning about the different paddle technology different paddle companies use in their paddles.  More importantly, I love analyzing how that paddle technology makes each paddle behave and feel differently on the court.  

Analyzing and feeling the difference between paddles is a science.  It’s not rocket science, it’s paddle science - and I’m a big nerd.

Aside from having a mind for the technical details, I just love playing with all sorts of paddles - sifting through the subtleties - and finding the differences.

And I’m here to share all of that with you.

Editor’s Note:  I interviewed 5.0 Players Del Kauss and Mark Friedenberg on what they look for in a paddle.  Click here to learn fun facts about paddles you never knew before.


What Pickleball Rackets Did I Play With And Analyze?

Not every paddle I bought and played with made my cut to be featured in this article.  

When you’re looking for the best of the best for pickleball paddles - “good” simply isn’t good enough.  I played with some quality paddles that were fun to play with but quite frankly, didn’t carry their weight when compared to the top 7 paddles I recommend in this post.

Throughout this post you may hear me refer to these paddles as “Pro Paddles”. That’s how I differentiate between a cheap, off-brand paddle that ranges from $30 to $50 dollars, versus Pro Level paddles that are made by real pickleball manufacturers, but are often more expensive.  If you take pickleball even somewhat serious, then you shouldn't buy a cheap paddle.

It's that simple.

All the pickleball rackets on my list are real, quality paddles made by big brands that take their products seriously.  And, MANY pro level players actually play with these paddles on my list.  So they're legit.

Here’s a list of the pickleball paddles I played with and put through the ringer along with the paddle company that makes them.

Best pickleball rackets

The Response Pro - Prince (recommended)
The Tempest Wave - Paddletek (recommended)
The Tempest PRO - Paddletek (recommend)
The GX5 Power - Gearbox (recommended)
The Titan PRO - Pro-Lite (recommended)
The Rebel PowerSpin - Pro-Lite (recommended)
The Poach Advantage - Engage (recommended)
The Bantam TS-5 - Paddletek
The Bantam TS-5 Pro - Paddletek
The Elite Pro - Engage
The Ovation - Pro Kennex
The Kinetic Pro Speed - Pro Kennex
The Tour Pro - Wilson
The Shard - Gamma
The RZR - Gamma
The Invikta - Selkirk
The Amped S2 - Selkirk
The Kahuna - Piko Pickleball
Champion Graphite - Pickleball Inc.


How Did I Judge These Paddles?

If you’re wondering how I judged these paddles, it’s simple.  I played with them. A lot. I even had friends and family play with them as well, in order to gather a wider range of feedback and analysis.  Some of this external feedback was from 4.0 level players or higher and even Tennis Pros.

So, you can trust me.  It’s legit feedback from me and other people who play (and love pickleball).

I gathered their feedback and compiled my own notes to break down this list of the best paddles for 2020.

My Play Test Criteria

We looked at each paddle’s ability to generate power, spin as well as accuracy and ball placement.  

We judged how well these paddles did with touch while dinking at the net.

We also measured each paddles overall comfort and feel in our own hands.  This is extremely important but often overlooked.

4

We looked at break-in period to gauge how easy a specific paddle was to just pick up and play with.

We felt this was the only true way to judge and review a pickleball racket.  If the paddle didn’t perform well in our play tests and wasn’t universally liked by my additional panel of players and pros - it didn’t make my final cut.  

I tested them ALL, and only kept the ones we felt were worth their price tag.

That’s why we recommend only these 7 paddles.  They are the top pickleball paddles for 2020.

Let’s get more in-depth about each paddle...


The Best Pickleball Paddles For 2020

1.  The Prince Response Pro - My Absolute Favorite Paddle Right Now and The BEST Pickleball Paddle for 2020

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: Textured Fiberglass
Paddle Core: Polymer Honeycomb
Paddle Weight: 7.2-7.7 for light or 7.8-8.3 for standard
Weight Length: 15 ¾”
Width: 8 ¼”
Grip Length: 5 ¼”
Sweet Spot: Very Large

PADDLE SCORE SHEET

Power Score: 9/10
Spin Score: 9/10
Accuracy: 9/10
Drinkability: 8/10

Prince Response Pro

My Play Test Thoughts

The Response Pro from Prince is currently my favorite paddle and the one I’m reaching for the most at the moment.  It’s just such an impressive paddle from top to bottom. In fact, you can read my full review here, for a more comprehensive breakdown.

Let me start by explaining the two reasons why this paddle stood out to me so quickly.  

  1. Placement
  2. Spin

I’ve played with paddles that have very good accuracy when it comes to ball placement.  The Engage Poach Advantage (which made my this list as well) is one of those paddles.  But the Response Pro takes that concept and pours gasoline on it!

The accuracy I felt with this paddle, especially on serves and backhand flicks was amazing!  I was peppering my opponent's baseline with deep, on-point serves pushing them back every time.  

In fact, I have more positive comments about my serve when this paddle is in my hand, then with any other paddle I’ve played with.  I literally get compliments.

I’ve never experienced a paddle that delivers such power and spin - while maintaining pinpoint accuracy at the same time.  It’s truly remarkable. This paddle does it ALL!

In addition, I was literally taken aback by the accuracy and placement on well timed shots hit at me.  A number of times I had a great shot hit to my backhand, requiring me to hustle into position and reach across my body (I’m right handed, so my right hand is coming across my chest) just to try to connect ball with paddle and keep the point alive.

Many times, I reached across my body, attempted a backhand flick of sorts, and blasted the ball right back to the corner of the kitchen line for a winner.

This shot, which happened time and time again, is a great example of how big and accurate the sweet spot is on the Response Pro. 

Prince is known for helping change the shape of tennis racquets into more of an oval shape...well they took that same concept and applied it to their first generation of pickleball paddles and i has resulted in what I believe to be the biggest sweet spot I’ve ever played with.

Quick Read: Learn how Prince, the tennis company partnered with Paddletek, the pickleball company, to create a new pickleball racket concept. Click here.

The last aspect worth mentioning is the spin this paddle can produce.  It’s a composite paddle so the paddle face is textured but I wasn’t expecting this paddle to produce this much spin.

In my opinion, spin is best judged during a serve because baseline to baseline power topspin shots, like in tennis, are just not as common in pickleball.  The game is shorter and more finesse driven, making massive spin opportunities kind of rare.  

“The reason why it’s my signature paddle is because it’s got a longer handle.” - Simone Jardim 5.0 Level Pro

So, I like to judge a paddle’s spin ability during a serve.  After very little “break-in” time with the Response Pro where I felt confident in my ability to push serves deep to the baseline so, I began to experiment a little.  

I began by producing spin during serves via a little upward cut on the ball.  This made the ball spin left to right so that when it landed on my opponent’s side of the court, the ball bounced to my right. 

Pretty soon, the ball was shooting towards the sidelines because of the amount of spin I could produce!

best pickleball paddle

It didn’t take long for me to be able to really lean in on the amount of spin without compromising on the accuracy of my serves, or how deep they went!  This was a wicked combination! 

Some newer players I was playing against had a VERY hard time with this and inside, I was smiling big!

This paddle is also exceptional at block volleys - where you basically kill the momentum of your opponent’s hard shot hit at you.  You can be at the kitchen line after your return, get a hard drive shot hit at you, take the pace off the ball and backspin it into the kitchen.  

This is an elite level shot, but one even a novice can learn with this paddle if practiced.

To better illustrate that, watch this video:

So, who’s this paddle for?  Well, honestly - anyone!  It’s priced as pro level paddle but a beginner can play with it no problem.  

In fact, it’ll make you a better player!  Few paddles can actually help you be a better player but the Response Pro is one of them.

It’s got some power and pop to it but not so much that a beginner couldn’t handle it.  It’s one of those high-end paddles that blurs the lines between beginner and intermediate level.

If you don’t mind spending some extra money on a quality paddle, you’ll feel right at home with the Response Pro - even if you’re a new player. 

Quick Tip: Want a little shorter handle?  Go with the Prince Spectrum Pro.  It's the same paddle as the Response Pro, just with a shorter handle.

Pro Endorsements:  Simone Jardim and Alex Fox

Pros

  • Very good paddle for beginners and experienced players
  • Best paddle for power and spin
  • Best paddle for pin point accuracy
  • Outstanding placement on deep serves
  • Huge sweet spot

Cons

  • Little expensive
  • Lacks a little touch at times 

2.  The Tempest Wave by Paddletek - The BEST Pickleball Paddle For A Brand New Player

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: Graphite
Paddle Core: Polymer Honeycomb
Paddle Weight: 7.5-7.7 ounces
Weight Length: 15 ⅞”
Width: 8”
Grip Length: 5 ¼”
Sweet Spot: Large

PADDLE SCORE SHEET

Power Score: 8/10
Spin Score: 8/10
Accuracy: 9/10
Drinkability: 9/10

My Play Test Thoughts

best pickleball paddles

When I meet a brand new player looking to upgrade their paddle or someone looking for a great beginner level paddle - I always recommend the Tempest Wave from Paddletek.  

It’s what I call the “Goldilocks” of all paddles - it’s just right for a beginner level player looking for just the right amount of control, pop and spin.  It feels just right.

In fact, it’s the “feel” of this paddle that makes it so special.  And I’m talking about "feel" from two different perspectives.

First off, this paddle just feels right when it’s in your hand.  It’s perfectly balanced from a weight perspective. It’s one of the few paddles on my list that doesn’t feel too heavy or too light.  Again, it’s the Goldilocks effect. 

But it’s this balance that makes the Tempest feel comfortable in a beginners hand or even a seasoned veteran’s hand.  Ask any Pro level player about what is important to them when choosing a paddle and they’ll all say - how the paddle plays and feels in your own hand.  

It sounds simple but getting out and getting a feel for a paddle is so crucial.  And the Tempest Wave has the special ability to feel good in almost anyone’s hands.

Now, there’s also the matter of “feel” as it relates to touch around the net.  And this is what makes the Tempest especially unique in my opinion.  

“I like it the best because it has really great feel!” - Jennifer Lucore 5.0 Pro

My brother and I have played with the Tempest for over 3 years.  It’s always one of the paddle we come back to over and over again for the touch and feel it provides around the net when at the kitchen line.

In fact, my brother, a 4.0 level player, recently went back to the Tempest Wave as his go to tournament level paddle because of the unprecedented touch it provides at the net.  

When it comes to touch at the net, few paddles do it better.  And if you're a beginner, having a paddle that can help you put the appropriate amount of touch on the ball at the net without sending dinks too high, can be a huge advantage.  

This alone is why it’s my top pickleball paddle for beginners.  And at around $100, it’s a steal of a value.

The biggest drawback to this paddle is that if you’re a power player (like me) then you’re going to want more from this paddle at times.  Other paddles on this list perform better when it comes to power at the service line but if you’re a beginner player - having a paddle that gives you loads of touch is invaluable.  

It’s a small trade off but one worth mentioning.

Pro Endorsements: Jennifer Lucore, and National Champion Dave Weinbach

Pros

  • Great for touch and control - none do it better
  • Best Beginner level paddle I've ever played with
  • Lightweight and easy to pick up and play with
  • Inexpensive for a pro level paddle
  • Keeps dinks low and under control

Cons

  • Lacks power and punch from the baselines
  • Other paddles grip the ball for spin better

3.  The Engage Poach Advantage - An Awesome Option For Beginners and Improving 3.5 Players

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: 6 Layers of Fiberglass Composite
Paddle Core: Polymer Honeycomb
Paddle Weight: 7.5-7.8 for light or 7.9-8.3 for standard
Weight Length: 16”
Width: 8”
Grip Length: 5”
Sweet Spot: Very Large

PADDLE SCORE

Power Score: 8/10
Spin Score: 8/10
Accuracy: 8/10
Drinkability: 8/10

My Play Test Thoughts

The Poach Advantage has been a paddle I recommend for two years now.  Like the Tempest, it’s one of those tried and true paddles for me that I can always rely on.

Back in late 2018 the Engage Poach jumped onto the scene.  And by early 2019, it was a fan favorite and arguably Engage’s most popular paddle.  Scroll down and you'll see that it topped my best pickleball rackets list for 2019.

And for 2020, it's still one of the paddles I recommend.

What the Poach does best is put the ball where you want it to go.  Which is especially useful for newer players just getting the basics down.  

The Poach performed well in my serve test where I see how accurate a paddle delivers deep, baseline hugging serves.  The Poach has little to no break-in period and I was blasting deep serves very quickly.  

Serving accurately and consistently is easy with this paddle and I noticed it right away.  Where other paddles like the Selkirk Invikta and Gamma Shard were kind of spraying deeper serves all over - the Poach remains calm, collected and precise.  This is largely due to the six layers of high-tech composite that the paddle face is made up of.

Play with the Poach even for just 20 min and you’ll feel this six layered beast go to work for you.  The sweet spot is large, the response and accuracy is outstanding and passing shots just go where you want them to.  It’s a thing of beauty.  

You might wonder if six layers of composite material for the paddle face is going overboard.  When this paddle launched, this was a new concept. But since then, we’ve seen 5 layers, 6 layers and even 7 layers hit the market. 

So no, it’s not ridiculous. It’s genius. And it works.

While the Poach is not the most powerful paddle we tested, it’s no slouch either.  Its power and pop is best felt with pass shots a little behind the kitchen line. I put a substantial number of shots away with this paddle in my mid-range and deep game.

“I love the Poach Advantage because it has a large sweet spot.” - Michelle Esquivel 5.0 Player

Blasting it between your opponents on a return of serve just feels good with this paddle.  It’s got more pop than the traditional Tempest but, it’s not a mega power level paddle. It’s got more pop than a pure beginner paddle but without the control issues.  

From a power stand point, I’d say it’s just behind the Gearbox GX5 Power and the Prince Response Pro...but above the Tempest.  So, it’s a good place to be for beginner level players wanting a little more oomph.

Dinking with this paddle is very solid.  My brother, a 4.0 level player agrees with me that the Poach has more accurate punch to it, but lacks the touch at the net compared to the Tempest and Tempest Pro.  So, it could be a smidgen better at the kitchen line when it comes to keeping the dinks feathery light and the ball low.

But that’s a minor gripe.  This paddle is a beginner level players dream and will impress even seasoned veterans when it comes to its precision at the baselines.

Not to mention, Engage has updated the paddle face graphics on this paddle so that it finally looks cool AND plays well.  The original version was an eye sore to look at even though it played really well.

Now, we’ve got a sharp paddle face design and color palette to go along with its supreme playability. 

Pro Endorsements: Michelle Esquivel and Matt Staub

Pros

  • Great paddle for those still learning or wanting to get better
  • Consistent, deep baseline to baseline power
  • Good touch at the net
  • Point and shoot accuracy

Cons

  • A little pricey for a beginner paddle, but so worth it in my opinion
  • Lacks that "blast back" power I saw from the Response Pro

4.  The GX5 Power by Gearbox - Taylor Made For Experienced Racquet Sport Athletes & Power Players

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: Single Piece Handcrafted Carbon Fiber
Paddle Core: Solid Span Technology
Paddle Weight: 7.8 for light or 8.5 for standard
Weight Length: 16 ⅝”
Width: 7 ⅜”
Grip Length: 4 ¾”
Sweet Spot: Very Large

PADDLE SCORE

Power Score: 9/10
Spin Score: 8/10
Accuracy: 9/10
Drinkability: 9/10

My Play Test Thoughts

Gearbox Pickleball Paddles

The Gearbox GX5 made my list because of the consistent feedback I got from players who are quite frankly - better than me.  

Gearbox is a big brand but is relatively new to the pickleball paddle market. And, they’ve made quite an entrance. Instead of opting to go with the standard two-piece paddle construction we see so common in the industry right now - they broke the trend.  

They decided to trail-blaze a path all their own.  

And I give them credit.

What makes Gearbox paddles so unique is their “one-piece” construction.  That means the entire paddle - from paddle face to paddle handle - is ALL one solid piece.  And you can feel this design aspect almost immediately...at least I did.

Most paddles have two separate pieces - the handle and the paddle face - that are molded together.  This creates the standard two-piece design.  

Gearbox decided to do things differently.  They went all-in with a one piece mold to create a pickleball paddle that feels and sounds a lot more solid.

Before going back to his Tempest Wave, my brother (a 4.0 tourney level player) was using the Gearbox GX5 Power.  And he has had really good success with it because he’s won multiple tournaments with this paddle.

This paddle helped him win his very first tournament because of the power and pop it delivered all while remaining steady, controlled and refined.  The GX5 Power brings, like the name implies, “power” to your game but it does an outstanding job of allowing you to control this power.

In short, there is loads of accuracy behind this paddle’s power.  In fact, that’s what my brother and I love most about this paddle. If you’re a baseline power player who loves to put away power passing shots - Gearbox created this paddle for you.  

Want to blast the serve back in between your opponents dead center, and on the baseline?  This paddle can do it for you.

Want to rocket forehands right back at your opponent just behind his/her reach before they have time to react?  This paddle can do it for you.

To really get a better feel for this paddle, I gave the GX5 Power and six other Pro Level paddles to my cousin - a 5.0 tennis instructor who’s just now getting into pickleball - and got his unfiltered thoughts.  

The thinner grip gives me nice wrist mobility…” - 4.5 Player Rachel Chai-Wise

After playing with all seven paddles extensively, he came away most impressed with the GX5.  He said of all the paddles I had him demo, he thought the GX5 Power was the best.  

It gave him the entire package.  Power, pop, incredible accuracy and touch at the net.  

But keep in mind, he’s a tennis instructor.  So even though he’s new to pickleball, his learning curve is a lot more friendly than yours and mine.

His tennis background allowed him to reel-in the power the GX5 was giving him.

Because the GX5 is a power paddle, beginners will have a harder time controlling dinks at the net.  But my cousin was able to do this with little break-in time because he’s a racquet expert and it comes easier to him.

I say this only because if you’re a 3.5 level player (or even less experienced), it’s going to take you some time to get the hang of this paddle and learn to control it’s pop at the net when dinking.  

Let’s talk paddle technology for a moment because this paddle is SO unique.

The power and accuracy come from Gearbox’s patented core called - Solid Span Technology.  What does that mean?  Well, it’s handcrafted graphite filled chambers instead of a honeycomb polymer core used in a lot of other paddles.  

It’s what makes the paddle feel unique from the moment you pick it up.  And it’s why it plays so quiet. It has a distinct, smoother sound.

I even had someone ask me if I was using a wooden paddle.  My response?  “No, it’s a single piece Carbon Fiber.”  They looked at it dumbfounded and impressed.

This unique core, combined with the single piece design, gives the GX5 a massive sweet spot.  Even Gearbox advertises that their paddle have very few “soft-spots”. This when you make contact with the ball and the balls seems to die on the paddle and not pop off.  No paddle is perfect but this doesn't happen much with the GX5.

You can really tell Gearbox went all in with their line of paddles.  They didn’t cut corners or use conventional design patterns.  Again - they blazed their own trail.

They designed their own take on a pickleball paddle.  And I give them big props for that.  

Dead spots in any paddle will lead to more miss-hits and this paddle just doesn’t have them.  Or if it does, they’re hard to find.  

Another reason why dead spots or soft spots as Gearbox calls them, are almost non-existent with this paddle is because there is no honeycomb core.  This also makes the paddle a LOT quieter than any paddle on my list.

Topping-off the paddle tech is the Hyper Bite Spin Technology Gearbox has incorporated.  

My cousin loved the fact that this paddle was entirely made from one-piece, handcrafted carbon fiber.  That and the Hyper Bite Spin Tech allowed him to put tons of “whip” on the ball and put away his opponents when the opportunity presented itself.  

Seeing an experienced player work this paddle was a thing of beauty.

If you’re an experienced player who can manufacture your own touch with any paddle, you’re going to LOVE this paddle!

Three additional things to note:

  1.  It comes in two models.  A light version and a heavier version but because of the one-piece design - paddle weight may vary more than other paddles.

  2. It’s a thinner paddle overall compared to other paddles on my list and has NO edge guard.  So careful when dropping it. 

  3. If you want a longer paddle face and a longer grip - go with the GX6 line of paddles.  The GX5 and GX6 series are virtually the same outside of the length of the paddle face and handle.  

Pro Endorsements:  Rachel Chai-Wise - 4.5 Player

Pros

  • Big time pop and power
  • Edgeless so the whole paddle feels like one giant sweet spot
  • Outstanding point and shoot accuracy
  • Heavier paddle for more plow-through
  • Very few miss hits and soft spots
  • Carbon fiber and Hyper Bite Tech for good spin

Cons

  • Harder to grasp the touch needed at the net for beginners
  • Could have too much power for newbies

5.  The Pro-Lite Titan Pro Large - A Carbon Fiber Masterpiece That Plays As Good As It Looks

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: Carbon Fiber Face
Paddle Core: Polymer Honeycomb
Paddle Weight: 8.0 top 8.4oz
Weight Length: 15 ¾”
Width: 8 3/16”
Grip Length: 4 ¾”
Sweet Spot: Very Large

PADDLE SCORE

Power Score: 8/10
Spin Score: 8/10
Accuracy: 8/10
Drinkability: 9/10

My Play Test Thoughts

best pickleball paddle

When I bought the Titan Pro, I was super excited to try it out.  With its woven carbon fiber face, it marked a new area in pickleball paddles.  You simply don’t see carbon fiber paddles much because the price needed to develop them is so steep.  

It’s next level paddle tech and Pro-Lite is leading the charge.  

Read my exclusive interview with Pro-Lite President Neil Friedenberg about why Pro-Lite is investing in carbon fiber based paddles vs graphite paddles.

But what does carbon fiber do for the average player over traditional paddles made from graphite or composite?  Well, in theory it’s meant to provide the features and playability of both.

Did it?  Well after playing with the Titan Pro extensively - I came away thinking that for the most part, it did.

First off, I have to say that despite the look of this paddle, it’s overall a touch and accuracy driven paddle.  The all black, silky smooth paddle face is really eye catching and instantly screams “Pro Paddle.” 

I got comments from fellow players about it looking like a 5.0 level paddle.  

The textureless face almost glitters when you look at it.  Giving off the impression that it’s a power player’s paddle.  But, it’s a Jedi mind trick of sorts. Because despite the black, stealth bomber appearance, it’s actually a touch driven paddle in disguise.

After playing with the Titan Pro Large edition, I came away thinking of one word to describe it.  

Consistent.  

“I love it because of the balance and the feel.” - Del Kauss 5.0 Player

It’s a steady, reliable paddle that is focused on delivering a solid combination of power, touch and spin.  

But in my opinion, its strength is in the touch department.  The carbon fiber face and polymer core work flawlessly. They gave me a large hitting area that was extremely reliable touch at the kitchen line.

This paddle did a wonderful job returning harder shots at the net and returning them softly into the kitchen.  This is my opinion, is a very difficult thing for a paddle to do. Taking speed off the ball and returning it with touch and balance is something most paddles, in the hands of a beginner simply can’t do.

Take some of the Gamma paddles for example.  The Gamma Voltage is a power paddle that really rebounds the ball.  But expect it to soften a strong third shot drive at the net to slow the pace down, and you’ll be disappointed.

The Titan Pro however does this.  And doesn’t disappoint.  

The other strength to this paddle is it’s sweet spot.  This hitting surface is large and forgiving so even an off center shot, feels right on target.  This was evident when I examined the paddle face after hours of play.

The carbon fiber face looks like glass.  So the imprints of the ball are shown like a toddlers fingerprints on a freshly windex’d window.  I saw ball imprints all over the face, even on the upper corners where most of my shot would fall dead.

But the imprints, even at the top, showed the ball hitting the paddle face completely and thoroughly.  Giving me the impression that the ball made ideal contact with the paddle face and rebounded it as if it had hit the sweet spot like a bullseye...even though it hadn’t.

Overall, I was impressed with the Titan Pro.  Honestly, I was expecting to like it more.  But, I also expected it to deliver big-time power.  Once I realized it wasn’t a power paddle per-say, I adjusted to its strengths and began to like it more and more.

Does it deliver the power of the Response Pro?  No. Does it deliver the spin of the Response Pro?  No.

So, who’s this paddle for?  In my opinion, it’s designed for true pickleball enthusiasts.  It’s designed for the player who’s played for a while and has adapted to a finesse, touch at the net style of play.  

I see this style of player all the time.  They’re the older 60 year old retired person who likes to stay active.  They don’t need or want to generate gobs of power with their paddles because they’ve mastered the third shot drop and dink you to death.  That’s who this paddle was made for.

If you want unparalleled touch at the kitchen line - this is your paddle!

Pro Endorsements: Mark "Yoda" Friedenberg and Del Kauss

Pros

  • Carbon fiber face provides incredible touch at the net
  • Controllable power when needed
  • A dinkers dream paddle come to life
  • Large sweet spot, with very few dead spots

Cons

  • Lacks a bit of punch for deep baseline returns - minor gripe though
  • Lacks a little spin ability - minor gripe though

6.  The Tempest Pro by Paddletek - The Best Graphite Paddle Ever Made

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: Graphite
Paddle Core: Polymer Honeycomb
Paddle Weight: 7.2 to 7.8oz
Weight Length: 15 ⅞”
Width: 8”
Grip Length: 5 ¼”
Sweet Spot: Large

PADDLE SCORE

Power Score: 9/10
Spin Score: 8/10
Accuracy: 8/10
Drinkability: 8/10

My Play Test Thoughts

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The single biggest drawback to the traditional Tempest Wave, whether it was the Wave I or the second generation Wave II - was it’s lack of punch or power.

Sure it was a dinkers dream and could take the pace off a hard hit ball but it had a hard time delivering power and pop right back at you opponent.

So, what did Paddletek do?  Well, first they listened. They gathered fan feedback from the their two signature paddles - The Tempest Wave and the Bantam EX-L.  And an idea was born.

What if they could combine the power from the Bantam series and unquestionable touch of the Tempest Wave?

What if they could produce a Tempest Wave with more pop without sacrificing touch at the net?

And thus the Tempest Pro was born.  

It was designed to fill the weakness gap of the Tempest Wave and cater to a little more of the younger, power player.  But without losing sight of its roots of softness at the kitchen line.

But did they succeed?  Yes, they did.

Going after the perfect balance between power and control is a very difficult thing for any paddle manufacturer to do.  But Paddletek has done an outstanding job of retaining most of the softness of Tempest Wave while juicing it up with added power.

This added power does not come at a loss of feel or sensitivity.  Dave Weinbach, who plays with this paddle and dominates with it, is known for guiding players towards paddles with great paddle face sensitivity.

Meaning, the paddle feels like an extension of your hand and provides you with great feedback mid-hit, so you can adjust.

This paddle gives you that in spades!

In fact, it was evident after playing multiple rounds at my local YMCA that Paddletek wanted to deliver a paddle that would excel at the “feel shots” of pickleball.

“The Tempest Pro gives me the best balance between power and sensitivity.” - Dave Weinbach 5.0 Level Pro

Paddletek has created a paddle that’ll give you really good baseline power on serves, good spin when you need it, and outstanding sensitivity or feel.

I decided to test this paddle’s “feel” and compare it directly to another premium paddle - the Gamma Shard.  The Shard is Gamma's most expensive paddle.

Both paddles have very similar shapes and body styles and are relatively close in weight.  Put them side by side the and shape and thickness mimic one another.

So, I tested them out.  I put one of my older paddles out at the opposite baseline at the corner as a target.  I wanted to practice my serve, and measure accuracy and hit the paddle laying on the ground.  

After just 10 minutes of this, there was a CLEAR winner.  The Tempest Pro was peppering the target. The Gamma Shard was spraying balls all around the target.  

One paddle was sensitive and on target.  The other was not.

Another great observation was when I played against a younger, tennis player who also had the Tempest Pro.  How did an experienced tennis player handle the Tempest Pro?

Well...like a Pro.  In fact, he generated massive power on his serves and even more power and spin with his return cut shots.  

When I cheated too far left or too far right on my side during doubles play, his forehand cut shot had power, spin and deadly accuracy.  He could put me out of position in the blink of an eye. 

And when I blasted one back at him, his Tempest Pro took pace off of the ball when he wanted it to.  It was a beautiful chess match of power and touch, fast then soft.

The Tempest Pro is a lot of fun to play with because it is so easy to play with. Its a real gem of a paddle for beginners but also tournament level 4.0 to 5.0 players as well.  

It is that Goldilocks effect again.  But on steroids.  

Pro Endorsements: Dave Weinback 5.0 Gold Medalist

Pros

  • Excels at “feel shots” like dinking and block volleys
  • Added power compared to the traditional Tempest Wave
  • Great spin combined with power and placement
  • It's a balanced paddle with elite feel and sensitivity

Cons

  • This is a minor gripe - but I'd like a little more pop on passing shots

7.  The Pro-Lite Rebel PowerSpin - A Great Budget Friendly Paddle With Power And Accuracy

PADDLE SPEC SHEET: 

Paddle Face: Composite with Fiberglass Finish
Paddle Core: Polymer Honeycomb
Paddle Weight: 7.7 to 8.4oz
Weight Length: 16”
Width: 7 ⅝”
Grip Length: 5”
Sweet Spot: Large

PADDLE SCORE

Power Score: 8/10
Spin Score: 8/10
Accuracy: 8/10
Drinkability: 8/10

My Play Test Thoughts

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At first glance, you might expect the Rebel PowerSpin from Pro-Lite to be THE premier paddle when it comes to putting english on the ball.  At least, those were my expectations.

Why?

Well, the name alone implies that it’s going to give you some tacky, spin ability.  Add the fact that it’s a composite paddle with a textured fiberglass finish, and you’ve got a paddle design to grip, hold and release the ball with scary accuracy.

And the Rebel PowerSpin delivers there.

But don’t let the name fool you. This is a power paddle through and through.  There is a reason why Pro-Lite put the “Power” in front of the “Spin” in its name.

The more I played with it, the more I began to push and appreciate the level of power this paddle generated for me.  It was fun pushing how far I could go with booming return of serves. It never felt difficult or inconsistent.  Just natural and full of pop.

I also immediately noticed the slim "feel" to this paddle.  Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not an overly thin paddle like the Selkirk Invikta (which I did NOT like at all).  It’s not a blade style paddle.  

I enjoy it because it gives me some good feedback when I hit the ball.” - Tom Grubb 4.5 Player

But, after coming from the oversized Titan Pro Large and the Response Pro, I could tell I was playing with a paddle that was less than 8 inches wide.  

I like widebody paddles.  And I thought the small difference in size would actually start to bother me.

It was noticeable right away, but I’ll be honest with you.  It never bothered me.  

I quickly began to appreciate it’s longer paddle face. This gave me extra room for backhands and allowed me to reach a little more on well placed dinks at the net.

So, not only did the longer paddle face not bother me, it was extraordinarily easy to adapt to and roll with.  There was virtually no break-in period which I found exceptional because I prefer bigger bodied paddles that are more forgiving.  

Here’s the interesting part though.  It didn’t give me any extra spin versus the Titan Pro.  I was surprised because the Titan Pro is glass like carbon fiber with no texture at all.  The Rebel PowerSpin is sandpaper rough by pickleball paddle standards.  

But the two paddles performed the same when it came to spin.

Whether it was a topspin return or a backhand cut - I saw almost no difference between Pro-Lite's two signature paddles.  

Where the Rebel did outperform the Titan Pro was in the power department.  On my serves, I noticed more pope. On my mid range game, I had more plow through on my put away smashes or sideline put aways.

However...Did it outperform the Response Pro in Power?  No.

How about in spin?  Was it better than the Response Pro there?  Nope.

If you're not ready to jump into the $150 price range for paddles then this could be an option for you.  

It's good (not great) at a lot of things.  But there are paddles on this list that perform better...you'll just have to be willing to pay more.  For it's price, the Rebel PowerSpin is a heck of a deal!

Pro Endorsements: Tom Grubb 4.5 Pickleball Ambassador

Pros

  • Good at spin, Great at power
  • Longer paddle face for better reach
  • Great at punch volleys and passing shots
  • Good sweet spot for a little narrower paddle
  • Very few miss-hits for non wide-body paddle
  • Easy to pick up and play with

Cons

  • Wanted to more grip and spin from it’s rough service
  • Not enough power or spin to dethrone the Response Pro
  • Didn't take the pace off the ball like the Response Pro and Titan Pro

Best Pickleball Paddles For 2020 - My Final Thoughts

I hope you've enjoyed my full walk through and play test with these paddles. After playing extensively with all these paddles, these seven were the clear winners in my book.  I just played better when one of them was in my hand.  I really felt my game elevate with them.  It's that simple.

No matter if you're a beginner or an experienced pickleball player, one of these seven paddles is going to be a great option for you.  They're all incredible paddles and all offer the unique ability to make you a player better.

You just won't get that with a cheaper knock-off brand.

Overall, my three favorite are the Prince Response Pro, The Titan Pro and the Tempest Pro.  The Response Pro is my #1 pick but there is a lot of compression amongst those three for me.  They all offer so much versatility and excel at more than just one aspect of the game.   

Give one a try and let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you!


These Paddles Made My List Of Top Pickleball Paddles for 2019 And Earlier

1.  Pro-Lite SuperNova Pro

Comes in deep black with sharp but subtle accent colors like: green, orange, red and blue

The SuperNova from Pro-Lite is the company’s second and most recent installment in the premium “Black Diamond” series they’ve begun releasing over the last year.  The Black Diamond series represents the very best in paddle tech from Pro-Lite and are easily their best paddles to date  

The SuperNova is the most expensive paddle on our list but it’s jam packed with all the latest and greatest advancements in pickleball paddle technology.  Consisting of a genuine 100% carbon fiber face, the SuperNova offers exceptional spin and finesse for a non-textured, non-composite paddle.  

It’s technically a graphite paddle but it’s 100% pure carbon fiber face is designed to softly hold the ball momentarily to add english to your shots.  The face is actually absorbing the ball briefly, cushioning around it almost like a pillow, then releasing it ever so subtly. Pro-Lite claims the following:

“Heat, direction of the fibers, pressure, velocity and impact all affect ball control resulting in a superior user experience.”

Pretty high tech stuff, which give it arguably the best “grab” for any graphite paddle.  The only other graphite paddle with this much grab is the Encore X from Engage featuring liquid graphite.  

It remains to be seen which one offers the best spin, but needless to say, they’re both in a class of their own.  Inside Pro-Lite’s flagship paddle is a noise dampening and power enhancing QuadCore polymer core exclusive to Pro-Lite.  The weight is slightly on the heavy side (7.7 - 8.2oz) but the paddle is perfectly balanced - ideal for advanced players. In fact, it was designed by Brazilian born Pro Player Simone Jardim.  

Simone had input on the design elements of this paddle and made sure the grip was long enough to accommodate players from Tennis backgrounds wanting to use a two-handed backhand shot.  

With a Pro’s input, it’s no wonder this paddle has already won 3 National Championships and is selling out everywhere it’s sold.  If you’re serious about pickleball and can find a SuperNova in stock, you won’t be disappointed.


2.  Onix Graphite Zen V2

The Onix Graphite Zen series has been around for a while but in 2017 we get the Zen V2 or “version 2.”  The original Zen is still available but the V2 is worth a look and the extra price because of how light it is!  The Zen V2 is the lightest paddle on our list (refer to the Onix website for official weight)!  This featherweight of a paddle comes in at a svelte 6.6 to 6.9 oz, allowing for extended periods of play with less arm fatigue.  

At under 7 oz, Onix had developed a super light paddle with a unique combination of power, control and touch thanks to the aluminum core incorporated into it.  Aluminum core paddles are known for their balance between touch, control and plow-through and the V2 is no exception.  

With an over-sized face (the width is extended slightly) and an extra large sweet spot, this is a very forgiving paddle.  However, what players rave the most about is the grip!  Onix has incorporated a tennis like grip that is perfect for those with larger hands!  

This one is going to be one of Onix's best new paddles for 2019, without a doubt.


3.  Pro-Lite CRUSH PowerSpin

Comes in three vibrant, youthful color schemes

The CRUSH PowerSpin is the second and newest installment in Pro-Lite's PowerSpin line of composite paddles. It's lighter than its big brother, the Rebel PowerSpin and takes advantage of Pro-Lite's trademark Magnum paddle shape.

The original Magnum paddle has a long history and was one of the game's original composite paddles. So, the CRUSH comes from a proven lineage of paddle templates.  It's also chalk full of new paddle tech. QuadCore, SPINtac, and MicroEdge are the high-end materials used.

The QuadCore polymer core enables players to focus on touch and feel - perfect for more accurate finesse play at the net. Pro-Lite's state-of-the-art SPINtac fiberglass panels sandwich the polymer core and are engineered with texture for players desiring big spin and quieter play. 

Finally, the MicroEdge guard extends the playing field on the face of the paddle, taking advantage of every square inch of the already highly successful wide body Magnum paddle shape.  It should also be noted that the grip size on the CRUSH is on the smaller side.

This is by design. 

The smaller grip and lighter paddle weight compliment each other perfectly and provide players faster reaction times at the net and better all-around control. Players with smaller hands will appreciate the small grip but love the wide body paddle face with it's extra large sweet spot. It'll feel like every shot hits the mark!


4.  Pickleball Inc. Venom Composite

Video features older Venom model.  Source: Pickleball Central

Being a composite paddle, the Venom weighs in slightly heavier than some of the graphite paddles on our list.  But, with that extra weight comes more power. This paddle was designed by Pickleball Inc. to have what they call a “head heavy” feel.  

This means at impact, you're going to be able to easily put more "oomph" behind your power shots.  The composite surface boasts a beautifully designed fiber glass, textured face for spin, control and feel.  

The polymer core makes the paddle quiet and improves the paddle’s overall touch.  What this paddle is know for however is it’s feel for players coming from a tennis background.  

If you’re coming from a tennis court to a pickleball court and want your pickleball paddle to feel as much like your tennis racquet as possible, then this paddle is a great option!  In fact, the handle alone is going to remind you of your tennis days.  It sports an extra long 5 ½ inch handle with a moisture control wrap.  

For those looking for a great pickleball paddle for 2019, but one that is also budget priced, this is a great option!


5.  ARD HF100

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ARD’s flagship paddle for beginners to intermediate players is the HF100.  ARD is one of the new kids on the block of pickleball paddle manufacturers but despite being new to the game, they’ve put countless hours into this paddle’s design.  

In fact, they spend nearly three years designing, testing and tweaking the propriety “throat” design.  Currently they’re the only paddle maker that uses a separate piece (the throat) to connect the paddle face to the handle/grip.

This additional design elements gives players greater stability across the paddle face and sweet spot.  It also allows for great consistency and vibration control.

Inside this fiberglass composite paddle is an state of the art honeycomb polypropylene core for touch at the net.  The HF100 provides newer players better ball grip and accuracy than ARD’s graphite option, the GF200.  

Power wise, it’s go oomph thanks to it’s 8.2-8.4 ounce specs.  It’s easy to pick up and play with, gives novice players some intermediate level functionality, and provides good control and power.  It’s our Budget friendly option and great choice  for brand new players but who’ve got tennis experience.

Related: Which ARD paddle topped our list for Best Beginner Paddle?

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