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How to choose your best table tennis balls

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In the previous blog on how to hold the table tennis racket in the best way, we introduced several different grips of ping pong. Today we are going to share with you some knowledge about ping pong balls.

Buying ping pong balls seem to be an easy thing, but actually, not all balls are the same. When it comes to choosing the table tennis balls, the most important thing is to test the hardness. Because it will directly affect you when playing the games. 

However, different balls have different ratings and, of course, different hardness and feeling when hitting the ball. In the following part, we will introduce the history of the revolution of ping pong balls and the difference between distinct types of balls.

table tennis balls

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Ball

Table tennis originated in the United Kingdom, which was popular at the end of the 19th century. At that time, some college students in the UK used the dining table as a table indoors to imitate tennis to play. Later, it was spread in the United Kingdom as an indoor game and was named “table tennis.”

Ping pong ball was first invented in Victorian England in the 1800s, and the first ball was made of rubber and cork. In 1926, ITTF(the International Table Tennis Federation) was established, which is one of the most important organizations in the world currently.

What Does 40+ Ping Pong Ball Mean?

There were two significant reforms of table tennis balls in history, one was in 2001, and another was in 2014.

In 2001, ITTF reformed the diameter of the table tennis ball from 38mm to 40mm. The main reason for the reform is to generate less spin and make the ball slower so that there would be more rounds in matches. In this way, it would become more appealing to the audience.

Then in 2014, another reform was issued: the material of table tennis balls has been changed from celluloid to non-flammable plastic balls. Sometimes we could notice “40+” on the ball nowadays, which refers to the new material.

So some people may wonder why the ping pong balls have a ‘+’ symbol on them, and it is actually linked to the new rule changes set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The ‘+’ stands for the new size that the diameter of the ball should be 40mm, with a difference of up to 0.5 millimeters allowed before they are disqualified. 

And another difference between 40+ balls and balls without a “+” is the material. The old ping pong balls contain a core of celluloid or plastic resin. But the 40+ balls are actually plastic balls.So make sure that you purchase the balls with a “+”.

The reform has influenced many professional players. One of the most typical examples is Liu Guoliang, who retired after the reform in 2001 as all of his advantages disappeared in the era of “bigger balls.”

Also, there are some players complaining about the new material of the ping pong ball due to its poor quality. So later, with the latest ABS material, the quality of ping pong balls improved a lot.

table tennis balls

Is There a Difference in Table Tennis Balls?

Absolutely there is a huge difference in table tennis balls. We can distinguish the difference by the stars on the ball. Usually, there are several kinds of balls:

  • Non-stared ping pong balls 
  • 1-star ping pong balls
  • 2-star ping pong balls
  • 3-star ping pong balls

We usually buy table tennis balls according to our purpose and decide which kind to buy.

What do the stars on table tennis balls mean?

Many people are confused about the meaning of the stars on ping pong balls. A star rating system is used to denote the quality of the ball. 0-stars are usually made from lower-quality materials and are not designed to last long. These stand for practice as they are much cheaper than higher-quality balls.

1-2 Star balls stand for standard as they have better quality and are bouncy.  Of course, if you need the best of the best, then 3 Star balls are top-notch. They are highly durable and built with exact specifications to ensure they provide an outstanding bounce.

Choose the right table tennis ball for you

For casual play:

If you want to play casually, then it doesn’t matter the material or the color. I can still recall that when I was a little kid in primary school, we played some yellow and cheap ping pong balls on the outdoor tables in the playground.

But actually, the ping pong tables were made of stone, so it’s pretty common that the balls were easily broken. I remember that once we destroyed six balls during a PE class as we smashed a lot!

So if you only play it for once or casually, you can buy some non-star balls in bulk. It can be accessed everywhere, even in some small stores. The only tip is that I suggest you shouldn’t buy really cheap balls as they have poor bounce and are easy to break, which may bring you a bad experience.


table tennis balls

For training:

Training with a quality ball is essential for any table tennis player or team. Having the right tools to practice and perfect your ping pong skills is essential. That’s why we suggest buying 1-star or 2-star ping pong balls if you’re looking to train.

These quality balls offer reliable accuracy, bounce, spin, and durability. If you need long hours of training without changing the ball frequently, the 1-star and 2-star balls will not disappoint! 

That is because we usually need multi-ball training or sometimes we have to train with a table tennis robot.  In such cases, we need a huge number of balls instead of only one or two balls. So some 3-star balls can be kind of expensive if you buy lots of them. So some 1-star or 2-star balls are quite a great choice.

table tennis balls
Table tennis multiball training

For matching:

If you are looking for the perfect ping pong balls to use in a competitive match, it is best to go with 3-star ping pong balls. This is because 3-star ping pong balls are designed for the highest level of play, making them the ideal choice for tournaments and serious matches.

Plus, these balls offer enhanced speed, accuracy, and rotation thanks to their high-quality construction. 3-star ping pong balls are genuinely the top of the line when it comes to competitive play, and they can help elevate your game to reach its full potential.

When I started learning table tennis, almost all the matches used 3-star balls. No matter if I played in China or Europe, nobody would use a training ball for the match. The common thing is that before the crucial match, we often train with 3-star balls in order to be used to them in advance.

What Ping Pong Balls Are Used in the Olympics?

The Olympics are a serious business regarding sports and competition, so only the highest quality balls can be employed. 3-star balls from Nittaku, Double Fish, Butterfly, Joola, and DHS all offer consistent performance, which is why they are chosen for Olympic events.

Depending on the season, different manufacturers’ 3-star balls may be used to ensure constant top-quality round after round. There is no exact so-called official ball or brand. Each time ITTF will choose one manufacturer and use their ball. We can reference the official website of ITTF, which has a list of detail about all the balls they used.

Here we will introduce several ordinary 3-star balls, which we often use in formal matches like the league or some tournaments.

  • Nittaku 40+

Nittaku is one of the world’s most recognizable brands of recreational and competition table tennis products. Established in 1920, The Japanese company has made a name for itself by providing high-quality table tennis equipment, including balls used in the Olympics Games held in Tokyo 2020, Rio 2016, and Beijing 2008.

As the official ball supplier of those three Olympic games, Nittaku provides table tennis enthusiasts with quality equipment that meets international standards. Their superior selection of products and excellent reputation make them a go-to brand for those looking to purchase quality table tennis equipment.

In fact, we use Nittaku 40+ in Spain’s national and super league.

table tennis balls
Nittaku table tennis ball 40+
  • Joola 40+

Joola is a German-based, world-renowned brand of high-quality table tennis equipment. With its combination of modern technology, ergonomic designs, and innovative features, Joola has garnered praise from professional and amateur players alike. Customers know they can depend on Joola’s products to exceed their expectations – in terms of performance, durability, and craftsmanship.

table tennis balls
Joola table tennis ball 40+
  • Butterfly 40+

Butterfly is a world-renowned Japanese table tennis brand, boasting many years of excellence. Words alone cannot do justice to their experience and performance in the table tennis market; for more than 15 world championships, Butterfly has proudly been the supplier of competition balls.

Their high-quality standards as well as their commitment to helping athletes achieve success have made them one of the most popular brands amongst players all over the globe.

table tennis balls
Butterfly table tennis ball 40+
Although ping pong balls come in various qualities, there is no such thing as a 4- or 5-star ping pong ball. Sometimes we may find such 4-star or 5-star balls on the market, but they are totally FAKE! That’s because some small manufacturers don’t have the basic knowledge or common sense of the regulation made by ITTF.
They just add stars on balls casually to deliver a message: My balls are all high-quality. But such kinds of balls usually are produced by some unknown small factory and may have very poor quality.


Whether you’re a competitive table tennis player who wants to access the best quality equipment on the market or someone who just wants to have some fun and pick up the game as a hobby or for coaching purposes, there are plenty of options when it comes to choosing your ping pong ball.

For the competition among us, an ITTF-approved competition standard ball is your best bet if you want maximum bounce, accuracy, and durability that can meet all official regulations. Although slightly more costly than other options, it will definitely be worth shelling out the extra investment.

If you’re more of a casual player, however, there are plenty of viable alternatives, such as butterfly balls with one-star or two-star ratings, meaning they’re still high quality but don’t come with as much expense.

Now that you know how to choose the right ping pong ball for your needs, what are you waiting for? Get started today!

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