Hi everyone, new year, new racket, new age. Let’s take a look at the new Yonex Astrox NextAge.
Before we start, I want to say thank you to Yonex UK and YFood for providing me with the equipment and products which made this review possible.
Right, let's get into the proper review.
When I was informed of the racket, I was surprised to hear that Yonex is launching a new racket mini-series under the Astrox range. It sparked lots of questions. Does that mean we will only be getting a NextAge racket with every Yonex series such as a Nanoflare NextAge or Arcsaber NextAge? Or will we eventually see a full, standalone NextAge series down the line? It is interesting as the NextAge racket does combine some of the features which are distinct to specific series. I'll elaborate further on this later.
Visually, I really like the paint job of the racket which features flashes of green on top of matte black. You all know I love matte paint jobs on rackets and this one certainly turned out great.
There are a few things that I’ve noticed with this NextAge which make me think that Yonex is trying something new.
Yonex traditionally launches a new series or range with a made-in-japan top-end racket. They also normally start a series with a ‘7’ or ‘70’ in terms of the model number but this clearly isn’t the case for NextAge as it is made in Taiwan with Yonex's proprietary Nanomesh Neo which is normally seen in Taiwan-made Astrox Tour rackets. For me, this indicates that the NextAge is positioned as an intermediate to advanced-level racket.
What got me really excited is the use of vibration dampening mesh ("VDM") in the racket. Yonex has introduced VDM into their tennis rackets for a while now and has so far only used it on their head-light rackets such as the Nanoflare 800LT. This time, they are using it in a supposedly head-heavy racket so it's interesting to see how this would work.
This is also probably the only 80-grommet Yonex badminton racket I can remember as I’ve certainly not seen one from Yonex before. They are normally, 72, 76, or 78-grommet badminton rackets. Yonex’s single pass grommets are often grouped at the top of the racket between the 2 and 10 o'clock region but the Nextage has 3 sets of single pass grommets at the bottom of the racket around the 5 and 7 o'clock regions of the racket. Would this be a problem for stringers? Yes, it's slightly more fiddly but experienced stringers who are used to stringing rackets with 80 or more holes will be fine.
Yonex kept the usual 22 main strings and 21 cross strings on the NextAge. I’ve also realized there are 5 rows of larger grommets which is also a feature of multiple Astrox rackets such as the Astrox 88D Pro and 99 Pro (which only had 4 rows). I am a big fan of these larger grommets as I believe they provide slightly better shuttle hold by allowing the strings to move that little bit. However, the funny thing is these 5 rows of larger grommets are positioned around the 3 to 4 o'clock and 8 to 9 o'clock regions on the frame, which is lower than the usual sweet spot that tends to be higher up the racket face.
In addition to having more grommets, there's also this semi-transparent t-joint grommet which looks really cool. It is thinner than the usual U-shaped t-joint grommet but I can't see why this isn't as good, if not better. All plus points thus far.
In terms of specs, the demo model that I have is a 4UG5 model and it is a head-heavy racket. It is officially rated as a medium stiff racket and has a shaft diameter of 7mm which is identical to the Arcsaber 7 Pro, Nanoflare 700 and the Astrox 77 just to name a few. It has a shaft length of 21.5cm and a handle length of 17cm.
In terms of frame, the Nextage has a frame height of 23.5cm and frame width of 18.6cm the top half of the frame being recessed. I really like how smooth the finish of the gradient is coming off from the recessed to the non-recessed area around the 3 and 9 o'clock region on the frame. For frame thickness, the NextAge is certainly wider than the usual Astrox rackets at 11.3mm. (Therefore, if you want to protect this racket from chips and scratches, you can do so with this premium racket protection tape at ckyew.com/shop. The standard option would be perfect.)
The Nextage’s frame reminds me a little of the Nanoflare 700 at the top area around the 2 to 10 o'clock area with wider flat edges on the side but sharper features from the front. The frame’s middle areas are boxy which reminds me of the Armortecs from the old days and the bottom is a combination of the Armotecs and Nanoflare 700. Some of you might ask if it's the same as Victor’s Dynamic Sword design. I can tell you that it's not and there are subtle differences between them but the design principles would be somewhat similar.
The NextAge 4U model is rated 28 lbs for stringing. I strung it with my usual combination of Aerobite strings at 27 by 29 lbs. The top of the racket did flex a little more under tension. Not crazy by any means but I suppose you won't want to go much higher than in the circumstances. Additionally, I realized halfway through stringing that the mains strings are denser around the center of the racket whereas it's a lot wider closer to the edges or around the 3 and 9 o'clock region of the racket. Gaps in between the cross are much more consistent across from the bottom to the top and only the mains vary in terms of density. I guess this will produce a stiffer hitting feel and perhaps increased durability in the central area when there are more strings supporting each other there.
And as soon as I finished stringing, the biggest thing I noticed immediately was how much different the strings sounded. Check out my Youtube video below and see if you can hear the difference.
It is certainly a head-heavy racket in my opinion. The strings also sound different compared to usual rackets. I’m not sure if the mic is able to pick up the difference in sound but in person, you’ll hear a very nice damped hitting sound from the shuttle coming off your strings, especially from a smash. The best way for me to describe this would be very similar to a pro’s smash. If you’ve been to watch professional tournaments before and you’ll realize the “pop” when they hit their smash and that sound is certainly one of the best sounding things to my ears. The sound coming from the TV feeds do not do it justice at all but it's something you’ll immediately pick up at a live event. This Nextage sounds like that. it's a lower-pitched, damped sound instead of the usual “ping” coming off the strings, especially on a power shot. That made an immediate impression on me and don't forget that this was with Aerobite strings. Imagine if it was strung with better-sounding, louder strings such as Exbolt 63 or 65. It would sound absolutely amazing!
In terms of feel, the NextAge is a medium stiff racket and it felt alright. I personally prefer stiffer rackets and you all know my normal racket is the Astrox 88D Pro. NextAge is just slightly more flexible than Astrox 88D, probably closer to the Astrox 77 and Astrox 77 Pro.
Swing speed is certainly slightly slower than Yonex’s usual top-end fast rackets such as the Nanoflare 800, Astrox 88S Pro and I would say even the Astrox 88D Pro. You can feel a slight drag and that little boxy feeling when you’re swinging, similar to the Nanoflare 700’s swing feel. However, since the NextAge isn't really a direct competitor with these top-of-the-line rackets, it's actually holding up well on its own.
Power shots feel good as you would expect from a head-heavy racket. Relatively easy on that front but I’m certainly not hitting well as I’m just coming back from my injury. I am nowhere near my previous best, so any help I can leverage from a racket would be helpful. In this case, the NextAge performed well and it’s a relatively easy racket to play with in that sense.
One thing that I struggled a little with was the short sharp front court shots. Perhaps it could be my bad technique and timing, but it might also be the slightly more flexible shaft too. I was just missing that little bit of sharpness with the NextAge with these short sharp shots.
To be honest, if you asked for a one-line summary about the NextAge and how it plays, I would probably say this is a head-heavy and cheaper version of the Nanoflare 700! I have to admit I do enjoy listening to the sound that comes off the strings but I only notice it when others are playing with different rackets. I don't really notice it when I’m playing with it, although the damped feel is certainly an extra bonus.
As I’ve always mentioned, not all rackets will suit everyone and it's important to find one that works for you.
Finally, it's good to be back on court from my long hiatus and I’ll see you in the next post!