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Review: Donic Original True Carbon Inner VS Tibhar Fortino Pro DC Inside

10 December 2021  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

     In this test, I review two brand-new “carbon-inner” versions of two 5+2 composite blades that I have previously reviewed, namely the Donic Original True Carbon Inner and Tibhar Fortino Pro DC Inside blades. Composite blades that have carbon layers surrounding the core ply (i.e., carbon-inner blades) are typically designed to produce a woodier, less pingy feeling than corresponding blades with carbon layers below the outer plies (i.e., carbon-outer blades). This, in turn, brings the promise of better touch and more control, albeit at the expense of a little less speed.

Testing Procedure 

     I tested the blades as received without any additional varnishing or lacquering. I attached well-used sheets of DHS Hurricane 3 (H3, 2.15 mm, black, provincial version, 40-degrees blue sponge, one thin layer of Haifu Sea Moon booster) and Spinlord Waran II (W2, 2.0 mm, red) short pips in my FH and BH, respectively, using one layer of Revolution 3 medium viscosity glue. I tested these set-ups over 3-4 sessions playing a mix of regular and match-like drills against my regular high-level practice partner (two-winged looper). Neottec Neoplast Pro 40+ training balls were used throughout this test.

Donic Original True Carbon Inner

     The Donic Original True Carbon Inner (OTCI) is based on the original Donic Original True Carbon (OTC, which was originally named Donic Ovtcharov True Carbon). Donic recommends the 5+2 ply OTCI for attackers looking for a blade with good control that still has the necessary acceleration to facilitate sudden attacks in decisive moments. Donic gives the OTCI speed/control ratings of 10-/8 and describes it as a nearly stiff blade with ALL+/OFF- characteristics. Thus, the expectation is that the OTCI is slightly slower but more controlled relative to the OTC which Donic rates at 10/7+.       

     The OTCI arrives in Donic’s new standard cardboard box, which is black with white text and offers excellent protection against damage during shipping. The back of the box lists a generic description of Donic blades. The OTCI has a standard-sized head (157x150 mm), is thin (~5.5 mm), and weighs (~84 g). The OTCI has a thick kiri core that is surrounded by a layer of Hybrid Aramid Carbon (Kevlar carbon was used in the OTC). This is followed by a thin ayous ply and a thin koto outer ply. The FH side of the playing surface has the blade name and key characteristics printed on it, whereas the BH side is without text. The handle is dark gray, with light blue and yellow stripes. The FH side of the handle features a large black oval lens that states the blade’s name in blue and white font, whereas the BH side is without any lenses. The white Donic tag is placed on the bottom of the handle. The smooth FL handle has the following dimensions: length ~100.5 mm, width ~26.3-32.0 mm, and height ~22.7-24.6 mm. The OTCI has a resonance frequency of ~1378 Hz when bouncing a ball on the naked blade, which is significantly lower than with the original OTC (~1539 Hz) and indicative of a slower and softer blade. The build quality of the OTCI seems to be ok although the playing surface feels rather rough and sticky (possibly, because the blade appears to have been coated with a thin layer of varnish). The wings appear to have been minimally sanded.

Playing Impressions

Initial Impressions

      The OTCI is nicely balanced with a center of gravity that is tilted towards the head, which, together with its low weight, gives the blade a nimble feel and encourages a loose grip. I enjoyed the blade’s balance on pendulum serves. The OTCI’s handle definitively feels as being on the small side, especially when executing FH loops.


      As expected, given the inner carbon composition, the OTCI produces a less direct feeling than the regular OTC. In fact, the contact point is quite soft and muddled on FH drives with the H3, but a little crisper on BH drives with the softer Waran II short pips. The OTCI is not a particularly fast blade. It is, at best, low OFF- speed if not only upper ALL+. In other words, Donic “10-“ speed score is detached from reality. Nonetheless, the trajectory is surprisingly flat and long, which can give the impression of the blade being faster than it is. The blade afforded a thick and medium-stiff feeling on FH and BH drives, something that I normally don’t associate with slower blades, but which gave me excellent consistency on these shot types. Presumably, this is the stabilizing effect of the inner carbon ply.

FH looping

     Unlike my experiences with the regular OTC, I found looping with the OTCI to be more intuitive. This is a blade that lends itself more towards loop drives rather than spinny loops. However, I found it necessary to hit the ball very high up on the blade if I wanted to generate acceptable power. The trajectories are relatively flat and long but the shots lack power, due to the inherent ALL+/OFF- speed levels and average spin levels. Nonetheless, it is quite fun to loop with this blade, due to its predictability. FH looping against backspin was equally consistent with the shots having enough clearance over the net.  

     The OTCI offers excellent stability and adequate power in FH loop-to-loop rallies from afar. I was able to bring the ball on my opponent’s side in a respectable manner, provided I was well-positioned relative to the ball.  

     I struggled with BH flat hits against backspin using the Waran II short pips. Most of the shots went too long as the blade seemed extremely bouncy in the spot where I typically hit the ball. It wasn’t until I accepted my inability to produce fast opening BH shots with this set-up and instead resorted to softer BH “rolls” against pushes, that I started to enjoy greater consistency. This approach worked ok but was prone to dangerous counterattacks from my practice partner since the shots were painfully slow and soft, and because the Waran II doesn’t produce very deceptive shots.  

    I also attempted to execute BH loops using the H3 with mixed results. The flatter trajectory and average spin levels meant that my BH loops were fairly inconsistent and not as dangerous as with other recent blades that I evaluated.  


      I enjoyed good control when flicking with the OTCI, especially on the BH side, due to its fairly stiff nature and moderate speed, but the latter allowed for counterattacks.


       The OTCI is solid on FH and BH blocks during warm up as the blade seems to absorb most of the power from the incoming shots. The blade also provides sufficient stability to engage in aggressive FH counter drives against loops, presumably due to the stabilizing effect of the carbon inner ply. However, the blocks are not very dangerous due to the blade’s moderate speed.  


       If the ball is hit perfectly toward the top of the blade, reasonably fast FH smashes can be produced. However, if the shots are even slightly mistimed, the resulting smashes are rather weak and woody, as if the carbon plies don’t exert any influence on the shot. For these reasons, I generally preferred loop-drives over smashes. BH smashes with the softer Waran 2 short pips worked better but were still slower than with other blades.


     Just like with the OTC, I had to take care not to overshoot the table while pushing with the OTCI due to its fairly stiff nature, short dwell time, and somewhat bouncy nature. Accordingly, I found it quite challenging to put a great deal of backspin on the ball. Short pushes, on the other hand, were reasonably easy to execute when using soft hands, as the blade is rather slow when using low input. 


     The head-tilted center of gravity afforded this blade a wonderful balance for serving, allowing for the execution of effective short backspin serves and – in particular – very effective and fast long topspin/sidespin serves that I was able to place right to the line.  


     In my opinion, the OTCI is best suited for intermediate-level two-winged loopers who want a moderately fast blade that produces long trajectories. It’s a blade that, due to its carbon layers, will suit players operating from mid-distance and relying on loop-drives, counter-drives, and loop-to-loop rallies, but who also want to have the ability to execute high-quality serves and flicks over the table. I would not be surprised to learn that conventional European/Japanese rubbers are a better fit for this blade than prototypical hard tacky Chinese and – especially - short pimpled rubbers.   


Tibhar Fortino Pro DC Inside

     Just like the original, carbon-outer OFF+ rated Tibhar Fortino Pro (FP), the German-made 5+2 ply Tibhar Fortino Pro DC Inside (FPI) is reinforced with a special fabric that combines carbon and Dyneema® fibers, i.e., the strongest fiber in the world on a weight-by-weight basis. According to Tibhar, this fabric provides the best value of bend-resistance and hardness, resulting in fast blades with dramatically increased sweet spots, minimal vibrations, and prominent catapult. Tibhar rates the FPI and FP as having 9/7+ (although the sticker on the front of the box states 9/7) and 10/7+ in speed/control. As indicated in my review of the FP, I think its “7+” control score is very generous.

     According to Tibhar, the fact that the carbon/Dyneema fibers are surrounding the core, yields a modern offensive blade that is catapult friendly and balanced, and which has a prolonged ball contact time and much softer touch than the carbon-outer Fortino Pro. Tibhar promises that the FPI allows for the execution of topspin strokes having the necessary penetrating force, even far from the table.

     The FPI comes in a large sturdy cardboard box. The box has a sleek, modern-looking white, red, and black color scheme. A sticker on the front lip of the box identifies the blade and provides blade-specific information (speed, control, and plies). General information about the FORTINO series and the Dyneema® fibers is listed on the back of each box. A small tube with a sample of the Dyneema® fiber is provided inside the box.      

     The playing surface of the FPI has the characteristic straw-yellow color of a limba outer ply. Text (“Fortino Dyneema, the world’s strongest fiber”) is printed on the FH side, whereas the BH side is devoid of text. The handle design has three vertical stripes: dark grey, light grey, and salmon red, giving it a modern look. The FH side of the handle has a black lens with the text “Tibhar Pro Series” and the Fortino trident logo. The handle butt has a shiny rectangular silver metallic tag with the text “with Dyneema” on it. The build quality seems good, although the otherwise smooth playing surface feels bumpy where the text has been printed. Unlike the original FP, the blade wings have been extensively sanded and are therefore quite smooth. The shape of the blade deserves mention – it seems to be quite wide above the handle, whereas the blade neck is very narrow.

     The FPI’s ply construction is as follows: the relatively thick core is surrounded by a layer of the Dyneema-carbon fabric, which in turn is surrounded by a relatively thick penultimate ply and a thin outer ply (presumably limba). The playing surface of the FPI is slightly smaller than normal (height x width: 156 mm x 151 mm) with a thickness of 6.3 mm. The FPI is two grams lighter (87 g) and produces a less high-pitched sound when bouncing a ball (~1420 Hz) on the naked blade than with the original FP (~1700 Hz), consistent with a slower and less stiff blade. The FPIs FL handle has the following measurements: length: 102.4 mm; width: 25.6-33.8 mm; height: ~23.3 mm (throughout the length of the handle).

Playing Impressions

Initial Impressions

      The FPI feels more massive than the OTCI without feeling clunky, with a center of gravity that – comparatively – is tilted more towards the center. The FPI rested comfortably in my large hands.


     While nowhere as extreme as the original FP, the FPI is still a fairly fast, stiff, and responsive blade, especially when compared to the OTCI. In my opinion, the FPI is a low OFF level blade that allows for balanced aggressive strategies. The carbon plies imbue a stiffness and crispness to the blade, which is beneficial when playing FH and BH drives. The ball and blade are felt clearly through both the H3 and W2 rubbers, rendering it a pleasure to play drives, which are fast, direct, and controlled.


     The feeling on FH loops is equally crisp thanks to the Dyneema fibers. Like with the original FP, the ball clears the net with little room to spare, before dipping down late on the opposing side. The FH loops are faster and spinnier than with the OTCI. However, at the same time, it feels as if some of the power is absorbed in the blade and not transferred to the ball, almost a dampened balsa-like feeling. When using a more upward motion and/or extra wrist action, I was able to impart enough topspin to occasionally give my practice partner problems with his blocks. The crisp feeling produced by this blade afforded me good consistency on down-the-line FH loops. The dwell time of the FPI feels longer than with the OTCI.

     The FPI packs sufficient punch to enable FH loop-to-loop rallies far from the table, but not so much that one needs to worry about overshooting the table. I was able to hit the ball pretty aggressively and still see it land on the table with good consistency.  

     The Waran II/FPI combination worked well on BH flat hits against long backspin pushes, which was nice after a couple of frustrating weeks with test blades that weren’t well-suited for short pimpled rubbers. The FPI produces a crisp and stiff feeling that I crave for these types of shots, and which gave me additional confidence to attack the ball. The BH openers were fast, flat, and dangerous. Care must be taken to use a flat motion, as a more loop-like motion resulted in shots that were consistently too long.

     I also twiddled the H3 into my BH to try out a couple of conventional BH loops against backspin. The BH loops were fast and deep but perhaps slightly less spinny than with blades of a more springy nature.


     The FPI’s crisp feeling gave me the confidence to execute aggressive FH flicks, which is one of my weaker shots. I had the best results when fully committing to the FH flicks (flatter angle), as more tentative flicks (mini-loops) had a tendency of going long. BH flicks with the Waran II short pips were crisp, fast, and clinical.


     The FPI is very effective at absorbing the incoming energy from topspins allowing for stable blocks. I attribute this to the dampening effect of the inner composite plies. I was able to produce very fast blocks and counter-drives from mid-distance when snapping my wrist and quickly accelerating the paddle through the ball over a short distance. These blocks either resulted in outright winners or – at the very least - put my opponent under a lot of pressure.


     The FPI works exceptionally well on flat hits, even when using the relatively slow and tacky H3. Smashes and flat hits are fast and easily able to produce outright winners.  


     The FPI is a fast and relatively stiff blade and it is, therefore, necessary to titrate your input power on long pushes to prevent the shots from going long. Once adjusted, I was able to impart much higher spin levels on these shots than with the OTCI, which I attribute to the blade’s longer dwell time. For sure, my hitting partner had major difficulties attacking the long, flat, and spinny pushes with loop-drives. Short pushes are no problem whatsoever with the FPI, since it has a dampened feeling on low impact shots. Long BH pushes with the Waran II short pips were much more controlled than with the original FP. While flat and relatively fast, I wasn’t able to produce much spin on BH pushes. 


     Serving with the FPI is quite enjoyable. The blade’s crisp feeling, gave me the confidence to brush the ball a little more aggressively, resulting in more backspin. Given that the FPI is a little slower than the original FP, I enjoyed better consistency on my short serves. The dampened feeling, yet controlled high speed, of the FPI allowed for effective and deep long sidespin/topspin serves. 


     As expected, the Tibhar Fortino Pro DC Inner blade is a tamer, less extreme version of the original Fortino Pro. It is a fast and responsive blade that – at the same time also has a dampening feeling to it, which facilitates drives and blocks. The blade allows for looping both close and farther from the table, and delicate touch shots and pushes, but its strongest suits are probably smashes and loop-drives. It is a 5+2 composite blade that will appeal to a broader group of players utilizing aggressive strategies, be it two-winged loopers, flat hitters, and loop-drivers, or, like me, BH short pips players.   

Final Thoughts

     In this battle of the two new carbon-inner blades, I must admit that I favor the Tibhar Fortino Pro Inner over the Donic Original True Carbon Inner, especially as someone who uses short pimpled rubbers in the backhand. The Tibhar blade is faster, provides a more crisp feeling, yet its slightly dampened nature allows for solid drives, blocks, smashes, and pushes. The Tibhar blade is simply more versatile in my opinion, whereas the Donic blade squarely will appeal to two-winged loopers.







About the Reviewer

     Patrick 'Pong Professor' Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast with a Ph.D. in chemistry who combines his analytical and experimental skills with his love of table tennis in order to test and review a wide range of table tennis equipment.