Updated: Oct 4, 2022
The Blade X is Li Ning’s new badminton racket series alongside the relatively new AxForce series so I was super excited when I came across the Blade X 800 during my recent trip to Malaysia. However, getting the racket was the easy bit, finding information about it was, surprisingly, challenging.
In my quest to give you a comprehensive review of every single piece of equipment I test, I often test them blind. This means every time I test a racket, I will refrain from searching for and reading any of the racket's marketing material published by the manufacturer. Instead, I form my view of the racket solely based on my personal observations, experience and feel from testing and playing with the racket.
To start, I would normally string the racket with my usual Yonex Aerobite string at a tension of 27 by 29 lbs. Then, I would observe the racket closely, taking the necessary physical measurements, followed by spending a few hours on court with the racket to get a feel of its playing performance. Only after I have completed all the above steps, I would compare and supplement what I have observed, felt and experienced with information from the manufacturer. This is where I hit trouble with the Blade X 800.
Some of you may be aware that finding Li Ning equipment in Europe, especially in the UK, is a lot harder than in China or Southeast Asia, even though it is one of the big three badminton racket brands besides Yonex and Victor. As a new series, it was incredibly difficult for me to find any information about it, even Google didn't provide me with anything usable until I searched for the racket in Chinese I was then able to get slightly more information from Li Ning Taiwan site.
It is mind-blowing how even Li Ning's official website contains so little information about the Blade X series. There are plenty of mentions of the Axforce, Tectonic, 3D Calibar and Turbocharching series, but no real mention of the Blade X, let alone the Blade X 800. If Li Ning is reading this post, I would suggest that they review their marketing strategy for the Blade X series as it is certainly not customer friendly if we need to dig so hard to find information about a new product.
By the way, if you are a Li Ning fan, do subscribe to my YouTube channel and keep an eye out on my blog as plenty of Li Ning demo rackets have arrived from Central Sports so I will be testing them out soon. Remember to use my code ‘CKYEW’ for additional discounts when shopping with Central Sport.
First up, let's take a look at the aesthetics of the Blade X 800. After going through a fair few incredibly good-looking Li Ning rackets like those in the Aeronaut 9000, Tectonic and Axforce series, this Blade X 800 is relatively underwhelming in terms of looks. You won't see any futuristic, sharp lines or bright colour combinations. Instead, you'll see swirly lines and pretty plain and ordinary red-black-silver colour combination with a splash of green. The only upside is probably its matte finishing, which in my opinion slightly compensates for its unimpressive design.
One section of the shaft has the words "hard flexible shaft" written on it, which is quite confusing to me. Instinctively, I thought the words "hard" and "flexible" are opposites and so how can the shaft be hard and flexible at the same time? According to Li Ning Taiwan's marketing material, a "Resil shaft" material/manufacturing technique is used to produce the Blade X 800 and I'm guessing that the amount of stiff and pliable materials are optimized on different parts of the shaft, hence it is both "hard" and "flexible". It would seem that this technique allows better shaft response during play.
According to Li Ning, the frame of the racket has an aerodynamic design and is impregnated with special materials with vibration dampening properties. Li Ning calls this the “Accele Tech” design. As with Li Ning's other top range rackets, the Blade X 800 also has super posh-looking Li Ning logo-embossed grommets.
One thing I like about this racket is that it has the racket spec etched onto the cone, which lets you quickly and easily know what model spec you have. Not all rackets from Li Ning have this feature. Li Ning traditionally uses their own W and S representations for racket weight and grip sizes (in contrast to Yonex and Victor’s U and G system). However, the cone on the Blade X 800 shows it's in "4UG5" spec. Perhaps Li Ning is transitioning towards a standardized spec with the other major brands as I’ve seen this U and G system also being used on their Tectonic and AxForce series rackets.
In terms of measurements:
shaft diameter which I measured is 7.1mm, slightly thicker than the official 6.8mm;
shaft length is 21.5 cm, which is pretty standard for Li Ning rackets;
handle length is 17.5cm;
frame thickness is about 10.3mm;
frame height is 23.8cm;
frame width is 18.5cm; and
frame recessed area is only within its top half.
In terms of string tension ratings, as the Blade X 800 I have is a 4U model, it's rated up to 30 lbs of tension which is slightly lower than the Tectonic 9's 32 lbs in the same spec. I strung this racket with my usual Aerobite string at 27 lbs by 29 lbs and the frame did flex a little under tension, but nothing serious.
Many of you may know that the headline player for the Blade X 800 is Zhang Nan, a legendary player who has the rare ability to perform extraordinarily in both mixed and men's doubles disciplines. Zhang Nan’s face is plastered everywhere in anything I can find for the Blade X 800. Hence, I believe this racket is aimed at the doubles racket market, although I doubt I can get anywhere near Zhang Nan's level even with this racket.
The Blade X 800 right off the bat is super light and fast. When I first saw this racket in a badminton equipment shop, I was told it was similar to a Yonex Arcsaber 10. But after a closer look, this head-light racket is certainly no Arcsaber 10. For my 4U version, it's so head-light that it actually felt like a 5U racket. Naturally, for such a light racket, it's quick and fast for counterattacking and defence, but certainly lacks punch big time when you need the power. When I was testing the racket, I felt I really had to focus when I play my power shots to be able to get clean timing out of the racket for good quality shots. If you are an amateur player like me then you might really struggle to get power generated if you’re pinned in the rear court.
Hitting with the Blade X 800 feels pretty crisp but it also had a slightly hollow feel on power shots. It also didn't have the hitting stability of the Tectonic 9. If you are planning on playing singles exclusively with this racket, you might struggle at times unless perhaps you use the 3U spec like Zhang Nan does. If you love to play doubles and are a fast mid to front-court player, you’ll certainly love the speed of t
his racket. In fact, it reminded me a lot of Yonex’s Nanoflare 700 but slightly stiffer and shots come off faster, perhaps due to the ‘Accele Tech’ properties.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve tried the Blade X 800 and what are your thoughts about this racket. I’ll see you in the next post.