Pickleball Gear

Ronbus R3 NOVA - pickleball paddle review

picture of Brandon Mackie
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Feb 21, 2024

The Ronbus R3 NOVA pickleball paddle on a blue background

The Ronbus R3 NOVA is a "gen 3" thermoformed carbon paddle. It differs slightly from the R1 NOVA as it has a more standard elongated shape, and is a little heavier. I enjoyed playing with the R1 NOVA, so I was excited to see how the R3 performed.

Keep reading my Ronbus R3 NOVA review for my honest thoughts after testing this paddle.

My verdict4.5star iconThe Ronbus R3 NOVA definitely has a different feel to gen 2 thermoformed paddles. It's super responsive, especially on touch shots. It gets really good spin, and it has enough power for me too. If you can get over the lack of forgiveness, this is a great all-court paddle with new tech that's worth looking at.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You want a top control paddle:

    control is the R3 NOVA's best attribute—it's really responsive and great on drop shots.

  • Spin is important to you:

    the spin you can get with these NOVA paddles is scary good.

  • You want all-court performance:

    I found plenty of power to back up control and spin, making this a well-rounded choice for a complete game.

Pass if:

  • You're a banger:

    lots of gen 2 carbon paddles, like the Bread & Butter Filth, have way more power.

  • You want a forgiving paddle:

    the gen 2 Ronbus R1 PULSAR is more consistent and has a larger sweet spot than this paddle.

  • You're on a budget:

    check out my list of the best paddles under $100 for great-value alternatives.

Paddle Weight

8.1 oz

Paddle Length

16.5"

Paddle Width

7.5"

Handle Length

5.5"

Grip Circumference

4.25"

Paddle Face Material

Raw Toray T700 carbon fiber

Core Material

Polypropylene honeycomb

Core Thickness

16 mm (0.63")

Sweet Spot

Small

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$20 off with code PICKLEHEADS

Review summary

Overall, the Ronbus R3 NOVA plays like a top-tier control paddle. It gets great spin, so if you like to play with topspin on your touch shots like I do, you'll really like this paddle. You have to be ready for a smaller sweet spot though, so if mishits are an issue for you, I'd pass.

Like the Ronbus R1 NOVA, this is a "gen 3" carbon paddle. While it doesn't feel so different from a gen 2 paddle, it does have some unique attributes which I'll get into below.

Before I do that, let's talk first impressions. Out of the box, this has the typical Ronbus no-frills look. They make stripped-down paddles that are simple and performance-focused, and I like that.

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I'm surprised by how light the R3 feels in my hands. It has a more classic elongated shape, and it's 0.2 oz heavier than the R1, with a higher swing weight too (120 to the R1 NOVA's 114). However, somehow, it feels lighter than the R1 and way lighter than its specs suggest.

This makes it easy for me to maneuver. Control is its best attribute, even better than the R1. Add in the same awesome spin you'll find on the R1 and you've got a serious paddle for your touch game. I can put dipping topspin on serves and drives which keeps the paddle accurate.

I can also put topspin third-shot drops on a dime, giving me the advantage on a point time and again. This is always the hardest shot for me, and the one I judge many paddles on, especially in the control department. The R3 NOVA passed the test easily, I'd say.

Spin overall is impressive, right up there with some of my recent favorite spin paddles like the Pickleball Apes Pro Line Energy S and the Volair Mach 2 FORZA. This puts the Ronbus NOVA Series in an exciting group of new paddles that are pushing the limits of what we can do with spin.

Power is down on this model compared to the PULSAR series. This makes sense since you usually sacrifice power for more control. I'm still happy with the power I can get. However, this paddle has less power than many elongated gen 2 carbon paddles like the CRBN-1X Power Series and B&B Filth.

Brandon Mackie holding the Ronbus R3 NOVA pickleball paddle
Brandon Mackie holding the Ronbus R3 NOVA pickleball paddle

There are two main drawbacks for me with the R3 NOVA. One is its small sweet spot, which leads to more mishits than I'd like. I feel this most when blocking hard drives, where it's hard to orient the paddle perfectly because the ball is coming at me so fast.

It's also quite inconsistent. When you hit it right, this paddle is pure magic. However, if you hit outside the sweet spot, the paddle simply won't do what you need it to. This inconsistency is frustrating as I've been messing up shots I don't normally miss.

I suspect some lead tape could clean this paddle right up, and fix those inconsistency issues, but most rec players won't want to bother with it.

For those reasons, I don't think this would be my everyday go-to paddle. That said, I'm still calling it a solid all-court paddle because it's able to do everything you need to play at a high level. It has that mix of power, control, and spin that's hard to find.

Overall, this paddle feels really nice on the courts. I've played 10-15 hours with this and so far it's not lost its level of comfort, so I know it's well designed and made from top materials.

Pros:

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  • Plays lighter and faster at the kitchen than its 8.1 oz suggests

  • Good value for money at $180

  • Responsive paddle face

Cons:

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  • Can be inconsistent, leading to mishits

  • May need lead tape to optimize performance

  • Can be challenging to block hard drives

Features

When Ronbus broke onto the pickleball scene in 2023, they got a lot of attention for making paddles that compared to the big brand offerings (especially the JOOLA Hyperion) for a fraction of the cost.

Since then, they've created their own identity and introduced unique tech. This NOVA series is their newest release and is being marketed as a range of gen 3 thermoforming paddles that solve the crushed core issues in gen 2 paddles.

Let's take a closer look:

Gen 3 edge grid technology

Gen 2 paddles are the thermoformed paddles that have been all the rage this last year. I'm a huge fan of them, but many people report issues over the longer term, like core crushing and delamination.

Ronbus is one of the first companies trying to solve this. Here's the problem: the polypropylene core of a gen 2 paddle is fully encased in carbon fiber before the thermoforming process, which then traps air when the paddle is put through this heating press technique.

The founder of Ronbus explains that this causes high-pressure air pockets to form, which over time cause the paddle's core to crush.

Brandon Mackie holding the Ronbus R3 NOVA pickleball paddle
Brandon Mackie holding the Ronbus R3 NOVA pickleball paddle

The NOVA series aims to fix this with a new design. Their "edge-grid" technology is a carbon weave (rather than a carbon tube) in the paddle edges. So, during the thermoforming heating process, air can escape.

That means no air pockets, and hopefully no core crushing. Only time will tell, but this could be the future of pickleball paddles.

Foamed edge

One thing that didn't seem to work for me was the foam injection in the walls. Usually, I love this feature because it extends the sweet spot. I find this paddle unforgiving, though, with a small sweet spot.

Weighting and shape

The R3 NOVA has a higher static weight and swing weight than its R1 cousin. However, it oddly feels lighter. I still don't understand that because it doesn't even have the more aerodynamic curved shape of the R3.

Performance

8/10

Power

9.5/10

Control

9.5/10

Spin

7/10

Forgiveness

7.5/10

Weighting

8/10

Grip

9/10

Durability

9/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 8/10

I was surprised to find that this paddle plays softer than the R1. It's not a huge jump down (the R1 scored 8.5/10) but it's odd because the R3 is heavier.

Still, like the R1, it has enough power to complement what I gain in my touch and spin games. If you're a hard hitter like me and are used to swinging hard for power, you won't have a problem hitting hard drives, deep serves, and putaways when you need to.

Just don't expect the power of a gen 2 thermoformed paddle like the CRBN-1X or Bread & Butter Filth because it's not at that level.

Control: 9.5/10

I also find it odd that this paddle is easier to control than the R1, so the exact opposite of what I was expecting. I think this is where the gen 3 construction excels. This paddle feels like it naturally has better control than most gen 2 thermoformed paddles.

Ronbus claim that their gen 3 paddles are more responsive to the types of swings you do. I actually think they're right. I feel like I can get pop when I need it, but when I slow my swing down, the paddle plays softer.

This makes the paddle so good on drop shots as there's no excessive pop like I'm used to with gen 2 paddles. You also get a lot of spin on these shots.

Spin: 9.5/10

Spin is so much fun with this paddle. I'm able to hit the kind of shots that look way out, but then somehow they catch that spin and dip right on the line.

My serves are great too because I can put so much topspin on them. Lower-level opponents have had a hard time returning them.

Forgiveness: 7/10

I already struggled with how unforgiving the R1 is, and it's even more challenging here on the R3 with its standard elongated shape.

I have more mishits than I would like, especially when hitting toward the edges and throat. I feel this most at the net against hard drives, where it's hard to position the paddle right in the center of the ball because the ball is coming at you fast.

I'd recommend trying the Six Zero Double Black Diamond Control instead if you want a more forgiving paddle at the same price.

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Weighting: 7.5/10

The weighting is another area that's a bit strange to me. This paddle plays lighter and more control-oriented than its 8.1 oz weight suggests. Usually I'd like that, as it brings speed to my game, but this is outweighed by issues of consistency and forgiveness.

I think you'll need lead tape on this to find the right balance. Some players will like this, while others would prefer a better weight configuration out of the box.

Grip: 8/10

The grip is standard for the price and performance. Nothing special to report, but nothing annoying about it either. There's a 5.5" handle which will allow you to hit two-handed backhands if you like.

Durability: 9/10

I'm scoring this high for durability as it appears to be made from premium materials. I hope its gen 3 construction will prevent delamination and core crushing too, two problems that will wreck your paddle's durability.

Aerodynamics: 9/10

Despite its heavier weight, this matches the R1 NOVA for aerodynamics. You'll like it if you play fast up at the kitchen as it's a very quick paddle for its 8.1 oz.

It reminds me of a more versatile, elongated version of the JOOLA Scorpeus and Volair Mach 2 FORZA—two high-performance standard-shaped 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 Ronbus R3 NOVA 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.

Take Paddle Fitting Quiz

Pricing

The NOVA series is Ronbus's most expensive yet. At $180 (compared to the $150 PULSAR series), it's still not breaking that $200 mark.

Still, the $160-180 price range is a very competitive market. Does the Ronbus R3 NOVA earn its place here?

Value for money

I think this is a fair price for a thermoformed carbon all-court paddle, especially given the new tech Ronbus are using. It means the paddle should hopefully last a lot longer than what came before it.

If you still want to shop around, you can get my favorite paddle of 2024, the Six Zero Double Black Diamond Control, for the same price as this. If you're a power player, the Bread & Butter Filth, my top power paddle, is cheaper at $165.

Brandon Mackie holding the Ronbus R3 NOVA and R1 NOVA pickleball paddles
Brandon Mackie holding the Ronbus R3 NOVA and R1 NOVA pickleball paddles

Bottom line

If you found your average thermoformed paddle too poppy and had a hard time controlling drops, I'd recommend checking this one out. You'll get the crisp feel and pop of thermoforming but with more control to rein it in.

This paddle is also a great option for anyone who is frustrated by core crushing or delamination. If you're not sure whether to get this one or the R1, the R3 NOVA offers slightly better control but a little less power and forgiveness.

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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