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Review by Patrick: Donic BlueGrip R1 and V1

04 July 2019  | Posted in: Table Tennis Equipment

 

This time around, I was given the opportunity to try out Donic’s newest offerings, i.e., the German-made Donic BlueGrip R1 and the Donic BlueGrip V1 rubbers, which are dubbed the answer to the plastic ball loss of rotation conundrum. Donic describes the R1 as having an extremely grippy topsheet combined with a fine-pored sponge suited for a European playing style with topspins and counter-topspins, whereas the V1 is described as a hybrid rubber with a sticky Chinese-style topsheet and a very fine-pored catapult effect sponge for a Chinese FH-oriented topspin playing style. Donic rates the speed/spin/control of these rubbers at 10+/11/6 and 10/11+/6 for R1 and V1, respectively. As a reference point, the entirely non-tacky Donic Bluefire M1 Turbo, which I reviewed approximately 12 months ago, is rated at 10++/10+++/6. Thus, the BlueGrip rubbers are expected to be slower but spinnier.  

The rubbers come in sturdy cardboard packaging with blue and black (R1) or purple and black (V1) color themes. Key rubber characteristics are listed on the back, while a description of Donic-sponsored players and the Formula Donic 3rd generation technology is provided on the inside of the cardboard cover. The Formula Donic 3rd generation entails Lifetime PLUS, Catapult PLUS and Tension PLUS technologies which promise: 1) an increase of 50% in possible playing hours, 2) a catapult effect that allows for more precision when returning balls, even from difficult positions, and 3) improved inner tension, resulting in a more pronounced speed glue feeling. Both rubbers have a prominent, sweet, rubbery odor, suggesting that they come boosted from the factory, although neither of them is doming. The R1, indeed, has a very grippy and slightly sticky topsheet and a blue sponge with a high density of medium-large pores. The topsheet of the V1 is moderately sticky (but far less so than traditional Chinese rubbers such as DHS Hurricane 3) and the blue sponge has very fine pores. To me it looks like entirely different pip constructions are used with R1 having longer pips with a smaller diameter and a thinner top-sheet than the V1. The sponges of both rubbers are listed as having 50-degree sponges. 

The uncut sheets (169 mm x 169 mm) weigh 74 g and 75 g for R1 and V1, respectively. When cut to test blade (158x151 mm), the R1 and V1 weigh 51 g and 53 g, respectively. This puts them in a similar range as Xiom’s Omega V Asia and Tibhar’s Evolution MX-S and MX-P (50-degree sponge). The V1 feels minimally harder than the R1 to the touch, which in turn feels marginally harder than the Tibhar Evolution MX-P (50-degree), Tibhar Evolution MX-S, and Andro Hexer Powergrip.

Testing procedure: I tested the brand-new BlueGrip rubbers straight out of the package on the OFF-rated 7-ply Stiga Rosewood NCT VII blade with Nittaku Moristo SP AX (1.8 mm, red) short pips on the BH side. This time around, I attached the test rubbers using three layers of the Donic Formula First glue, which is Tabletennis11.com’s “house glue”. The integrated sponge allows for the precise application of thin glue layers, which result in strong adhesion between rubbers and blade. I tested the V1 and R1 over several sessions, playing a mix of simple drills and practice matches against my regular teammates, using the Nittaku J-Top training balls. 

Playing impressions Donic BlueGrip V1: Although the V1 has a 50-degree sponge, the contact point is felt quite clearly when playing FH drives, without being crisp. The V1’s inherent speed level is in the mid OFF- range, which means that FH drives are pretty snappy, yet controllable. FH loops produce ball trajectories that are long and flat but the spin levels seem to be a couple of notches below those of traditional tacky Chinese rubbers such as DHS Hurricane 3 and a notch below non-tacky European rubbers like Andro Hexer Powergrip. This was particularly evident on softer opening loops against backspin, which gave my opponents unusual opportunities to win outright points on counter topspins, provided they timed their shots well. The flatter trajectory and OFF- speed levels were useful on loop drives, which could be played with excellent depth and control. I also found loop-to-loop rallies to be quite fun to play, as I was able to place the ball deep on my opponent’s side, albeit with lower-than-usual spin levels. The V1 is linear with a limited catapult effect, which allows for a precise titration of input power. Passive blocking with the V1 is solid because the medium-hard sponge absorbs the incoming energy and since the topsheet is not very spin sensitive. For similar reasons, aggressive blocking and counterattacks are relatively easy to execute although I longed for even more tackiness that could help me guide balls over the net. The V1’s low spin sensitivity rendered it easy to execute flat hits although some players would prefer faster setups, which could be accomplished by using faster blades than the Stiga Rosewood NCT VII. The V1 performs very well in the short game. Its linear feeling renders it easy to drop the ball short and low, albeit not particularly spinny, on short backspin serves. Pancake flicks are also enabled by the rubber’s linearity and solid feeling, whereas more tack would be desirable on more conventional FH flicks against heavy backspin, where more lift is necessary. I was not able to produce as much spin on my serves with the V1 as with the other reference rubbers (e.g., Hurricane 3, Hexer Powergrip), but the rubber’s linearity does allow for the precise placement of serves in positions that render it very difficult for the opponent to initiate an attack. 

Conclusion: The Donic BlueGrip V1 did not quite live up to my expectations as it pertains to spin levels, especially on opening loops against backspin and serves. It is still a fine rubber, which has its strengths in the open game that is based on drives, flat hits and loop-drives, all while providing good feeling for the short game. The V1 strikes me as a spinnier version of the old Stiga Calibra LT rubber, sharing a similar flat and long trajectory and direct feel. The V1 will suit intermediate to advanced players as a FH rubber. The V1 could also be quite useful as a BH rubber for players with a block- and hit-based game style. 

Serves: 8.5/10  

Serve receives and short game: 9/10

Looping: 8.8/10

Flat hitting: 8.8/10 

Blocking: 9/10

r1

Playing impressions Donic BlueGrip R1: The R1 feels a little slower and softer than the V1 and has a slight catapult effect, but far less so than other rubbers like Andro Hexer Powergrip. The control on FH drives is good, with a slightly spongier feeling upon ball impact than with the V1. The speed level is at the lower end of the OFF- range. Opening FH loops against backspin result in a higher and shorter trajectory vis-à-vis the V1, which provides more safety over the net but also renders loops less dangerous. The ball bites the topsheet quite well and the opening loops are slightly spinnier than with the V1, but still less spinny than with top-end reference rubbers such as Hurricane 3 or Andro Hexer Powergrip. As with the V1, it was easier than normal for my practice partners to aggressively block my opening loops, which put me under pressure on the subsequent shot. Loop drives can be executed in a controlled fashion but lack a little bit of both spin and speed compared to other rubbers. Topspin points are won on consistency and good placement rather than brute power. The R1 offers good levels of control in loop-to-loop rallies thanks to the higher throw but requires more physical commitment due to the lower inherent speed. Blocking is facilitated by the lack of spin sensitivity, but I found the feeling to be less crisp and power-absorbing than with the V1. For similar reasons, aggressive blocks and counter-topspins were more difficult to execute than with the V1, requiring a more closed bat angle. It is easy to execute controlled flat hits with the R1, but faster and stiffer blades are needed to generate dangerous speed levels. The R1 works well on short service receives and drop shots thanks to its low speed and relatively limited catapult. Traditional flicks are relatively easy to execute as the grippy topsheet and overall softer feeling assist in guiding the ball over the net. Spin levels on serves are slightly higher than with the V1 but still lower than other rubbers.  

Conclusion: The Donic BlueGrip R1 is well-suited for intermediate level players employing controlled aggressive shots as their main strategy. More advanced players will probably find the R1 to be too slow as a FH rubber, unless it is combined with a very fast blade. I think the R1 might appeal to a broader ranger of players as a BH rubber given its medium-high throw angle and excellent grip, which will enable the execution of important shots such as the banana flick with good levels of control. 

Serves: 8.5/10  

Serve receives and short game: 8.7/10

Looping: 8.5/10

Flat hitting: 8.5/10 

Blocking: 8.5/10