What can $12 get you in the world of Table Tennis rubbers?
In my opinion, a whole lot! I didn’t have high expectations for this rubber, but I must say it really impressed me.
I found that it offers incredible value for money and it’s one of the best rubbers for player development if you’re a beginner or even an intermediate level player.
Perfect For: Beginners and intermediates looking to develop their skills. 0 – 5 years of playing.
Alvaro brings 7+ years of playing experience. He’s tested 20+ rubbers for Racket Insight and his style is The Controller.
Blade Used: Stratus Power Wood
Rubber Thickness: MAX
Hours Tested: 10+
Design of the Friendship 729 Super FX
Friendship 729 is a popular Chinese rubber manufacturer, known for offering high-quality equipment at low price points.
Chinese rubbers such as the Super FX are different from your typical Table Tennis rubbers because they’re sticky instead of grippy. They can pick up the ball from the table!
This difference in design makes it so that Chinese rubbers have many distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to regular grippy rubbers.
The 729 Super FX comes sealed on very retro-looking packaging. I have to admit, I quite like it!
On the backside of the packaging, we can find 2 pieces of information that piqued my interest.
The first thing the manufacturer claims is:
(The 729 Super FX was developed) to fulfill the most critical requirements and to maximize the performance of the international stars such as Xi En Ting, Liang Ko Liang, Hu Yu Lan, Guo Yue Hua (…)
It lists a total of 9 players who supposedly used this rubber in international competitions.
From doing some research, most of these players who used the Super FX achieved international success in the 1970s. So we can assume this rubber was created in the early 70s, or maybe even the late 60s.
So we’re essentially buying one of the best rubbers available more than half a century ago. Truly a piece of history.
I could definitely see the difference in technology when comparing it to the Rakza 7 soft I had on the other side of the test racket:
We can see that the Rakza 7 soft has a much more porous sponge and taller pimples, which help with speed and passive spin generation.
It’s incredible to me how the Super FX still performs well with such outdated technology, and it even grips the 40mm plastic ball well.
This rubber was developed when the much faster and spinnier 38mm celluloid ball was used and it offered incredible performance for top athletes.
More than 50 years later, we recommend it for beginners and intermediates.
Xi Enting, among others, used this rubber to win many international tournaments, so we can assume he was using it at the 1973 World Table Tennis Championships.
Let’s take a look at him playing!
From this video, we can understand what this rubber was (and still is!) capable of.
Xi Enting mostly played a game of loop-driving.
When he loops, he often uses more spin than speed and hits at around 60% of his maximum power. If he gets a medium-high ball, he’ll loop-smash the ball, similar to the actual Chinese forehand stroke.
In my playtesting, I came to the same conclusion. This rubber is great for that spin-oriented, control looping style until you get a high ball that you can smash.
The second thing I noticed is that 729 says:
Its strong impact resilience coupled with superb frictional coefficient provides the fastest drive, the most powerful spins, and excellent control in all kinds of strokes. It is highly recommended for all levels of skill and competition players
I also found that to be true. When they say strong impact resilience, they are referencing the hard sponge and stiff topsheet, which allows great control of the ball, even in high-speed rallies.
Many softer rubbers are unstable in rallies. This rubber always felt controllable.
Initial impressions of the Friendship 729
When I opened the package, the 729 Super FX had a protective film, which is a plus, especially considering the price point.
After peeling it off, I could take a look at the topsheet. The one we’re reviewing today is a deep, matte black.
Here’s how it looks after 10 hours of playtesting:
We can see dust sitting on the topsheet, even though I cleaned the rubber twice before taking the picture. As a sticky rubber, it attracts lots of dust particles.
If you plan on getting the Super FX, or any tacky rubber, then I strongly advise cleaning it properly after every match, and even after every set, using your breath and your hands.
Durability for most tacky rubbers is very high, so make sure to clean it so that it lasts as long as it can.
One thing I noticed is that the rubber “broke in” after using it for 10 hours. The sponge is noticeably softer now than it was in the beginning.
When I first got the rubber, it was quite hard, around 49-50 on the ESN scale if I had to guess. Now, it’s more like a 46-47. It settled into a medium-hard rubber and I like it more now than in the beginning.
The topsheet is tacky but not as much as a Hurricane 3 NEO. I’d say it’s more in line with newer Hybrid rubbers. It has the same level of tackiness as Rakza Z.
The Friendship 729, cut for my Tibhar Stratus Power Wood, weighs just 44 grams.
That’s very light, especially considering this is the maximum thickness (2.2mm). Most hard forehand rubbers at maximum thickness are usually around the 50-gram mark, some even surpass that.
The first time I tried to do a bounce test, the ball almost didn’t bounce at all.
I just did another bounce test after the 10 hours of use and it’s now just a bit less bouncy than the Rakza 7 soft. The rubber is noticeably softer and more lively now.
I glued the Super FX to my Tibhar Stratus Power Wood and tested it on the forehand side, as it’s a medium-hard tacky rubber.
I also tried it on my backhand side but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. The low throw, flat trajectory, and almost no bounciness make it very hard to use if you’re an offensive player.
This review is based on 10 hours of playing matches and drilling with 2 different partners, 8 hours with an early intermediate allround player, and 2 with an advanced two-winged looper.
The videos in this review were taken from a session with the advanced offensive player.
Driving and Looping
Driving and looping with this rubber was an area of strength. I found that these 2 techniques worked great when performing a stroke in between, we could call it a loop-drive (like the one Xi Enting did).
Driving is one of this rubber’s main strengths, particularly the Forehand Drive.
I hit the first few drives directly to the net until I changed my motion to be a bit stronger and more vertical. After I adjusted, drives were a joy to perform.
You feel in full control of the ball when driving. The Friendship 729 Super FX is absolutely pinpoint with its accuracy.
I’m not a player who likes to drive (I prefer to loop) but I found myself doing lots of drives when playing matches.
This is due to 2 reasons:
1) Driving is super safe and you can place the ball wherever you like on the table, you can even regulate the depth you want because this rubber is not bouncy. Drop shots are also easy to perform.
2) Blocking with this rubber is also safe, but not effective given its low speed. The ball just doesn’t catapult from the rubber. When I wanted to block, I just started driving the ball to add some extra speed and the problem was solved.
Looping with this rubber was generally good, though I encountered some limitations.
Firstly, open-ups against backspin were nothing short of sensational, especially when the rubber was broken in. Prior to that, open-ups were a bit more difficult to execute.
This rubber is exceptional for looping underspin because of its medium-low throw, its tackiness, and its speed level.
It’s very easy for the rubber to take a backspin ball, kill the spin with the stickiness, and turn it into a topspin open-up.
Open ups with an upwards motion created lots of spin and great safety over the net.
Counter topspins were also great because of the same reasons.
Regular looping is a bit harder, though. The rubber’s trajectory is quite flat. The ball can easily fall straight down after hitting your rubber, unlike most European rubbers.
With European rubbers, when you hit the ball, it goes up, then down. With the 729, the ball doesn’t go up unless you perform an upwards stroke. This means it’s very easy to send the ball long when playing close to the table.
When looping, I found that it was best to loop at 60-70% speed to keep the ball on the table. To attack my opponent successfully, I used mostly spin and placement.
The other thing you can do is wait for the ball to come down a bit and then hit upwards. You’ll get more spin and more safety.
I tried power looping close to the table, but the trajectory was too flat to get the ball down. I was only getting around 6 out 10 of these loops on the table.
What worked best, in my opinion, is using spin to get an opportunity then loop hitting a medium-high ball straight down at the table.
Medium/medium-low balls can’t be attacked with speed. You can loop with spin or drive, but if you want to hit with speed and spin, you won’t get the lift over the net and get the ball to drop. This is the main limitation of this rubber.
It doesn’t have the technology that newer rubbers have. You can’t just loop a medium height ball at 80% speed and wait for the rubber to do the rest.
However, the combination of possible strokes you can do with this rubber is more than enough to win matches up to an intermediate level.
If you set your tactics in a way in which you get the open-up, then a high ball that you can hit-loop, then this rubber is very effective and reliable.
You can also serve topspin and start driving or looping at 60-70% speed. You are not going to miss unless you make an error.
If you want to loop with power, this is probably not the rubber for you. This rubber is all about active play, rallies, and tactics (more on that later).
Serve and receive
Touch play with this rubber is excellent.
I could generate lots of spin on my serves, around the same as my Rakza 7, but this rubber has some added benefits.
With Rakza 7, I often have to choose between getting lots of spin and getting the ball to stay short. Serving with Super FX you can get tons of spin, the ball will stay short and go low over the net.
Every serve I attempted had extra spin. It was also easy to keep sidespin serves short and they had tons of lateral force.
Another thing I noticed is that I was more confident when attempting ace serves. The rubber had no bounce to it so I could just go for the ace serve and it was a lot more confidence-inspiring than with European rubbers.
As for the receive, touching short was effortless. Pushing long also was very easy and had lots of spin. If you wanted to push medium-long then counterattack, you could also do that easily.
Flicks, on the other hand, were hard to execute. The ball went long lots of times, and even if they landed, they didn’t carry good amounts of spin and speed.
If I had to receive backspin or no-spin serves, I’d always touch short or push long instead of flicking.
Blocking and chopping
Both blocking and chopping were super controllable with the Friendship 729, though I hardly ever performed these strokes.
I almost never blocked because it returned a very slow ball to the opponent, and I never chopped in games because I’m an offensive player.
As I said before, this rubber promotes active play and has almost no bounce to it, so it’s a lot more preferable to drive, loop, or chop the ball rather than block it.
Chopping was amazing. Chops were super easy to execute and created lots of backspin. It was also very easy to kill the spin on the ball and send a no-spin chop. You could create a devastating combination by varying between heavy backspin chops and no-spin chops.
This rubber, in my opinion, is the perfect inverted chopping rubber. It’s possible to create tons of spin, it’s medium-low throwing, and it has no bounce.
These qualities created vicious chops that stayed low over the net.
Alternatives to the Friendship 729 Super FX
The Yinhe Mercury 2 is a more modern take on classic Chinese rubbers such as the 729 Super FX. It has the same control as the Super FX but a lot more speed and spin.
A higher performance variant of the 729 Super FX. They’re quite similar in the sense that they’re both low-throwing and tacky but the H3NEO is faster and spinnier.
The Yasaka Rakza Z is an European variant you should consider. It’s very controllable, medium tacky, controllable yet very spinny and offensively capable.
Overall impressions of the Friendship 729 Super FX
As you could probably tell, my impressions about this rubber are mostly positive.
If you keep its limitations in mind, this is a super versatile rubber, mainly because it creates lots of spin and it’s super controllable. I wouldn’t get it if I was a power looper, but it’s very good for most other playstyles.
I think this is the perfect rubber for the developing player because it’s terrific for serving, receiving, and opening up. This opens a wide array of playstyles.
It’s very good for training not only your body but also your brain. What do I mean by this?
You can serve backspin, open up, and smash the following ball.
You can serve backspin and start chopping.
You can serve no-spin and start driving.
The possibilities are endless. You could execute set plays effortlessly, both on the serving and the receiving ends.
This rubber is very neutral and blade-dependant. If you put it on a defensive blade, it’s going to be perfect for chopping. If you put it on an attacking blade, it’s going to show the offensive facets of this rubber.
I think this rubber brings us back to the essence of the game. It requires us to move and think about tactics and placements, rather than just mindlessly hitting power loops and winning points from speed alone.
I think this rubber paired great with my blade and my backhand rubber. My blade is an offensive looping blade, which helped disguise the lack of speed.
My backhand rubber was Rakza 7 soft, a very controllable, spin-oriented rubber. I was able to play a very consistent, medium-speed game. Open ups on both sides were great and then I could enter very consistent rallies.
In matches against the early intermediate player, this rubber worked great. I was able to work the angles and use different combinations of loops and drives.
This added to the spinny serves this rubber produces, yielded great results.
Against the advanced player, it was evident that I needed something else. Against stronger players, I need to work myself and loop with power to get past them.
I was unable to get the speed I needed on my loops to beat him. He also noticed that my loops were slower and had less quality than normal.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed my time with the 729 Super FX and I discovered a great budget rubber that is suitable for every playing style, except for the looper who needs more speed and spin against strong opposition.
It’s an amazing value proposition and I will start recommending it to beginners and intermediates as a controllable, spinny forehand rubber from now on.
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!