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Review: Donic Waldner Dotec AR & Persson Dotec OFF

07 March 2022  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

Donic Waldner Dotec AR and Donic Persson Dotec OFF Blades 

      For a long time, I have been curious to try Donic’s Dotec blades and at long last, an opportunity to test them has presented itself, as I here review the 5+2 ply Donic Waldner Dotec AR (WD) and Donic Persson Dotec OFF (PD) blades. Three things set Dotec blades apart from other blades, i.e., the special Dotec fiber which is purported to promote a soft feeling whilst hitting the ball, the fact that all edges have been rounded off resulting in a seamless transition between the handle and playing surface, and – especially – the ergonomic Dotec handle which is manufactured from a single piece and surrounded by natural cork. 

      Donic describes the WD as a nearly stiff, fast, and lightweight blade with an incredible feel. The WD has a 5 mm core of Dotec balsa, followed by a thin limba ply, an ultrathin layer of Dotec fiber, and a thin outer ply of limba. Donic recommends this blade for offensive all-around and controlled offensive players. 

      Donic describes the PD as a nearly stiff, fast, and controlled blade for offensive players of all levels. The PD also has a 5 mm Dotec balsa core but it is surrounded by a thin ply of koto, an ultrathin layer of Dotec fiber, and a thin outer ply of hinoki.  

      Donic gives speed/control ratings of 8+/8 and 9/7+ for the WD and PD, respectively. This compares to speed/control ratings of 10-/8 and 10/7+ for the Donic Original True Carbon Inner and Donic Original True Carbon blades, respectively. In other words, the Dotec blades are expected to be a little slower, with similar levels of control.  


     The two blades arrive in Donic’s new black-and-white standard cardboard box, which offers excellent protection during shipping. The back of the box lists generic descriptions of Donic blades. Both blades have playing surfaces that are smaller than average (153-154 mm x 151 mm). The WD and PD have thicknesses of 7.4 mm and 7.6 mm, respectively. The playing surfaces are devoid of text. The playing surface of the WD has the characteristic straw color of limba, whereas the surface of the PD has the characteristic pale yellow/pinkish color of hinoki. Different versions are available for right- and left-handed players. In the left-handed versions of these blades, the playing surface used to play FH is opposite to the side of the handle with the logo. Only the BH side of the handle features design elements. The WD has a maroon horizontal line and sticker, and a yellow-on-dark grey line that runs vertically along with the cork handle. The PD has a yellow horizontal line and sticker, and an orange-on-dark grey line that runs vertically along with the cork handle. An oval metallic tag adorns the handle butts. 

     The Dotec handles are the standout feature of these blades. The curved Dotec handle looks like an extreme conical handle with an asymmetric handle butt, but there is more going on than that. The Dotec grip encourages a neutral shakehand grip (i.e., neither FH- nor BH-centric grip), yet the FH playing surface is rotated towards the FH side, automatically resulting in a more closed bat angle when playing FH, but a more open bat angle when playing BH, which are the hallmark of a normal FH-centric shakehand grip. The side of the handle that faces the palm, bulges towards the palm, resulting in an unusual pressure point and blocky feeling. The side of the handle that the fingers are wrapping around and resting on, bulges slightly towards the fingers. 

     The handle dimensions are as follows (dimensions are only approximate due to the asymmetric nature of the Dotec handles): the handle length of both blades (measured along the middle of the handle) is 105 mm and 103 mm on the FH and BH sides, respectively. The width ranges between 29-39 mm, while the height is ~22-30 mm. Both blades are very light (69 g and 71 g for WD and PD, respectively) and produce broad high-pitched resonance frequencies (~1500-1680 Hz and ~1500-1600 Hz for WD and PD, respectively) when bouncing a ball on the naked blades. Thus, the resonance frequencies are in a similar region as with the Donic Original True Carbon (~1539 Hz), but much lower than with the Andro Kanter CO OFF(1860 Hz), which is another balsa-based blade that I have recently evaluated. The build quality of the blades seems to be good. 

Testing Protocol

     I evaluated the WD and PD using well-used sheets of DHS Hurricane 3 (2.15 mm, black, provincial version, 40-degrees blue sponge, one thin layer of Haifu Sea Moon booster) in my FH and Spinlord Waran II (2.0 mm, red) short pips in my BH. The rubbers were attached using one layer of Revolution 3 medium viscosity glue. I tested these set-ups over 2-3 sessions playing a mix of regular and match-like drills against my usual high-level practice partner. Neottec Neoplast Pro 40+ training balls were used throughout this test. 

*Note to the reader

     In this article, I am focusing on the characteristics of the blades, rather than intricate details of the Dotec handle, as the latter will be the topic of a separate article focusing on handle types. Suffice it to say, that offensive FH shots are facilitated by the closed bat angle that is promoted by the asymmetric and ergonomic Dotec handle. My hand and wrist were pre-locked into a striking position, but this preorganization comes at the expense of slightly reduced wrist flexibility. In addition, the more open bat angle on the BH side renders it easier to overshoot the table on offensive BH strokes, unless adjustments are made. 

Playing Characteristics of the Waldner Dotec AR


     As stated by Donic, the WD feels stiff. Yet, at the same time, like other balsa blades that I have tested, the feeling is muted and essentially free of vibrations. The inherently more closed bat angle, short dwell time, and resulting flat ball trajectories give the impression of fast FH drives, but the shot trajectories are rather short. Thus, the WD is an ALL+/low OFF- blade. The combination of the stiff WD blade and comparatively soft Waran II short pips, resulted in a sharp feeling on BH drives. Due to the inherently more open bat angle, my BH drives initially were too long. Normally, I would have closed the bat angle by adjusting into a slightly more BH-centric grip, but this is not as easy to achieve with the Dotec handle. Instead, I rotated my forearm towards the table. While this adjustment resulted in improved BH drive consistency, I felt more tension in my forearm. Moreover, the smaller surface area resulted in more edge shots. 


     The WD also feet stiff yet muted whilst FH looping. The shot trajectories were quite flat but still managed to clear the net. Despite my best efforts, however, I struggled to produce high spin levels, which I attribute to the more restricted wrist flexibility and the blade’s short dwell time, which, in turn, likely is a result of the balsa/limba combination. Thus, while I was able to FH loop with good consistency, my practice had no difficulties whatsoever in returning my loops. This became especially apparent during match-like drills. My third ball attacks against long pushes had to be exceptionally well-placed since the WD neither produces the spin nor speed to put a high-level opponent under pressure, and I otherwise was put under irreparable pressure. This was further compounded by the fact that the Dotec grip encourages a tighter grip, which in turn seemed to reduce my reach.  

      I had to use significant physical effort to engage in loop-to-loop rallies far from the table as the speed and throw angle of the H3/WD combination are too low to comfortably clear the net otherwise. Hence, my error rate was higher than with other blades.   

      BH openers against long pushes with the W2/WD combination were challenging at first, as the more open bat angle and stiff nature of the WD caused me to overshoot the table. I managed to improve my consistency by shortening the stroke. However, it was challenging to make this adjustment during match-like drills. 


      FH flicks, especially pancake-type flicks, are facilitated by the WD’s stiff nature and the more closed FH angle. I expected that FH flicks down the line would be more challenging to execute due to the limited wrist mobility, but the opposite proved true, though I don’t fully understand why. In any event, I enjoyed excellent consistency on FH flicks, which, moreover, were reasonably dangerous.

       The reduced wrist flexibility impacted my BH short pimpled flicks against short backspin pushes. Since it is more challenging to cock the wrist very far back, I, instead, had to hit the ball in its zenith with a shorter motion. Although the stroke mechanics are slightly different, it does not necessarily mean that the quality of the BH flicks is worse. In fact, the BH flicks seemed to be rather effective.    


      Balsa wood has an absorbing quality, which becomes particularly evident whilst blocking. Thus, the energy from the incoming loops was neutralized rather effectively by the WD resulting in muted-feeling, flat-trajectory, but not overly fast blocks. However, the short dwell time leaves little margin for incorrect bat angles, especially on the BH side. As discussed earlier, I had to rotate my forearm towards the table to ensure that BH blocks did not overshoot the table.   

Smashing and Flat Hitting

     The stiff nature of the WD’s balsa core lends itself well for smashes and flat hits. This coupled with the more closed FH bat angle, means that one often can resort to Truls Moregardh-style slap shots. 


     I expected that FH pushes would be compromised by the Dotec handle, the reasoning being that a more closed bat angle on offensive shots, would result in a more open bat angle on pushes. To my surprise, however, I enjoyed a more natural pushing motion, resulting in relatively fast and flat long pushes that seemingly also were quite spinny, as my hitting partner, at least on occasion, faced difficulties looping against them. The Dotec handle also results in a very comfortable and natural feeling on BH pushes, which also seemed to be more spinny than normally.     


     I was concerned that the Dotec handle would compromise my ability to execute pendulum serves, and, sure enough, I had to slightly alter the resting position of my fingers. However, this did not significantly impact my serve motion. However, my hitting partner reported that my backspin serves were less spinny than normal, presumably due to the WD’s short dwell time. Along similar lines, my long topspin/sidespin serves were very fast and sharp, but also less spinny.     


     I found the Donic Waldner Dotec AR to be a surprisingly challenging blade to play with since it is relatively slow and stiff with a short dwell time and flat ball trajectory. More than anything else, I don’t think the Hurricane 3 and Waran II, both of which are rather low-throw rubbers, pair particularly well with this blade. Rather, I expect that this blade will benefit from being combined with a 40-45-degree ESN rubber, as this is bound to produce longer dwell times, higher throw angles, and more spin. I expect such a set-up to be suitable for intermediate players who want to ensure a correct grip and develop from there. 


Playing Characteristics of the Persson Dotec OFF


     Surprisingly, the PD feels slightly less stiff than the WD, presumably due to the hinoki outer ply, which traditionally feels softer than limba. Like the WD, the PD produces a muted, vibration-free feeling on ball impact, which is typical of balsa blades. The PD is a notch or two faster than the WD (mid OFF-) resulting in longer trajectories on FH drives, which I, nonetheless, was able to play with high consistency. BH drives played with the Waran 2 short pips had a more stable trajectory than with the WD, perhaps because of a higher throw angle. 


     I found it easier to FH loop with the PD as the blade felt livelier and slightly less stiff than the WD. The shot trajectories were longer but still rather flat (in part due to the Dotec-promoted more closed bat angle). FH loops seemed to be slightly spinnier than with the WD. My third ball attacks against long pushes were more dangerous than with the WD, though my practice partner still had a relatively easy time putting me under pressure on the fifth ball. Once again, the tighter grip promoted by the Dotec handle seemed to reduce my reach a little bit. 

     The PD worked much better in loop-to-loop rallies than the WD, as the blade is faster, a little bouncier, and has a longer dwell time resulting in more spin generation and an improved arc. Accordingly, my consistency on these shots was better than with the WD.   

     BH openers against long pushes with the W2/PD combo were a little easier than with the WD. The blade is still quite stiff, but offers a little more dwell time, resulting in a more traditional shot arc. I still had to use a shortened stroke and soft hands to land those shots, though. The PD was sufficiently powerful to allow for BH short pip fishing shots from mid-distance, which resulted in some fun points.  


      Like the WD, the PD works remarkably well on both FH and BH flicks, which are facilitated by the blade’s stiff nature.  Given the PD’s higher speed, the flicks were even more dangerous. I enjoyed excellent consistency on these shot types.   


     Balsa wood generally has an absorbing quality, whereas hinoki and koto typically are springier wood types. The PD’s wood composition results in a livelier feeling when blocking compared to the WD. However, the less stiff feeling and slightly longer dwell time, resulted in an improved margin for error and better consistency whilst blocking, as long as I managed to get into a stable blocking position. However, one is never in doubt that the PD is a balsa-based blade and BH short pip blocks, in particular, felt quite glassy. 

Smashing and Flat Hitting

    The livelier nature of the PD blade, results in an even better feeling on smashes and flat hits, especially with the comparatively softer BH short pips. 


     Just like with the WD, I enjoyed reasonably good control on FH pushes with the PD, although the shots are faster, longer, and even slightly spinnier. Once again, the Dotec handle feels quite comfortable on BH pushes.     


     My short backspin serves seemed a little spinnier than with the WD, which I attribute to the longer dwell time enjoyed with the PD. Due to the blade’s livelier nature, a higher proportion of serves went straight to the net. Along related lines, my long topspin/sidespin serves were faster and sharper, but also less spinny.     


     Perhaps a little surprisingly, the Donic Persson Dotec OFF blade is a little easier to use than the Waldner Dotec AR, despite being faster. For sure, it seemed as if the PD was faster, had a slightly longer dwell time, and – accordingly – resulted in a higher throw angle and more stable trajectories. The hinoki-balsa combination facilitates a game style that is direct and emphasizes speed over spin. While the Hurricane 3 was a better fit for the PD than the WD, I expect that 45-55-degree ESN rubbers might work even better. Such a set-up would be suitable for intermediate to advanced players who like the balsa feeling, but who want something less extreme than a pure balsa blade.  







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.