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Ronbus R3 Nova Paddle Review (Feel, Power, Control, Spin)

Ronbus is back with another paddle release from their Gen. 3 thermoformed Nova line. Ronbus released the hybrid-shaped R1 Nova a few months ago and has now filled out the paddle line with the elongated-shaped R3 Nova.

While the R3 features the same performance and durability improvements as the R1, Ronbus has implemented a few new design/ structural changes with the elongated R3 Nova.

Let’s dive into the review.

R3 Nova Technical Specifications

  • Price: $180 ($160 on Ronbus.com with code DASHPB)
  • Shape: Elongated/Standard
  • Core thickness: 16mm
  • Face: Textured Raw Toray T700 Carbon Fiber
  • Average weight: 8.1oz
  • Grip length: 5.5″
  • Swing Weight: 120
  • Grip size: 4.125” Octagon
  • Core: Polypropylene Honeycomb
  • Total length: 16.5″
  • Width: 7.5″
  • Warranty: 6 Month for Manufacturing Defects

Quick Summary

I’ve really enjoyed Ronbus paddles since I first picked up the original R1.16 non-thermoformed paddle. When I got the R1 Nova in August, I liked it immediately. But I’ve been most interested in the R3 Nova since I prefer the more elongated/traditional shape. The R3 Pulsar has been one of my favorite paddles in 2023.

The R3 Nova features the same unique Gen. 3 production methods as the R1 Nova. Gen. 3 is unique to Ronbus and involves replacing the carbon fiber seam around the edge of the paddle with a carbon fiber grid structure.

This grid allows some breathability for the paddle, which is key to releasing hot trapped air during the high-heat pressure of the thermoforming manufacturing process. This adjustment prevents major durability issues associated with thermoforming, such as delamination, core corruption, and disbonding.

Ronbus did make some slight adjustments to the angle and density of the edge grid structure with the R3 and latest R1 Nova batches. This change is meant to help the paddle play more plush on soft touch shots and stiffen up for hard, power shots.

Performance-wise, the R3 Nova feels slightly less powerful than the R3 Pulsar, more stiff and poppy than the Pulsar and R1 Nova, and features great controllability that surpasses the R1 Nova and Pulsar.

The R3 Nova’s crisp poppy surface combined with excellent control for the soft game is what stands out to me the most. I get great pop at the net in hands battles with the R3 Nova while also having access to excellent control on touch shots.

While its swing weight is on the higher end at 120, I’ve found it quite maneuverable for an elongated paddle, even with some lead tape added. While I did add some lead tape to my R3 Nova, I didn’t feel a need for it like I do with other paddles. The stability, sweet spot, and power of the paddle perform well at stock weight.

While I love my Pulsars and R1 Nova, I’ll be switching to the R3 Nova as my main paddle for now. I expect the R3 Nova’s paddle face to break in more over time, like my R1 Nova did, and the performance only gets better as it breaks in.

While not a deciding factor in my switch, the new design elements are great and an added bonus. The light blue edge guard stands out and looks great in person.

Feel

Handle (shape, length, feel)

Like other Ronbus paddles, I find the 5.5″ octagonal handle of the Nova to be ideal and helps set the standard for paddle handles. It’s perfect for most people’s two-handed backhands and just feels good in hand.

I think the 4.125″ circumference is an ideal range size, as well, as it accommodates smaller hands and is easily augmented with an overgrip for those who want a different feeling wrap and/or more thickness.

Weight & balance

Being elongated, the R3 Nova is going to feel on the heavier side compared to its R1 counterpart. My R3 Nova came it at 8.1 oz, while my R1 Nova came in at 7.7 oz. I actually prefer the heavier R3 and found it to be well-balanced with more without leaning into head-heaviness.

How it feels contacting the ball

The changes to the edge grid structure angle/density deployed in the R3 Nova do seem to succeed in giving the paddle a different feel based on stroke mechanics. The paddle has great touch on soft shots, more than I expected, considering that it’s a bit stiffer overall than other Ronbus paddles.

The paddle face crisps up and gives a satisfying, poppy response on blocks, counters, and punch volleys. However, it doesn’t have the dwell time that I get with the R3 Pulsar, leading to less plow-through on serves and deep drives.

Overall, the R3 Nova strikes a good balance with variable stiffness/plushness depending on shot type. Switching up between drops and drives feels really good with the R3 Nova. It is certainly stiffer than the Pulsar series and the R1 Nova (though newer produced R1 Novas may have stiffened up as well). I’ve found that even with the extra stiffness I get better touch overall.

Power

You get a lot of power output from the R3 Nova with it being thermoformed. It’s very satisfying to rip potent serves and drives with the elongated Nova. It’s poppy, too, so hard-hitting speedups, counters, and putaways really punish.

The R3 Nova has more power output than the R1 Nova. This is unsurprising considering the shape. Being more elongated creates a higher sweet spot and more torque over the hybrid-shaped R1 Nova. I found that the similarly elongated R3 Pulsar edges out the R3 Nova in sheer power by a small margin, especially with serves and baseline drives due to its higher dwell time.

Overall, the R3 Nova performs similarly in power output to most the thermoformed paddles on the market. It’s certainly a power paddle. You can really bring the heat and drive some potent shots with pace using the Nova.

Pop

The R3 Nova is stiff and crispy. It’s on the high and lively range of pop output without being uncontrollable.

I really like the pop of this paddle. It’s a paddle that helps you feel comfortable up at the kitchen facing speed-ups and hand battles. You can counter fast with this paddle and deliver your own devastating speed-ups pretty effortlessly.

Control

I found the control and touch game of the R3 Nova to be pretty stellar considering that it’s a relatively stiff thermoformed paddle. Drops, dinks, and resets feel natural without much adjustment needed. I’ve faced very little difficulty in transitioning up to the net playing with the R3 Nova.

Sweet spot and stability really shine with this paddle. The sweet spot feels large and consistent, maybe a little larger than the R3 Pulsar, which has excellent sweet spot performance. The sweet is larger than the one on the R1 Nova and sits higher up on the paddle face, which I prefer over a lower contact point.

The R3 Nova has a higher twist weight than the R1 Nova, which means it’s quite stable and forgiving on mishits. I haven’t struggled with off-center hits disrupting the paddle (though I hardly do with the R1, either). This means I can keep a lot of shots in play that might not have survived with a less stable, less controllable paddle.

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with the control of the R3 Nova. I prefer it over the R1 Nova and Pulsar series for my control game. I’ve absolutely loved my reset game with this paddle. It has excellent touch, is soft when it needs to be, and crisp and powerful when you need to deliver some heat.

Spin

Ronbus paddles have always had top-tier spin performance. The R3 Nova’s spin output is right up there with the Ronbus paddles that made my list of top-performing paddles for spin. It may be a touch higher performing than the Pulsar series.

I’ve been able to continue improving my spin game with the Nova without a loss in step. My topspin serves, slice/chop returns, and spin dinks have been pretty deadly throughout the duration of my paddle testing thus far.

I can shape balls pretty effortlessly with it. It really maximizes your ability to rip high-spin shots left and right, keeping your opponent on your toes.

Hand speed/Maneuverability

With a swing weight of 120, the R3 Nova won’t be the most nimble paddle you could play with. The R1 Nova is noticeably quicker in hands.

With that said, I’ve still found the R3 Nova to be an agile enough paddle to play quick and not feel hampered by maneuverability. I’ve added lead tape to the paddle and still find it to be plenty capable in hands battles.

I think it may feel like it plays lighter than its weight/shape due to the changes in the carbon fiber grid that have resulted in less perimeter weighting resulting in a different sort of aerodynamic than your usual sealed-edge paddle.

Durability

Durability is one of the best aspects of the Nova series. The durability of thermoformed paddles was a little bit sketchy for a while during initial production runs.

While every company has addressed this in its own way, I think Ronbus’s solutions with their Gen. 3 production methods have proven the most innovative and the most robust.

Basically, this hot-molded unibody paddle won’t fail you structurally. Or at least the chances that it will are very, very slim.

Value

At $180 ($160 on Ronbus.com with code DASHPB) you’re getting a solid deal for this paddle. Ronbus makes really hardy paddles that perform well and stand the test of time.

For $160 you’re getting the same high-level performance and durability (likely more durability) than other premium paddles that cost well north of $200.

Should you buy the R3 Nova?

This is a paddle that I can easily recommend to the vast majority of players. The R3 Nova has this really appealing crisp surface that delivers good power and pop while still delivering excellent control for the soft finesse game. It’s my favorite thermoformed control-oriented paddle next to the Six Zero Double Black Diamond.

It’s soft and has great touch when you need it, and really delivers with its stiff power when you crank up a high-powered drive.

Ultimately, the final choice comes down to your key preferences and what you want to look for from your paddle. If you already own an original R3.16 from Ronbus or R3 Pulsar or are just a fan of elongated-shaped paddles, then I recommend getting your hands on an R3 Nova from Ronbus.com with code DASHPB. The Nova should provide you with notably better control over the Pulsar and can deliver comparable power when weighted up a little bit.

If you’re keener on hand speed and maneuverability over reach and power, then the lighter R1 Nova might be an excellent choice for you. Their newest batches of R1s share the same recent innovations with the Gen. 3 carbon edge grid structure construction, which should result in better performance than the previous versions.

Whichever one you choose, rest assured that you won’t have to face issues like core crushing or delamination with the Nova. This is something I’m really happy to say, because a lot of the thermoformed paddles I was reviewing six months ago required some sort of durability disclaimer. I’m glad we’re passed that point!

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