Ping pong ball is probably the most overlooked, but still one of the most important elements of table tennis game. Let’s take an average recreational Joe player. Joe spends some time on research to choose a table, a paddle, but what can go wrong with balls? He just buys the first option he sees and wonders why he’s not enjoying the game.
As a recreational player you don’t need to buy most expensive competition-level balls. The reason is that you won’t be able to notice the difference between a great non-professional ball and a competition one, however the price for the latter can easily go 2x or 3x higher.
At the same time, you don’t want to buy the cheapest balls out there. Our goal at this point is to find the perfect balance. As a general rule, and if you don’t want to read further, simply choose a 3-star ball from a reputable company like Stiga, Butterfly or Xushaofa and you’re good to go.
Want to learn more about ping pong balls? Then read below.
Cheap vs. Decent balls
Manufacturing process for the cheapest balls is quite different than that of more expensive ones. Materials that are used for them are lower-grade which doesn’t allow to make a ball that will have even surface, thickness, stiffness and seams.
What about more expensive balls, manufacturing process for them is same, but when it comes to quality control, they are put into several quality tiers. As said above, you should aim to get 3-star balls, but here’s an important consideration: many low-grade manufacturers don’t honor the standard and mark really cheap balls with three stars. How to avoid that? Again, buy 3-star balls from respected manufacturers listed above. Otherwise you risk getting a ball that will be good enough only for beer pong, but not ping pong game.
Plastic vs. Celluloid
It’s still an ongoing debate among table tennis enthusiasts as to what balls are better. However, ITTF has made plastic balls a standard, and in reality, it’s pretty hard even to purchase cellulose balls. So, now plastic balls are used across all state and international competitions, sold online and in stores.
If you’re still interested in the topic, you can see a series of videos made by guys from Pathfinder:
How are ping pong balls made?
The video below from ITTF will give you a general understanding of the process. Unfortunately, the exact method of how the seams are removed is not shown. They claim it a business secret:
We will update the article with more info and animations to cover the topic in more details.