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Paddletek Bantam ALW-C - pickleball paddle review

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Brandon Mackie

Published on: Jan 17, 2024

The Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle on a blue background

The Paddletek Bantam ALW-C got a lot of attention in October 2023 when women's world #1 Anna Leigh Waters (ALW) started using it. This is the carbon fiber update to the Paddletek Bantam TS-5, which I named the top beginner choice in my best paddles of 2024 list.

Read my honest Paddletek Bantam ALW-C review to see if I think it's worth its $230 price tag. Note: I'm testing the 12.7 mm model because that's what ALW uses.

My verdict4.0star iconDespite having a carbon fiber face giving it way more spin than the TS-5, the Bantam ALW-C is still a beginner paddle in my opinion. If you're hoping for something more advanced, this isn't for you. However, if you want the Cadillac of beginner paddles, or you're a big ALW fan, this one is worth checking out.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You like Anna Leigh Waters:

    you'll like the cool ALW logo and the chance to play with the same paddle as the world #1.

  • You want a light paddle:

    at 7.5-7.8 oz, this is one of the lightest carbon fiber paddles I've ever seen.

  • You want the Cadillac of beginner paddles:

    if you're willing to pay $230, you'll get a super-charged paddle perfect for beginners.

Pass if:

  • You're on a budget:

    I'd recommend the $100 Paddletek Bantam TS-5 instead.

  • You need power:

    I was let down with the power here, which is nowhere near something like the Bread & Butter Filth.

  • You're not a beginner:

    this is too light even for most intermediates, so check out my best for intermediate and best for advanced lists.

Paddle Weight

7.5-7.8 oz

Paddle Length

15 ⅝"

Paddle Width

7 ¾"

Handle Length

5"

Grip Circumference

4" or 4 ¼" (12.7 mm paddle); 4 ⅛" or 4 ⅜" (14.3 mm paddle)

Paddle Face Material

PT-700 raw carbon fiber

Core Material

Polymer honeycomb core

Core Thickness

12.7 mm (½") or 14.3 mm (0.56")

Sweet Spot

Large

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Review summary

The Bantam ALW-C is an upgrade to the original Anna Leigh Waters TS-5 paddle. Surprisingly, this is one of Paddletek's first raw carbon fiber paddles, so I was excited to try it out. The new material definitely adds more spin.

This paddle keeps the same light weight, good control, and big sweet spot of the original. However, for me, it doesn't deliver a complete enough performance for more advanced players.

Let's start with spin. I've always complained about a lack of spin in Paddletek paddles, so I'm really happy to see they've finally added some raw carbon fiber. The results are immediate, and you can get WAY more spin with this than with the TS-5.

Watch my initial thoughts on the Bantam ALW-C:

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Paddletek paddles have always played on the control side for me, and this one is no different. A lot of that is due to it being lightweight, with the ALW-C clocking in at 7.5-7.8 oz. I feel right at home hitting drops, dinks, and resets.

I was also glad to find the same high levels of forgiveness here. The large playing face has a nice, big sweet spot, so mishits are few and far between for me.

One thing that's really lacking is power. You'd think the 12.7 mm core would create more pop, but this isn't the case. It does OK, but I have to swing this paddle really hard to get the same power I get with the Ronbus R1 PULSAR, the CRBN Power Series, or the Six Zero Diamond Series. If you're a hard hitter, I wouldn't recommend this one.

The Bantam ALW-C is super light, which can be a pro or a con. On the one hand, it's fast in the hands and super maneuverable. I don't naturally have quick hands, so I like the boost this gives me in kitchen exchanges.

However, I'd say this paddle is too light for most intermediates, and almost all advanced players. You have to swing too much to get power, and you don't get that stable feel of a heavier paddle when blocking drives.

All that swinging can tire you out. Whenever I try to put away overheads against heavy lobbers, I feel like I'm going to throw my shoulder.

Brandon Mackie holding the Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle
Brandon Mackie holding the Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle

Another drawback is the short handle—it's a tiny 5". I find this surprising because ALW has arguably the best backhand in the game. Maybe she has a custom paddle because I can't hit a proper two-hander. If you like playing with two-handed backhands, I'd avoid this paddle.

I'm a fan of Paddletek's classic designs, and Anna Leigh Waters' fans will like the ALW custom logo and signature. This alone might give you confidence on the court.

Overall, this feels like a well-made paddle but not as premium as most carbon fiber paddles in this price range. It's not a CRBN or JOOLA. It's also not thermoformed and doesn't have foam injection in the walls.

For that reason, I'm surprised at the $230 tag as it's a huge jump from the $100 TS-5. I still think it plays closer to a beginner paddle, though the carbon build definitely justifies a more premium price from the TS-5.

Pros:

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  • Light weight makes it fast in the hands

  • Big upgrade on spin compared to the TS-5

  • Good control, forgiveness, and sweet spot

Cons:

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  • Too light for most intermediates and advanced players

  • Short handle makes two-handers difficult

  • Big price increase from the TS-5

Features

The main feature upgrade from the TS-5 to the ALW-C is the addition of raw carbon fiber. This is one of the first times I've seen Paddletek use carbon over fiberglass. Let's see if it makes a difference, and look at other features too.

PT-700 unidirectional RAW carbon fiber

Adding raw carbon fiber to the paddle face is new for Paddletek, though it's been standard in big-name paddles from the likes of JOOLA and Vatic Pro for a while now.

I wasn't sure what "PT-700" carbon was, but it feels really gritty. After some research, I think it's Toray carbon with a layer of epoxy over it.

I can confirm that the ALW-C has the best spin of any Paddletek I've played with. So, as expected, the raw carbon fiber works.

Light weight

It's worth pointing this out, as it's one of Paddletek's trademark features. The Bantam TS-5 is super light at just 7-7.5 oz. While the ALW-C is a little heavier at 7.5-7.8 oz, it's still really lightweight.

This paddle plays light as a feather. I like this as it makes me fast in hand battles—something I struggle with. It also helps my touch game as I'm able to control the paddle much better. That said, a lot of players will find this one too light due to the compromise on power and stability.

Price

Paddletek is typically a mid-range choice, around $100-180. This is by far their most expensive paddle at $230—a lot to live up to. This makes it a rival to the CRBN-3X Power Series, one of the best paddles out there.

Speaking for me and my game, I don't think this reaches anywhere near the level of the CRBN-3X. Instead, I see it as a super-premium beginner paddle.

Performance

7/10

Power

9/10

Control

8/10

Spin

9/10

Forgiveness

7/10

Weighting

7/10

Grip

8/10

Durability

8/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 7/10

Paddletek paddles have never had much power for me. I hoped this would be different thanks to the peculiar 12.7 mm core—especially after seeing that Paddletek rates it 9/10 on their own scale.

Unfortunately, this is not a power paddle in my opinion. I have to swing for my life to put away shots like I can with the B&B Filth. In some rallies, I was worried I'd throw my shoulder.

While the ALW-C has slightly more power than the TS-5, I expected a bigger upgrade for the price. If you're buying this paddle, I recommend the 12.7 mm version over the 14.3 mm one, which I found way too soft.

Control: 9/10

Thanks to it being super lightweight, this paddle has great control. It's hard to pop up balls or hit drops too deep. I feel right at home hitting drops and dinks.

If you find thermoformed paddles too powerful and poppy, this is a great alternative for you.

Spin: 8/10

Spin went way up with this paddle compared to the Bantam TS-5. No doubt that's down to the raw carbon fiber. It's still not in the range of top carbon paddles like the CRBN-1X Power Series or Diadem Edge 18k, but it's getting there.

Forgiveness: 9/10

The plus side of having a super-short handle is you get a huge paddle face. That, along with the light weight, makes the ALW-C super forgiving.

I rarely have any mishits with this paddle. That makes this a great beginner paddle in my opinion, even though it's marketed as ALW's signature pro paddle.

The Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle on a court
The Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle on a court

Weighting: 7/10

I like light paddles, and this plays like its static weight (7.5-7.8 oz) suggests. It's very quick, which is great for players like me who aren't the quickest naturally.

However, I think it's going to be too light for many players since it lacks in power and stability in fast kitchen exchanges.

Grip: 7/10

The grip is nothing fancy, which is a letdown for the price. I'd even say it's a grade below the quality of Selkirk and JOOLA grips.

The handle is also really short at 5". This will be an issue if you hit a two-handed backhand, which is strange to me since ALW's signature shot is arguably her two-hander.

Durability: 8/10

I brought this up a point in durability from the TS-5. The carbon face and edge guard should help here.

That said, the materials overall feel less premium than I've come to expect from $200 and above paddles. Selkirk, JOOLA, and CRBN paddles all feel worth their price point. I can't say the ALW-C does. We'll have to see how it holds up over time.

Aerodynamics: 8/10

There are no real aerodynamic features besides the light weight, but this does make the ALW-C quick through the air. It's a great choice for players who like aerodynamic paddles.

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 Paddletek Bantam ALW-C 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

Paddletek came way, way up on price with this paddle. The Bantam TS-5 is $100, competing with beginner and intermediate paddles like the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash, Bison Summit, and Six Zero Sapphire.

The ALW-C's $230 price tag pits it against some of the best paddles out there. It's the same price as the CRBN-2X Power Series, and not far off the JOOLA Ben Johns Perseus or Tyson McGuffin's Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta.

Paddletek clearly see this as a pro paddle, but it doesn't play like one in my opinion. So, could it possibly be worth the cost?

Value for money

Pricing this at $230 just because it's got Anna Leigh Waters' logo and signature isn't enough for me. Paddletek just added carbon fiber but there's no thermoforming, foam injection, or other tech that enhances it to an elite level.

Making it so expensive makes it appeal to fewer players. I think Paddletek missed their market here since this is not a pro paddle. It's a great beginner paddle.

The Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle resting against a net
The Paddletek Bantam ALW-C pickleball paddle resting against a net

That said, if you have $230 to spend on a beginner paddle, you'll get the most premium beginner paddle on the market. It has tons of forgiveness and control, with great raw carbon fiber spin. If you're an ALW fan, you'll also probably love to play with her paddle.

If you love lightweight paddles, you also might find this worth the price because there are not many performance carbon paddles under 8 oz.

The average intermediate will probably find this overpriced, though. You'll get more value and performance from brands like Six Zero, Vatic Pro, and Bread & Butter.

Professional use

Who uses the Paddletek Bantam ALW?

There's no secret here. As the logo and signature tell you, this is the new paddle of choice for Anna Leigh Waters. She is the 16-year-old pickleball sensation currently ranked women's world #1 for both singles and doubles.

Bottom line

This paddle is lightweight, forgiving, and easy to control. It's also light on power, though, and that's why I think this is a paddle for beginners. Since most beginner paddles skimp on performance, this is for the newbie who wants the best—the Rolls Royce of beginner paddles.

It's pricey, yes, but the carbon face and ALW name make it a really valuable choice for the right player.

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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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