Should You Get a Pickleball Machine and Which are the Best Ones?

Professionals often say there is no glory in practice, but without practice there is no glory. It can be difficult to arrange pickleball practice sessions with live opponents. Arranging with other players who have busy lives and busy schedules can bring even the most dedicated to a halt. Additionally, sometimes repetitive practice is needed to devote motions to muscle memory, and very few friends are interested in hitting balls to you in the same way, time after time. An alternate way of receiving serves to perfect your returns is by using a pickleball machine.

Facilities will often rent pickleball ball machines for a fee. If you have a space that you can use to practice regularly, but not a club to rent a machine from, it is absolutely worth your time to get one. The price of these machines is quite reasonable, and having one available to practice every day, or even every week, is a huge benefit to a player’s game. Ball machines help racquet sport players turn serve returning into muscle memory much faster than regular play alone. Removing returns from professional training sessions can help the player dial practice sessions and games in on the other skills they need to succeed at the sport much more quickly.

Here are some of the best ball machines on the market today.

Pickleball Tutor Mini

Below the Simon 2 but still a very competent machine for oscillating practice or serve-returning practice, the Pickleball Tutor Mini has the latest features and easy practice. Its comprehensive speed controls adjust speed from 10 to 50 mph, and its delay control can deliver balls both oscillating and consistent, with a delay of 5 to 10 seconds.

The 3-hour battery gives the Tutor Mini a long life, and the ball hopper at 125 balls is comparable to the competing Simon X, in a device 1/3 the price. Weight and size are also a huge plus, with the foldable hopper reducing the size to a near-cube of 15”x12”x13” that can fit in the back seat of a car or the trunk. With light weight and very manageable dimensions, this device is a great option for anyone who is not as physically able as to handle the 65 pounds of the Simon X, and even is easier to handle than the 31” height and 32-pound weight of the Simon 2. For a budget device, the Tutor Mini is hard to beat.

Pickleball Tutor Plus

The deluxe version of the Pickleball Tutor line, the Pickleball Tutor Plus includes features that set it ahead of the pack for a price only slightly higher than the Tutor Spin. With oscillation, dink, lob, and drive shots controllable by knobs or wireless remote, it can start and stop ball delivery with the touch of a button and set up oscillation. Considerably heavier than its siblings but still light at 35 pounds, it may be a challenge to get into and out of cars at its weight and bulk, which is greater than the Tutor Spin and Tutor Mini.

Compared to the Pickleball Tutor Mini, the Plus has a slightly smaller ball hopper at 110 balls, but short of a training session to the absolute maximum of the hopper’s capacity, it’s unlikely that the average player will notice. The Tutor Plus also has a slightly wider range of speed than either the Mini or the Spin, with a top speed of 65 miles per hour and a battery life of 3-4 hours. Overall, the Pinball Tutor Plus is a complete training option for a player who is looking to supplement their club experience with a machine with a wide variety of features and available modes of play.

Lobster Pickleball Machine

Headlining with a battery capacity for 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted play, and with a wireless remote controlling speed, elevation, oscillation, and spin, the Lobster Pickle Two and its compact, user-friendly remote have garnered high reviews. The sleek, smooth contours of the Lobster make it easier to move into and around compact spaces and are less likely to tear up car upholstery than its steel and wood competitors, and the long battery life will likely get the player through multiple play sessions before needing a recharge. With a 135-ball hopper, variable speed and a ball delay feature that can be set from 2 to 12 seconds from the remote, the Lobster Pickle Two is one of the most user-friendly pickleball machines on the market. The hopper can be reversed and put down on the machine after use for easy storage.

A deficiency of the Lobster Pickle Two is its relatively heavy weight of 42 pounds for a machine cased in plastic, which may be a turn-off for some users, especially older users. The Pickle’s price is on the lower side for pickleball machines at just over $1,050.

Simon X Pickleball Machine

Launched in 2019, the Simon X  is powerful and sturdy. With a massive 120-180 ball capacity, the size of the machine’s hopper alone would make it worth a look. Its features make it a truly worthwhile practice partner. The machine’s speed can be set from 5 to 70 miles per hour to practice any kind of shot from hard serves to feathery dinks. Spin is selectable with the touch of a button. The machine’s shooting feature can add stealthy oscillation to truly force the player to respond to its shots and not just where the machine is pointing. And the huge 12-hour battery life is more than 3 times longer than any other machine on the market.If Simon X has any disadvantages, they are its cost of nearly $2,600 and its bulk, which may make it difficult to maneuver into and out of the back of a medium-sized car. The Simon X’s weight is also a problem. Weighing 65 pounds, it represents a serious challenge for an older or less fit player to muscle in and out of transportation. If you can afford the Simon X ball machine, it’s hard to argue that it’s not worth the money for the truly dedicated pickleball player.

Simon 2 Pickleball Machine

Smaller and lighter than its younger sibling, the Simon 2 pickleball machine, introduced in 2014, is considerably easier to move around. Possessing a lifetime warranty on its throw wheels, like the Simon X, the Simon 2 is pleasantly simple, with a relatively small footprint and a weight of only half of the Simon X. With a 160-ball capacity, it has a larger hopper than the base hopper of the Simon X, but a smaller one than a fully upgraded Simon X.With oscillation and adjustable ramps like the Simon X, the Simon 2 can also be used to practice varying shots and full gameplay, not just serve returning. Players owning the Simon 2 will find its weight and size easier to handle, with only a 31” height and 12.5” width making the device, while substantial, less of a handful than Simon X. It is even lighter than some of its competitors, giving the owner an attractive, simple machine to play pickleball against. While it can’t be used to completely substitute for opponents, the Simon 2 is a competent trainer between games or between professional lessons.

Pickleball Tutor Spin

The most common machine used by clubs, coaches, and private instructors. The Pickleball Tutor Spin is, like the Mini and the Simons, a boxy design with little aesthetic appeal, but this will matter little once the device starts spitting out balls. With a portable rectangular shape and a weight two pounds lighter than the Tutor Mini, it’s hard to beat.

The basic model does not have an oscillation model, making it an affordable choice, though it exceeds the Tutor Mini by nearly 400 dollars. The Pickleball Tutor Spin, like the Mini, provides a rechargeable battery. It has an option for a model without a remote at a significant discount and has a convenient towing handle to tow like luggage on side-mounted castor wheels. With a 125-ball feed hopper, it matches the Tutor Mini and Simon X for capacity, but pales in comparison to the Simon 2 or fully upgraded Simon X.

Both versions of the Pickleball Tutor machine have available AC, and the high speed available will test even the most skilled players.

In Conclusion

For a player who is serious about pickleball practice, the ball machines described here might prove a worthwhile investment. Their price ranging from just over $800 to more than $1600 may be cause for some pause, but if pickleball is a sport that you intend to invest serious time into, the cost of these machines may well be offset quickly by lessons. If you have a club available with machines, however, it may be more cost-effective to rent machines at the club. Ultimately, it’s up to the buyer to decide if these machines are worth it or not.

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