Advantages Cheap. Quite robust, nice design, comfortable to use and strong.
Disadvantages Exposed strings on the edges, and handle covering could wear quickly, could be a little tighter.
|Quality of product|
|Value for Money|
OK, Please excuse the double entendre title, but I had to get that obvious joke out of the way first. Now then, I like my sports, and aside from golf, the other primary sport I play regularly is badminton. Since having an extended break away from playing, I needed a new racket, as I believe I left my old one at a former home. Spotting a sale on at Sport & Soccer (they same to be always having sales don't they?) I found this little gem by the popular badminton equipment supplier Carlton. After three months of use, here are my findings on this Ultra Blade 250 badminton racket.
I bought this Ultra Blade 250 on a chance visit to a local branch of Sport and Soccer. Looking for a sports bargain in the high street, I always start here. Ever since I was a teenager, they always seem to have a sale on! Anyway, I digress. Normally retailing anywhere between £14.99 and £3, (Yes, £3!), it solely depends on where you buy it from. At my supplier, it was reduced from £9.99 to £4.99, which I thought was a great price! After being enticed in by the price and rather nice metal-like looks of it, I really wasn't expecting a good racket however, and certainly not for it to last more than a month with the aggressive game I have. Still, I thought I'd give it a chance, and was glad I did.The racket is widely available at many high street sports stores, but is slowing being replaced by the newer 350 version, as such there are deals to be had on this model. Online is where you can pick it up for as little as £3, Sports Direct have this offer now, but it can also be bought from other popular online stores like Amazon, Ebay shops and Carlton Sports own website too.
Like tennis and squash, the badminton racket has evolved over time. Traditionaly using wood, this progressed onto aluminium and then, like most badminton racquets today are made from a combination of graphite (carbon fibre) and titanium alloy. Even thought this Ultra Blade 250 is the most basic racket Carlton Sports manufacture, designed for beginners with a low price, it is built from this blend of materials, making it strong, light and durable. The Ideal racket weight without strings or grip is between 70 and 96g. Again, this budget racquet meets these high standards, with a weight of 90g, and just over 110g approximately with strings and grip. The design also incorporates a isometric shaped head, as most modern rackets have compared to the older oval shaped heads. Measuring 197mm across (maximum) and 247mm in height, there is a wide area to connect with, and this makes it a very easy racket to use, seldom hitting an edge or miss-hit combined with an average skill level. The shaft is 255mm long, with a diameter of a mere 7mm. This is average for a standard production racket, as professional can alter the grip and/or shaft length according to their needs. Although it may seem a little thin and weak, it's is surprisingly strong whilst also very supple and light. The octagonal shaped grip for this racket is 162mm long and a width of 33mm, and is perfectly adequate for adult men or women's hands. With a white soft tape covering and the Carlton logo on the base, this is a comfortable but sturdy handle, providing an adhesive grip with little slip, even with sweaty hands.However, the string tension and thickness is something which this racket cannot quite match up to with the professional level. String thickness is normally somewhere around 0.62mm to 0.72 mm thick. The strings on this racket are just under 1mm, I'd say 0.8mm approximately, and also are strung at quite a low tension. While the string tension can vary from each professional player, generally the tension is higher. With a low tension, whilst not being able to generate the massive power the pro's do, it is fairly accurate with a decent range and sweep, and being a little thicker than average the strings will be more tolerant to wear. The 'feel' of the shuttlecock can sometimes go wanting though, and occasionally can produce a harder or softer shot than you would have hoped for. The strings themselves, can appear to be haphazardly strung in places too, and with the lower tension, are not always consistently spaced apart and will move around a bit during play. So some between-serves tweaking is in order. Some strings also are compressed together at the sides of the head, particularly where the strings 'cross' on the outside rim. This leads on to another slight problem. As these area's os string are exposed and raised from the sunken rim-edge, wear will occur quicky here, esspecially is the racket is abused or used to sweep shuttlecocks off the floor regularly. The holding knots are tight, will not loosen in a hurry, are concealed nicely and do not interfere with the performance of the head on a whole. The general construction is neat and tight, the T-connector holding the shaft to the head being quite strong with no chance of unwanted movement, and the grip tape is secured very well with very little overlap on the ends. This prevents a rip for tear after an catching a zip or fingernail on it, an awkward hit or accidental drop.
As I have already hinted on, the design was something which caught my eye initially in the shop. Primaily black in colour, it has nice symmetrical shapes of silver on the rim of the head, along with a subtle ladder-like design. The strings have the Carlton logo printed on them, which will fade after prolonged use. I like to keep this prominent though, and sometimes re-colour the design back in with a permanent marker. I don't recommend this, as some markers can be damaging to the strings. The Carlton logo also takes centre stage on both sides of the T-connector, pointing to arrows of silver and white running down the shaft towards the Ultra Blade title proudly printed near the grip head. A black holder tapers out to the grip itself, which is a bright white when bought new. Mine isn't white now however. Discolouration and dirt deposits collect quickly on the grip tape, and don't rub off easily, making for a grim looking handle after several games. Of course, grip tape can be bought cheaply if you like a clean handle. Finally, on the butt of the handle is a well glued plastic plate, again with a white Carlton logo on it. I find this design not as loud as some neon or florescent coloured rackets, and not a dull solid base colour either. It looks nice and a little unique, but it's not going to win any awards for badminton art, if there was such a thing!While the grip does become grubby quickly, it doesn't take it's comfort away in any drastic fashion. It's soft to hold but feels strong under your hand, and doesn't cause any blisters or excess rubbing on your palms. A freind of mine gets a light bruising on his wrist due to his own (other brand) racket and personal grip style, I have found no such problems with this. The soft tape doesn't rub hard enough to create any unwanted issues should you have a habit of hitting your wrist with the butt of the handle during play. Sweating doesn't effect the grip that badly either, maybe becoming a tad moist sometimes, but seldom does it fly out of your grasp and into the backside of your doubles partner.
If you are not looking to spend a fortune on an item such like a badminton racket, but want a little bit of quality too, this is the right one for you. It most certainly will not last you more than a year if you play regularly, but at a price like this, who cares? It's light, well designed and built, is comfortable to use and can make for a really good game of badminton. The jury maybe still out on whether the strings can keep as long as the body of the racket, as it would really not be worth having re-strung, that would cost more than a new one. As a budget model racket however, this is a great buy and suits beginners and hobbyists alike, but not for the professional.A top bit of badminton kit, solely recommended.
For the full range of Carlton Badminton products visit - http://www.carltonsports.com/Thanks for Reading. © Novabug
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