38mm vs. 40mm Ping Pong Balls

The ball is as good as the game! Ping pong is an incredibly fast game. The right set of equipment makes the game more fun. The material is a ball, a racket, and a table, all in premier condition. So, if any of the equipment is a mess, the results won’t be desirable.

Ping Pong Balls

With table tennis becoming a popular game, it is evident that there are many balls in the market. As a player or a ping pong enthusiast, you need high-quality balls. Balls resemble each other in appearance, but the underlying features greatly vary. So, you need to be critical.  You can buy the balls based on:

  • Fun  – they are cheap and not up to the standard
  • Training balls
  • Competition balls

The basic guidelines of buying balls are;

  1. The material of the ping pong  ball

Celluloid or plastic polystyrene is widely known as poly are the materials that make the ping pong balls. The International Table Tennis Federation –ITTF, established the plastic polystyrene balls standard for official events.

While both balls perform pretty well, poly balls are safe and more comfortable to move around and are created from eco-friendly material. On the other hand, celluloid balls are cheaper and last longer. What is your pick? Still, stick to the recommendation of the ITTF.

The two balls come in different sizes. The celluloid ball is always 40mm while the poly is usually a bit bigger, i.e., 40+ ball. You can see these measurements on the balls.

  1. Rating of the ball

The balls have a star rating. Typically, the star rating ranges from one to three, and they indicate the quality of the balls. The one-star ball is the lowest quality while a 3-star is the highest quality. 3-star balls are long-lasting.

  • The single start balls are soft, a feature that makes them suitable for youth play
  • The 2 star balls are firmer than the one-star balls. The ball is excellent for training sessions, and experts consider it as a multi-practice ball.
  • The three-star balls are premier in quality. They are hard/firm in feel, and as such, they are suitable for tournaments. Besides, those practicing drill skills, e.g., serve and smashes can use these balls.

Note most training ping pong balls do not have ratings. Such balls are excellent choices for children or Rockies. The balls are prone to breakages especially when walloped.

  1. Color

The legal tournament allows either white or orange color only. However, while practicing, you can use any color of balls, provided it is a visible color. If you are just learning you might want to get Colored Ping Pong Balls in Bulk.

Characteristics of a Tennis Ball

An average ping pong game for professionals lasts about 30 minutes. The game depends on the quality as well as consistency of the ball, apart from the skills of the players and table quality. A great ball with have higher speed, and such a ball must have characteristics like:

  1. Spin

A high-quality ball can spin whenever a lateral force is applied to the ball. Skill players can apply force from a rare angle to create spins.  A ball can spin up 9000 times in a single minute. Such spinning usually results in an extreme curvature along the flight path of the ball.

  1. Consistency

Without precision, ping pong won’t be fulfilling. If you want the game to give the desired results, strive for accuracy.  First, check the weight.  A professional ball weighs 2.7 grams. Such a lightweight ball is easier to hit or smash and will flow without much hassle. Besides, it gives players an easy time to handle.

Such balls usually have a diameter of 40mm. This diameter is justifiable considering the diameter of the ball. When such a ball is dropped on the ground, it bounces back to between 24 cm and 26 cm above the ground, when the ball is dropped from 30.5 cm above the ground.

  1. Material and color

Modern table tennis balls are made from plastic, though celluloid types are also available. If you want to train and be a pro, consider the poly balls. The balls come in either orange or white colors, though other colors do exist. The choice of color you make depends on the color of the table. For instance, a white ball will not be well visible on a grey, as it will be on a blue table.

Table Tennis Ball Sizes

The ping pong ball sizes are 38mm and 40mm/40 +. Initially, all competitions took place using the 38mm balls. However, this was changed to the 40mm in 2000. The reason for changing the ball size was that the 38mm is too small and it spins faster. As such, spectators could not enjoy the game.

  1. 38mm ping pong ball

The 38mm ping pong ball dominated the table tennis game for many years. A mention of a table tennis ball would end up leading to this kind of ball. All players trained on this ball, and ultimately gave their best when it came to actual play. This ball made the table tennis games extremely fast.  As such spectators had to concentrate sufficiently to follow the game.


  • Diameter is 38mm
  • Weight-2.2g-2.4g
  • Color – white, orange, pink, blue
  • Material – celluloid, plastic (poly)

The 38mm table tennis ball is known to be a very swift ball. While playing the game, all players must always keep the eyes to the ball. The higher speeds that the ball comes with always prove a challenge to the defenders. That implies that any player using these balls needed to have much practice.

Since the ball has a smaller diameter, it equally has a lesser weight. At a meager weight of 2.2g grams, the ball moves very fast within the table. The swiftness and accuracy of the player will determine how the game fairs on. While some players are skillful and can comfortably handle the speed of the ball, the vast majority have found this a challenge.

The first attack kind of game as well as players you are great at smashes to find these kinds of balls very friendly. However, such a high level of skills will require these balls to have been made from tougher material and have a 3-star rating.

Depending on the manufacturer, the ball can be made from celluloid or plastic, and the star rating also varies. You can purchase these balls depending on the level of your skills

Reliability 38mm table tennis balls

38mm ping pong balls are very fastballs. The high speed makes the balls to spin numerous times before reaching the opposite side. It takes a skillful player to return the ball successfully to the opponents. Proponents of this ball size hail it for its reliability. The ball performs exceptionally well, provided it is of right material and weight.

For spectators, the game was too swift for them to concentrate. So, the majority of spectators could not enjoy the game entirely. Such features lead to the development of a ball that could be much slower for spectators to enjoy all moments.

Ease of use

Up until the 2000 summer Olympics, the 38mm balls were used. For a fact, the balls performed exceptionally well. It is easy to use the balls provided you are skilled enough. In tournaments, all players are supposed to be trained for the game. Swiftness and precision is the key to better playing. Otherwise, the ball might prove a more significant challenge.

What to expect when playing using the 38mm

  • Spinning at a faster rate
  • Ball moves fast
  • Lightweight ball

What you need to perform well

  • Speed
  • Accuracy
  • Skills – serving and smashing
  • 40mm ping pong balls

These balls were first introduced in the summer Olympics of 2000. These make one of the most recent changes made in the table tennis game. These balls are fully approved by the ITTF. The principal aim of introducing this lager version of the balls was to make it possible for spectators to enjoy the game. The balls move a bit slower, therefore making the game livelier.

According to ITTF, the ball must meet the following criteria.

Color: The ball must come in only two colors: white and orange color. However, if it is not for tournaments/ you want to use for your practice, any color might do provided the ball is visible.

Packaging: While purchasing the balls, it should be well packed. The balls are usually packaged in materials like plastic or paper boxes, and at times blister packs. Besides, the package must be well labeled to indicate the type of ball and the material.  The date and codes must be compliant with the regulations of ITTF.

Weight: The ball comes with a weight varying between 2.67 and 2.77 grams. However, officially the ball is rated 2.7grams. Any ball outside the range of weight given is not a standard ball. Therefore it must not be accepted in any tournaments.

Size: The diameter of the ball is 40 mm. The use of electronic devices measures this measured. The automated calibrated machine has a precision of 0.001millimeters and measures all diameters with the precision of 0.01mm.

In cases of celluloid balls, they should have a minimum diameter of 39.50mm and a maximum of 40.50mm. While for non-celluloid balls come at a minimum diameter of 40mm and a maximum of 40.60.

Shape: All ping pong balls are spherical. To get the sphericity of the ball, i.e., the absolute difference between the minimum and maximum diameters, the ball is rotated about its axis then determining the difference between the two to get the sphericity. Celluloid balls have sphericity which is less than 0.35mm while for the balls it is less than 0.25.

Bounce: A well-functioning ball must rebound to a height of between 240mm and 260 mm when it is dropped from a height of 350mm on a steel block. Poly balls must redound to a height of between 240mm and 265mm.

Veer: It is essential to determine how much the ball veers from a straight line. Veer is the measure of how spherical the ball is. It is determined by rolling the ball in a slightly inclined surface, i.e., near the horizontal surface. The inclination angle is 14 degree from the flat and the distance is 100mm long over a 1-meter table. The rolling time is roughly 3 seconds.

In a given package, measure the veer of each ball at least three times. The deviation from the balls should not be more than 175mm.

Hardness: An automated machine is used to measure the hardness of the ball. The ball must be hard enough to provide the required bounce as well as withstand the hits and smashes.

Reliability of the 40mm balls

The 40mm ping pong balls completely replaced the 38mm in the tournaments. The balls come with more excellent reliability. They are slower and spin fewer times per single hit. This makes it easier for players to have a higher chance of precision while playing the game.

For spectators, it has become easier to follow the game. The slow pace of the game makes it much more interesting to watch as compared to the 38mm balls.

The ball is built and tested to meet the ITTF requirements. It signifies that the balls will perform as advertised.

Ease of use

The slow pace and less spin make the balls extremely easy to handle.

38mm vs. 40mm Ping Pong Balls: Which Is Best?

How you play is determined by how you handle the ball. For that reason, most players who are swift have trained using the 38mm ball. That only implies that when they come to the 40mm, they will perform exceptionally well.

Since the inception of the change, table tennis experts have indicated that no noticeable difference has been experienced in the game. The different players can state it is the 30mm moving a pretty first speed. The 40mm diameter is just appealing to the spectators.


Whether you buy a 38mm or 40mm ball, to the player, the experience of the game more or less remains the same. The quality of the play will majorly depend on the ball quality and the skills of the player. So, ensure that the ball is certified. An approved ball must come with a seal of approval from ITTF, trademark (brand name), a country producing the balls, inscription of size 40 mm for celluloid and 40+for non-celluloid

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