What to expect from a ping pong table under $500
To the untrained eye, there isn’t a lot of difference between ping pong tables that cost upwards of $500 and those that cost below. Features like the build quality and durability obviously matter a lot, but some of the difference also lies in the playability of the surface.
Those under $500 are likely to have thinner playing surfaces which can impact the bounce negatively. However, you can still find exceptional offerings that aren’t that far off in terms of quality when compared to higher-priced tables.
Also, sub-$500 tables tend to be built with recreation and home use in mind. As such, some of them may not conform to professional table standards in terms of size and are likely to be easier to store.
How to choose the best ping pong table
Even with the budget restrictions, it’s pretty easy to choose the best ping pong table to suit your needs. You just need to consider your own unique needs and which tables best meet them.
Indoor vs outdoor placement
There’s a reason why indoor tables are usually made of wood or wood composites, while outdoor models have some kind of aluminum or composite material for the playing surface. Wood has excellent playability, but it won’t survive the elements.
Aluminum sheets and synthetic composites are great at surviving the outdoors, but they have terrible play characteristics because they provide less grip on the ball.
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) mandates a standard table size of length 107.87/2740mm, width 60.0”/1525mm, height 29.92”/760mm, and net height of 6.0”/152.5mm.
However, this size can sometimes be too big for indoor spaces, so some manufacturers design mid-size tables such as the Joola Midsize Compact Set
These are typically ⅔ of the regulation size and can fit more comfortably in a garage or patio, and the play experience isn’t affected too much for recreational play.
Playing surface thickness
This is one essential feature of any ping pong table. Thin tables are cheaper but have bad bounce characteristics, while thicker tables are heavier and provide a truer bounce. That’s because thin tables vibrate more, which affects the light ping pong ball.
A thicker model such as the 18mm HEAD Summit plays much better, although the best tables start from 22mm to about 25mm or 1” thickness.
Durability is dictated by the thickness of the table surface and the ruggedness of the frame/chassis. Thick surfaces are more resistant to bending and warping than thin ones and thus more durable. Also, a sturdy steel chassis with larger caster wheels can better support heavier tables.
Adjustable legs or leg levelers on a ping pong table are essential for outdoor sets. However, even the high-end indoor tables come with levelers because they help you set up the table on uneven surfaces without affecting playability.
Table tennis accessories aren’t common in the sub-$500 range, although some do come with paddles, ball holders, scorekeepers, or table covers. All the tables in this writeup do come with a net set and posts.
Unless you have a dedicated game room where you never have to move your ping pong table, portability is a very important feature. This is achieved by having the table in 2 or more pieces which can then be detached or folded to reduce the physical footprint and make storage easier. Caster wheels also make the heavy tables easier to move.
The MD Sports Table Tennis Set has four quadrants, which makes storage a breeze. However, this introduces playability problems, so a foldable mid-size table such as the PRO Spin might be a better idea. Also, the weight matters as well if you’re going to have to lift it.
Some of the higher-end tables in this range come with interesting features that make them even better for home use. Most of these, for example, have a Playback feature where you can raise one half of the table and use it for solo play.
The Stiga Advantage is also quite impressive with its silk-screen printed surface, which gives it an ultra-smooth surface for excellent bounce and playability.