We are back with another JNICE badminton racket review and this time we are looking at the Black Panther Ltd badminton racket, which is rather famous online for being a head-heavy, stiff badminton racket for power shots.
This post is published in partnership with JNICE
I have had numerous requests to review this racket and I have certainly seen how much love it receives on online forums. Hence, it was perfect timing when JNICE said they would sponsor this post for me to introduce this racket to you guys!
For those of you who are new to JNICE, it’s not pronounced “jay-nice”, but ‘jiu nai si’. It is a brand that produces a variety of badminton equipment ranging from rackets to clothing.
The Black Panther racket belongs to JNICE’s Legend series. If you have not seen my previous JNICE video in which I tested the JNICE Elastic Elves 6 Pro, do check it out here! The Elastic Elves 6 Pro is a speed machine of a racket with a compact head, and a super slim shaft making it exceptionally speedy, nimble and fast. On the other hand, by the looks of the Black Panther, I think it’s an entirely different beast.
Visually, the Black Panther has a lot of carbon fibre on display and under bright lights, you can also see the holographic decals which are present throughout the frame and shaft. This was a racket released to celebrate JNICE’s 10th anniversary as a brand and company so there’s a cool little decal just below the T-joint of the racket to commemorate that.
The Black Panther’s racket frame also reminds me of the old school Yonex Muscle Power racket frame which had small little bulges in between each of the grommets around the frame of the racket starting from the 3 o’clock section to the T-joint of the racket. This feature is replicated on the other side of the racket at the 9 o’clock region.
Knowing JNICE, they like to push the boat out in terms of their racket design philosophy. Even just by looking and playing around with the Black Panther, I could feel it differed greatly from the Elastic Elves 6 Pro which I tested previously. The Black Panther has a thicker and shorter shaft than usual alongside a longer handle whilst also sporting a thicker racket frame. All these point to a rigid, stiff and potentially powerful racket. The markings on the Black Panther suggest it is a head-heavy racket. However, my initial impressions of it didn’t feel that way.
In terms of measurements, the Black Panther has the thickest shaft amongst all the rackets that I’ve measured thus far on my channel, at 7.5mm. In comparison, the Elastic Elves 6 Pro’s shaft is only 6.3mm. In terms of rigidity, the racket has a lot of forward and backward stiffness, as well as plenty of torsional rigidity. This might be good for you, depending on the type of player you are.
In terms of the shaft length, the Black Panther measured in at 20.5cm. This is also the shortest shaft measured on my channel, although a few other famous top-end rackets, such as the Yonex Astrox 100ZZ, Yonex Astrox 88S Pro, Li Ning’s AxForce 90 Dragon and the Li Ning AxForce 100, also share the same shaft length. Shorter shaft lengths are generally applied when manufacturers want to shorten the response delay as it produces less whip effect.
If we then move upwards and look at the frame of the Black Panther, it has a frame height of 24.3cm and a frame width of 18cm. Again, taking the crown for the biggest racket frame. If we compare the compact frame size of the Elastic Elves 6 Pro to the Black Panther, we can see the difference between the two.
You can already sense where JNICE is going with the Black Panther racket here. Thickest and shortest shaft alongside the biggest racket frame thus far. If we look at the frame thickness, it came in at 10.9mm, certainly making it one of the thickest frames for a non-specific aero design. Additionally, the frame is fully recessed which gets me very excited as this normally helps make a racket’s swing smooth and fast at the same time.
And finally, the handle length of the Black Panther is measured at 17.5cm which is pretty normal in the world of rackets. I had the racket in 4UG5 spec for testing. However, I noticed that its grip felt more like a G4, instead of a standard G5 which I’m used to, as it just felt a bit bigger than usual. This won't impact playing performance, and I do like the gold lettering of the JNICE logo on the stock grip of the Black Panther.
In terms of stringing, the racket is rated at 30 lbs in tension for the 4UG5 spec. I felt that the grommets are not very snug when the racket is strung so stringers will have to be careful, especially when stringing a fresh Black Panther racket, as they might potentially pop out.
I strung the Black Panther with my usual string set-up of Aerobite at 27 lbs by 29 lbs and the racket held up fine under tension. If you are stringing from a packet of strings, you’ll be fine as there’s always more string than needed. However, if you tend to string from a reel, do note that you might want to have ready more string than usual due to the bigger racket head. Allow yourself at least 30cm more on both the mains and the cross and you should be fine and not have to resort to emergency techniques to get out of trouble.
I took a swing weight measurement of the unstrung, ungripped Black Panther, and again after it was strung and gripped. You can see how the racket’s measurements changed.
So how does the Black Panther feel? Well, incredibly fast when you swing it around, and it is also very stiff with little to no whip. This is a racket that requires you to spend time to adjust to it.
On my first testing session, I switched from the Yonex Astrox 77 Pro to the Black Panther, and you can imagine the shock when I went from a medium-feeling racket to a very stiff racket. The difference in feeling and timing was huge! The Black Panther made me feel like I was hitting with a carbon fibre rod, and I had to change the timing of my hitting technique to be able to play with the Black Panther initially. High-energy power shots that require big swings have no issues at all, but I struggled a bit with shots which require more finger squeezing and finesse.
However, the Black Panther is fast. It certainly doesn’t feel like a head-heavy racket at all. It felt more like an even balanced to a slightly head-light racket to me. For those of you who play with head-light stiff rackets, I think you will like the Black Panther. I do think JNICE’s head heaviness rating system is quite generous as I felt the same way with the Elastic Elves 6 Pro. Both rackets were rated as head-heavy rackets but they weren’t exactly head-heavy.
In addition to that, it felt quite unusual to be able to swing this fast with a bigger-than-usual head shape. Once you get used to how it plays, you’ll certainly be able to find more enjoyment with it on the court. The Black Panther’s response is pretty predictable in that if it’s a straightforward shot, it will react well to it, especially power shots involving bigger swings. Defence and counterattacking with the Black Panther is pretty fun too once you get used to the stiffness and timing.
Unfortunately, the downside to a stiff racket response is the lack of shuttle bite. More finesse shots will not get much help, especially those with last-minute changes. For me, because of the lack of head weight coupled with extra stiffness, the Black Panther feels very sensitive to last-minute shot changes. The shuttle doesn’t really sit on the strings and will just ping off immediately. But if you are the type of player who likes to hit everything hard, you will love this racket as it feels easy to hit hard most of the time with its fast swing.
There is certainly no lack of power with flat shots. However, I did find there wasn’t much weight behind my smashes, probably due to the lack of raw head weight. Maybe it’s time to add lots of the Premium Racket Protection Tapes on to give it an extra layer of protection armour as well as the slightly added headweight for more comfort. Perhaps that bigger racket frame is designed to compensate with a slightly bigger sweet spot than usual as it’s paired with a super stiff shaft.
In summary, JNICE really pushed the boat out in terms of design philosophy with the Black Panther and I quite liked that they did so. It felt like they were pushing the envelope with their design and the Black Panther felt a bit more raw in terms of the racket performance and feeling. You will have a learning curve to overcome with the Black Panther but the longer you play with it, the more it grows on you. The Black Panther might not immediately feel like a racket for everyone but it’s certainly something I would recommend to try.
I certainly look forward to a second-generation Black Panther from JNICE, if they decide to develop one. Till then, I’ll see you in the next post.