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Donic Bluestorm Series Review Part 1: Z1 and Z1 Turbo

13 November 2018  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

About the Reviewer

George Latterman

Often considered an enigma, a myth, and to some a legend, George Latterman is a man who knows no bounds. George was born in New York with dual citizenship, sharing his nationality between the United States and Brazil. After becoming interested with high level table tennis when he was 18, he spent time practicing in both countries and is one of the top players in the capital region of New York.

Combining his degree in Communication with his passion for table tennis, he now offers a unique perspective on how an average to above average American club player feels about modern equipment in a modern world...

 

Introduction

Donic has been around a pretty long time. Over 40 years in fact. They've sponsored the Swedish dream team of Waldner, Persson, and Appelgren. Now they currently sponsor the great Ovtcharov. They've been a major brand within the table tennis world and is a name that everyone in the sport is familiar with. However, like almost all table tennis companies, once Butterfly released Tenergy back in 2008, Donic has been trying to develop a product that performs as well or better. Companies such Xiom have Omega V and VII and Tibhar has Evolution. These rubbers meet and some may argue exceed the performance of Tenergy. Has Donic finally released a rubber line that meets these standards with their Bluestorm series? Let's have a look.

 

I've had a decent amount of experience trying various other Donic rubbers in the past. Baracuda, Acuda, Bluefire M, Bluefire JP, one of the Acuda Blues (I can't recall which one), and now here I am with the 5 Bluestorm rubbers, their newest line with increased grip for the plastic ball. This first part of the review will cover Bluestorm Z1 Turbo and Bluestorm Z1.

 

Now, the main problem with these modern Donic rubbers is, quite frankly, durability. Every single rubber I have tried from them up to this point plays like a dream for the first month. It will have great feeling, consistent and stable looping, speed and power, or whatever its intended characteristics are supposed to be and then some. Then, after this first “honeymoon” month, their rubbers jump off a cliff and rapidly fall to their death. After the second month, I found them nearly unplayable and regretting my financial decision to buy them.

 

It seems that Donic is aware of the issue and on the back of all Bluestorm packaging is the claim that they have “Lifetime PLUS” technology. I don't exactly know what that entails but the point is that Donic is trying to say these rubbers last longer. I'm highly skeptical due to their track record but I'll give them a chance.

 

Bluestom Z1 Turbo

Bluestorm Z1 Turbo

Bluestorm Z1 Turbo features a hard topsheet with a very hard 50 degree sponge. When squeezing the sponge its density is apparent. Z1 Turbo is easily the hardest rubber in the Bluestorm series. The topsheet is indeed noticeably grippy with that familiar ESN grain.

 

I know you all like to be entertained with surprises, twists, and turns so I apologize for describing this rubber as fast... because it's fast. Though with that being confirmed, what I did find surprising was that it lacked feeling to me. Granted, I'm far from the world's greatest player. As it states above in my bio I'm playing at an “above average American club player” level. As a result, it takes a lot to really pentrate into the sponge. Though, having used other rubbers of the same or harder hardness. It still lacked the kind of feeling I was hoping for. It ended up feeling muffled and thick. At the end my testing it, I applies 2 layers of Falco Tempo Long booster and that helped significantly to sort of “open up the sponge” more but in my opinion a brand new sheet of a modern tensor shouldn't require booster to have good feeling. For clarity, my review of this rubber is in its unboosted out of the package state.

 

Flat hitting didn't make any particular clicking sound but the speed was still there. The sound wasn't exactly there on any stroke but it was always fast. The speed on hard loops encourages a very aggressive play style. Passive play with this rubber is an easy way to lose points.

 

The throw angle of this rubber is somewhat low. It remains low on all strokes. Opening loops were capable of good spin but I really struggled to continue attacking with this rubber. Thicker loops where I would try to penetrate into the sponge simply wouldn't take. The resulting ball was very fast but 1/3 of the balls went into the net, 1/3 of the balls landed on the other side successfully, and 1/3 of the balls landed very far off, missing the table entirely.

 

Serving with this rubber can yield very high spin. This rubber isn't particularly bouncy so I was able to execute a good variety of serves. If I had to find something bad to say about its ability to serve, I would say that it's muffled feeling maybe made it a little difficult to vary the speed of the serve but it's something that would be easy to get used to.

 

I wasn't all that satisfied with the short game of this rubber. Flicking with this rubber is fast but I wasn't capable of consistently flicking at my normal rate and I would often hit the ball long. Pushing isn't particularly great either. With serves, you are using your wrist and have a stronger impact on the ball. On pushes, which are more about timing and have less impact, weak balls are returned that are easy to attack.

 

If you've been following along then I'm sure it will not come as a surprise when I say that this is not a chopper's rubber. This a fast and low control rubber so chops often went off the table and when they did land they were usually too high and low on spin making it easy for my opponent to kill the ball.

 

Blocking was poor. I'm a pretty decent blocker and the lack of feeling coupled with the high speed made this rubber way to hard to handle. What I would consider a medium paced shot from my opponent would often react as if it were a fast paced shot and then fly off the table when I blocked. My guess is that your best bet is to try to very actively counter with this rubber but that requires a decent skill level to do that consistently, especially during a match.

 

Lobbing, lifting, and fishing were actually decent at least. When executing these strokes, you're probably at a distance so you need the extra speed to make it back to the table. As you know by now, Z1 Turbo has plenty of speed so at least you can put a check mark next to that on the list of characteristics. With my style, I try to avoid these strokes as much as possible but when the occasional inevitability occurs, I found this rubber to be very reliable. This is one of those situations where you are using your opponent's power against them and it does it well.

 

Driving is quite good if you are skilled enough to land it on the table. This rubber definitely has a tendency to drive a bit flatter and with a low throw angle though so keep that in mind. Normal drives require significant adjustment and I often hit them into the net. Successful drives are blazing fast though. You just need to learn how to adjust to do them.

 

Successful counterloops are often death for your opponent. Z1 Turbo is a big heavy warhammer. This means that when it lands, damage is being done. However, the main problem is that I found them to be very unstable and inconsistent. I missed more than I landed by a good amount.

 

I just need to emphasize now that this rubber REQUIRES tuning with a good booster. Two layers of booster made a huge difference and improved its playability significantly. However, this review is not about boosters or boosting as that would add a lot of variables and make this review way too long and too off topic.

 

Bluestorm Z1

Bluestorm Z1

Bluestorm Z1 features a fairly hard topsheet with a hard 47 degree sponge. When squeezing the sponge its density is apparent though not as much as Z1 Turbo. Z1 is the second hardest rubber in the Bluestorm series. The topsheet is indeed noticeably grippy with that familiar ESN grain.

 

Bluestorm Z1 is also a speed demon. I would say that it's only slightly slower than Z1 Turbo. However, the most important thing to realize here is how much better Z1 feels when compared to Turbo. Z1 has 95 percent of Turbo's speed, but it is much more stable and consistent on all attacks. To put it bluntly, unboosted, Z1 is a better rubber than Turbo for attacking. The speed of this rubber is a bit higher than any Tenergy and is more comparable to to Evolution MX-P.

 

The feeling and the sound are quite present even on flat hits. I found Z1 to really do well at flat hitting. Most modern tensors tend to lean almost exclusively on looping but there is enough variability with Z1 to allow for solid flat hits to be performed.

 

The throw angle of this rubber is medium low. It's perhaps a touch higher than Z1 Turbo but it's possible that I feel this way because I had better feeling with it than I did with the unboosted brick of Turbo. Z1 can generate respectable spin on opening loops but this rubber was designed with a speed first mentality. The spin it can generate is a tool or a catalyst to improve it's speed and therefore its power. Power is plentiful with Z1 and all powerful attacks were comfortably and consistently executed.

 

Serving with Z1 was fine. It can serve with high spin but it's nothing to write home about. It gets the job done and after some practice you can adjust your serves accordingly.

 

The increased feeling in Z1 helped its short game out compared to Z1. I was able to get some dwell time, not a lot, but enough to recognize that a better player than I can probably pull off some very fast flicks with this. I was able to do it, just not at a consistent level because the speed was hard for me to handle. Pushes were fine too but must be well timed.

 

Chopping with Z1, though technically better than Turbo, is still ill advised. This is a very fast rubber and it's not at the top end with its spin. Chopping with this rubber almost always went high and long. Perhaps good old Mr. Joo can work some of his miracles with it but I'm sure that even for him there are better choices in this department.

 

Blocking was rather good. The better feeling plus the lower throw angle allowed for some sense of control on blocks. The high speed allows for balls to return to your opponent quickly, putting pressure on them. Of course, this is still a very fast rubber so the room for error is not very large. This isn't my first choice for blocking but it can get the job done.

 

Lobbing, lifting, and fishing are really excellent with Z1. These types of strokes feel almost automatic with Z1. This is the kind of rubber that can deal with pressure and send it back with interest. This rubber is among my favorite's when it comes to this type of long distance play.

 

Driving is superb with Z1. This is the stroke this rubber was designed for. With unrelenting force and enough spin to maximize its speed, a good enough player can end the point quickly if given the opportunity to drive. There's just enough dwell time to ensure accuracy but the ball leaves more than quickly enough to prevent any kind of slow down.

 

Looping with Z1 shouldn't be ignored. This rubber may excel at driving but all of its loops still pack plenty of power. Even for a player such as myself, this rubber is easier to attack and loop with than one might expect considering its high speed. Full commitment to the stroke really helps to ensure that a quality and powerful loop will come out. It's important to have confidence in yourself and with your rubber, then you can see that this rubber shines at powerlooping.

 

Quick Thoughts on These Two Rubbers

Bluestorm Z1

The first thing I have to say here is that should you decide to buy Bluestorm Z1 Turbo, please, make sure to USE BOOSTER. Apply it right out of the package. If you buy Z1 Turbo without intending to use a good quality booster, you will have made both a poor financial decision and a poor table tennis decision.

 

Bluestorm Z1 on the other hand, does not require boosting. I'm not saying that boosting it wouldn't help performance (it probably would help actually). It's just that right out of the package, Z1 delivers on exactly the type of rubber it claims to be. It's very fast and powerful, just as you might have expected.

 

I've yet to touch the very important topic of durability, Z2, Z3, Big Slam, and how all 5 of these rubbers come together to form the Bluestorm series. That's because this is part 1 of 2. Be on the lookout for part 2 coming soon.

 

To be continued...