Pickleball Gear

How we test and review gear at Pickleheads

picture of Brandon Mackie
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Jul 25, 2023

The testing process we used to rate one of our top paddle picks, the JOOLA Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16

Buying pickleball gear is a big decision. Having the right equipment can up your performance, win you more games, and advance your rating quickly.

Buy the wrong gear and you might find yourself stuck at the beginner level, missing routine shots you should have mastered by now. It’s a hard decision—pickleball has become so popular that hundreds of brands are popping up to sell players like you paddles, balls, nets, and more.

Some of the gear out there is amazing. But some of it is junk. So our goal is simple: provide you with gear reviews you can actually trust. Your gear should advance your game, not hinder it.

We know this because we’re avid players ourselves. We’re constantly testing new paddles and updating our guides. We believe there’s only one place to properly test pickleball gear: out on the court!

Read our About Us page to learn more about Pickleheads.

"Every paddle we test goes through at least 5 hours of on-court play over multiple sessions."

Brandon Mackie

Co-founder, Pickleheads

Our promise

We follow a few simple principles to ensure our reviews are as helpful for you as possible:

  • We test every product on the court for a minimum number of hours and play sessions to ensure our review is thorough
  • We test every product we can get our hands on
  • We never accept payment for gear reviews
  • We give our honest opinion, not what gear companies want us to say
  • We’ll help you cut through the noise, separating the best gear from the junk
  • If you ever disagree with something we’ve said in our reviews, email [email protected] and we’ll make it right

How we test

For every product on our buyer’s guides, we aim to do an in-depth review. For paddles (our most popular gear category), here’s how we test:

  1. Get the paddle in our hands
  2. Do an unboxing and first reactions video
  3. Test on the court—minimum play time of 5 hours per paddle, across at least 2 play sessions
  4. Score the paddle across key performance metrics, including power, control, and spin
  5. Give our star rating and verdict

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How we score

In each review, you’ll find ratings for key attributes on a scale of 1 to 10. The attributes change based on the product. For paddles, you will see:

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Overall verdict and ratings

After thoroughly testing the product and considering the performance scores above, we rate the gear using a 5-star rating system.

You’ll find the star rating at the top of each buyer’s guide deep dive and full product review.

5.0
Great. Buy with confidence. Very likely to elevate your game.
4.0
Good performance. Will be a good buy for many, but consider the pros and cons to determine if it’s right for you.
3.0
Average performer. For the right price and player level, it can still be a decent option.
2.0
Disappointing performance, below average. Best to avoid, though it may have some redeeming features.
1.0
Bad, just bad. A poorly-designed product that’s best to avoid.

Then we’ll consider the overall rating, the price point, value, and who it’s for to make Our Verdict, which is our final recommendation of the product. For example:

My verdict5.0star iconThe Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta is, without a doubt, a thoughtfully-designed and cutting-edge pickleball paddle. It delivers unparalleled power and spin, at a time when the whole industry is heading in that direction. But is it really worth the $250 price tag? We’ll say yes, but only if you're an advanced player and can afford it.

Our reviewers

Brandon Mackie on the court testing one of the top paddles we’ve tested, the Joola Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16.
Brandon Mackie on the court testing one of the top paddles we’ve tested, the Joola Ben Johns Hyperion CFS 16. Photo by Brandon Mackie / Pickleheads

Our reviewers are avid players, playing at least 3 times per week on average. They have stacks of paddles at home and aim to test a different paddle every week. They closely track new paddle releases and keep up with the latest paddle technologies.

Many of our reviews are done by Pickleheads co-founder, Brandon Mackie. Brandon is a 4.0 player and has written much of our how-to content at Pickleheads (see Brandon playing in our virtual clinic). He has been quoted in over 50 local news stories talking about the growth of pickleball.

Being in the pickleball community, we have gotten to know many high-level players and we trust their opinions. Our contributors include:

Wayne Dollard

Jackie Cheung

Laurel Heilman

We will reach out to them when updating our buyer’s guides, or to get specific feedback on a paddle review.

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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