Pickleball Gear

SLK NEO 2.0 - pickleball paddle review

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Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Jul 30, 2023

The SLK NEO 2.0 pickleball paddle on a blue background

The SLK NEO 2.0 is one of the most popular budget-friendly paddles available. After testing the paddle for over two weeks, it's now one of my top recommendations for beginners learning how to play pickleball.

Selkirk is a leading name in pickleball. So, when they promised to bring some high-performance technology to the masses with their SLK range of paddles, I was excited to get my hands on the NEO 2.0 to see if they managed it.

After several play sessions in the hot Arizona heat, I'm here to share my thoughts on the design, features, and overall performance of this set. Keep reading to find out why we ranked it the best paddle set in our list of beginner pickleball paddles for 2023.

My verdict3.5star iconWhile not quite as good as the PCKL Launch Series among entry-level paddles, the SLK NEO 2.0 is cheaper, and an outstanding beginner option. It was very forgiving and actually generated more power and spin than I was expecting. The set is arguably the best deal on Amazon right now and these paddles deliver performance that is light years ahead of what budget paddles historically have offered.

Buy or pass?

Buy if:

  • You're just starting out.

    The SLK NEO 2.0 is one of the best beginner paddles ever designed.

  • You want a trusted brand.

    Selkirk is one of the biggest names in pickleball, known for delivering quality products.

  • You aren't looking to spend much.

    The SLK NEO 2.0 comes with an entry-level price that offers far more value than most Amazon pickleball paddles.

Pass if:

  • You're an advanced player.

    This paddle won't provide a competitive edge at higher levels.

  • You play a power game.

    It lacks putaway power, so you'll have to swing harder to generate the same speed.

  • You’re looking for high-end performance.

    Don't mistake this for one of Selkirk's premium paddles, as it lacks some advanced features.

Paddle Weight

7.5 oz

Paddle Length

15.67"

Paddle Width

7.8"

Handle Length

5.25"

Grip Circumference

4.25"

Paddle Face Material

Blend of graphite and fiberglass

Core Material

SX3 polymer honeycomb

Core Thickness

13mm

Color

Blue/red or green/purple

Sweet Spot

Large

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Review summary

Selkirk claims to be "committed to bringing the game of pickleball to a larger community" and I'd say they pulled it off with the SLK NEO 2.0. This is one of the best beginner paddles I've ever played with, and the price point makes it accessible to anyone.

One of the frustrating things about learning to play pickleball is that it's usually with bad equipment. Some of the budget options on Amazon are really ineffective—stiff feel, inconsistent sweet spot, or lacking power. They can feel more like a wooden pickleball paddle, which I don't recommend to anyone.

But the Selkirk NEO 2.0 feels more like an intermediate-level paddle and should excite players right out of the box. I would even say it plays better than an ONIX Z5 Graphite, another one of Amazon's bestsellers. Plus, the NEO 2.0 is half the price.

Watch my first thoughts here:

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This paddle is extremely forgiving (though not quite as much as the PCKL Launch Series), has a comfortable grip, and is very lightweight. Beginners will be able to control their shots and avoid mishits as they learn the game.

The thing that stood out to me most about the SLK NEO 2.0 is that it can actually generate spin. This is the first beginner-level paddle I've found that allows for more technical shots.

Pros:

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  • Large sweet spot makes it very forgiving, even for total beginners

  • Feels very light, allowing for good touch on drops and dinks

  • Generates decent spin on serves and drives (rare for beginner paddles)

Cons:

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  • Has a nice pop but lacks more overall power

  • Control doesn't come close to more advanced paddles

  • New players will likely struggle with 3rd-shot drops, as they need a lot of finesse with this paddle

Features

"We are pickleball": that's the messaging splashed across Selkirk's site. The family-run company from Rob, Mike, and Jim Barnes is probably the most recognizable brand in pickleball, with the Selkirk Vanguard Power Air Invikta routinely showing up near the top of any pro-level paddle list.

Selkirk wanted to create paddles that gave new players some consistency as well as being affordable, so they developed their SLK line. They're continuing the line with new paddles like the Latitude 2.0 and Nexus.

Brandon Mackie showing off the SLK NEO 2.0 pickleball paddle on a court

I wasn't expecting much from a $40 paddle, but boy, was I surprised! It's obviously not going to live up to the level of performance I'm used to with my Power Air Invikta and JOOLA Hyperion CFS 16, but it didn't hamper my game either.

I enjoyed playing with it during my test sessions, and would recommend it to just about anyone trying to get into pickleball. Let's take a closer look at some of the main features.

SX3 honeycomb core

One of the biggest selling points of the SLK NEO 2.0 is its honeycomb core—the same tech used in Selkirk's more advanced paddles. It's designed to provide a consistent sweet spot, which I could feel immediately.

Every shot has a satisfying pop when you strike it well, and sometimes I even forgot I was playing with an entry-level paddle.

It looks like SLK will also offer the thicker SX4 core in the NEO soon, adding even more consistency and control.

Multilayer face technology

Mixing graphite and fiberglass was a good decision by Selkirk because it gives the paddle both power and control attributes. My play testing confirmed it offered nice balance, leaning on the control side, which is ideal for beginners.

The graphite gives it a powerful pop, while the fiberglass maintains a strong level of touch.

The difference will be night-and-day for players who've tried a wooden paddle at the local rec center or a cheap knock-off brand. As Selkirk says: "DITCH THE WOOD!" With paddles like this on the market now, you'd be crazy to buy a wooden paddle.

Spin flex surface

Right out of the box, the paddle's texture had me optimistic it could generate some spin. Sure enough, I managed consistent spin, something that the PCKL Launch Series and other budget paddles usually fail at. That's an exciting step forward for entry-level paddles.

The spin generation on this paddle blows the PCKL Launch Series away. While I think the PCKL Launch is a slightly better paddle overall, it has a flat face that doesn't support hard spin shots like topspin serves and drives. I use a lot of those in my game.

Ultra-cushion grip

The first thing I noticed when I picked up the paddle was the comfortable grip, which gave it the feel of a premium handle. I really liked how it sat in my hand, and after testing it in 100ºF heat, it still held up.

The entire paddle felt very maneuverable and comfortable. It's a good design for beginners who'll be learning to play the net and win fast kitchen exchanges.

Brandon Mackie displays the neon green SLK NEO 2.0 pickleball paddle

Performance

6/10

Power

7/10

Control

6/10

Spin

9/10

Forgiveness

8/10

Weighting

8/10

Grip

7/10

Durability

7/10

Aerodynamics

Power: 6/10

Due to its lightweight design, the SLK NEO 2.0 was never going to be a power paddle. But it also doesn't let you down when you swing hard.

At one point during my testing, I even hit a one-handed backhand passing shot, something that I can't even usually do with $200+ paddles!

It's not a perfect option for power players who rely on an aggressive game, but beginners won't have any trouble getting the pop and power they need.

Control: 7/10

It has a little less control than the PCKL Launch Series, but overall this paddle still had me winning most long dinking rallies. Drop shots weren't exactly easy, but they were still possible once I adjusted my swing power.

The best part about that is the lightweight paddle design, which lets you have fast hands at the net. I generally believe lightweight paddles suit a beginner game more than heavyweight paddles.

Spin: 6/10

I've said it before, but generating spin on a paddle in this price range is unheard of. It doesn't generate as much as carbon paddles like the CRBN-2X Power Series, but any spin at all is an improvement over the other beginner paddles I've tested.

I hope we see more of this in beginner paddles. While spin is usually part of more advanced games, I think it can help beginers to start winning more and progressing faster.

Forgiveness: 9/10

While not quite as forgiving as the PCKL Launch Series (which had almost no mishits in my playtesting), this paddle still has a massive sweet spot and has a wide body shape that's very beginner-friendly.

I only had a handful of mishits with the SLK NEO 2.0, which is extremely important in a beginner paddle. Getting a satisfying pop on your shots is going to add a lot of confidence to your game if you're just learning pickleball.

Weighting: 8/10

It's the perfect weight for a beginner paddle. 'Feathery' is the word I'd use, since it easily moves through the air and keeps the game very approachable.

The light weight will help inexperienced players improve the control on their shots. It will also allow them to spend more time on the court without the arm fatigue that comes with heavier paddles.

Grip: 8/10

The comfortable grip had a surprising level of quality, one that I'd compare favorably to something like the Paddletek Tempest Wave II, which comes in at a significantly higher price.

It maintained its level of comfort even in 100ºF weather over long test sessions and didn't get slick or slippery with sweat.

Durability: 7/10

The materials used are much better than some of the other Amazon budget paddles, meaning the SLK NEO 2.0 should last quite a bit longer—even with repetitive play.

New players are constantly scraping the paddle on the ground as they learn, making the edge guard a must-have (and edgeless paddles a scary thought).

Still, it won't last as long as a paddle like the Gearbox CX14E, the king of durability (which is why it ranks high on our list of the best pickleball paddles in 2023).

Aerodynamics: 7/10

You know that 'swoosh' sound you want to hear with a premium pickleball paddle? This has it!

While it doesn't have the open throat or edgeless design of a Selkirk Power Air Invikta, it'll still slice through the air well enough to generate power and spin. For a beginner paddle, it feels great during play.

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 SLK NEO 2.0 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 SLK NEO 2.0 set, which comes with two paddles, a pickleball bag, and four balls, comes in at $79.99. This puts it among the most affordable options on Amazon.

Value for money

Nothing can beat this pickleball paddle set in terms of value. For less than $40 per paddle, you're getting some advanced Selkirk technology, spin, and a forgiving experience that'll help advance your game.

There's really no better investment for beginners who want to get a great start in pickleball. If you don't need the bag, balls, or the second paddle, though, I'd recommend spending a bit more for the PCKL Launch Series.

The Launch Series slightly outperforms the SLK NEO 2.0 in most categories and is still my top paddle set of choice for beginners.

The neon green SLK NEO 2.0 pickleball paddle placed upright against a pickleball net

Bottom line

SLK and PCKL are taking 'entry-level' paddles to new heights. I wouldn't try to become a professional pickleball player with this paddle, but it's still a great investment for any beginners looking to advance their game.

The set makes a perfect gift for any neighbors or family members wanting to try pickleball. Plus, the paddles should hold up as they progress into intermediate level.

The SLK NEO 2.0 is forgiving, balanced, and generates more spin than any other budget-friendly paddle I've tested. I'd recommend it to anyone that wants to start playing.

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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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