If you’re looking to purchase some table tennis balls, then you’ll notice that most of them have a star rating. But what does this mean? In this article, I’ll be comparing one, two and three star ping pong balls so you can decide which option is the most suitable for you.
Table Tennis Ball Star Ratings
The higher the table tennis ball’s star rating is, the better the quality. Three-star balls are the most durable and offer the best playing experience. One-star balls are softer so break more easily but are much cheaper than three-star balls. Two-star balls are designed mostly for training.
- Three-star balls: designed for tournaments and practice for high-level players
- Two-star balls: designed for training
- One-star balls: designed for casual non-competitive players
Star Rating Basics
Ping pong balls are grouped according to their star ratings. There are 4 types of star rating:
- No stars
- One star
- Two stars
- Three stars
The higher the star rating, the better quality the balls are. However, star ratings are not standardised so different brands will have different requirements for one, two and three star ratings. For instance, a two-star ball from one brand may actually be the same quality as a three-star ball from another brand.
Some brands will also have 4 and 5 star balls, which will usually equate to 2 and 3-star balls, respectively. It just means the brand uses a 5-star scale instead of a 3-star scale.
Since the star ratings are not standardised, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) also has its own requirements.
It’s important to know that all ITTF-approved table tennis balls will have a 3-star rating, but not all 3-star rated balls will be ITTF-approved.
Here’s a quick guide to the ITTF’s table tennis ball requirements:
- Must be white or orange
- Must have a matte finish
- Can only have one seam
- Must weigh between 2.67g and 2.77g
- Diameter must be between 40.00 mm and 40.60 mm
- Must be spherical: the difference between the min and max diameters should be less than 0.25 mm
- Must rebound to a height of 240-260mm when dropped from a 305mm steel block
- The stamp may not cover an area greater than mm²
- Only 1 or 2 colours may be used for the stamp
- Can be made from celluloid or other similar plastics e.g. ABS
Differences Between Star Ratings
Different table tennis ball star ratings are determined by the overall quality of the ball. This is affected by the following:
- Consistency and Quality Control
The harder a ping pong ball is, the better it will bounce and the more durable it will be. Three star balls are thicker and use better quality materials so are harder than one star balls. One star balls are comparatively soft compared to two and three star balls so will misshape more easily and not bounce as well.
Three-star ping pong balls are heavier than two-star and one-star balls. This is because they are made from stronger (denser) materials which makes them less likely to break. It also helps them to bounce better. Check out this table comparing the weight of Vermont table tennis balls.
|Vermont Ball Star Rating||Weight Range||Average Weight||Difference Between Min and Max Range|
|One Star||2.35-2.63 g||2.49 g||0.28 g|
|Two Star||2.40-2.53 g||2.47 g||0.13 g|
|Three Star||2.53-2.62 g||2.58 g||0.09 g|
You’ll notice from the table that the three star Vermont ball does not fulfil the ITTF regulations since it is too light. However, what’s interesting is the variability in the weight ranges. The one and two star balls have a pretty similar weight and in fact the one star ball is actually heavier.
However, the variability decreases as the star rating increases. For example, the one star ball has a 0.28 g weight variability, meaning one ball in the pack may weigh 2.35 g and another may weight 2.63 g. However, with the 3 star ball, the range is only 0.09 g.
Quality Control and Consistency
Three star balls undergo much more rigorous quality control procedures compared to one and two star balls. This means three star balls will have more consistent speed, spin and bounce. This is impacted by the physical characteristics, meaning that three star balls will have a stricter weight, thickness and hardness criteria compared to one and two star balls. Three star balls are also more spherical compared to lower rated balls which gives them more bounce and spin consistency.
Up until 2014, table tennis balls were made out of celluloid but now they are made from plastic. The highest quality plastic used to make ping pong balls is called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). The higher the percentage composition of ABS, the better quality the ball will be and the higher star rating it will earn.
|Ball Star Rating||Typical Composition|
|One Star||60-70% ABS or Polystyrene|
|Two Star||80-90% ABS|
|Three Star||100% ABS|
The overall better quality of three star balls compared to two and one star balls means that they are a lot more expensive.
Three star ping pong balls are typically 4 times more expensive than one star balls and twice as expensive as two star balls. Two star balls are typically twice as expensive as one star balls. One star balls are only slightly more expensive than zero star balls.
|Star Rating||Average Price (6 balls)|
Which Star Rating Should You Buy?
If you are just playing casually in your home then a one-star table tennis ball is suitable. However, if you are playing competitively, then a three-star ball is the best option because it will be the same type that is used in tournaments.
There is not a massive amount of difference between one and two star balls so in most cases the one star ball is the best option because it offers more value for money and similar performance to the two star ball. However, if you are playing competitively, then it’s worth investing in the three-star balls instead as they are significantly better quality than most two-star balls.
Best Table Tennis Balls
Here are some top picks, each with a link to Amazon so you can check the current price.
Stiga 3 Star Balls
- ITTF Regulation Size and Weight
- Available in white and orange
Franklin One Star Balls
- ITTF Regulation Size and Weight
- Good value for money
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