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View Full Version : Playmate Portable review


beldredge
03-24-2008, 04:26 PM
I received such great assistance in making a ball machine purchase by reading the posts here, I thought it would be appropriate to share my experience.

I'm a 4.5 player who recently dropped to 4.0, and every season my strokes seem to get worse and less comfortable, so I finally decided to spend the money on a ball machine to really get those strokes (most notably my forehand) back into a "groove."

I started out hoping to spend around $800 or so, but I quickly decided that I wanted features such as spin and "adjustable" oscillation, to better simulate real-world playing. While some of the other machines (TT, SP, Lobster, SAM) appeared to offer more value, it seemed that once I added in a 2-line oscillation option, the prices for all the machines were pretty comparable to the Playmate, and I was attracted to the reputation for durability of the Playmate, as well as the 2-year warranty (also shared by Lobster). Plus a teammate of mine who used to coach high school tennis spoke highly of the Playmate models, and used them at both schools he had coached for.

So, here are my impressions with the machine (I purchased the "Volley" model):

1) Portability - it seems the other machines are more popular, and I figured this was one of the main reasons. It is on the larger side of all the machines, and weighs in at 46 lbs. without the 14 lb battery, so it is somewhat cumbersome to fit into a car trunk. But the large wheels make it easy to maneuver from car to court, and it's nice to be able to remove the heavy battery while lifting it into and out of the car, as well as to charge it up separate from the machine. I am able to fit the machine, a 75-ball hopper, a racket back and a workout bag into my car trunk with little problem. In fact, that's in addition to a baby backpack, a small sports bag for volleyball and a couple of blankets that always stay in my trunk. The machine does have very sturdy handles on it to aid with picking it up.

2) Performance - I love this thing! Not having played with the other machines, I don't have comparison notes, but so far this has met all my expectations. I've worked with the speed and spin settings at around the mid-point, and I don't anticipate needing to go to the "limits" of the machine.

The oscillation is my favorite feature - with the random setting on, it helps tremendously with footwork and provides a good workout. I think it makes a big difference that the oscillation is "internal" rather than the entire machine moving, so I can't anticipate where the next ball is going. One thing to note though, the "random" is only random between the two targets, not anything between. But like many of the other machines, you can adjust the "spread" of the 2-line oscillation. This was important to me, as I didn't want to always run sideline to sideline just to work both strokes.

The remote works very well from all the way across the court, but it only turns the feed on and off.

So, I ended up spending twice what I originally anticipated, but have everything I hoped for out of a ball machine.

Hope this helps others with their research - feel free to ask any questions.

Pro_Tour_630
03-24-2008, 06:36 PM
Nice review

I tried many TUTORS, they are all not even close. The playmate portable shoots all kids of balls from new to flat with precision, does not jam and overall a better quality machine. All the rest a very off in terms of accuracy especially when you have mixed balls

I am thinking of the Half volley with two line then upgrade to maybe 6 hours ( I do not play more than an hour) and or remote.

I was given a tutor and its like for free and it will go back to its owner very soon

Bolivian10s
03-25-2008, 08:40 AM
1) Portability - it seems the other machines are more popular, and I figured this was one of the main reasons. It is on the larger side of all the machines, and weighs in at 46 lbs. without the 14 lb battery, so it is somewhat cumbersome to fit into a car trunk. But the large wheels make it easy to maneuver from car to court, and it's nice to be able to remove the heavy battery while lifting it into and out of the car, as well as to charge it up separate from the machine. I am able to fit the machine, a 75-ball hopper, a racket back and a workout bag into my car trunk with little problem. In fact, that's in addition to a baby backpack, a small sports bag for volleyball and a couple of blankets that always stay in my trunk. The machine does have very sturdy handles on it to aid with picking it up.


Then it seems you have to take multiple trips once you get out of the car to unload your ball machine, then next install your battery into the machine, then next take your ball basket and rackets. Then when your done and tired after your one hour workout, you have to do it all again!
Hope you don't have far to walk from car to the court and it doesn't bore you if do it all the time, other than that it seems the ball machine is great for you.

Bolivian10s
03-25-2008, 09:01 AM
I was given a tutor and its like for free and it will go back to its owner very soon

If you got the machine for free, why give it back?
At least hold on to it until your playmate arrives then see and compare.
:-?

beldredge
03-25-2008, 09:36 AM
Then it seems you have to take multiple trips once you get out of the car to unload your ball machine, then next install your battery into the machine, then next take your ball basket and rackets. Then when your done and tired after your one hour workout, you have to do it all again!
Hope you don't have far to walk from car to the court and it doesn't bore you if do it all the time, other than that it seems the ball machine is great for you.

Well no, it's still just one trip. It's a bit easier getting the machine in and out of the trunk without the battery, so once I have it out of the trunk, I install the battery right there (the battery just snaps on). Then the rackets in a backpack are over my shoulder, the ball hopper in one hand, and wheeling the machine with the other hand. Not sure it's any different with any other machine.

I think overall, the Playmate is a bit bulky, at 19x21x25. If you don't have an SUV or minivan, you need a pretty large trunk opening, which I fortunately do.

Pro_Tour_630
03-25-2008, 11:30 AM
If you got the machine for free, why give it back?
At least hold on to it until your playmate arrives then see and compare.
:-?

my friend let me borrow it and when I wanted to return it he told me just hang on to it. It has been more than a year ago and it was fun at first but when you use the playmate which I already have, it is a different experience. Now I just want it out of my house, called my bro and he said just keep it. I do not want to put it up on the auction so I am going to drive it over, drop it and say thank you, wanna see my new machine, then maybe he will borrow mine :cry:

FaultsNAces
03-25-2008, 01:40 PM
I recently made the exact same decision and also opted for a Volley: excellent machine. It will definitely throw just about any ball any way you want it; I use a mix of micro-X and regular Penns, and the mix adds some nice depth variety.

The 6hr battery lasts effectively all day; I've done about 4hrs at the longest stretch now, and the Volley was throwing just as fast as at the start.

The remote is most useful for turning the machine off: the last few balls don't always feed evenly (perhaps because I use a mix), so when I have forgotten the remote, I have had to pick up net balls while subject to sniper fire -- nothing like a surprise volley to liven things up.... The start delay is just about right for a casual jog to the other side without the remote.

The random 2-line is much, much more difficult to hit against versus a real person as there is no teltale hint for where the ball will be headed to; this seems to really help with improving anticipation, reading the ball, and the all-important split-step, etc. For a super-challenging workout with a lot of realism, set the machine up at a corner, aim it for the center of the opposing baseline, and use a fairly wide setting of the random two-line....

The Volley can throw lobs way higher than ever necessary; from my brief use of a Lobster, I think the Volley throws higher and can put more spin on it. But I do wish the Volley had a better way of indicating the elevation setting -- to me this is the only significant negative about the whole machine.

To go from car to court, I put one Hoag 100 ball hopper on top of the Volley and carry another, with a racket bag over my shoulder: no problem, even with crossing a short stretch of grass/mud/muck....

-frank