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Ronbus R1 Pulsar Paddle Review (Feel, Power, Spin, Control, etc.)

By now, you’re probably well aware of Ronbus. This small company has impressed in the pickleball paddle market throughout 2023 and has grown accordingly. I still use my original release R1.16 non-thermoformed Ronbus, and I know a few players who adamantly stand by theirs. Ronbus paddles hold up well.

I’ve been playing with the Pulsar series since July. However, I haven’t published a review for the R1 variant until now. Since then, Ronbus’s Nova paddle line has been released, including the R1 Nova and R3 Nova. Those are great paddles worth checking out, as well. And, of course, the R3 Pulsar, which has been one of my favorite paddles this year.

I’ve spent the last week and a half extensively playtesting the R1 Pulsar to get a fresh take on Ronbus’s hybrid paddle release from their original Gen. 2 thermoformed line. Read below for my first-hand comprehensive review.

Ronbus R1 Pulsar Technical Specifications

  • Price: $150 ($130 at Ronbus.com with discount code DASHPB)
  • Shape: Hybrid
  • Core: Polypropylene Honeycomb
  • Core thickness: 16mm
  • Face: Raw Toray T700 Carbon Fiber w/ long-lasting finish
  • Grip length: 5.5″ and 5.25″ options
  • Grip circumference: 4.125″ Octagon
  • Average weight: 8.1oz (+/- 0.2)
  • Swing Weight: 113 (5.25″ handle) 117 (5.5″ handle)
  • Thermoformed: Yes
  • Total length: 16.25″ or 16.5″
  • Width: 7.5″
  • Warranty: 6 months for manufacturing defects

R1 Pulsar Quick Summary

The R1 Pulsar is a maneuverable, all-court, power-leaning paddle that features easily accessed power, pop, and control. Its twist-weight and swing-weight land in ideal ranges, providing the R1 with great maneuverability and stability.

The R1 Pulsar is a fully Gen. 2 thermoformed paddle. It has a hybrid curved-top design that’s grown in popularity. It’s similarly shaped to the Joola Hyperion, Vatic Pro Flash, and Six Zero Black Diamond. The R3 Pulsar has a more standard squared-off shape at the top that’s longer.

The R1 Pulsar comes in two variants – a 5.25″ grip length model (16.25″ total length) and a 5.5″ model (16.5″ total length). This is meant to accommodate different hand sizes and swing weight preferences. This is unique to the R1 line – the R3 Pulsar only has a 5.5″ handle model.

Feel

Overall feel and handling are crucial areas of paddle performance and hold a lot of subjective importance to players. We’ll break down how the R1 Pulsar shapes up regarding grip, weight, balance, and overall feel.

Handle

  • Feel. I really like the feel of Ronbus’s paddles. The handles on the first run of R1/R2/R3 paddles were a little chunky and boxy-shaped, but Ronbus fixed that and has since had some of the best handles on the market. They’re similar to Vatic Pro and Six Zero’s handles.
  • Circumference. The Pulsar’s octagonal handle has a grip circumference of 4.125 inches, which puts it on the smaller side. It’s a great size for small hands. I personally add an overgrip to the R1 Pulsar to get my grip to my ideal size.
  • Length. The R1 Pulsar is unique in Ronbus’s line, with two grip lengths – a 5.25″ option and a 5.5″ option. The 5.5″ elongated is Ronbus’s standard length. It’s my preferred length and is long enough for two-handed backhands without being unwieldy. The shorter 5.25″ handle helps increase the paddle’s maneuverability, providing more leverage for wrist flicks and quick reaction shots. I’ll note that the 5.25″ handle feels longer than some other paddles of the same length, like the Selkirk Power Air, because the Ronbus has a more tapered neck area, which allows you to choke up on the handle quite a bit.

Weight/distribution

The R1 Pulsar is light and well-balanced. It’s highly maneuverable at an average weight of 8.0 oz and swing weights of 113 (5.25″) and 117 (5.5″).

I didn’t find my R1 Pulsar to be head-heavy or imbalanced in any way. I did add some weight to the paddle to increase stability and touch, though that does slow it down by increasing its swing weight a bit. It’s not necessary to do this, but I like heavier paddles with a little added stability over maneuverability.

How it feels contacting the ball

The R1 Pulsar feels powerful and crisp with responsive feedback. The thermoform construction transfers energy to the ball with minimal dissipation/vibration.

The R1 Pulsar is certainly stiffer than the original non-thermo R1.16 and the newer R1 Nova, though it’s less stiff than many other thermoformed paddles. This is because Ronbus has used different methods in their thermoforming production from the start.

It takes some time if you haven’t played with a thermoformed paddle. But if you’re accustomed to stiff poppy paddles, the R1 Pulsar should feel manageable right out of the gate. It’s got a great balance of touch with plenty of power on top when you need it.

Power

I’d categorize the R1 Pulsar as upper-mid level in power output. The R1 still packs quite a punch even though it’s slightly less powerful than some of the big-hitter thermoforms like the Legacy Pro, Six Zero Black Diamond, CRBN 1X, and Vatic Pro V7.

I can easily crush serves and drives with the R1 Pulsar. Its power output is comparable to the Vatic Pro Flash and Six Zero Double Black Diamond paddles. It won’t plow through the court like heavier paddles but has enough juice for forceful drives.

The lightweight design doesn’t sap swing speed, ensuring you can get a ton of whip and spin on drives. You can uncoil on returns without fighting the paddle. Ronbus struck an ideal balance here.

Pop

The Pulsar has a lively carbon fiber face that creates plenty of pop without going overboard. Punch volleys and rapid exchanges at the net feel snappy and lively with the R1 Pulsar.

It’s less poppy than some other thermoformed paddles, which isn’t a bad thing. This paddle really holds its own in hand battles. It’s quick, punchy, and easy to control.

Compared to heftier, slower paddles, the R1 Pulsar’s maneuverability amplifies its pop factor. You can flick returns with wrist action and immediately recover to neutral.

Control

I find the Pulsar series more controllable than a lot of other thermoformed paddles. The R1 Pulsar strikes a good balance of power, pop, and control.

I really like the touch of the Pulsar series. The paddle face is stiff, being thermoformed, but it also has a softer more plush feel to it compared to a lot of other Gen. 2 thermoforms. I believe this is partly a result of Ronbus’s unique thermoforming production process that uses less heat.

The result is that the R1 Pulsar isn’t too stiff or plush. I haven’t struggled with pop-ups with the Pulsar and feel in control of my drops, dinks, blocks, and resets.

The Pulsar has a really nice sweet spot, like other Ronbus paddles. The R3 Pulsar‘s sweet spot is slightly larger (and higher up) than the R1, but I didn’t find the difference to be significant, especially after adding some lead tape to my R1.

If you’re coming from a non-thermoformed paddle, then the R1 Pulsar should provide a good feel for adjusting to thermoformed touch and power. If you’re coming from another thermoformed model, you might notice slightly less stiffness and you may find it easier to dial in difficult shots.

Spin

Ronbus paddles offer some of the best-performing paddles for spin on the market. The Pulsar series easily made my list of top paddles for spin.

My tests of the 5.25″ and 5.5″ versions of the R1 Pulsar were both over 2,000 RPM. If you haven’t played with a similar Gen. 2 raw carbon fiber paddle, you should be pleasantly surprised with the R1 Pulsar’s spin output. You can shape balls like crazy with this kind of spin.

My R1 Pulsar scored slightly higher in spin performance than the R3, which I attribute to its lower swing weight/higher maneuverability. The lighter R1 imparts more spin as it moves through the air quicker when applying topspin, underspin, and sidespin

Hand speed/Manueverability

The R1 Pulsar is a highly maneuverable paddle, a trait that keeps me coming back to it. When I need to be on top of my counter game playing against high-level opponents who love to hit speedups, I will grab my R.1.

The 5.5″ handled R1 Pulsar has a swing weight of 117, and the 5.25″ version has a swing weight of 113. Lower is quicker regarding swing weight, and 113 is very speedy. The 5.5″s 117 swing weight is pretty quick, as well. By comparison, the R3 Pulsar has a swing weight of 121, which isn’t slow or clunky, but not exactly zippy like the R1.

Durability

The Pulsar series is one of the most durable thermoformed paddles on the market. With a unique thermoforming process, Ronbus essentially resolved a number of the quality control issues that has plagued Gen. 2 thermoforms (delamination, disbonding, core-crushing).

And with those issues resolved, you can rest assured that the rest of the paddles durability is tank-like. The unibody thermoforming process that Ronbus uses results in one solid piece of paddle that won’t break at the handle or suffer from other breakage issues.

If you want an even more durable paddle, check out the newer Ronbus Nova series, which also comes in the R1 and R3 shapes.

Value

Ronbus sells the R1 Pulsar for $150 ($130 at Ronbus.com with discount code DASHPB). The Pulsar series used to be $170, and even then, it was a great deal for the quality of paddle you receive.

I’ve played regularly with over a half dozen Ronbus paddles and have been continually impressed with the value to dollar you get from them. They’re made with the same high-quality materials and processes that the big companies use, but you don’t have to pay $200-250 to get your hands on them.

Ronbus is pushing paddle innovation regularly and has a longer warranty than other manufacturers, as well. Your money feels well-spent buying a paddle from them.

Should you buy the R1 Pulsar Paddle?

I am a big proponent of Ronbus paddles. The price and performance are simply on point.

The Pulsar series is one of the best-thermoformed options out there. It’s not a clone of other similar paddles, which you see a lot of lately. Ronbus has its own unique way of thermoforming, which creates performance and durability improvements that really sell the paddle, IMO.

At $130 with code DASHPB, you can’t go wrong picking up an R1 Pulsar if you feel that it’s the right paddle for your game. I.e. a hard-hitting thermoformed paddle that’s ultra-fast in hand with a touch that’s stiff and poppy but relatively forgiving for a thermoformed paddle.

Should you go for the 5.25″ or 5.5″ handle?

I appreciate that Ronbus chose to add two handle length variations on the R1 Pulsar.

Keep in mind that the Pulsar’s handles feel slightly longer in hand than their stated lengths. This is due to the slim neck taper that allows you to grip up on the paddle easily.

Choose the 5.25″ R1 Pulsar if: You want as much speed and maneuverability as possible from your paddle, and you aren’t concerned with a lack of handle real estate for executing two-handed backhands. Note that some players can still fit in two-handed backhands with the shorter handle due to the neck taper.

Choose the 5.5″ R1 Pulsar if: You have a two-handed backhand in your arsenal and rely on a long enough paddle handle to grip with both hands comfortably. Note that the 5.5″ Pulsar also has .25″ of extra length, so you get a little bit of extra reach on some shots with the longer handle. That extra reach alone makes the 5.5″ worth considering.

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