Well well well.. this is an interesting one.
I spent some time trying to come up with a comprehensive description of how I felt playing with the new Yonex Arcsaber 11 series, and I would certainly say the feel, and up to a certain extent, the performance, of all three rackets in this series are within the same ballpark. And this is pretty unusual.
Take the Astrox series, for example. The Pro, Tour, Game and Play models of the Astrox series each move down a step on the ladder in terms of feel and performance, like how the performance of racing cars move a step down from F1, to F2 and F3 in motor racing.
But for this Arcsaber 11 series, Yonex has certainly done an impressive job, and I would put all three rackets of this series within the same top-notch category. In other words, if this was motor racing, all three rackets would be in F1, just perhaps different teams within F1. The Pro would be equivalent to the best F1 team last year, Mercedes; the Tour would be equivalent to, say, Ferrari or McLaren - behind Mercedes with some gap, but definitely still top class. The Play certainly has some catching up to do, probably be like a Williams or even Haas. Still F1 but not at the front.
So you all know I love my Arcsaber 10 so I was super excited at this launch and was even more excited when Yonex UK was able to send me some demo rackets, all in 4UG5, to test out, so thank you Yonex!
So here are the 10 things you need to know about the new Arcsaber 11 rackets.
1. There are three models at three different price points
As before, Yonex has split the Arcsaber series rackets into multiple prices ranges, similar to what they’ve done with the Astrox series. Although many of the Astrox series have four price ranges - the Pro, Tour, Game and Play - the Arcsaber 11, however, have only been split into three models: the Pro, Tour and Play, missing out the Game. Why? I’m not sure.
Not all regions will be stocking in all three models. For example, I've been told that the UK will only be having the Pro and the Play models, and will not be selling the Tour. So do check with your local dealers for more info on what models they’ll be bringing in.
2. They come in red, with matte finish
In terms of looks, the Arcsaber 11's are all painted similarly on the outside, fiery red with a super classy matte finish, and I certainly love the red. I have to admit when I first saw some leaked photos, I wasn't exactly drawn to the design and colour scheme. However, after having the actual rackets in hand, they certainly look better than what I’ve seen online. The Pro model’s red is just a touch darker than the Tour and the Play, it looks closer to maroon and not bright red.
3. 'Arcsaber 11' wording is upside down on one side of the shaft
On the shaft, the 'Arcsaber 11' wording is the right way up on one side, but is upside down on the other. Funny.
Another visual characteristic that you’ll notice is the 'Tour' and 'Play' wording are painted on the frame of the Tour and Play rackets, but there is no 'Pro' wording painted on the Pro racket. I really like the silver colour for the wording decals, looks good.
4. They have a different frame design
Moving on to the racket frame, the Arcsaber 11 Pro and Tour has adopted a new frame design which has four recessed sections on the frame. All areas, except the 2 to 4 and 8 to 10 o'clock regions, are recessed. On the other hand, the Play only has the top half section of its frame recessed, but the depth of recession looks more shallow than usual. For a quick comparison, the Arcsaber 10’s recession depth measures at 1.1mm; the Astrox 88D Pro's recession depth is around 0.7 - 0.8mm; the Arcsaber 11 Pro's recession depth is around 0.7mm; whereas the recession depth of the Arcsaber 11 Play is only 0.5mm.
All three models have the same head frame dimensions as the Arcsaber 10, but they are slightly wider and longer than most top-end Astroxes and Nanoflares. For example, the Nanoflare 800 and Nanoflare 800LT are both 1cm slimmer in terms of frame width and 0.5cm shorter in terms of frame height. No wonder those rackets are rapid!!
All three models of the Arcsaber 11 series have control assist bumper at the top of the racket heads, which is similar to the Astrox 99 series.
Most of the top-end Astrox models do, such as the Astrox 88S, the Astrox 88D and the Astrox 99 have four rows of slightly larger grommets around the 3 and 9 o'clock sections. This helped provide a larger sweet spot for the rackets. However, all the Arcsaber 11 models do not have this feature. Instead, they have reverted to the traditional design of consistent spacing between the strings. Perhaps Yonex really wanted a consistent feeling throughout the strings for stability and control, which is what the Arcsabers were famous for.
5. String tensions, string grip and handle grip
Recommended string tensions for the Arcsaber 11 series are 1lb lower across the board with the 4U models having a recommended string tension of up to 27lbs, and 3U of up to 28lbs. Compare this to the Astrox models which have a recommended string tension of 28lbs for 4U and 29lbs for 3U.
When I first got the rackets, I had to restring both the Tour and Play as they came factory strung at very low tensions with mediocre strings that don't even have any branding on them. Yonex, if you’re reading this, please stop doing this as it's such a shame to ruin the feel of these nice rackets. It's like buying a nice, decent car but putting really poor budget tires on. So if you are getting the Tour or the Play, you will need to restring the rackets with your preferred strings and usual tension, and I guarantee it will completely transform how the racket feels and play.
Fresh grommets on the Arcsaber 11 Pro, especially the control assist bumper, grip the mains of the Aerobite string so hard which makes stringing slightly frustrating but that’s a really good sign, to be honest. If you’re someone who loves grippy strings like the Aerobite, treat your stringers well. All three rackets I got were strung with my favourite string, the Aerobite, at 26 by 28lbs.
The factory handle grips for both the Pro and the Tour are very good and grippy. They even have some squishiness to it, which is nice. Unfortunately for the Play, it isn’t great. It's a tad thinner than the other two and is pretty slippery. You’ll need to use an over grip on the Play.
6. They are great even-balanced rackets
For playing performance and feel, Arcsabers are pretty easy to use rackets. They are not crazy stiff, head-heavy power rackets. They are also not too light or hollow. They are what we call 'even-balanced' rackets that have a bit of everything you want on a racket. If you want power, there’s power, though not as much as the proper head-heavy rackets. If you want speed, they’re pretty quick too, though not as quick as the head-light rackets like the Nanoflares. They are really the best if you prefer control more than anything else.
For me, there was a period when my Arcsaber 10 was my off-day racket as it was much easier to play with compared to the Z Force 2 which I was playing with at the time. I only started using Arcsaber 10 completely about 5 years ago, but by then I was already feeling the Arcsaber 10’s age as newer models were smoother and faster to play with. I never transitioned to the Arcsaber 11 though as it felt just a bit too soft for my liking. Hence, I stuck with my Arcsaber 10 until the Astrox 88D Pro was released.
7. The Arcsaber 11 Pro has an incredible hold time
Whilst we are on the Pro model, let's talk about hold time. Hold time is the amount of contact time which the shuttle has with the string. Yonex has been consistently trying to improve on the hold time with their recent rackets and this one certainly is the best so far.
Back when I was testing the Astrox 99 Pro, I was extremely impressed with the hold time of that racket, and I was curious why Yonex did not release it as part of the Arcsaber series since it would certainly fit in nicely just based on its shuttle hold capabilities. Perhaps because of how head-heavy it is, it went into the Astrox series instead.
With that said, the Arcsaber 11 Pro has even more hold time compared to the Astrox 99 Pro. You can certainly feel a step up from the Astrox 99 Pro. If you love the Astrox 99 Pro’s hold time, and want more of it but prefer less head weight, then the Arcsaber 11 Pro is for you. It has less head weight compared to the Astrox 99 Pro, but still retains some punch.
8. Potential timing issues with the Arcsaber 11 Pro
The Arcsaber 11 Pro has a softer hitting feel compared to the Astrox 88D Pro. The sweet spot of the Arcsaber 11 Pro is normal. It doesn't feel as large as with the Astrox 88S Pro or the Astrox 99 Pro but it's pretty consistent which certainly reminds me of my Arcsaber 10. Lifts and net shots feel good too on the Arcsaber 11 Pro.
The hitting timing however isn’t as crisp as the Astrox 88D Pro. I had some timing issues initially on my punch clears for some reason but everything else was fine. It might be the bigger head with standard sweet spot hence I'm mistiming my shots, or it just means I’ve been spoilt by more forgiving rackets.
9. The Tour feels almost the same as the Pro
This is the closest Tour model that I’ve ever tested compared to the Pro. Thus far, the Tour models of various series that I've tested felt very different to their respective Pro counterparts. This was apparent in the Astrox 100 series, the Astrox 88S series, the Astrox 88D series, and even the Astrox 99 series.
However, the Pro and Tour models of the Arcsaber 11 series feel almost identical. I am surprised how similar they are in terms of feel and performance. If I'm being really picky, I would say the Tour feels a touch stiffer compared to the Pro, perhaps due to the Rexis shaft, and a touch more demanding as well. But the difference is extremely small that you will hardly notice it.
10. The Play is pretty good too!
Bearing in mind the Play’s price point, I am very impressed with its performance. In fact, it performs and feels very similar to the Pro too. This is the fifth racket series that Yonex released with multiple price points and for the first time, all three played and performed very similarly to each other.
The Play uses more affordable materials and adopts a basic frame design but it certainly plays well. I would also again say the Play feels stiffer compared to the Pro and it is the slowest out of the three models, but definitely not by much. For its price point, this is an impressive racket.
The Arcsabers aren't designed to be the most powerful or the fastest rackets out there. They’ve got an unusual niche of being able to do everything above average, I would say an 8 out of 10. If it's hold time you’re looking for then these (or at least the Pro model) certainly score 11 out of 10. If you’re already an Arcsaber user, you’ll probably love this updated model. If you’re someone who loves the Astrox 99 Pro but wants a lighter head, this is for you. If you’re someone who outright prefers either power or speed, you might have to manage your expectations a little. However, in terms of value for money, I cannot recommend the Arcsaber 11 Play enough. It's just impressive!