As you can tell, we're not messing around. We know how important it is to stay up to date in the sports industry, and with pickleball moving quicker than anything else right now; it's adapt or die.
Thermoformed paddles are all the rage, and after my experience testing the CRBN1X Powers, I can understand why; they are truly outstanding in terms of many playability characteristics. We're waiting on a few more, and once we've tested each one, I'll make a comprehensive comparison, but today, we're looking at the Vatic Pro V7.
The V7 is a 16.5-inch extended paddle weighing between 8.3 and 8.5 ounces with a 16-millimetre core. The handle is 5.3 inches long, so the shape is more along the lines of a Selkirk Invikta rather than a CRBN1X power, which means less space for a two-handed backhand in exchange for more real estate in the head.
We just finished testing the CRBN Powers, so there will be some comparisons to those paddles during this review, but I'm going to try and keep most of my one-to-one comparisons for the full thermoformed paddles overview coming in the future.
I also wanted to mention that we will only be reviewing the Vatic Pro V7 today. The Flash 14 and 16mm are fantastic options, but I haven't spent enough time on-court to include them in this review. They have a unique shape and length, which makes for interesting playability (at least from what I've felt so far), but fully extended paddles are still my bread and butter, so I naturally veered more toward the V7.
Here's how the Vatic Pro V7 performed in power, spin, control, and feel without further ado.
Touch and Feel
I started my review of the CRBN1X Powers by talking about feel, so I will do the same here. That's because the feel of a thermoformed paddle is so unique that it's crucial to understand what you're getting into before you buy one.
The best way I can describe the feel of the Vatic Pro V7 is with the phrase "ultimate connection to the ball." Switching between the V7 and non-thermoformed paddles helped hammer this into my brain; when the ball makes contact with the paddle face on the V7, you feel that contact uniformly throughout the paddle. With traditional paddles, there is a disconnect between the contact point in the face and what you feel in your hand. With the V7, that contact is rock solid, and whatever the ball is doing farther up the paddle, you are feeling in your hand.
This is such an addictive sensation because it provides a uniquely connected feel for the ball — unique because you won't get it with traditionally molded paddles; it's similar to the connection I felt with the CRBN1X Powers.
The V7 also has a remarkably stable response. Again, this comes down to the unibody, thermoformed design. Because there are no breaks in the carbon throughout the paddle, when the ball makes contact, the paddle reacts as one firm object. The hefty weight and extended length also play their part in making the V7 so stable.
I did find the V7 to have a slightly more forgiving feel than some other extended-length thermoformed paddles. I don't play with this 5.3-inch handle, Invikta-style shape very much, but it does have a noticeably bigger sweet spot and plusher response on impact.
I want to clarify one thing: the ultimate connection and feel you have for the ball does not translate to traditional control. Yes, the feel is unique and positive, but the ball spends very little time in the paddle bed, which means you do not have the same level of control as you would with other 16 millimetre paddles.
Thermoformed paddles are tough to control — it's the main drawback of this design, and in my review of the CRBN1X Powers, I discussed why I think the 16 millimetre was a better overall paddle than the 14. The V7 only comes in a 16-millimetre option, and I never found myself wanting more power and responsiveness, so I once again stress that I think this thickness is the way forward for thermoformed paddles.
The V7 is slightly better for control than the CRBN1X Power 16mm. The paddle felt softer with a slightly longer dwell time. This could be down to the different core or because the paddle is a bit heavier stock, but I think it's mostly down to the longer paddle face. Having that bigger sweet spot gives the paddle a slightly softer response because the impact is dispersed over a larger surface.
Still, it'll take some to get used to a thermoformed paddle's instant response, but remember, less control means…
More power! That's just it with thermoformed paddles; the physics makes them significantly more powerful than anything else. It goes back to what I said about why the paddle is so stable; no energy is lost in cut-off points throughout the carbon because there are no seams, so the ball shoots off with tons of pop.
The V7 is very powerful, but I found it to be slightly less powerful than both the extended CRBN Powers. It's actually not worth a comparison to the 14mm CRBN Power because that thing is other-worldly for power, but even compared to the 16mm, it was noticeably less powerful. The CRBNs have a juicy sort of "zing" that almost feels like a trampoline effect within the core, whereas the Vatic Pro V7 is much more raw. I appreciated this slightly less powerful feel because the paddle was so powerful I was happy with a bit more control.
It will be interesting to go through a more extensive playtest with the Vatic Pro Flashes. They'll naturally be lower powered because of their shorter shape, so it could be an interesting length for thermoformed paddles in the future. Thermoforming has already converted me into a thick-paddle lover, so maybe it will make me appreciate the shorter length since I don't need to get my power and spin from the longer leverage.
I know I'll struggle with the different weight distribution and balance on those Flashes, but I can't wait to give them a thorough test.
It's tough to say what's more elite between power and spin on thermoformed paddles. They're so much higher with this design than with traditional paddles, but if I had to pick between high spin potential or high power potential, I would go for spin.
Bringing your power is fine. But in order to control the extra pop, I needed to access their elite spin potential. I've talked about how the control isn't great — albeit quite decent on the V7 — but the spin-generating potential is so good that I never really had a problem controlling the paddle.
You can control power with spin; that's how tennis progressed over the years, and thermoforming could have the same effect on pickleball. You may need to tweak how you play, but if you can change your drop from a flat, dink-style shot to a high-spin, low-dipping one, you could be on to a winner.
The V7 will give you access to almost all the spin you could ever need; I even found it to be noticeably more spin-friendly than the CRBN1X Power 16mm, and throughout my playtest, I started to really master the low-dipping passing shot. It's a shot I pull off with more traditional paddles, but it was easier to hit more consistently on the V7.
Be warned: once you get used to a thermoformed paddle's spin potential, it's challenging to go back to traditional designs, so buy one at your peril.
Who is it for?
Thermoformed paddles are not for everyone; they have inherent flaws that mean they will never be competitive in certain playability characteristics, mainly soft touch, and control. That being said, the Vatic Pro V7 is one of the more controlled and user-friendly thermoformed paddles I've used; it at least has some sort of soft side you can tap into, and you don't have to use surgeon-like precision to attempt a touch shot.
If you prioritize control via the spin game, you will love the Vatic Pro V7. Instead of flat put-away volleys, go for rolled volleys at the net. Instead of a flat return, carve into the ball with sliced backspin. Instead of a flat dink shot, go for that high topspin, dipping passing shot I mentioned earlier. There will be times when you can't get around the flat game, so you'll have to work on softening up your hands there, but for those of you advanced enough to pull that off, you will love this paddle.
This might be my new paddle of choice. I love that it has more control on the power-to-control ratio than the CRBN Powers. I'm excited to keep trying these thermoformed paddles as they trickle into the store because they are so unique compared to the rest of the industry that comparing them to each other will help determine a few more nuances between each paddle. Stay tuned for the SixZeros and Legacys coming our way and the comprehensive comparison that will follow.