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Gearbox GBX 16mm Pickleball Paddle Review (Power, Spin, Control)

Gearbox is a Californian company founded by Rafael Filippini. Gearbox is known for their innovative paddles that are made with excellent build quality and durability.

The GBX is Gearbox’s first raw-carbon fiber paddle release. The GBX features new tech unique to the raw carbon fiber paddle space. It’s a premium raw carbon honeycomb paddle that comes at a premium price.

I was sent this paddle from the vendor JustPaddles to test and review it. I’ve spent the last few weeks playing with the GBX and assessing its performance.

Just how good is this new raw carbon fiber offering from Gearbox? Is it as innovative as other Gearbox lines, like the SST line? And, most importantly, is it worth buying?

Let’s take a look.

Technical Specifications

  • Price: $199.99
  • Warranty: 1-year limited warranty
  • Shape: Elongated
  • Core thickness: 16mm
  • Face: Toray T700 Carbon Fiber
  • Average weight: 8.5 oz
  • Grip length: 5.5”
  • Swing Weight: 122
  • Grip size: 4”
  • Core: Polypropylene Honeycomb
  • Total length: 16 1/2″
  • Width: 7.38″

GBX Quick Summary

The GBX feels like a good paddle overall. It reminds me of a lot of solid Gen 1 raw carbon fiber paddles, like the CRBN 1 and Joola Hyperion. It provides good control with a nice wide sweet spot, decent but not amazing spin, and a good deal of power.

I was a bit surprised to see Gearbox offer this paddle because they’ve talking about how inferior raw carbon fiber honeycomb paddles are for years. It feels as though they’ve created this paddle to capture market share due to the high popularity of raw-carbon fiber paddles.

While the GBX does feature new proprietary tech, it doesn’t feel truly innovative like Gearbox’s other paddle lines. The big innovations in the raw carbon fiber paddle space in 2023 are thermoforming and foam-injected perimeter treatment, and Gearbox has chosen to not include these features in the GBX.

The GBX paddle is made with a unibody construction which enhances performance and durability. It’s just not thermoformed like new standout unibody paddles such as the Legacy Pro, Six Zero Black Diamond/Double Black Diamond, Vatic Pro, and CRBN X Series.

GearBox’s owner, Rafael, has said that he does not think thermoforming or foam injection is beneficial, which has left some of us paddle nerds scratching our heads because the performance of the new-gen paddles which utilize those features has been very good.

GBX Pros

A good combination of power, spin, and control. While not pushing any boundaries in these areas, the GBX feels well-rounded and a strong overall performer. It reminds me of the Joola Hyperion CFS in a number of ways.

New technology from Gearbox. The GBX features some unique engineering, including the “Power1” technology that enhances the ability of the throat to flex for power and improved swing speed. The paddle also features Gearbox’s “Hyper spin technology” on the carbon fiber paddle face for improved spin.

Elongated handle and paddle face. This will be subjective, but I know many people prefer longer handles these days. I find the 5.5″ handle length that GearBox is using to be the perfect length, enabling smooth two-handed backhands. The elongated paddle face also gives you some extra reach and power.

The warranty. A 1-year warranty for manufacturer defects is very good for the pickleball paddle space. Many companies offer only 3 to 6 months.

GBX Cons

It is weighty and head-heavy. At 8.5 ounces, the GBX paddle is firmly in the “heavyweight” paddle category. It’s also top-heavy, and the lack of balance makes it feel even heavier in hand. I found that I needed to add lead tape to the throat of the paddle and add an overgrip to make it feel more balanced. It did weigh 9 ounces by that point, which is a bit much.

Aesthetics. I think that the Gearbox SST paddle line has some of the best-looking paddles in pickleball. I found the GBX paddle to be a bit lackluster by comparison. Keep in mind, this is subjective. You might love the design.

The grip size seems to be inaccurate. The GBX’s handle is listed at 4″ circumference, but seems to be closer to 4.25″. This could be a positive for many, as 4″ is quite narrow. But I’m listing it as a con for seeming to be inaccurate.

Price. This is the biggest con when it comes to the GBX paddle. Gearbox has said in the past that carbon fiber honeycomb paddles are inferior and shouldn’t cost much, but they’ve released a $200 paddle that many people expected to be $150 or less. There’s top-level competition at $140 and less in the carbon fiber paddle market, so this seems an odd choice.

Power Summary

We’ve seen a lot of very powerful raw carbon fiber paddles hit the market recently, such as the Legacy Pro and Six Zero Black Diamond. As such, I was very interested in the power output from this paddle. The GBX is a heavyweight paddle with a high swing weight that’s meant for power.

The GBX delivers power more than any other Gearbox paddle I’ve played with, minus the first gen GX5. But I did find it somewhat lacking in power output overall for a raw carbon fiber paddle. After playing with thermoformed paddles like the Legacy Pro, Vatic Pro, and Six Zero paddles, I found that I couldn’t play nearly as aggressively with the GBX as I could with those paddles. It also played heavier and slower than those paddles.

That’s not to say that the GBX won’t deliver the power you’re after. It has power and enough pop for most players. You could certainly use it as a singles paddle and deliver some powerful groundstrokes and putaways. You’ll just have to work harder to generate that power than you would with one of the thermoformed carbon fiber paddles.

Overall, the GBX has good power for a “Gen 1” raw carbon fiber paddle (i.e. non-thermoformed), but it lacks compared to the Gen 2 thermoformed paddles.

Spin Summary

Gearbox utilized a high-quality Toray T700 carbon fiber and proprietary “hyper spin technology” in the GBX’s paddle face. As a result, the spin delivered by the GBX creates is pretty good.

Chris from the Pickleball Studio recorded 1524 spin RPM numbers from the GBX, which lines up well with the feeling I’ve got putting spin on balls with this paddle.

Any paddle that creates RPMs of 1500 or above I would consider to be a solid spin-imparting paddle. I was able to drop some nasty topspin serves, groundstrokes, and backhand slices with the GBX.

The GBX’s spin output is not top-tier in the carbon fiber paddle space, though. The GBX didn’t earn a place on my list of top spinning paddles. It won’t deliver the crazy spin of a Legacy Pro or similar offerings, but you’ll certainly feel in control of your spin game with the GBX.

Control Summary

I really liked the control of the GBX paddle. It has a pretty good sweet spot and the right amount of pop to support control rather than hinder it. I found the paddle to be quite forgiving overall and it delivered time and time again when I would lean into my soft game with it.

If you’re coming from a beginner or low-level intermediate paddle, the control of the GBX should feel absolutely great, though.

Unfortunately, part of what makes the paddle feel more controllable and forgiving also makes it feel a bit clumsy at times. It’s a heavier paddle with a higher swing weight. This gives it a solid-feeling plush feel, but it also makes swinging it feel a bit cumbersome, especially at the net. The paddle being a bit top-heavy didn’t help this, either.

While the sweet spot is better than many paddles, it’s not top-tier. I found that off-center shots near the edges lost energy very quickly. I was able to improve this by adding weight to the neck of the paddle, but this resulted in the paddle weighing more than 9 oz, which is considerable.

Durability Summary

Gearbox is known for the excellent durability of their paddles, and I expect that this paddle will hold up better than most carbon fiber honeycomb paddles.

I’ve been using the paddle for almost a month, playing 5 or more days a week with it. So far, it’s held up well and has started to feel even better with continued play.

It certainly won’t be snapping at the handle like some paddles are known to do (looking at you, Joola Hyperion). This is because Gearbox is using a unibody design rather than attaching the paddle face to the handle during production.

All paddles eventually degrade over time, and I will be keeping this paddle circulating among people I play with to see how it holds up over time. I will update this review as the months go on, especially if I run into any durability issues.

Value Summary

Price is the biggest thing holding the GBX back. At $200, it’s simply hard to recommend this paddle to anyone but hardcore GBX fans.

Gearbox has talked for years about how inferior honeycomb paddles are and that they shouldn’t be expensive. So when the GBX was announced, I expected this paddle to cost $150 or less. To see it offered at $200 is puzzling, given the previous remarks and the top-tier competition in the carbon fiber paddle market.

There are better raw carbon fiber paddles available under $150 right now (Legacy Pro & Vatic Pro). And comparable gen 1 paddles can be bought for $100 (Ronbus R1/R3, XSPAK, Bison, Spartus).

Should you buy the GearBox GBX?

If you’re a big fan of Gearbox and want to support their foray into raw carbon fiber, then I definitely would pick up a GBX.

But for your average player, this isn’t a paddle that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid-performing raw carbon fiber paddle. One that I would have been recommending if it had been released back in 2022. But the GBX is behind the curve tech-wise and is overpriced compared to other offerings on the market in 2023.

Again, if you love Gearbox, you should buy the GBX. But if you want one of the best paddles with the highest-performing tech at competitive prices, I recommend paddles that feature edge foam, hold molding (thermoformed) construction, and elite spin.

Paddles in this category include the Legacy Pro, The Vatic Pro V7 & Flash, and the Six Zero Black Diamond Line. If you want a paddle that’s more similar to the GBX (softer Gen 1), then the stellar Ronbus R1.16/R3.16 can be had for only $100. These paddles simply perform better than the GBX, and are cheaper, to boot.

1 thought on “Gearbox GBX 16mm Pickleball Paddle Review (Power, Spin, Control)”

  1. Excellent review, esp the summary – GBX seems to dilute the Gearbox commitment to be different from the standard thick honeycomb styles that are everywhere… Let’s face it, just about everyone would play a 16mm Long paddle that’s quick, powerful, controllable, and forgiving, but the heavy paddle weight might offset that… Luckily, Gearbox has a $20 for 4 paddles Demo program so you can find out for yourself which is best – In any case, Gearbox is a top line, special paddle.

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