Choosing The Right Table Tennis BAll

Choosing The Right Table Tennis Ball – A Complete Guide

There are 5 different ball ratings: Fun balls, training balls, 1-star balls, 2-star balls, and 3-star balls. As if that wasn’t enough, there are tens of brands to choose from.

Given this variety of options, one may find it hard to choose the correct table tennis ball. 

We have designed this guide to help you pick the best table tennis ball for your particular needs. In addition, we aim to clear all your doubts regarding the ping pong ball so you can make your decisions confidently.

The official rules of the table tennis ball

The current table tennis ball must comply with 3 main rules, as per the ITTF Handbook, annex 2.3:

  • The ball shall be spherical, with a diameter of 40mm.
  • The ball shall weigh 2.7g. 
  • The ball shall be made of celluloid or similar plastics material and shall be white or orange, and matt.

All these rules apply to table tennis balls that want to apply for ITTF certification.

If you wanted, you could play with any ball, but you would not be complying with the official standards of professional table tennis.

Some leagues in Japan play with 44mm balls, and the game seems to be a lot of fun too. 

However, if you want to play proper table tennis, you should follow the ITTF handbook, which contains all the rules of table tennis.

The material of the current ball is plastic.

After 114 years of use, the celluloid ball was discontinued in 2014 due to environmental concerns, as celluloid is a dangerous handle material and extremely flammable. 

Here is a brief overview of the history of the table tennis ball.

History of the Table Tennis Ball

Which table tennis ball is best?

Now that we know which rules a table tennis ball must comply with, we are going to recommend to you the best table tennis balls.

In table tennis, there are five qualities of balls: fun balls, training balls, 1-star balls, 2-star balls, and 3-star balls.

The best balls on the market are 3-star balls, but they are also the most expensive. You don’t necessarily need to play with these balls, but they are much better than the others.

Because of this, the 3-star balls are the ones used in all international tournaments, such as the Olympic Games or the World Table Tennis Championships.

Any ITTF tournament uses 3-star balls from the most reputable table tennis brands. For example, the Olympic Games ball was of the DHS (Double Happiness) brand.

Next, we are going to review all the table tennis balls one by one and explain their characteristics, starting with the fun/novelty balls.

Fun/novelty table tennis balls

A picture of a Fun/Novelty Balls package.
Photo: Poolroomsupplies

These balls can be purchased at regular sports shops and supermarkets. Balls of any brand other than the most trusted Table Tennis brands are also considered novelty balls.

As the name implies, these balls are used to play for fun, and they aren’t nearly as good as real table tennis balls.

They are usually very light, soft, break easily and they’re typically not round at all.

We recommend that you do not purchase these balls under any circumstances. The bounce is not uniform at all and they feel terrible when hitting them.

If you want to have consistency in table tennis, you have to use real table tennis balls.

But what about the price? If you want to buy cheap table tennis balls, training balls cost about the same and there is a huge quality gap between training balls from a reputable brand and novelty balls.

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Training balls

A picture of Table Tennis Training Balls package
Photo: Tabletennis11.com

Training balls are of a completely different quality than fun balls. The biggest gap in quality between two ball quality tiers is between fun balls and training balls.

These balls do not reach the quality of 1-star balls, but their goal is to be good enough so that table tennis players can train with them without problems.

These balls have the weight, diameter, and feel that the competition balls have, but for one reason or another, they do not have the same quality as 1-star balls.

They are used predominantly for multi-ball training or robot training since it’s pretty cheap to buy lots of them. They’re perfectly fine for training, but they aren’t good enough for serious play

We recommend these balls for those players who:

  • Do multiball training periodically.
  • Practice with a robot.
  • Don’t want to spend a lot on table tennis balls and want balls that are good enough for casual play.

1-star balls

A picture of 1 star Table Tennis balls.
Photo: Tabletennis11.com

One-star balls are probably the most popular table tennis balls. They are good enough for regular use.

The DHS 1-star balls, pictured above, are approved by the Chinese Table Tennis Federation. As we can see, these balls have enough quality to be approved by national entities.

Most of these balls are of good enough quality to train with and they’re also good for playing matches or local tournaments.

However, many of these balls come in a slightly oval shape, which is why they are one-star instead of a higher denomination.

In my opinion, they are the best value for money, as they offer good enough quality at a fairly cheap price.

We recommend these balls for those players who:

  • Want cheap, high-quality balls.
  • Want very high-quality balls to use in multiball or robot training.
  • Want to train and play matches regularly without spending too much on table tennis balls.

2-star balls

A picture of 2 star Table Tennis balls.
Photo: Tabletennis11.com

These are the rarest balls to find. In my entire playing career, I am yet to see a 2-star ball.

These balls fall between the 1 and 3-star balls, but they are not common since most players who want to spend less money buy the 1-star ones, and those who want the best balls to play with buy the 3-star ones.

Hardly anyone ends up buying the 2-star balls because they are not as good as the 3-star ones nor as cheap as the 1-star ones.

However, they can be a good option if you want high-quality balls but you don’t want to pay a premium for 3-star ones.

We recommend these balls for those players who:

  • Want a high-quality ball for less money.
  • Want tournament balls that are better than 1-star balls but don’t cost as much as 3-star balls.
  • Want a leap in quality compared to 1-star balls.

3-star balls

A picture of Nittaku 3-Star Balls
Photo: Tabletennis11.com

These balls are the best of all, and they are a pleasure to play with. This is especially true for those offerings from the most reputable brands. My personal favorites are Nittaku balls, and in second place, DHS balls. Virtually all of the 3-star balls are ITTF-approved.

We’ve recommended our favorite 3-star table tennis balls. The DHS DJ40+ is at the top of that list.

Most tournaments are played with 3-star balls, as they are the ones with the most consistent bounce and the ones that feel the best when using them.

They cost quite a bit more than 1-star balls, but they are 100% worth it. The difference is very noticeable for experienced players, but if you are a beginner, you may not notice any difference between the lower-quality balls and these.

We recommend these balls for those players who:

  • Want the best possible quality.
  • Want to enjoy the ball they use.
  • Want to host tournaments.

What table tennis ball should I buy?

We have created a chart showing the ideal ball for every situation.

A table explaining the differences between each type of table tennis ball.

As you can see, the ideal ball to use depends on what you want it for.

Frequently asked questions

Table tennis balls are quite a complex topic. Balls come in very different shapes, qualities, and colors, depending on the manufacturing process used.

To clear all the doubts you may have, we have created a short FAQ section.

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The Controller
Alvaro Munno - Table Tennis Player & Author

Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!

Blade: Butterfly Fan Zhendong ALC | Forehand: Butterfly Dignics 09c | Backhand: Butterfly Rozena
Playstyle: The Controller

2 thoughts on “Choosing The Right Table Tennis Ball – A Complete Guide”

    1. Álvaro Munno

      Hello Gregory,

      All the balls we talked about have a seam. Seamless balls are usually less popular because it’s harder for manufacturers to get them right. I seldom play with seamless balls so I can’t really comment on it. I always purchase balls with seam and most of them are really good.

      I’ll make sure to try seamless balls in the future.


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