Updated: Oct 4, 2022
In this post, I am going to compare three rackets within the Li-Ning Aeronaut 9000 series badminton rackets: the Aeronaut 9000, the Aeronaut 9000C (Combat) and the Aeronaut 9000I (Instinct).
In my previous Li-Ning rackets comparison video, I compared the AxForce 80, the Tectonic 9 as well as the Aeronaut 9000C, and in that video, I certainly said the most unique and cool-looking racket was the Aeronaut 9000C because of its design, decals, paint job alongside the futuristic air gaps close to the T-joint of the frame as well. Now I've certainly got another contender for the best-looking racket and it's the Aeronaut 9000I. And quite disappointingly in terms of looks, we’ve also got the bog standard looking Aeronaut 9000.
In terms of looks, the Aeronaut 9000 is the only racket out of the three that comes in a glossy finish. I think glossy finishes tend to make rackets look outdated and cheap. It's no secret that I love rackets with matte finishing and the Aeronaut 9000C and Aeronaut 9000I certainly look incredible. The fantastic combination of blue and red on the Aeronaut 9000C looks very striking and futuristic whilst the gold and purple accents of the Aeronaut 9000I look super classy and certainly brought some main character energy here.
All three rackets have four air gaps between the five and seven o'clock regions of the rackets which I think looks pretty cool.
There are also two different types of grommets on each racket, round grommets on the lower half of the racket frames and square cubic locking grommets on the top-half recessed areas. The grommets look and feel premium and they all have Li-Ning's logo embossed on them. The cubic locking grommets sit flush in the recessed area and you don't see them when you look perpendicularly at the racket frame. They remind me of Yonex’s Control Assist Bumpers which are designed to increase the hold time of the shuttle upon contact and these square grommets do secure the strings on the racket frame fairly well.
The decals on both matte rackets, the Aeronaut 9000C and the Aeronaut 9000I, feel like they are embossed on the shafts when you rub your hands on them whilst the Aeronaut 9000 doesn't have the same feeling.
All three rackets have the same dimensions. Their shaft lengths, shaft diameters, frame sizes as well as frame thickness are exactly the same. The only difference is that the Aeronaut 9000 and the Aeronaut 9000C I have are in a 3U weight class whilst the Aeronaut 9000I I have is a 5U racket, so it's about 10g lighter than the rest, which is quite significant. All three rackets also share the same G5 grip size.
In terms of stringing, all three rackets are rated up to 32lbs in tension and I strung them at my usual tension of 27 lbs by 29 lbs. I find that the Aeronaut 9000C and Aeronaut 9000 are very solid but the Aeronaut 9000I has a little bit of flex whilst under tension. This is to be expected as you probably have slightly less material in the frame, alongside other weight-saving measures being applied to the Aeronaut 9000I to make it lighter than the other rackets. Ultimately, these rackets should be fine for their rated tensions.
In terms of performance, Li-Ning listed these Aeronaut rackets as control-type rackets and I can certainly see why. But in terms of balance points (and this again reinforces why I don't use balance points as a form of measure), Li-Ning says the Aeronaut 9000C has the lowest balance points among the three rackets at around 298mm whilst the Aeronaut 9000 comes in at 305mm. The racket with the highest balance point goes to the Aeronaut 9000I with a whopping 327mm. I did my measurements and the balance points that I got do correspond to those numbers, give or take a few millimetres. However, they feel and react very differently to those numbers in my opinion.
Li-Ning also says the Aeronaut 9000C has a medium-stiff shaft whilst both the Aeronaut 9000 and the Aeronaut 9000I have soft shafts. I wanted to test the shaft stiffness and so I got reacquainted with my trusty old friend, my 3U Yonex Arcsaber 10 as a comparison. I felt the Aeronaut 9000C was stiffer and harder to play with compared to my Arcsaber 10. It wasn’t just the shaft that felt stiff, it felt as if the whole racket was stiffer and it made my life a bit difficult when I was out of position or late to the shuttle. When I was swinging the racket, it had a boxier feel which reminded me of the old-school Yonex Armortecs. This made sense as all three Aeronauts have pretty boxy frame designs. This means they won't be the fastest frames around but the frames will be pretty stable during power transfer.
In terms of power, the Aeronaut 9000C no doubt has more power compared to the Arcsaber 10 and it also turns out to be the most powerful out of the three Aeronauts here, if you can catch the shuttle right of course! Also, note that the Aeronaut 9000C feels pretty unique in terms of head-heaviness. It's not an outright head-heavy racket but it feels as if there is a pretty even distribution of weight across the shaft through to the frame. It certainly does not feel and behave like how a 298mm balance point racket should feel.
Moving on to the Aeronaut 9000 --- I now understand why Anthony Ginting and Teo Ee Yi like this racket. Even with the same 3U weight class, the Aeronaut 9000 feels a lot easier to play with compared to the Aeronaut 9000C and it is faster, easier to manoeuvre and easier to play with. It feels slightly more hollow compared to the Aeronaut 9000C but it has plenty of nice feedback with Aerobite strings and I absolutely love it.
Overall, the Aeronaut 9000 doesn't feel and behave like a 3U racket but feels much closer to a 4U racket. That's why I am pretty confused as to why the Aeronaut 9000 has a higher balance point than the Aeronaut 9000C. Power-wise, it's less powerful than the Aeronaut 9000C but still packs a lot of punch. This is the nicest feeling Li-Ning racket for me thus far and it's my current favourite.
On the other hand, the Aeronaut 9000I is very light and pretty fast, although nowhere near as fast as the Yonex Nanoflare 800LT in 5U racket due to the Aeronaut 9000I’s boxy frame along with protruding grommets. Because of how light the Aeronaut 9000I is, it struggles to generate the same amount of power as the other two Aeronauts. To generate good power with this racket, you need to have very accurate timing and focus on transferring your body weight forward. I found myself really focused on getting my timing right and occasionally getting good results when using the hammer grip for sharp power shots. Only using your arms will not get you much power in this instance.
As with a lot of super-light rackets, in terms of defensive shots this thing is amazing and counter-attacking with it is super fun as I felt I was able to get on top of the shuttle and get away with most things. Although I certainly did struggle to get good length on my backhand clears when I was late to the shuttle. Again, if the racket had a bit more weight, then I think might have been able to get out of trouble. All in all, this racket will be very nice to play with in doubles, although you will need to have good technique and physicality to fully maximise its potential. For casual players, this will be a light, relatively easy racket to play with.
Some final food for thought, I’m not too sure if Li-Ning had to stiffen up the bottom side of the frame close to those four air gaps during the manufacturing process to increase durability. I personally thought the four air gaps did nothing whatsoever and are completely a gimmick. You’d expect these rackets to be crazy fast just by seeing holes and gaps on the frames itself but now that I’ve had a closer look at the design as well as the testing them out completely, the rackets play just like any other racket and these air gaps are for looks. They don't impact performance, at least not for players at my level.
My personal favourite is certainly the Aeronaut 9000 although I needed to spend some time with it to get used to its slight difference in timing, it definitely grew on me. In terms of racket appearance, I certainly think the Aeronaut 9000C and Aeronaut 9000I are certainly 2 of the best-looking rackets I’ve ever come across. Li-Ning has a lot going on with its fashion design and it's certainly transferring over to its rackets too and that can only be a good thing. All 3 rackets certainly play very differently from each other and I hope this helps you pick the right one.