Here are TCK Ball Machines we are in a unique position to review ball machines, firstly because we use them for coaching on a daily basis and secondly because we service and repair machines so we can see how they are built.
Over the years there have been many new additions to the ball machine manufactures. The big brands that started the manufacture of balls machines are Sports Tutor (Tennis Tutor) and Lobster, these brands have been at the forefront of ball machines for many many years. There are some new players in the field and we will go through these. We have used every ball machine on the market so we can advise you on the best purchase, everyone has slightly different requirements.
Ok first up Tennis Tutor Model 2
The Model 2 is a good basic ball machine, it does not have a huge range of features but if you are looking for a reliable and powerful machine then this has proven to be very reliable and robust. It has a simple well built design (as all Tutor machines have) solidly built inside and put together very well. The Model 2 offers ball speeds to 65mph, random oscillation, electronic height adjustment, variable feed rates and power settings. Weight 19 kilos, play time around 90 mins. Pros – well built, well made will last for years, powerful. Cons – few features
TCK rate this machine at 7/10
Tennis Tutor Plus Player
Next up is the Tennis Tutor Player Plus model (sometimes called the Professional model) This is a high end fully featured machine. I have used one of these for coaching and it can be used by beginners and high level players as well. Bigger physically than the model 2 (around 50cm sq) but packing with features including: bigger motors for faster ball speeds (85mph) Spin functions, both top spin and back spin, unique player features, play against a Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced player, the machine will adjust itself to replicate that type of player, very cleaver!
Other features include, oscillation both random, wide and narrow. The electronic display clearly shows you the current speed, height, spin and feed rate, simple and very intuitive to use. This machine is available in battery and mains (although the mains version is rare) Battery life (takes two batteries) is around 150mins the machine weighs 25 kilos. Pros – loads of features means you won’t get bored of it, great to use, easy to use, very well built. Cons – heavy, expensive.
TCK rate this machine at 8.5/10
Lobster Elite 2
A very popular machine and the Lobster that we sell the most of, the Elite 2 is a great all round machine with a good range of features. Lobster generally are the premium brand so fairly expensive. The Elite 2 has good ball speeds (70mph) both horizontal and vertical oscillation, good spin rates both top and backspin, very easy to manoeuvre as its large wheels help with ground clearance (useful if you plan to transport the machine over rough ground) The Elite 2 has a manual dial display which is easy to use and operate. It has a larger battery for around 120mins use and it weighs in at 24 kilos. Pros – strong and reliable, easy to move around and well made. Cons – Expensive, lacking features found elsewhere at the price.
TCK rate this machine at 7/10
Spinfire Pro 2
Spinfire are an Australian company and have been making ball machines since around 2010 and the Pro 2 is an excellent fully featured machine. Having a unique feature of internal oscillation makes this machine quiet and hard to predict where the ball will land. It has a great range of features including both horizontal and vertical oscillation, along with random and a mixture of both. High ball speeds also to 85mph and a larger battery for around 180mins play time.
Making this machine stand out are its easy to navigate digital control panel along with multi-function remote control as standard, with a price point of under £2000 make the Pro2 excellent value for money. I use one for coaching and its great to use! The newer machines are more responsive and faster to use. The back up and help from Spinfire are first class as well. Pros – Great features, good value, remote as standard, internal oscillation. Cons – Heavy at 26 kilos, not the most portable, sometimes balls fly into the larger front opening.
TCK Rate this machine at 9/10
Tennis Tutor Prolite
The Prolite is a popular machine from Sports Tutor, its a beginner machine or for those who want a very simple light machine to use. Very simple controls and a manual height adjustment with dials to change the speed (60mph) and feed rates, it also has random oscillation.
This machine is light at only 5 kilos, it has a smaller battery for around 90mins play time. If you just need a basic machine to practise your strokes and are not too worried about features then the Prolite is decent value at under £1000 those of you who can hit a decent ball however will need to look at a more powerful machine. Pros – Light and fairly cheap to buy Cons – Lacking power and features.
TCK Rate this machine at 5/10
Lobster Grand 4
The Lobster Grand series of machines are the companies top portable machines bristling with features and great fun to use. With its distinguishable red casing the Grand 4 has a host of features including player modes, basically you can press a button and replicate playing against a particular player type, Grinder, Baseliner, Moonballer to name just three. High ball speeds to 85mph and very heavy top spin and back spin as well. Many modes of oscillation including wide, narrow and random. Remote control is an option on this machine but a big battery is standard giving around 240mins play time. Weight at around 27kilos is quite heavy but having large wheels makes it easy to move around even on bumpy ground.
This machine is for decent club players who want to take their game up a notch. It will really push you around and give you a pro like workout for your game with enough features to keep you focused. One of my colleges uses one for coaching and he uses it on County level players. A great fully featured machine for the budding pro perhaps? Pros – Full of features, powerful, large battery, easy to use, Lobster are the premium brand. Cons – Expensive, heavy, no remote as standard (£300 extra) expensive upgrades.
TCK rate this machine at 8/10
Lobster Grand 5 LE
Wow what a machine! if you want the most powerful and sophisticated portable machine on the market here it is! The Grand 5 LE has everything you would ever need and more on top! This machine has the high speeds and very heavy top and back spin, plus unique programmable drills and pre installed ones. As usual with Lobster they are heavy and sold machines with large wheels making them very portable. This machine is not cheap however at over £3500 if you want the best then you are going to have to pay for it!
The pros of this machine are of course its versatility and its ability to cater for every type of player from beginner to professional and that’s very hard to do with a ball machine. If you have your own tennis court and simply want the best then here it is! But to be fair if you use this machine on a daily basis your game will improve no end.
The cons are of course the price so its not feasible for everyone to buy this machine. There are a lot of features of course but you do have to navigate menus so if you prefer physical buttons to use then this might not be the best machine for you. Apart from that your getting the best portable machine on the market!
TCK Rate this machine at 9.5/10