Part of the Expert Table Tennis range of rackets, the Palio Expert 3.0 is designed for the beginner player who’s looking to improve their technique.
It comes from a reputable brand (Palio) alongside a reputable coach (Ben Larcombe) so the signs are good.
I tested the racket to see how it stacks up against other beginner rackets. Based on 15+ years of playing experience and 8+ years of coaching beginners, was I impressed by the Palio Expert 3?
Where the Palio Expert 3.0 falls down is on the short game, with pushing or touches around the net. It’s hard to keep the ball short on return without giving your opponent an attacking opportunity. It’s also absolutely not for defenders, with chops having a high arc.
Perfect for: Beginners with 0 – 5 years experience who want to develop an aggressive, attacking style.
Table of Contents
Palio Expert Range
The Palio Expert sits within a product range alongside the Master and Legend. These offer slightly varying rackets split by skill level:
- Expert: Beginner
- Master: Intermediate
- Legend: Advanced
This range was designed by Palio in collaboration with Ben Larcome, a popular coach, blogger and podcast host. He shot to (online) fame in 2014 for running the Expert in a Year challenge in which he aimed to coach his friend (a total beginner) to an expert level within 12 months.
The Expert 3.0 is the third iteration of the design, with a slightly changed blade from the 2.0. However, the two rackets behave exceptionally similarly so most beginners wouldn’t notice any difference.
The collaboration between a Chinese brand and an online blogger/coach is an interesting one, so let’s see how the racket behaves.
Design of the Palio Expert 3.0
You Expert 3.0 will arrive in a simple fabric case with ‘Expert Table Tennis’ branding. I enjoy the design, but some of the threads were already coming loose on mine.
The case is missing any pockets (e.g for balls) and won’t provide a huge amount of protection. You might want to check out the best racket cases for something with a bit more protection and functionality.
As you’d expect, there isn’t much room for surprises in this package. You’re getting a racket, and a racket alone.
The Palio Expert 3.0 consists of a proprietary all-wood blade with two Palio CJ8000 rubbers, one red and one black.
The quality of the cutting around the edge is good on my racket, with edging tape that perfectly sits around the racket. This is a great feature as it’s easy for beginners to catch the racket on the table and damage the edge of the rubbers.
The handle is slightly flared and immediately sits nicely in the hand.
It’s hard to ignore that this is a thick racket though. The blade feels chunky in your hand and having 2 max thickness rubbers makes this racket feel a little clunky. That does have an impact on how it plays.
<Add Specifications Box line in JET400 Review from Affiliatable. Rubber thickness is 2.2mm, weight is 174g. Rest can be found from their website. Remind me to add in the affiliate links later>
Playtesting the Palio Expert 3.0
The Palio Expert 3.0 is not heavy by any means, weighing in at 174g. Most standard rackets are between 170g – 180g so it doesn’t feel particularly heavy or light, just comfortable.
I normally recommend a flared handle for beginners as it feels more ergonomic with a textbook shakehand grip, so this handle feels excellent.
Taking your first shot with the racket, you can’t help but notice the hollow sound on contact with the ball. It takes a few moments to get used to.
You then feel vibrations down the racket into your hand, certainly more so than other beginners rackets. Whilst this isn’t a major problem in itself, it can be ever so slightly off-putting.
Serving & Return
The CJ8000 rubbers on the Palio Expert 3.0 are lively. Whilst I had no problem serving consistently, I was struggling to keep the ball low enough over the net. You really sense that the rubbers are adding a lot of speed to the ball.
I found the most success playing fast, topspin serves long to my opponent’s crossover point. The racket was doing most of the work for me, creating lots of opportunities for attacking shots after their return.
Returning the ball was tough against any spinny serves, as the racket is very responsive to the spin generated. That meant playing returns short at the net resulting in the ball often popping up for my opponent to put away.
At a beginners level, these aren’t problems as you don’t need to play your returns as short, nor are you dealing with huge amounts of spin.
Instead, you need a racket that will help you get the ball back on the table, which the Palio Expert 3.0 does fantastically.
Driving and Looping
Due to the ‘active’ nature of the racket, there’s a slight lack of feeling when trying to drive the ball. It feels like the racket is trying to help you get the ball over the net, which has potential risks when it comes to developing good technique.
Some players will begin to rely on the racket, rather than developing correct technique.
In contrast, this racket excels at punching the ball.The racket has a relatively low arc so punch shots stay low to the net and contain a lot of power.
That means players who like to be aggressive and use power to win points, will love this racket.
That’s especially true when you step away from the table to loop the ball. You can generate tons of spin and power with the racket doing most of the work for you.
Blocking and Chopping
I loved blocking with the Palio Expert 3.0.
With the low throw angle and active rubbers, you just need to put the racket in the right place and you’ll find blocks heading back to your opponent with serious interest.
Because I didn’t need to worry about adding too much of my own power to blocks, I could focus on the angle of my racket and achieve incredible consistency when blocking.
In contrast, this is not a racket for chopping. The ball simply pops up high for your opponent, whatever you do, as a result of the bouncy, active rubbers. If you want to become a defender, I wouldn’t consider the Palio Expert 3.0.
Overall reflections on the Palio Expert 3.0
This is a great racket for a beginner, much better than any basic premade rackets you get from your local sports shops.
This will suit anyone looking to develop a more aggressive, offensive playing style with between 0 – 5 years of experience.
You’re going to find there is a lack of finesse to this racket, where you might struggle on the softer, more technical shots. Instead, you’ll need to play a more attacking game and dominate your opponents.
Have you tried this racket before? Let me know what you thought in the comments below! I hope you found my Palio Expert 3.0 review useful.
David's been playing Table Tennis since he was 12, earning his first coaching license in 2012. He's played in national team & individual competitions, although he prefers the more relaxed nature of a local league match! After earning his umpiring qualification in England, David moved to Australia and started Racket Insight to share information about the sport he loves.
Blade: Stiga WRB Offensive Classic | Forehand: Calibra LT | Backhand: Xiom Musa
Playstyle: All-Round Attacker