I was a big fan of PCKL's beginner-friendly Launch Series and even chose it as my top budget pick in my list of the best pickleball paddles in 2023. So I was excited to test out the Pro Series 16 and see if it brought the same quality of performance and value to higher-level players.
Read on for my honest PCKL Pro Series 16 review after testing it for more than two weeks on the court.
My verdict4.5The Pro Series 16 plays like a true "all-court" paddle. The 16 mm version is built for control, but it has equal measures of power and spin. I was skeptical it'd be another "copy-cat" thermoformed paddle but I was wrong. The PCKL Pro 16 quickly became one of my top picks for early intermediates who need a complete paddle at a $160 price point.
Buy or pass?
You don't want to spend $250:
this plays very similarly to the JOOLA Perseus but is 35% cheaper.
You're looking for an all-court paddle:
this offers a great balance of power, spin, and control.
You're upgrading to an intermediate paddle:
rising beginners and new intermediates will like the user-friendly feel of this paddle.
You want a pure power paddle:
try the Bread & Butter Filth instead, my top power pick for 2023.
You’re an advanced player:
this doesn’t have the stability and responsiveness of something like the CRBN-1X.
You’re willing to spend over $160:
for just $20 more you can get our favorite paddle of 2023, the Six Zero DBD.
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The PCKL Pro Series 16 manages to blend so many great elements into one paddle. With a balance of power, control, and spin, this paddle will feel natural in the hands of any rising beginner or early intermediate, and it'll definitely help them win more games.
On the touch side, I think this has great control. I could hit drop after drop—from simple ones to more technical topspin drops—and rarely miss one.
I was able to get good pop and power, even though I played with the 16 mm control model. I could hit hard drives and putaways pretty consistently.
I'm happy to confirm the spin was great too—what you'd expect from a raw carbon face. In fact, this one spins up there with some of the top paddles on the market, like the CRBN-3X Power Series.
There are downsides though. For one, it's less powerful than other elite 16 mm thermoformed paddles like the Six Zero DBD Control and the Bread & Butter Filth. Some of my putaways came off a little soft and some volleys didn't go as deep as I'm used to.
Then there’s the feel. While it feels nice on the court, it just doesn't have the same stable and responsive feeling I get from more premium paddles like the CRBN-1X Power Series. I had a few mishits in fast kitchen exchanges that I usually don't make with raw carbon paddles.
All in all, while this doesn't have the unique feel of a paddle like the DBD Control, I can still play a complete game with the PCKL Pro Series 16. For that reason, I'd say this is a dependable, well-made paddle that's perfect for your first step-up purchase.
It also competes with some of the best paddles on the market. For example, it plays very similarly to the JOOLA Perseus, which is $250. If you've recently graduated to an intermediate level, you're going to feel right at home with this paddle.
Lightweight and maneuverable
Still packs a punch
Great all-court performance
A bit sluggish in kitchen exchanges
Sweet spot not super large, leading to some mishits
Not as powerful or controlled as some thermoformed paddles
PCKL achieved a lot with their beginner Launch Series paddle, so I was interested to see what they could do with a more advanced offering. Before testing it myself, I had hoped it would be just as user-friendly but with a much higher level of performance.
Let's dive into some of the design features of the Pro Series 16.
Thermoformed and unibody design
Thermoformed paddles are almost always more powerful, as well as being stiffer. While the PCKL Pro Series 16 ticks both boxes, I felt like it hit hard without being overly stiff.
The unibody construction (where the face material extends into the grip) means this paddle should last a long time without flexing or bending.
Edge foam injection
You'll see this feature on plenty of paddles nowadays. It's added to increase stability and extend the sweet spot, reducing mishits.
I didn't find this too impressive here, as the PCKL feels less stable and responsive than top-of-the-line competitors like the CRBN Power Series. I had more mishits in fast kitchen exchanges than I usually would with a thermoformed raw carbon fiber paddle.
Raw carbon fiber face
This paddle has great spin, which I think is down to the built-in texture of the Toray T700 raw carbon face. It might not spin like the Legacy Pro, but it's more than enough for almost any intermediate player's game.
This is an elongated paddle with the same face and handle length as the Volair Mach 1, the JOOLA Perseus, and the CRBN-1X. This helps players who like to hit two-handed backhands. You'll also get extra reach, and be able to generate more power on your shots.
I enjoyed this feature and know this is going to make the paddle appeal to more advanced players. If this doesn’t appeal to you, or you tend to struggle with mishits, try something with a standard shape like the CRBN-2X.
While my 16 mm paddle is meant to be the control model, I was happily surprised to find plenty of power too. My hard drives, topspin serves, and putaways all worked as I'd expect from a premium carbon fiber paddle costing $220-250. This is likely thanks to the thermoformed build.
I knocked two points off because a couple of putaways fell flat for me. For this price point, you're better off with the Bread & Butter Filth or DBD Control if you want more power.
I really like this paddle’s control. My favorite shot to hit with the Pro Series 16 is a topspin third shot drop that lands at my opponents' feet. This paddle has the right combo of a soft feel, light weight, and great spin to make that shot easier than usual.
Nailing those drops set me up for many points off my serve. Everything else in my touch game worked too, from long dink rallies to simple drops on my third or fifth shots.
While this paddle isn't as plush or controlled as the Vatic Pro Flash, it's still really good and user-friendly.
While this isn't a spin machine, I think most players will find more than enough spin here to complement their game. Hard topspin serves and drives worked again and again. I didn't try for much backspin or sidespin, but I have no reason to believe they wouldn't also work.
I wasn't expecting much forgiveness from a thermoformed and elongated paddle. On paper, this paddle is very similar to the JOOLA Perseus which isn't a very forgiving paddle.
From my testing, though, the PCKL Pro Series 16 has a bit more forgiveness. The sweet spot isn't huge and I did have mishits, but far fewer than the Perseus.
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I think they nailed the weight distribution. This paddle weighs a nice, light 8.1 oz, which won't tire you out too much. It's maneuverable at the net but heavy enough to get the power you need to play aggressively too.
I love the grip too. It feels premium and comfortable during play. My first testing session was in brutal Phoenix heat and it held up really well.
The only reason I'm deducting points is because of the color choice. I personally really like the white look, but I just know a lot of players will complain that it's going to get dirty.
This should hold up just as well as some more expensive paddles. The materials are high quality, and it certainly feels premium in my hands. Plus, it has an edge guard which will protect it.
There's no special aerodynamic tech in this paddle and I felt it on the court. It was a bit too sluggish and I felt behind the ball sometimes, especially in fast kitchen exchanges.
Currently retailing for $160, the PCKL Pro Series 16 is priced between two other excellent paddles: the Legacy Pro ($150) and the Bread & Butter Filth ($165). It's the same price as the Volair Mach 1, a 5-star all-court paddle. So, how does it compare for value?
Value for money
The Pro Series 16 offers great value in my opinion. On paper, it's almost identical to the $250 JOOLA Perseus. I honestly found this paddle more user-friendly and forgiving than the Perseus too. I'm actually convinced the average player will do better with this out of the box than with the Perseus.
For me and my specific game, there are better paddles at this price point. I like to play with power, so the Bread & Butter Filth appeals to me more. The Six Zero DBD Control (just $20 more) also gives you more power and a bigger sweet spot and is just overall a more dynamic paddle.
If you want an excellent all-court paddle for $160, though, you can't go wrong with this or the Volair Mach 1. I will say that the PCKL seems like it will last longer than the Volair. Also, if you're a newer intermediate, the PCKL Pro is a better bet than the Mach 1.
This is an ideal upgrade if you're ready to leave your beginner paddle behind. It's one of the most user-friendly thermoformed paddles I've tested. So, you get all the performance of a sturdy thermoformed paddle while it being controlled enough to keep you advancing your game.
While I think the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash is overall a better upgrade option (and cheaper at $100), I'd definitely recommend the PCKL Pro Series 16 to any advancing beginner and early intermediate. I love its performance and think you'll find it a really reliable and long-lasting paddle.
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