TenZone Ultra is the latest rubber to be released by Adidas and they were kind enough to send me a sheet to test and review. This is the first time that I have done a full review for a piece of equipment and I know that equipment review posts are usually very popular so I will be trying to do more of these in the future.
Before I get started here is a bit of context that you might find relevant.
- I am an attacking player that largely uses Butterfly equipment. I have been playing with Butterfly’s Timo Boll Spirit blade and Tenergy 05 for the last 3-4 years. I will be making a lot of comparisons between TenZone Ultra and Tenergy 05 as that is what I’m used to playing with.
- Adidas sent me a free sheet of TenZone Ultra and their Avenger Carbon blade to try out and review. I am not working with them financially in any way and have no reason to promote or advertise their products besides to provide value to my readers.
- I have tried the TenZone Ultra rubber on their Avenger Carbon and my Timo Boll Spirit blade and have been using it for about two weeks. I decided that I should use it for a while and let myself get used to it instead of just using it once or twice.
- I am not an expert equipment tester and I’m not usually one for switching equipment regularly (I prefer to find a set-up I like and then stick with it) but I do understand differences in equipment and I’ve played for long enough to be able to compare and contrast different rubbers.
I had hoped to get a video review for the TenZone Ultra rubber and I even wanted to get the opinions of some of the top juniors at the English Schools Finals in Doncaster a few weeks back. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, so this will just be a text based review. I will try to be as detailed and clear as I can be and…
I’m excited to announce that I have just order a full HD Sony camcorder from Amazon this morning and videos will be on their way soon!
On with the review…
On first inspection of the rubber I thought the topsheet appeared very similar to Donic Bluefire. It had that same matt look and colour. The sponge was very light with quite large pores. The pimple structure seemed to be very similar to my Tenergy 05 but the sponge was probably slightly softer.
The ‘rubber positioning system’ gave me some amusement. Basically, they have three squares on the rubber that line up with the famous Adidas three stripes on the blade handle. I guess it does make it slightly easier to ensure the rubber is attached completely central but it was just the fact that they called these three squares a ‘rubber positioning system’ that made me laugh.
The first time I used Adidas TenZone Ultra was on their Avenger Carbon blade. I wasn’t used to the rubber or the blade so naturally I didn’t really get on with it. In particular there were three things that stood out;
- Speed: It was a very fast rubber. In my mind faster that Tenergy 05 and I wasn’t really expecting that.
- Throw Angle: The throw-angle was definitely lower for TenZone Ultra than Tenergy. This meant that a large number of my topspins were going off the end of the table and I found it hard to adjust.
- Countering: Every now and again it would feel like I had caught the ball just right on a topspin or counter-topspin and the ball would really ‘fly’ out of the sponge. It was hard to describe but felt pretty good.
I decided to switch the rubber onto my Butterfly blade for the full review.
TenZone Ultra Videos
Before I continue with my review here are a few videos produced by Adidas. I have to say it’s great to see such a big company such as Adidas investing in table tennis. I believe this will definitely be good for our sport in the long run.
I will breaking my review down into the three characteristics used by Adidas; speed, spin and precision. Actually, they use four with the fourth being ‘tolerance’ but I have no idea what this means!
As I’ve said already, I was initially surprised by the speed of TenZone Ultra. I was sure it was faster than my Tenergy 05 (but then again my T05 is a fair few months old now). After using it a few times I got used to the speed and was struggling to notice a huge amount of difference between my red TenZone Ultra and my black Tenergy 05. I either got used to it or it started to lose some of it’s ‘zip’ after a couple of weeks.
I did notice the extra speed every now and again on certain ‘off-the-bounce’ or counter-loop shots. I think this is due to the slightly softer sponge. Tenergy 05 has a hard sponge which means that it doesn’t really absorb the ball and then shoot it out again. Adidas’ TenZone Ultra does this and it does it well. It feels great when you get the timing right and feel the ball fly off your bat! It seems that Matt Hetherington noticed this too because in his review he wrote;
“The TenZone Ultra is a third ball rubber I felt, it’s great for making a snappy a fast paced third ball opening attack and can be used to hit some thundering attacking balls. It has a very crisp sound to it, much like a flat ball shot.”
I tried TenZone Ultra on my backhand and forehand and thought it was perfectly acceptable on both. The extra speed and less spin makes it ideal for punching on the backhand. Switch it onto the forehand and it performs well for your topspin-topspin rallies away from the table.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the lack of spin this rubber produced. As far as I’m concerned this is it’s major weakness. I feel that the topsheet of the Tenergy rubbers is better suited to creating spin. I haven’t used many other rubbers recently. I guess the spin is better than the Stiga Calibra rubbers I used a while back. Calibra was even more suited to fast flat hitting (neglecting spin). Tenergy, I feel, does a good job at balancing speed and spin, while TenZone Ultra is probably somewhere in the middle.
As I mentioned earlier, the throw angle of TenZone Ultra is slightly lower than Tenergy 05 and this meant that the rubber struggled when ‘picking up’ ball low backspin balls that are just dropping off the edge of the table. I also found that it performed slightly better if I took a step away from the table, as I was finding it hard to get the ball ‘up and down’ quick enough when up to the table.
If you like to play slow, spinny open-ups I think you will get on with TenZone Ultra. I tend to go for more powerful and flatter open-ups and therefore the throw angle didn’t really help!
TenZone Ultra is great for precision (aka control) largely due to the fact that it’s not that spinny. I found it great for blocking and was impressed by its accuracy. This is definitely a big strength as many of the newer rubbers can be difficult to use, especially for developing players. I think that most players will be able to use TenZone Ultra easily and effectively.
I used it for some blocking exercises with a practice partner and really enjoyed it. I was also able to use a bit of wrist and play a ‘kicky’ off-the-bounce counter-topspin to great effect. It seems that the rubber is great off-the-bounce and great away from the table but not so good for mid-distance or picking up any ball that’s dropping.
Short play was comfortable and very similar to Tenergy 05 when touching, pushing and flicking. I don’t have much else to say about it. It did exactly what I expected it to do.
It may be a little bit faster than Tenergy 05 (but not much), it may be a little bit softer than Tenergy 05 (but not much), it may be a little easier to control than Tenergy 05 (but not much), it may be a little bit less spinny than Tenergy 05 (but not much, actually it is a fair bit less spinny).
I wrote a post looking at some alternatives to Tenergy 05 before and I now feel that TenZone Ultra must be up there as one of the best. The slightly softer sponge might make it most similar to an FX equivalent. Not quite as good but I bet it’ll be a tad cheaper.
Personally, I do like Adidas TenZone Ultra. I like it quite a lot! But being a hardcore Tenergy user for the past few years I doubt it’s done enough to change my buying habits. It’s not even a question of price. Right now I feel that Tenergy 05 is the best rubber for my game so I’m going to continue to use that even if it does bankrupt me!