The first Vcore Pro came out almost a decade ago and saw massive success alongside the best version of Wawrinka.
It grew a nearly cult-like following for those fans who loved Wawrinka’s gung-ho, power, and precision game but then became one of the industry's go-to control rackets on its own merit.
With Wawrinka’s decline in form, the Vcore Pro lost some of its mystique, and there was always ambiguity comparing it with the Vcore, so Yonex made the difficult decision to kill it off. Well, not really.
The Percept is the next version of the Vcore Pro, just with a fancy new name. In terms of shape and specs, the Vcore Pro 97 and Percept 97 are identical; it’s as simple as that. The new Percept has a 97 square inch head, 16x19 string pattern, 21-millimetre beam, and weighs 310 grams with a very similar swing weight to the racket it replaces. So, what has changed?
We had to dig into the marketing jargon to figure it out, but it seems that Yonex is following the industry trend of molding the frame to stay stiff in the hoop and flexible in the throat. They’ve introduced Stiff Racket Face Design with claims of increased stability and ball feel similar to what we have with Paradigm Bending from Wilson and Auxetic from Head. The reality with these technologies is that they work, generally making the rackets more stable, forgiving, and playable at lower swing weights.
Even though Yonex has stiffened up the Percept’s hoop, the overall stiffness has remained the same at 60 RA. With Stiff Racket Face Design – which I will be calling SRFD for the remainder of this review – the racket plays quite differently, starting with feel.
The most significant change coming from the old Vcore Pro 97 is in feel, which is very good. I want to clarify that these aren’t drastically different rackets, but the subtle differences have improved the Percept's feel.
The biggest issue with the old 97 was its mushiness on contact. Yonex thickened up the beam, softened up the flex and I always found Vibration Dampening Mesh too intrusive on the frame’s feel. Even if they haven’t changed the stiffness or beam thickness, the Percept’s sturdier hoop has helped eliminate most of that mushiness, and the ball pocketing is much more responsive and well-defined.
Yonex has also finally gotten rid of Vibration Dampening Mesh and replaced it with a new dampening technology called Servo Filter. VDM notoriously dampened too much feel, and this new tech is much less overpowering. The Percept still doesn’t have the cleanest feel of any control racket, but there’s generally a much better connection to the ball.
It actually has a very similar feel to the current Pro Staff 97 v14, which makes sense considering the similar technology the two frames have. The Percept 97 feels crisp but blunt, whereas the previous one felt spongey and muted. Also, even though it may feel stiffer, it’s still a very comfortable racket, so if you’re worried about discomfort, don’t be.
The “stiffer hoop softer throat” technologies primarily help with stability, and SRFD works wonders on the Percept. The previous Vcore Pro had a similar swing weight at 317 strung but wasn’t stable enough to play in stock form. If a racket has a soft flex and thin beam, it usually needs a swing weight at least in the mid 320s, but because the Percept’s new tech works so well, Yonex has been able to maintain that low swing weight, but the racket is far more playable stock.
The racket is much sturdier on impact; it doesn’t flutter, it doesn't get pushed around, it’s just very impressive engineering from Yonex. You can, of course, always customize the racket up to a specific spec if you so desire; you certainly won’t be making it too stable. Because the stock specs are so low, the Percept is an excellent platform racket. Add a leather grip, and bring the swing weight up to 325 by adding lead tape at 3 and 9 o’clock; you’ll make it even better if you can handle the heavier specs.
The Vcore Pro was Yonex’s control racket, and while it may not be called that anymore, the Percept is fantastic for control, much better than the racket it replaces.
Because Yonex thickened up the frame, changed the shape, and muted the feel, control was significantly worse on the last Vcore Pro compared to the ones before. The nostalgic part of me almost wishes Yonex had reverted to the old design with the Percept, but either way, the control has gotten much better.
With the new technology, the sweet spot feels much more precise, so you know exactly where the ball is in the stringbed, which helps provide a much better sensation of control over your shot. The Percept is the most controlled racket in Yonex’s line right now, and while we didn’t include the Vcore Pro 97 in our Top 5 Control Rackets from a few months back, this one would probably make it in.
Power and Spin
When a racket is molded to be firmer at the same swing weight, it will not only be more stable but also more powerful, and that’s the case with the Percept. Stability and power often go hand in hand, and the Percept packs more of a punch than the old Vcore Pro, but before anyone reads “power” and thinks that should mean less control, it doesn’t.
The Percept is simply more powerful and more controlled than its predecessor, which is always a little hard to believe, but that’s another area in which these “stiff face, flexible throat” technologies excel. It’s sturdier on impact, but because the dwell time is still long with the flexible throat, you don’t lose the sensation of control despite its better power.
Spin follows the same logic but is slightly more complicated to explain. If the racket holds up better in the hoop, it will naturally be more spin-friendly because the ball loses less energy in pocketing, and again, that’s the case here.
It also helps the Percept’s spin profile that the racket is more playable in stock form. Adding weight to the Vcore Pro was almost necessary to achieve competitive stability, but that also meant you were slowing the racket down. Playing the Percept in stock form you will benefit from its better whip-ability and generate more racket head speed on contact for spin.
By no means is this a very spin-friendly racket, though, and that’s a good thing because you don’t want your control racket to be a wild spin monster. There’s not much going on to amplify spin, although the grommets are noticeably roomier than those on the Pro Staff 97. For comparison, spin is higher than the Pro Staff but lower than the Blade 98 and TF 40.
Who is it for?
If it hasn’t been made clear up until now, the Percept 97 is a massive improvement on the outgoing Vcore Pro 97. The subtle changes, especially in feel, have helped make it a much better racket for control. It really typifies what a modern control racket should be.
As has been the trend in the industry, it’s a control racket with a forgiving side, which is fantastic because it means that those players who can’t usually play with demanding control frames finally have an option to go to. That said, you still need to be at least a high-level intermediate player to benefit from the Percept 97’s positive characteristics, but for those of you slightly lower-level players, the Percept 100 could be perfect. Review coming soon!
Overall, I am so happy with the improvements Yonex has made here. Renaming the line and improving it so much was necessary as the outgoing Vcore Pro had lost a lot of popularity, and Yonex has knocked it out of the park here.