What Does Ping Pong Ball Star Rating Mean? Simple Explanation

This article will guide you through the ping pong ball star rating system - we'll explain the difference in quality, size and bounce for each type
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Last updatedLast updated: July 16, 2023
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When choosing the right ping pong ball, you should factor in its technical specifications, your level of play and the time you will be spending playing. When it comes to technical specifications, one of the most reliable methods you can use is the ping pong ball star rating which indicates the quality of the ball. If you were to go by the feel and appearance of the balls, you might go wrong since it seems like they all feel and look pretty similar. The rating will affect pricing because the balls differ in their manufacturing.

We have explained what the ping pong ball rating system is, what the different stars stand for, and the differences between 1 star vs. 3 stars rating system. We have also discussed what the better option would be, depending on whether you are playing recreationally or competitively.

Who Decides on the Ping Pong Ball Rating?

The manufacturers decide on the rating system for their products based on the specifications that the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has set for quality, size, weight, durability, and consistency.  Other factors that determine ping pong ball rating are the ball’s elasticity and balance as well as the visibility of its seam. The highest rating by ITTF is 3 stars, although some manufacturers may label their products 4 or 5 stars.

Why stars?

What do the stars on ping pong balls mean? The stars represent the quality of the ping pong ball and how close it fits the ITTF standards. You can use the rating system to determine the suitability of a specific ball for either competitive or recreational play. The higher the star rating, the higher the quality of the ping pong ball. That is why the maximum rating of 3 stars indicates the highest quality whereas balls with one or no stars are the lowest quality.

No Stars

Not all table tennis balls have stars. The ones used for fun games and for practice by newbies typically feature no stars.

Practice balls

Balls used for practice or training do not have stars. They are bought in bulk, and are a better fit for junior players and individuals making their debut into the game. They could be used in competitions provided they meet the official ITTF standards for a ping pong ball. These balls can easily break from hard hits.

Beer pong balls

Beer pong ballsBeer pong balls are thrown across the table into the opponent’s cups which have some beer, and if they land in, the cup’s owner must drink the beer and then set the cup aside. The balls used for beer pong do not have stars.

Novelty balls

Another kind that does not feature table tennis ball stars is novelty balls. These are fun balls that are more suitable for kids and recreational play. They are available in different colors, sizes and textures that are appealing for casual games. You can buy them in packs.

Meaning of Stars

Now that we have established that the stars are a reflection of quality, we will look at the features you can expect from the various balls with varied stars.

One star

One starThe first classification we will look at as we continue with our discussion on what the stars on ping pong balls mean is the 1-star rating. This kind has the lowest quality among the balls with stars and they are the least durable. They are also the softest, so they have limited bounce capability and they also break more often from impact. This makes them unsuitable for professional players. However, some like Sanwei ABS 1-Star Training balls are great for casual and friendly matches. You can purchase 1-star balls in different materials like celluloid or polystyrene.

Two stars

Two starsThe second type of table tennis ball stars is the 2-star rating. They only fall short of the 3-star rating by something that you would barely notice. Therefore, they are a great choice for ping pong players with developed playing techniques and those seeking to advance in the game.  They are firmer and more durable than table tennis balls with 1 star. You can use them for competitive play Trusted Source Table tennis rules, scoring system and all you need to know Table tennis made its way to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has since been a fixture in the quadrennial event. Here are the official rules of table tennis. olympics.com as long as they weigh 2.7 grams, have 40 mm diameter, and they feature white or orange colors. Otherwise, we recommend this category of table tennis ball stars like Butterfly Training Ball to intermediate players for various practices to hone their skills.

Three stars

Three starsFor the highest quality, consider table tennis balls with 3 stars such as Butterfly 3-Star Ball. They are authorized by the ITTF and they meet international standards because they are tested and verified before the Companies releases them into the market. ITTF lists Trusted Source ITTF-Equipments PERIOD OF VALIDITY: The Date Of Issue Until 31st December Of Current Year. equipments.ittf.com the manufacturers with these balls that are approved for official competitions. These ping pong balls are durable and they can withstand strong hits. They are made from different materials such as celluloid which is fairly affordable, but polystyrene is the preferred material for tournaments because it yields the most consistent bounce when you hit the ball with a ping pong paddle. 3 stars on ping pong balls mean that the balls are excellent for spin play and they grant you more control over the shots.

You will find Companies that are not listed by ITTF although they also make 3-star balls. Such Companies have chosen not to involve the ITTF, but the balls they make can be used in competitions as long as they meet the standards set by ITTF.

1 Stars vs 3 Stars

The difference between 1 star vs 3 star ping pong balls is in quality and the level of play they are suitable for. The former is better for casual games because it cannot withstand strong hits whereas the latter usually lasts a long time and is approved by ITTF for tournaments and official competitions. It is the highest quality that is durable with decent bounce.

Final Thoughts

Ping pong balls come with either no stars or with stars which differ in their number because they vary in quality of construction, durability and performance. ITTF is the body that governs for all national table tennis associations. The rating system is determined by how close the balls fit the standards set by this overseeing body. Most 3-stars have been tested and approved by ITTF before release to ensure optimal quality when playing in tournaments and other official competitions. You will find some balls rated 4 or 5 by manufacturers, but 3 is the highest ping pong ball star rating recognized by ITTF. Remember, you can also use tennis balls with less than 3 stars in competitions if they meet the official ITTF standards.


Table tennis rules, scoring system and all you need to know
Table tennis made its way to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has since been a fixture in the quadrennial event. Here are the official rules of table tennis.
PERIOD OF VALIDITY: The Date Of Issue Until 31st December Of Current Year.
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