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Ronbus R1 NOVA - pickleball paddle review

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Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Jan 30, 2024

The Ronbus R1 NOVA pickleball paddle on a blue background

The Ronbus R1 NOVA is a "gen 3" thermoformed paddle with an elongated shape and a hybrid-style curved top.

We reviewed the R1 PULSAR previously and rated it highly as an all-court paddle leaning on the power side. The R1 NOVA is built more like a control-oriented paddle, so I was excited to see how it played.

Read on for my Ronbus R1 NOVA paddle review.

My verdict4.5star iconThe Ronbus R1 NOVA is a "gen 3" thermoformed paddle, and it does feel different. It's got plenty of power and the spin is next-level, but the pop is dialed in to help your drops and dinks. If you don't care about brand names and you want to play with some of the best new tech, give the R1 NOVA a look.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You want an all-court paddle:

    the R1 NOVA has crazy spin, great control, and decent power too.

  • You don't want to spend over $200:

    priced at $180, this paddle offers good value.

  • You like to play fast at the kitchen:

    at 7.9 oz, this is lighter and faster than a lot of 8+ oz or thermoformed paddles.

Pass if:

  • You need a forgiving paddle:

    I find the sweet spot a lot smaller than on the Ronbus R1 PULSAR.

  • You want more power:

    Gen 2 carbon fiber paddles like the Bread & Butter Filth hit heavier than this.

  • You prefer heavier paddles:

    this feels light, so if you want more heft, try something like the Gearbox CX14E Ultimate Power.

Paddle weight

7.9 oz

Paddle length

16 ½"

Paddle width

7 ½"

Handle length

5 ½"

Today's best deals

Ronbus logo
$20 off with code PICKLEHEADS

Review summary

I was a little nervous about how a gen 3 carbon paddle might play, but the Ronbus R1 NOVA doesn't feel all that different from a gen 2 paddle. Like the R1 PULSAR, this is a solid all-court paddle, but leaning on control. I'll explain a bit more below.

The NOVA's most impressive attribute is its spin. The spin levels here are on the same level as the Six Zero Black Diamond Power and Volair Mach 2 FORZA. It even reminds me of the Legacy Pro, my previous top spin paddle for 2023. If I'm not mistaken, it uses the same carbon weave.

I've hit a few shots that defied gravity. I could have sworn they were going to hit the fence but they took a huge dive right down on the line. It's almost unfair how good the spin is.

Watch my initial thoughts here:

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Control is the next best thing. Ronbus' marketing claims that this "gen 3" paddle adapts to your speed. As your paddle slows down for touch shots, the paddle's response changes too. I have actually felt this.

It becomes a different paddle in the soft game and I really like it on third-shot drops. It has much less pop than I expected on these shots and that's a good thing. This is often my biggest challenge with normal thermoformed paddles.

Power is solid too. I wondered how a gen 3 carbon paddle would play, but it isn't much different from the pop and power I've come to expect from gen 2 thermoformed paddles. This isn't a power paddle but it can hit hard when I need it to.

You won't get as much power as the R1 PULSAR or gen 2 heavy hitters like the CRBN-1X Power Series. However, I still think it has plenty of power for a control paddle.

Photo of the Ronbus R1 NOVA pickleball paddle
Image by Ronbus

One flaw for me is the smallish sweet spot, especially for a hybrid thermoformed paddle. This makes it a bit unforgiving and I get quite a few mishits.

Another thing to note is that this feels lightweight, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on what you need. It makes it a fast paddle in hand battles, but it feels less stable against hard hitters at the kitchen.

Adding lead tape might help with both of these concerns by boosting the sweet spot and making it more stable. However, I can see this annoying many casual players who prefer something more forgiving and stable straight out of the box like the Vatic Pro Flash.

All in all, this is a high-performing all-court paddle leaning on the control side. That said, because of the lack of forgiveness and stability, many early intermediates may struggle. I'd recommend it mostly for more advanced players who don't mind customizing with lead tape.

Pros:

Thumb up icon
  • Amazing spin from the raw carbon paddle face

  • Responsive on touch shots

  • Solid power for a control-oriented paddle

Cons:

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  • Less power than many gen 2 carbon fiber paddles

  • Moderate to small sweet spot

  • May need to add lead tape to optimize performance

Features

Ronbus arrived on the scene in 2023 and immediately became known as a leader in paddle technology. They started by creating paddles that were very similar to top brands like the JOOLA Hyperion but at about half the price.

They're now crafting their own unique tech, and the NOVA series is the latest example. The R1 NOVA has an elongated shape with the type of curved top we've seen on hybrid paddles.

At $180, it's at the high end of Ronbus's offerings, but it has technology I haven't seen elsewhere. Let's take a look.

Gen 3 edge grid technology

Lots of people, including me, love to play with so-called "gen 2" thermoformed paddles. These are the ones that got really popular in the last year or so. However, reports of delamination and core crushing are more and more common, so maybe gen 2 paddles' days are numbered.

Ronbus set out to solve these issues and made some interesting realizations:

Gen 2 paddles have cores that are fully encased in a "perimeter seam", which is essentially a carbon fiber tube filled with edge foam. This is stuck on with epoxy glue that then cures during the "hot-molding" or thermoforming process. So, the core is sealed in an air-tight chamber.

Ronbus realized that trapped air in the core creates high-pressure pockets during the thermoforming process. With nowhere to go, these pockets corrupt the integrity of the core when you hit the paddle. This is what causes core crushing and eventually delamination.

With this in mind, Ronbus implemented a new design for the R1 NOVA—a carbon weave edge-grid that allows air to escape during the thermoforming process. This means the core is not compromised, solving a major issue in paddle technology.

Foamed edge

Ronbus claim their foam-injected, breathable edge increases the sweet spot. Personally, though, I found it a lot smaller than their gen 2 R1 PULSAR.

Light weight

At 7.9 oz, this paddle isn't super-lightweight. That said, it's still quick in the hands with a 114 swing weight, possibly thanks to the curved, hybrid top. This is great for speed and aerodynamics, making this really light for a 16 mm thermoformed paddle.

While this does mean sacrificing on power, it's thankfully not too much and you'll still get good pop.

Performance

8.5/10

Power

9/10

Control

9.5/10

Spin

7.5/10

Forgiveness

8/10

Weighting

8/10

Grip

9/10

Durability

9/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 8.5/10

I've seen other reviewers rate the R1 NOVA low on power but I think it hits relatively hard. As a power player myself, I have more than enough power to hit hard drives and deep serves. I can also put away the ball when I need to.

It is less powerful than the top gen 2 paddles, though. I'm thinking of the Bread & Butter Filth and even the Ronbus R1 PULSAR here. So just be aware of that.

Control: 9/10

On the plus side, control is better than your average gen 2 thermoformed paddle. Ronbus claim their new gen 3 tech makes the paddle act differently, making it more responsive when you're swinging slower on touch shots.

I thought this claim would be too hard to test, so I was surprised to actually feel it during play. Put simply, you get less pop precisely when you don't need it (i.e. on drop shots). I find drops a lot easier with this paddle.

Spin: 9.5/10

This paddle's standout feature. It gets really, really good spin. It's up there with my favorite spin paddles, the Legacy Pro and the Diadem Edge 18k.

Maybe it's the new gen 3 technology working its magic, but I get tons of topspin with this paddle. Some shots look WAY out when somehow the spin catches and dips the ball right on the line. It's awesome.

I can put so much topspin on serves that lower-level opponents have a hard time returning them. A few just whiffed the ball outright. I have a lot of fun using spin with this paddle.

Forgiveness: 7.5/10

The most disappointing aspect is forgiveness. Surprisingly, the sweet spot is on the small end. I have a fair amount of mishits, especially towards the edges and throat. If you want a more forgiving paddle for the same price, check out the Six Zero DBD Control.

Ronbus logo
$20 off with code PICKLEHEADS

Weighting: 8/10

I like that the paddle is light, but it feels unstable at the net. It could definitely use lead tape to improve its sweet spot. Players who like to customize will enjoy this flexibility but I'd prefer a paddle that's better-tuned out of the box, like the Vatic Pro PRISM Flash.

Grip: 8/10

The grip is nothing fancy but totally fine. It matches the price point and performance of the paddle. If you like to play with two-handed backhands, you'll enjoy the 5 ½" handle length.

Durability: 9/10

This appears to be made with premium materials and is built to avoid issues like core crushing. So, I expect it to hold up really well.

Aerodynamics: 9/10

This is a fast paddle with a low swing weight (around 115). Its round top reminds me of the JOOLA Scorpeus. It will suit players who like to be fast in hand battles at the kitchen.

Pricing

This is the priciest range from Ronbus yet, going up to $180 compared to the $150 PULSAR series. This places it right alongside my top paddle of 2024, the Six Zero Double Black Diamond Control. Does it offer anywhere near the same value?

Value for money

I wouldn't say this is an obvious bargain. However, I do think it's a fair price given the performance and the new gen 3 tech. It should hopefully last you a long time.

I'd still advise most intermediates to start their search with some of the paddles I've mentioned above. Also, take a look at my list of the best intermediate paddles for options that just top this one in terms of value.

Photo of the Ronbus R1 NOVA pickleball paddle
Image by Ronbus

Bottom line

This is a great paddle for anyone who wants to like thermoformed paddles but finds them a bit too poppy, and who has a hard time controlling drops. You'll get the same crisp feel and pop of thermoforming but with more control.

If you experienced core crushing or delamination, check out this paddle, which is aimed at fixing those issues.

The R1 NOVA is not for pure power players, but it excels on drop shots, keeps enough power in your game, and adds tons of spin. It will probably best suit advancing intermediates and up since it lacks forgiveness and might need lead tape to find the right configuration.

Today's best deals

Ronbus logo
$20 off with code PICKLEHEADS

This article contains affiliate links from which we receive a small commission from sales of certain items. As a brand associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

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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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