Pickleball Gear

Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power - pickleball paddle review

picture of Brandon Mackie
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Aug 17, 2023

The Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power pickleball paddle on a blue background

Gearbox is back with an update to their CX14E control paddle. With this Ultimate Power series, they're hoping to fix some of the issues players had with the last paddle, such as the lack of power.

While I wasn't the biggest fan of the Gearbox CX14E paddle, I was very curious to see how the new one played. Read on for my full review.

My verdict5.0star iconThis is hands down the best paddle Gearbox has ever made. It's also one of the top-performing paddles we've tested this year. Like many Gearbox paddles, it has exceptional control—especially on technical shots like drops, dinks, and resets. Unlike past Gearbox offerings, this one feels natural to me right out of the box. Most importantly, it has enough power to play a more complete, aggressive, and modern game. It's not cheap, but if you're an intermediate to advanced player who's ready to invest in your game, it's worth every penny—especially if you're drawn to the signature Gearbox feel.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You're a Gearbox fan.

    If you already like the feel of Gearbox paddles, you have to check this out. The best offering yet in my opinion.

  • Your control paddle lacks power.

    This has more than enough power to complement its 10/10 control.

  • You're an advancing intermediate.

    This is a great option if you're ready to start playing at a higher level.

Pass if:

  • You're on a budget.

    At $250, this is far from a cheap paddle.

  • You want maximum power.

    This is still more of a control paddle. Check out something like the Selkirk Power Air Invikta if you want a pure power paddle.

  • You're a beginner.

    Mastering the CX14E Ultimate Power will likely be too much for you at this stage.

Paddle Weight

8.5 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")

Grip

Gearbox smooth wrap (black)

Sweet Spot

Large

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Review summary

I'll be honest. I've never been a huge fan of Gearbox paddles. They've always felt too stiff and alien to me. But I have to hand it to them—they nailed it with this one. This is the first paddle of theirs I've been really impressed by.

Right out of the box, the paddle feels natural and well built. For its price tag, it should feel premium—and it does. You know right away that this paddle will last a long time. It’s stylish too, with its edgeless design giving it an X-factor look.

Check out my initial thoughts here:

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During my play sessions, I could tell this is an elite control paddle. It takes Gearbox's already solid control qualities to the next level. While I found the previous model lacked control on dinks, I could accurately dink all day up at the kitchen line.

My overall accuracy was on point, especially on technical shots like topspin 3rd shot drops and resets when I was out of position. For challenging resets, I'd even say this is one of the best paddles I've tested so far.

Gearbox also went a long way toward addressing one of the biggest flaws with the CX14E: a small sweet spot. While it's not as large as some, like the CRBN-2X Power Series, the CX14E Ultimate Power has a much larger sweet spot, making it a very forgiving paddle.

The Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power placed on on a pickleball court

I thought the spin on the last model was excellent, so I was delighted to find it even better here. I could hit hard topspin serves, forehand drive winners, and satisfying overhead putaways pretty easily.

It's deadly on the serve too. They go deep with pinpoint accuracy, giving me an advantage that helped me win more games.

Last but not least, Gearbox added some much-needed power. This is the first Gearbox paddle I've tested where I felt I could play an aggressive game.

That said, more power does mean less hand speed. At 0.5 oz heavier than the previous CX14E, this paddle did lag during hand battles and fast kitchen exchanges. But overall, it felt lighter than other similarly-weighted paddles like the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion.

Pros:

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  • More power and spin than the earlier CX14E

  • Much larger sweet spot than previous Gearbox paddles

  • Less stiff than its predecessor, with a more natural feel while keeping the unique Gearbox tech aspects

Cons:

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  • At 8.5 oz, the heaviness made me feel slower than I'd like—especially in fast kitchen exchanges

  • I felt the extra weight most on my backhand volleys and rolls, which were a bit too slow

  • A little too soft at the net, giving my opponents another chance to drop, costing me some points

Features

Even hardcore fans of the earlier Gearbox CX14E (and there are many) wanted more power. So, a lot of people were waiting to see if Gearbox addressed this.

Let's take a look at some of the features carried over from previous models—and some new tech too—to see if they're improvements.

As in the last series, the CX14E Ultimate Power is the elongated version to the square-shaped CX14H Ultimate Power.

Brandon Mackie showing off the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power pickleball paddle

Solid span technology (SST)

SST is Gearbox's signature core technology, and it's what makes their paddles feel so unique. It feels very different to your standard honeycomb polymer core.

I didn't like this feature much on the previous model, since it made the paddle feel stiff and foreign in my hands. That said, many people love it.

Power band technology

As I've said, the Ultimate Power is the first Gearbox paddle I've tested that felt natural right out of the box—and I think it's because of the 'power band technology'.

This is some interesting tech. Rather than change the core thickness, Gearbox invented a 'band' around the edge of the paddle face. They claim this creates a 'trampoline effect' to add more pop and power to your shots.

I definitely felt more power with this paddle, but I'd put some of that down to the extra weight too.

Hyper-bite 2.0 spin technology

This is the fancy name for the texture Gearbox applies to the finish. While the previous CX14E was quite smooth, the Ultimate Power definitely has more texture and grit. It seems successful, as they've taken a paddle that was already great for spin and made it even better.

Brandon Mackie showing off the paddle face of the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power

The CX14E achieved great spin on topspin drives and serves, but not so great on dinks and softer shots. But the Ultimate Power has more spin all around.

The texture feels similar to the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta, so I'll have to watch for degradation over time, which is an issue with that paddle.

Performance

8/10

Power

9/10

Control

10/10

Spin

9/10

Forgiveness

9/10

Weighting

8/10

Grip

9/10

Durability

8/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 8/10

This is still a control paddle at heart, but Gearbox answered the call from the public for more power. The combination of a heavier swing weight with their new power band tech works well.

There's now more power all around, especially on hard drives and swinging volleys. While it's not quite a 9 or 10 for power, it's enough to add aggression to a more classic control and strategy game.

Control: 9/10

I scored the original CX14E 8/10 for control, but the Ultimate Power scores a point higher. My dinking, which was where I felt most let down before, was hugely improved.

Drops, resets, and dinks all worked really well even when I was off-center, out of position, or resetting against a hard, aggressive shot. I loved the feel of this paddle, which gave me a lot of confidence on my touch shots.

Spin: 10/10

This paddle is a spin machine, even more so than its predecessor—which is saying something. Like that paddle, hard topspin serves and drives are awesome. But I felt the grittier surface made my spin even more impressive.

This is the same dipping spin you can generate on other elite raw carbon fiber paddles like the CRBN-2X Power Series—the kind that catches and either drops at your opponent's feet or right on the baseline for a passing shot.

Forgiveness: 9/10

The sweet spot is much larger than past Gearbox paddles I've tested. So, while the elongated shape does create some dead zones near the edges, the paddle is still way better than before.

The paddle is soft and controlled enough to be forgiving even when you don't hit it quite right. The spin generation also helped with forgiveness by bringing more topspin to my shots.

Weighting: 9/10

I gave the previous CX14E paddle a 9/10 rating for weighting, and I'm giving the same to the Ultimate Power—despite an increase of 0.5 oz.

I just think they nailed it here. The extra weight brings power to an otherwise control-focused paddle. But it feels and plays like a lighter paddle.

Grip: 8/10

No complaints here. The grip is premium quality and held up well during play sessions in the 100ºF Phoenix summer.

Durability: 9/10

You can tell Gearbox paddles are going to last—pure carbon fiber paddles usually do. The only thing I'm knocking it for is the edgeless design, as it's prone to ding up around the edges.

Aerodynamics: 8/10

While I didn't find any special aerodynamic features, this paddle still cut through the air pretty well.

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 Ultimate Power makes the list:

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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 $250, I would expect a lot from the performance of this paddle. It's a $50 increase from the previous CX14E offering, putting it in the price range of elite paddles like the ProKennex Kinetic Black Ace and the Engage Pursuit Ultra EX.

Value for money

While I don't think many other Gearbox paddles are worth the $200+ price point, the Ultimate Power does enough to justify its high cost in my opinion. It's currently one of the best on the market and will win over many fans.

You either love or hate Gearbox paddles, so I'd really recommend testing this one before dropping that kind of money.

While this paddle delivers an elite performance, there are many other 2nd-gen unibody carbon paddles out there that are on par performance-wise—and for a lower price tag. The Legacy Pro and Vatic Pro PRISM Flash are great options, both around the $150 mark.

The Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power pickleball paddle resting against a net

Professional use

Who uses the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power?

Joey Farias is the most well-known player who plays with the CX14E Ultimate Power. The current world number #6, Frank Anthony Davis, also plays with this paddle.

What do pros say about it?

Check out what Joey Farias has to say about the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power:

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Bottom line

I've had issues in the past with Gearbox paddles. I always found they take way too much time to get used to, but I didn't have the same issue with the CX14E Ultimate Power. Right out of the box, it felt great in my hands.

Gearbox have fixed all the issues I had: a small sweet spot, a stiff feel, a lack of power. They managed to improve on the positives too: control, spin, and the unique feel.

If you're an intermediate or advanced player looking to go up a level, I'd definitely recommend checking this out. With a price tag like this, though, consider a test run before you commit to buying.

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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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