Pickleball Gear

Gearbox CX14E - pickleball paddle review

picture of Brandon Mackie
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Aug 9, 2023

The Gearbox CX14E pickleball paddle on a blue background

The Gearbox CX14E is the kind of paddle you'll either love or hate. It can either elevate or challenge your game, depending on how you play and how long you spend getting used to it.

This paddle has a big reputation, so I was really excited to try it out on the courts. Check out my review below to see what I made of it.

My verdict4.0star iconThe Gearbox CX14E is a control paddle. It's well-suited to players who like a more traditional game with drops and dinks, but who also want a little more spin and performance than you'd typically get from a dedicated 'control' paddle. This is not a forgiving paddle, and it really takes getting used to—beginners and lower intermediates will likely struggle with it. Aggressive players won't like the lack of power either. This is definitely a paddle you either love or hate—it's really well built with premium materials, and if you can master the spin and unique feel this paddle could be your best friend. That's why I definitely recommend trying out this paddle before committing to buying.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You want a long-lasting paddle.

    If you're always having to replace your paddle, you'll love the CX14E's durability.

  • You want to improve your control game.

    This is a really great soft paddle, with excellent control and spin—especially on drives and backhands.

  • You like spin.

    I gave this 9/10 for its excellent spin.

Pass if:

  • You're an aggressive player.

    There won't be enough power in this paddle for you.

  • You want a plush paddle.

    The CX14E feels stiff and solid.

  • You need something forgiving.

    The sweet spot on this paddle is on the small side, and you'll struggle with its lack of forgiveness.

Paddle Weight

8 oz

Paddle Length

16 ⅝"

Paddle Width

7 ⅜"

Handle Length

5 ⅝"

Grip Circumference

3 ⅝" or 3 ¹⁵⁄₁₆"

Paddle Face Material

3K woven carbon fiber ribbed

Core Material

Toray T-700 carbon fiber

Core Thickness

14 mm (0.55")

Sweet Spot

Small

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Review summary

Gearbox is known for making thin paddles with strong, carbon fiber designs, and the CX14E is their thickest paddle yet at 14 mm. The 'E' refers is the elongated version, which offers great reach and is excellent for two-handed shots.

Before I say what I liked, though, I have to mention something. This paddle took me a long time to get used to. Gearbox paddles play like no other I've used.

They have a unique, poppy, stiff feel. Some people love this, but in my first play session, almost every shot except for my serve felt alien to me. I had a really hard time getting good volley returns against hard drives and I couldn't play as aggressively as I wanted.

Check out my initial thoughts here:

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Volleys weren't going deep, and defensive resets were popping up, so my opponent could drive back at me. My overhead smashes lacked the 'oomph' I get from my other performance paddles, like the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion and the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta.

I also found the sweet spot to be small, with a surprising amount of dead zones. Lots of my forehand drives were sailing long in the beginning. Dinks also weren't always accurate, with many hitting the net.

However, one area that was amazing from the start was serving. I found the CX14E to have the perfect blend of power, control, and spin to take my serves to the next level.

The poppy face helped here, sending my serves deep. The spin let me swing hard, and the level of control was enough to make sure I had consistent accuracy.

In my first 2-hour testing session, I maybe missed 1 or 2 serves. There were 3–5 point runs I won almost entirely off my serve with this paddle. It definitely tilted the odds in my favor and helped me win more games each time out.

Brandon Mackie showing off the Gearbox CX14E pickleball paddle

Beyond serves, drop shots shone the most. I could hit a controlled topspin drop from the baseline or transition zone that stayed low and often dove at my opponents' feet.

These usually set up a strong 5th shot from the kitchen line. A few times, the drops were so good my opponents blanked on them and we won the point outright.

Once I got more used to this paddle, my drives improved a lot, but I had to learn to flick my wrist to engage the spin. I also realized you can easily take pace off the ball when you need to, as this paddle does have some excellent control qualities.

Pros:

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  • Amazing on the serve—deep and consistent with lots of spin, control, and power

  • Excellent for drop shots, catching my opponent out repeatedly

  • A really well built paddle using the best materials, so it has great durability

Cons:

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  • This paddle really takes getting used to

  • Lacking in power—it has a really soft feel and you have to learn to generate your own power

  • Surprisingly poppy on dinks and drives

Features

Gearbox is one of the most popular paddle makers because of how unique they are. Nothing else feels like a Gearbox paddle, and you either love them or hate them. For that very reason, everyone is super interested in testing them.

The CX14E is the elongated version of the 14 mm paddles built to update the CX11. They are the thickest so far from Gearbox, who are known for making thin paddles.

So, let's see what kind of tech they put in this range, and how it held up on the courts.

Solid span technology (SST)

This patented technology is unique to Gearbox. From what I understand, it's a solid carbon core that spans throughout the paddle (but don't quote me on that). What I could see from my testing was that it's designed to blend power and control, and it worked to some extent.

I had good control on drop shots, while also hitting hard, deep, powerful serves almost every time. That said, I suspect this tech is what gives Gearbox paddles their unique feel. It takes a lot of getting used to and creates a love/hate relationship among players.

Brandon Mackie holds out the Gearbox CX14E pickleball paddle

Hyper-bite spin technology

This is the name Gearbox gives to the combination of an SST core, a 3K woven carbon fiber paddle face, and the coat and texture they apply to that face.

What's interesting is that Gearbox faces are pretty smooth, yet still get a ton of spin. This shows that you don't always need a gritty face to generate awesome spin.

Enhanced sweet spot

Gearbox claims they boosted the sweet spot from their CX11 and GBX collections by repositioning the carbon fiber. But I didn't get this. The paddle was noticeably unforgiving, especially on my first time out, and I had a lot more mishits than I liked.

Performance

6/10

Power

8/10

Control

9/10

Spin

6/10

Forgiveness

9/10

Weighting

8/10

Grip

9/10

Durability

7/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 6/10

This is definitely not a power paddle. I had to adjust my game to get the power I wanted, but found that if I swung really hard I could get some power.

The paddle's control and spin qualities helped some, so I felt confident swinging hard. But I know a lot of people will struggle with this aspect.

Control: 8/10

The Gearbox CX14E plays soft. It takes a lot of speed off the ball, especially on returns of hard shots. You can even hit volley drops that land so shallow they're almost unreturnable. There aren't many paddles that can do that.

You can easily hit accurate drop shots too. However, I did find that getting good dinks—a key part of the control game—was oddly challenging, especially on my first testing.

My dinks were inaccurate, going too long or too short, and even into the net at times, which I don't usually do. I was surprised by this, which is why I docked it a couple of points for control.

Spin: 9/10

The spin on this paddle is really great, and for me personally, this was its best quality during my practice sessions. Despite its smooth face, you can generate excellent backspin and side spin. Even my hard topspin serves were on fire.

Forgiveness: 6/10

This was surprising to me. Given its elongated shape, I did expect a lower sweet spot, but I assumed the edgeless design would make up for some of that. Instead, what I found was a small sweet spot with dead spots near the handle and edges.

The ball popped up a lot more than I'd have liked. Dinks and routine volleys were easy to mishit. You really need to connect near the center of the paddle face to get good accuracy.

Weighting: 9/10

I liked the weight of this paddle. At 8 oz, it felt precise thanks to the carbon fiber build quality. It wasn't head-heavy like the JOOLA Hyperion or the CRBN-1X Power Series. Because of the midweight, you can add your own weight wherever you like and customize it to suit your game.

Grip: 8/10

I thought the grip was good quality. It felt premium and comfortable. At 5 ⅝", the handle is long which makes it great for two-handed shots and backhands.

Durability: 9/10

This definitely feels like a long-lasting paddle. It's built out of pure carbon fiber. Others who've played with it longer than me have said that it stands the test of time.

A lot of polymer paddles wear down or even break after 6 months to a year, but I have a feeling the CX14E will last a lot longer than that. You can feel the stability in your hands.

Aerodynamics: 7/10

I didn't find much that was special here. It didn't drag, but it didn't feel especially zippy like, say, the JOOLA Ben Johns Perseus CFS. If you're looking for a paddle that flies, consider one like the Selkirk Power Air Invikta.

Is this paddle right for you?

Before buying a paddle, it's important to make sure it fits your game. That's why I created a 30-second quiz that recommends the best paddles for your play style and budget.

Give it a try and see if the Gearbox CX14E makes the list:

Find the perfect paddle

Find the perfect paddle

I've personally tested over 80 paddles. Take the quiz to see which ones fit your game best.

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Pricing

At $200, this is a bit pricier than many premium paddles but cheaper than the newer Gearbox CX14 Ultimate Power range. The question is whether this paddle improves your game enough to justify the price.

Value for money

Based on its construction alone, I'd say this paddle is worth the cost. It's a premium paddle with excellent build and technology that'll last a very long time.

My one piece of advice here is: try before you buy. If you love how it feels, it'll likely be worth the investment, especially if you're running through paddles every few months. Many top players and pros I know swear by Gearbox.

If you're a beginner wanting something with a lot more forgiveness, maybe try the PCKL Launch Series, which is a lot cheaper. Meanwhile, advanced players who want something more powerful should check out the CRBN-2X Power Series.

The Gearbox CX14E propped up against a pickleball net

Professional use

Who uses the Gearbox CX14E?

Joey Farias, a former pro tennis player, is a high-ranked professional pickleball player who uses Gearbox paddles. Frank Anthony Davis—currently ranked #6 in the world—does too. They have both recently switched to the heavier 8.5oz CX14E Ultimate Power.

Bottom line

I found the Gearbox CX14E challenging, but that doesn't mean you will. It's got a serious cult following among many top players. It all depends on the game you like to play—you might end up loving its blend of spin and control.

Hard-hitting, offensive players like me will probably find this paddle lacking. Beginners and intermediates may struggle with its poppiness and small sweet spot. And a lot of players might have a hard time adjusting to its one-of-a-kind feel.

One positive thing that's really noticeable about this paddle is the construction—it's top-quality. So, kudos to Gearbox for making something so sturdy and impressive. If you're going through paddles at a fast rate, maybe check out Gearbox, but make sure to test it out first.

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About the author
Brandon Mackie
Brandon is an avid writer and co-founder of Pickleheads™. Once a competitive tennis player, Brandon can now be found these days honing his dinks on pickleball courts near Phoenix, Arizona.
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