This ProKennex Black Ace Paddle review was based on 4 weeks of testing. Any long-term issues or results were not observed and may vary.
The ProKennex Black Ace has sprung onto the scene with much fanfare as the latest offering from one of the most respected names in pickleball.
But at a price point of $250, you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? As always, it depends on your preferences and style of play (and your wallet!).
Let’s take a closer look.
I tried the Black Ace for several weeks for play and drilling tests in order to get a complete feel of its playability and performance before writing this review.
I purchased the Pro Kennex Black Ace Pro. However, there is also the choice of the Ovation shape, which has a slightly longer handle and a truncated head (and is kind of unsightly in my opinion), and the Elongated XF in the Black Ace collection.
Check out why we consider the Black Ace to be one of the best paddles of the year.
ProKennex Black Ace Pro Paddle Specs
|Face:||Torray T-700 Carbon fiber|
ProKennex Kinetic Black Ace Pickleball Paddle Review
The Black Ace is considered a gen 1 Raw Carbon paddle along with notable paddles like the Volair Mach 1. They are the predecessors to gen 2 thermoformed paddles like Vatic, Legacy, and SixZero.
Power and Control
The Black Ace is really all about power. The ball pops off the paddle face like it was fired from a cannon, which can make for scorching drives and devastating put-aways.
Although it’s great to have that kind of punch available when you need it, I found that even when I tried to dial back my swing speed or shorten up my backswing, my drives often went long.
It was also more difficult to control drops and resets unless I used little to no backswing whatsoever, and sometimes I even found myself backing the paddle away from the ball when trying to hit a soft shot just over the net.
The sweet spot is smaller than I would have liked, and it was annoyingly easy to mis-hit what should have been a reliable drive. Up close to the net, maintaining control was a big issue as dink and drop attempts would pop up unexpectedly high due to the paddle’s stiffness and power.
In my opinion, this paddle has more pop than the Hyperion CFS 16, but it’s just not as easy to control.
If you’re a player that has control dialed in and needs a lot of help with power then I can see this being a perfect paddle for you. Furthermore, I could see this paddle or the elongated version being a weapon for singles play.
One big shortcoming I found with this paddle is the lack of spin. Various independent tests have supposedly shown spin results of around 1500-1700 RPMs, but in a real game situation, the ball comes off the paddle face so fast that getting good rotation on the ball and directing your shots can be tricky.
I tried slicing my backhand more and hitting inside-out forehands, but it required more and more aggressive mechanics to achieve satisfying results.
If you compare the Black Ace to a composite or fiberglass paddle, it’s not even a question that it’s easier at generating spin, however, compared to other T-700 face paddles, it was slightly harder to generate controlled spin.
At 7.95oz, the Black Ace is fairly light for a power paddle. The kinetic system design is intended to reduce vibration and minimize the impact on your joints, which is especially important for players with tennis elbow.
The tungsten beads inside the face and the handle supposedly reduce shock, but they do rattle around quite noticeably (and loudly). I didn’t find this to be as distracting as some other players do, but that’s just me.
The thin, stiff core made striking the ball feel kind of harsh even on drop shots. If you don’t have naturally soft hands, loosening up your grip might make the hitting experience less jolting. That said, the octagonal handle feels comfortable and firm in your hand even without adding an overgrip.
The build quality of the Black Ace is as high as one would expect from an industry leader like ProKennex. The paddle feels solid in your hand and its fit and finish is top notch. The edgeless design eliminates the irritating problem of loose edge guards which plagues most other paddles, and the replaceable Air-O-Guard bumper protects the top from nicks and dings. Though I only used it for a few games I had no doubt it would hold up after months of extended play.
Black Ace Pros and Cons
- Most powerful paddle I've ever used
- Lightweight and very maneuverable
- Great for singles play
- Very durable raw carbon fiber face
- Comfortable grip
- Absorbs all shock.
- Power comes with a lack of control.
- 10mm core makes it hard to stabilize.
- Small sweet spot.
- The paddle starts off very rigid.
Like all paddles, the Black Ace has its pros and cons, and preferences will obviously vary from player to player depending on their style and body mechanics. Many players seem sharply divided on this paddle with most either instantly loving or hating it. While power players will appreciate the incredible pop and speed, finesse players will probably not adjust well to the stiffness and underwhelming spin. Unless your game consists of nothing but pure banging it will definitely take some time to get accustomed to the small sweet spot and to dial in the right amount of swing force to get the results you want.
Overall, if you like to play a fast, hard game you might find a place for the Black Ace in your arsenal. If you prefer long, strategic rallies, though, it will probably not be your cup of tea. Either way, given the sticker price of $250 it would definitely be a good idea to demo this paddle before buying one!