Terms you hear on the courts may include nomex, polymer, honeycomb, aluminum, composite, fiberglass, graphite, carbon fiber.
Pickleball paddles generally have a core material and a facing material. The cores are typically made of either, nomex, polymer or aluminum honeycomb. When you hear folks talk about honeycomb core today, they’re usually referring to the most common; polymer honeycomb core. However, nomex cores and aluminum cores are also comprised of honeycomb cells. (See below: polymer honeycomb – left; nomex honeycomb – middle; aluminum honeycomb - right).
Nomex - is a harder material which will perform longer due to the density of the material and smaller honeycomb size. These Nomex paddles are louder than the polymer core paddles and have slightly less power but fantastic control.
Polymer – is softer and has larger honeycomb cells - this is a good material that holds up well. Because it’s a softer material it is quieter and has great power but you’ll sacrifice some control compared to nomex and aluminum.
Aluminum – With very similar performance to the Nomex core, aluminum cores have honeycomb construction. However, primarily due to the weight and density of this material, they don’t have the kind of power you’ll find with polymer. It’s greatest feature is the superior control – the downsides are noise and the ability to dent.
Now on to the facing:
In general, you’ll see paddles made with three types of facing; fiberglass (also called composite), graphite and carbon fiber. Any one of these facings can be applied to one of the cores mentioned above. Here’s the quick run-down.
Fiberglass – this is probably the most common facing you’ll see on the courts. It’s not as strong as graphite or carbon fiber but has more power (pop).
Graphite – also very common, graphite is strong and provides great ball control but you’ll sacrifice a bit of power.
Carbon Fiber – similar to graphite but more durable, this material provides the ultimate in ball control. Again though, you will lose a bit of power.
So what do you do with this information?
Consider your style of play, the ball you generally play with, if you’re usually outside in breezy conditions or you play inside. Are you strong enough to kill a ball without needing extra power? Do you love the soft game and need that nice touch and finesse? Are you transitioning from another racket sport or just starting out?
Here’s a link to ProLite’s comprehensive paddle comparison chart . Print it off for yourself and get a good idea of which paddle seems best for you.
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