Historically, there have always been two categories of rubbers in table tennis, European/Japanese rubbers, and Chinese rubbers.
Recently, a new category of rubbers was created, hybrid rubbers. As the name implies, hybrid rubbers are a combination of both categories.
We are going to explain why table tennis rubbers are separated into three categories, what advantages and disadvantages each type of rubber has, and which type of rubber you should choose.
What’s the difference between Chinese Rubbers and European Rubbers?
The main difference between Chinese rubbers and European rubbers is that Chinese rubbers are tacky (sticky) while European rubbers are grippy.
Chinese rubbers rely on the stickiness of their topsheet to spin the ball whereas European rubbers rely on the grip of the topsheet to spin the ball.
In addition, Chinese rubbers are usually hard, whereas European rubbers can be found at any hardness range, be it soft, medium, or hard.
Lastly, European rubbers tend to be much faster than Chinese rubbers, as European rubbers tend to have tensor sponges and Chinese rubbers do not.
Also, the stickiness of the Chinese rubber’s topsheet slows down the ball considerably, so Chinese rubbers play a lot slower than European rubbers.
If we talk about typical Chinese rubbers such as the DHS Hurricane 3 NEO or offerings from Yinhe, Friendship 729, and similar brands, all Chinese rubbers tend to have more or less the same characteristics.
Chinese rubbers are tacky, hard, generally heavy, very spinny, low throwing, linear, and slow in comparison to European rubbers
Chinese rubbers are usually used for the forehand side since they are very hard rubbers and not very fast.
Players who play with Chinese rubbers need to play actively, perform their weight transfer correctly and have very good footwork.
Do to the lack of inbuilt tension, it’s difficult to generate high-quality shots if you don’t have a very high swing speed.
However, Chinese rubbers have some unique advantages over European rubbers.
Chinese players are the best in the world and they use Chinese rubbers over European ones due to many reasons.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using Chinese Rubbers
First of all, Chinese rubbers are linear, which means that the speed of the shots is proportional to the player’s swing speed.
European rubbers, on the other hand, have a lot of inbuilt tension, so at lower swing speeds, they are still quite fast, and at higher swing speeds, they tend to bottom out before Chinese rubbers.
This is why Chinese players usually have the upper hand in the serve and receive department, their rubbers are much more controllable at slow speeds than European rubbers.
Also, Chinese rubbers tend to get much more spin than European rubbers at higher swing speeds.
Another advantage of Chinese rubbers is that they are much better for the countertopspin shot. Chinese rubbers are very hard and tacky so it is very easy to put your own spin on the ball and ignore incoming spin.
Chinese rubbers are linear and not very fast, so you can perform counter topspins without losing control.
A key advantage that Chinese rubbers have over European rubbers is that they are much cheaper.
The Hurricane 3 NEO, for example, is a very popular, high-performance rubber that costs half the price of a typical European rubber, while having equal or greater durability.
If you want to play table tennis on a budget, look no further than Chinese rubbers.
The Friendship 729 Super FX rubber can be purchased for as little as $10, and other rubbers like the Yinhe Mercury 2 are perfectly usable for only $5. Even the Huieson Thunder that cost us $0.01 had good spin because of its tack.
Here’s a video of the 1 cent Chinese rubber in action:
The last advantage of Chinese rubbers is that they have a relatively low throw and loops kick downwards after bouncing on the table.
This characteristic makes it much more difficult to return counter loops played with a Chinese rubber vs a European rubber, since it’s a lot harder to counter a loop that doesn’t rise after its bounce.
The great disadvantage of Chinese rubbers is that they are much more difficult to use than European rubbers.
Chinese rubbers don’t put additional power on the ball, they are linear rubbers that only give you as much power as your swing speed. If you don’t have very high swing speeds, your shot won’t have as much power as it would with a European rubber.
Also, the low, flat throw of these rubbers makes them quite unforgiving. It’s very easy to overshoot the table or to clip the net as you don’t have the safety of rubbers with a higher arc.
Another disadvantage of Chinese rubbers is that they do not work well in humid environments since the stickiness is not effective and the rubbers can’t grip the ball properly.
These rubbers are also suboptimal for flat strokes, such as the smash, the block or the flat hit.
This is why the top Chinese players twiddle their rackets when smashing.
Chinese professional players use Chinese rubbers on the forehand side and European rubbers on the backhand side, and you’ll often see them twiddle their rackets to smash the ball with the European rubber.
In short, the pros and cons of the Chinese rubbers are the following:
- Immense spin.
- Very cheap.
- Low throw, kick effect.
- Better for serve and receive.
- Better for counter topspins.
- Harder to use.
- Hard to get as much speed as with
- Chinese rubbers struggle in high
- Bad for flat hitting and smashing.
European rubbers, unlike Chinese rubbers, are very slightly tacky or not tacky at all. This means that they rely almost solely on the grip of their topsheets to spin the ball.
In addition to this, the sponges of the European rubbers usually have much more advanced technology than that of the Chinese rubbers. Most topsheet and sponge innovation of that last 30 years has come in European rubbers.
The sponges of European rubbers tend to be highly tensioned and very porous, while the sponges of Chinese rubbers aren’t tensioned, they’re hard and very dense.
This makes European rubbers naturally much bouncier and faster than Chinese rubbers.
Advantages and Disadvantages of using European Rubbers
The great advantage of European rubbers over Chinese rubbers is that they are simply easier to use.
European rubbers have a catapult effect, so perfect footwork and perfect technique are not required to use them.
European rubbers are much more forgiving and have a much higher arch than Chinese rubbers.
Another advantage is that if you don’t have a very high swing speed, you can still achieve good quality loops since the rubbers are bouncy and help you achieve force in your shots.
Also, European rubbers are much more effective away from the table than Chinese rubbers as they have a much higher catapult effect and much less effort is required to hit hard shots with European rubbers.
European rubbers are also very good for flat shots, such as the block, the flat hit, or the smash since they have good safety and speed.
The biggest advantage of European rubbers is that they make attacking easier and a lot more dangerous. They achieve this effect by artificially adding power to our shots.
Some European rubbers, like the Butterfly Tenergy 05 make attacking seem almost effortless.
Here’s a video of the Tibhar Evolution MX-P demonstrating how fast some European rubbers can be.
However, European rubbers also have certain disadvantages.
They are not as good for the serve and receive game as they are quite bouncy and it’s hard to touch short.
Also, they are not as good as Chinese rubbers for countertopspin as they do not have the same control and spin insensitivity as tacky rubbers.
Another disadvantage is that European rubbers can hardly reach the spin levels that a Chinese rubber can reach.
Lastly, European rubbers are much more expensive than Chinese rubbers.
- Easier to use.
- European rubbers add speed to your shots.
- Balanced rubbers, they’re good for every
stroke in the sport.
- Better away from the table.
- Safer because of their higher arc.
- More expensive.
- Harder to play out the short game.
- Not as much top spin as Chinese rubbers.
- Harder to control speed-wise.
Should you use European or Chinese Rubbers?
For the vast majority of players, I’d recommend using European rubbers.
These rubbers are a lot more intuitive to use and most western coaches will teach the proper technique used for European rubbers (Chinese rubbers should be used with a slightly different technique).
They’re better than Chinese rubbers until advanced levels of play when the Chinese rubber’s strengths really show their true potential.
If you think about it, Chinese rubbers are better than European rubbers for players who have perfect footwork and very high swing speeds.
This means that they’ll only be worth it for very high-level players, and even then, European rubbers are just as good as Chinese rubbers.
Chinese rubbers are also only really worth it if you are willing to boost your rubbers. If you do so correctly, Chinese rubbers become a lot faster, softer, gain better feel and retain their characteristic spin, transforming them into weapons to be reckoned with.
Every Chinese professional player boosts their rubbers to get the best performance out of them.
However, for most amateur players this procedure would be quite the hassle as it needs to be carried out over several days and around once per month.
I would recommend Chinese rubbers for three types of players.
A) Players who don’t want to spend much on rubbers, since you can buy quality Chinese rubbers for as little as $5. European rubbers will typically set you back at least $35 per sheet, up to $94 for a sheet of Dignics.
B) Players who are willing to boost their Chinese rubbers around once per month to improve their performance.
C) Players who like to play very slow, spinny shots. Some players play better with Chinese rubbers, especially those who love to serve with tons of spin and play slow, spinny open-ups. Pushers can also benefit from using Chinese rubbers because of their low speed and high spin.
For players who’d like to try out tacky rubbers, I’d recommend offerings from the following category.
Hybrid rubbers are a recent invention of rubber manufacturers.
These rubbers have recently become very popular, to the point that a large number of professional players are using them.
As of writing this article, most Butterfly-sponsored players, like German legend Timo Boll or 2022 European champion Dang Qiu are using hybrid rubbers (in particular, the Butterfly Dignics 09c).
These rubbers are sticky like Chinese rubbers but have high-tech porous sponges like European rubbers.
The result is the best of both worlds, they are controllable rubbers with a lot of spin due to the stickiness but fast enough when you hit hard due to the hi-tech sponge.
If you want to try a tacky rubber, I recommend trying hybrid rubbers, as they have the benefits of Chinese rubbers without being as difficult to use.
I recommend the Yasaka Rakza Z, which I used for months and I found to be a very good rubber, and the Dignics 09c, which is currently used by hundreds of professional players.
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!