Whether you’re wanting a new hobby, returning to court after a long hiatus or a regular player, one thing’s for certain: you’ll want a reliable badminton racket in your hand.
But what needs to be considered when choosing the right one for you? Stuart Preston of online badminton retailer BadmintonHQ, a current UK top 50 mixed doubles badminton player and coach, says: “The first question you’ll want to ask is what style of player are you, or what type of player do you want to become? Power attacking, all round, have fast reactions to rallies, or use control and touch to move players around the court to create space?
“Most players will say they want to play a fast, attacking game, but to win you need more than just a powerful smash. Technically, there are three important aspects you want to look for when choosing a racket and that is balance, shaft stiffness or flexibility, and weight.”
We scoped out a range of rackets, putting them through the paces of both singles and doubles games. We took into consideration where the weight has been shifted on the racket for balance; whether it’s head heavy (attack and power), even (versatility) or head light (fast reactions).
Weight came into play, too. While it’s personal preference on your game type, weight affects reaction speeds and power: too light and the racket may not be powerful enough; too heavy and quick movements can become difficult.
We also paid close attention to the flex in the racket shaft to see how stiff or flexible it is. While attacking players will want a stiff shaft for power, a flexible shaft will provide extra whip action to provide a more powerful shot, and medium flex suiting more of an all rounder.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best badminton rackets for 2021 are:
Best overall – Babolat satelite gravity 74: £67.99, Badmintonhq.co.uk
Best for speed – Ashaway phantom helix: £114.99, Goode-sport.co.uk
Best for developing power – Victor thruster lightfighter 30 badminton racket blue: £79.99, Clubrackets.com
Best for singles – Yonex astrox 100ZZ: £175.99, Badmintonhq.co.uk
Best lightweight racket – Karakal black zone lite badminton racket: £82, Karakal.com
Best for fast reactions – Forza light 1.1 badminton racket (blue fish): £34.60, Directbadminton.co.uk
Best for serves – Karakal ER zen zone pro badminton racket: £125, Karakal.com
Best for control – Victor driveX 9x badminton racket, frame only (2020): £143.94, Stringersworld.com
Best for attacking players – Ashaway nanoqube X1: £145.99, Good-sporte.co.uk
Best for beginners – Yonex astrox smash badminton racket, black/orange: £33.98, Badmintonhq.co.uk
Best for smash – Dunlop nanoblade savage woven lite: £69.99, Onbuy.com
Babolat satelite gravity 74
Weighing in at 74g, this racket feels intuitive to the touch. And it’s no surprise it’s so well executed, given that Babolat is the world’s oldest racket sports company – it was founded in 1875 in Lyon, France. The satelite gravity 74 flies through the air at rapid speed and feels at home at any part of the court, whether playing fast defensive shots at the net, or smashing it from the back of the court. Given it’s a head-light racket, and has Babolat’s lightest frame, the power is just as impressive as the speed. We found this racket really picks up the slack, so if you don’t hit the shot quite as you had planned, it helps you out. A very forgiving racket, whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned player, you’ll appreciate the all-roundedness and manoeuvrability.
Buy now £67.99, Badmintonhq.co.uk
Ashaway phantom helix
Best: For speed
At 85g, this is the joint heaviest racket we tested, but what surprised us the most is the speed in the air that comes with it. The rapid air speed is due to the “phantom airflow system”: it’s thinner at the top, allowing for a faster swing. That’s not its only unique design feature, as it also boasts a cosmetic weave, which doesn’t just look swish, but also contributes towards the velocity. With a medium-stiff shaft, we loved playing with this racket at the net as it has superb control, a great push and that whip speed to win points.
Buy now £114.99, Goode-sport.co.uk
Victor thruster lightfighter 30 badminton racket blue
Best: For developing power
The name “lightfighter” summarises the performance of this racket from Victor well. Weighing 77g, it feels light in the hand, and is ideal for players who don’t possess much power in their arm. Thanks to the head-heavy balance, it really gives that extra bit of smash power, combined with some great speed and flexibility and a super-flexible shaft. This racket is very manoeuvrable and easy to handle, and feels comfortable at any part of the court. It will really help to build your power in shots, thanks to the brand’s “thruster” technology.
Buy now £79.99, Clubrackets.com
Yonex astrox 100ZZ
Best: For singles
Can a badminton racket be worth this price tag? We think most advanced players would agree, in the case of the Yonex astrox 100ZZ, that the answer is yes. On first inspection, we were instantly drawn by how slim the shaft is, particularly for a power-focused racket, and the 100ZZ features the slimmest shaft ever produced by Yonex, and certainly the most slender of those we reviewed. This takes away the usual clunkiness you get with a head-heavy racket, and allows you to swing at great pace. We also pay kudos to the “energy boost cap” for increasing the flexibility, and it’s great for those who like to place their thumb at the top of the grip while serving, as there’s a little indent for the thumb to sit comfortably.
This is the racket of former world, European and all England singles champion Victor Axelson, and singles games are where this racket is best placed due to the sheer power, but this is equally matched with balance, control and speed so it performs well in doubles too. An added benefit, and unique for a racket of this calibre, is that it can be purchased in two different weights – 3U (85g-89g), better for singles play or 4U (80g-84g), more suited to doubles – so it is somewhat customisable. You’ll also need to sort your own strings, but it does come with a swanky bag.
Buy now £175.99, Badmintonhq.co.uk
Karakal black zone lite badminton racket
Best: Lightweight racket
At 70g, the Karakal black zone lite is the lightest of all the rackets we tested. But we assure you that light doesn’t mean limp, as the heavier head combined with its “fast fibre nano gel” construction brings a power to shots, leaving the light frame to speed up your game. A good level for intermediate players, the fast fibre allows the frame to return to shape 10 per cent quicker after a shuttle strike. And while we can’t comment on whether this was the case during play, we did find this racket somewhat forgiving, as it helped us to achieve straighter and flatter shots. There’s a handy thumb print on the cap, which helps when acing those flicking serves.
Buy now £82.00, Karakal.com
Forza light 1.1 badminton racket (blue fish)
Best: For fast reactions
Innovations from Denmark usually carry a certain expectation, and the FZ Forza Light 1.1 racket didn’t disappoint on court. For us, this racket is perfectly designed for doubles players, providing fast reactions, accuracy and power, which is great for speed rallies at the net and defensive play. With an even balance, and medium flex, this is a great all rounder at a very cash-friendly price. At 82g, it’s classed as lightweight, but gives more power to shots than some of the others at a similar weight, while feeling light in the hand. The pale colours on the frame and handle also make a welcome change from the predominantly darker-shaded rackets.
Buy now £34.60, Directbadminton.co.uk
Karakal ER zen zone pro badminton racket
Best: For serves
If you not only play badminton but also follow the world competitions, the name Ethan Rose – England Badminton’s U19 star – will sound familiar to you. He’s worked alongside Karakal to develop a racket that is weighted and balanced to his own specifications.
So, while it’s good enough for the world’s U19 number four, what did we think? Weighing 84g, it actually feels surprisingly quick in the air, but thanks to the “fast fibre nano gel” construction, this racket allows you to create maximum power without losing control when the shot is returned. The thumb print on the cap really helps when taking short serves, making the flick action feel more natural. We also found this one of the comfiest rackets to play with, and that’s predominantly down to Karakal’s PU super grip, which gives a plush feel due to the thickness and absorbency.
Buy now £125.00, Karakal.com
Victor drivex 9x badminton racket, frame only (2020)
Best: For control
The top model of well-known Taiwanese brand Victor’s driveX series is the 9x, which is one of the newest rackets we reviewed. And it does feel forward-facing in terms of technology: it’s equipped with a “free core” synthetic handle, which took the brand three years to develop. It was time well spent, as this racket feels intuitive and easy to use. An evenly balanced racket with a stiffer shaft allows for a superlative level of control to your game. Weighing 85g, the driveX 9x tightens up your game with stability and accuracy, making it very good doubles racket, particularly with defence shots and players with decent power in attack. It’s worth noting that this frame comes unstrung.
Buy now £143.94, Stringersworld.com
Ashaway nanoqube X1
Best: For attacking players
The first thing that has to be noted about Ashaway’s nanoqube X1 racket is the striking gold chrome finish, which to us says this racket means business. And it certainly does. For those at an advanced level, this easy to use, incredibly stable racket is perfect for an all-round player who likes to attack... and attack and attack again. It’s approaching a head-heavy balance and weighs 84g, which means the power is there for shots, but it’s also a very responsive racket that’ll go the distance. The new “qubatech” tehcnology corrects racket head orientation during your swing, for a clean impact on your opponents.
Buy now £145.99, Goode-sport.co.uk
Yonex astrox smash badminton racket, black/orange
Best: For beginners
If you’re just starting out on the court, or perhaps returning to the sport after many years, you’ll be in good company with the Yonex astrox smash racket, from one of the sport’s most reputable brands. It costs just shy of £35 and we wondered how that would translate into a racket, but it’s safe to say the outcome is strong. Weighing just 73g, this is a super-light racket, but thanks to the head-heavy balance and high flex, it packs plenty of power, which you’ll certainly feel from the back of the court.
The control support cap has a wide flat surface – in fact, it’s quoted as 88 per cent wider when compared with an ordinary racket – that makes it easier when gripping, plus quick manoeuvrability, which comes in handy when you’re learning the ropes. The sweet spot also felt pretty favourable, which could help players with off-centre hits. The only shortfall is you’ll need to buy a racket cover, as this only comes with a basic head cover.
Buy now £33.98, Badmintonhq.co.uk
Dunlop nanoblade savage woven lite
Best: For smash
Need help nailing your smash? The Dunlop nanoblade savage woven lite could be the racket for you. We found this racket to be quick through the air, and a good all-rounder. Thanks to the low weight (78g), medium flex and heavy head balance, it handles a range of shots well. We found it came into its own when practising the smash stroke, as even without huge power, it attacks well thanks to the sweet spot positioning, which has been moved up for maximum smash power. This racket is a trusty companion for powerful swings on a light racket. It comes with a cover, but we think you’ll want to show off the cool silver holographic detailing. Plus if you’re comparing equipment notes with other players, you’ll find all the stats on the racket itself.
Buy now £69.99, Onbuy.com
The verdict: Badminton rackets
We couldn’t fault the Babolat satelite gravity 74. It is unbelievably powerful for a racket so light and very forgiving on off-centred shots, plus it’s well priced at less than £70. For more advanced players, the Ashaway nanoqube is a force to be reckoned with.
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