The Paddletek Bantam TS-5 is a peculiar paddle. While it's built for beginners, it's used at the highest level of pickleball by the women's world #1, Anna Leigh Waters. I was really excited to test it out and see if it's got some secret attributes that allow it to punch above its weight.
Read on to see how it ranks for beginners, and whether intermediates to advanced players should give it a shot too.
My verdict4.0While this is an elite choice for newcomers (I even named it my top beginner paddle in 2023), I don't think it has enough to tempt more advanced players. Once you hit the intermediate level, you'll want enough spin and power to help you play a more aggressive game, and the Bantam TS-5 doesn't have that. That said, it does have better quality materials, more forgiveness, and superior control than other beginner paddles—plus an endorsement from ALW herself. This puts it above and beyond other paddles priced under $100. If you're a beginner who's ready to start taking pickleball seriously, this paddle will give you the confidence to master your control game until you're ready to take the next step.
Buy or pass?
You want a superior beginner paddle.
This stands out from cheap beginner paddles made with low-quality materials.
You want to master your touch game.
The TS-5 sets you up to learn control before you move on to mastering spin and power.
You want a light paddle.
This weighs as little as 7 oz, making it super maneuverable.
You're an intermediate.
You'll need something with more power and spin.
You like to use two hands.
You'll find the handle too short for shots like two-handed backhands.
You want a heavy paddle.
This is a lightweight paddle, so you'll have to swing harder to generate the same power.
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The Paddletek Bantam TS-5 gets a lot of attention considering it's a
cheaper paddle (under $100) built for beginners. That's because it's the paddle of choice for 16-year-old sensation Anna Leigh Waters.
Right out of the box, I thought the design was fairly standard: a sleek, modern Paddletek paddle. It didn't seem particularly unique and it didn't have that premium feel you get with raw carbon fiber paddles. That said, it is a beginner paddle, so it won't have the same quality.
On the court, this paddle does everything a beginner needs—and does it really well. The light weight makes it very comfortable to play with and means your arm won't tire after long sessions. It's user-friendly, so doesn't take much getting used to. I got a feel for it straight away.
The weight makes it super maneuverable, giving you really quick hands at the kitchen. In my first game, I played against a couple players who hit every 3rd shot as a drive right at me. I could almost always react with a solid block and ended up winning a lot of games that way.
Then, there's the forgiveness. You're getting a really forgiving paddle with a widebody face and a very large sweet spot. You'd find it hard to mishit the ball even if you tried.
Control is the next big quality. I loved the accuracy I got on hard serves, as well as touch shots like drops and dinks. It gets a satisfying pop too, which helped me connect with the ball and play a controlled game. This will give beginners the confidence to start taking pickleball seriously.
If you're looking for power, you'll be disappointed. The light weight meant I had to swing hard to generate any real power. Even then, many of my returns and serves didn't go anywhere near as deep as they would with an elite paddle like my CRBN-3X Power Series.
Getting spin was also difficult. While I wasn't expecting the same spin level as a paddle like the Six Zero DBD Control, I had hoped for a little bit more. A lot of my attempts at hard topspin drives sailed long.
That said, if you're a beginner who wants to get to grips with pickleball, you can't go wrong with this paddle. It's way better than most beginner paddles, which is why it's my top pick for beginners in 2023.
It'll get you grounded, giving you confidence in your control game. Once you've mastered that, you'll be ready to move up to something more advanced.
Very forgiving, with a large sweet spot
User-friendly, with almost no learning period
Played with by world #1, Anna Leigh Waters
Not enough power—I had to swing really hard to generate any power
Lacks in spin
More advanced shots, like third shot drops, can be difficult
This is a beginner paddle, so you shouldn't expect the same flashy tech of elite raw carbon fiber paddles. That said, the Bantam TS-5 still has a better design than other budget paddles.
The Bantam TS-5 has a traditional polymer honeycomb build. It's not made of carbon and isn't thermoformed like many expensive paddles.
I know I talk a lot about thermoformed paddles but the truth is they're not for everyone. They're more suited to intermediates and up since they're typically heavier, stiffer, and harder to control.
So, I expected the TS-5 to be more beginner-friendly and my testing confirmed it has a much more 'user-friendly' feel. I got used to it more or less right away.
Fiberglass face with wide body
The face is fiberglass, which is common for beginner paddles. I wasn't able to get anywhere near as much spin with it as I would from a textured carbon surface. However, it did have a nice pop.
I liked the wide-body design. At just under 8" wide, the big playing surface gives you a large sweet spot. It was so forgiving that I don't think I could have mishit if I tried. This is ideal for beginners.
The only drawback is that you've got less handle to work with. With the handle just 5" long, two-handed backhands won't be easy.
One great thing about this paddle is the weight options—you can pick anywhere from 7–7.5 oz. That's a full ounce lighter than many raw carbon fiber paddles.
This makes it a super maneuverable paddle that's easy to control. While it does mean you get less power, most beginners prefer to master control first anyway.
This is not a power paddle and it doesn't pretend to be one. I tend to hit the ball really hard and I had to put a ton of swing in to generate the same power I can get with raw carbon fiber paddles.
However, power rarely wins games if you're a beginner, but control and forgiveness do. What the Bantam TS-5 lacks in power, it makes up for in those two areas.
I was impressed with the accuracy of this paddle. I could generally put the ball where I wanted to, especially on drives and serves, and I hardly ever missed one.
They didn't land as deep as I'd need if I were playing against more advanced players. However, if you're a beginner, the Bantam has enough control to help you win more games.
I was impressed with how well this performed on more advanced touch shots like drops and dinks. The only reason I didn't score it 10/10 was simply because it's not on the level of advanced paddles like the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash or the Volair Mach 1.
There's enough grit on this paddle for beginners to try topspin and backspin shots, but intermediates and above will find spin lacking. Other reviewers who tested the Bantam's spin RPM (revolutions per minute) said it was a full 40+% lower than elite spin paddles like the Legacy Pro.
To compare to another spin machine, my CRBN-1X Power Series, I tried a shot with the Bantam that I love: a hard drive with tons of spin that catches the ball and dips it right in. Unfortunately, the ball sailed long each time with this paddle.
Most importantly for a beginner, this paddle is super forgiving with a very large sweet spot. I honestly struggled to get a single mishit across multiple testing sessions.
For any beginners, this will give you the confidence to start winning points, get a flow going, and eventually advance your game.
I like what Paddletek tried to do with the weighting, so I scored it highly here. It's nice and lightweight to get beginners going. It also suits players who like to be quick in fast kitchen exchanges.
Personally, I don't like how the weighting takes away a lot of the power. Though, as I've said, this isn't a huge loss for beginners.
The grip performed reasonably well in sweaty testing sessions, but it was a bit bulky. It didn't feel super premium. I doubt a beginner would even notice this, though.
The Bantam has a better build than a lot of the beginner paddles you'll find on Amazon and it has an edge guard for extra protection. It should hold up long enough until you're ready to advance to a more premium paddle.
Compared to raw carbon fiber paddles, though, this won't be anywhere near as long-lasting.
Paddles with wide-body shapes have a tendency to drag, but I found that the TS-5 cuts through the air reasonably well. The light weight offsets the wide shape. So, while it doesn't excel in aerodynamics, it's decent enough.
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 TS-5 makes the list:
Find the perfect paddle
I've personally tested over 80 paddles. Take the quiz to see which ones fit your game best.
The $99 price tag might seem a lot for a beginner paddle, but remember this paddle is endorsed by Anna Leigh Waters—the women's world #1 and one of the most electrifying players in pickleball. Is it worth that much, though?
Value for money
I definitely think the price is justified. Sure, you can get a beginner paddle on Amazon for $40. However, having played with many beginner paddles, I'm convinced you'll win more games with this one than almost any other paddle under $100.
You'll get more pop, control, and forgiveness. Plus, the tech is far superior. It's made by one of the top brands in pickleball and backed by the women's world #1, Anna Leigh Waters.
This is a reliable beginner paddle that'll set you up for success. Once you've mastered your touch game with this, you'll be ready to move up to something with more spin and power.
If you're there already, check out the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash instead. This is an excellent intermediate-friendly carbon fiber paddle that is surprisingly the same price as the Bantam TS-5.
Who uses the Paddletek Bantam TS-5?
This is the signature paddle of Anna Leigh Waters who is ranked #1 in the world for women's singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles.
This is my favorite beginner-friendly paddle of 2023. It takes hardly any time to get a feel for it and it's so light in your hands. It truly excels in forgiveness (thanks to a very large sweet spot) and control.
Sure, you're paying at least $25 more than other beginner paddles, but if you play with the Bantam, you'll soon be confident enough to step up to a raw carbon fiber paddle.
If you're an intermediate, I'd recommend going straight for the JOOLA Perseus or the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash instead. They play similarly but with more oomph.
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