Ball machine - Go high end? Or are the features not worth it?

2ndServe

Hall of Fame
Probably the best ingredient for a good drop shot is disguise or when it's least expected. Sometimes I'll hit a good one but in that scenario the guy is looking for it so it's not effiective. Other times it's not great but the guy has no shot at it because it's not expected in that particular circumstance.
 

esantoro

Rookie
My main mistake in practicing the drop shot and, most likely employing it in match play, is initiating it from the baseline and not from a position closer to the net.
 
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wmoore

Rookie
So I'm looking at ball machines. I think I've decided on a Silent Partner. I like the Lobsters a little better, but I can't see what makes them more expensive.

I'm considering the SP SMART ($1799) or the STAR ($950).

I can't figure out if the extra features are really of value.
The features seem to be "drill" "match play" and vertical randomness.

Money doesn't matter too much in this situation except I don't want to waste money. If I buy the more expensive machine, I'll wait til next year to buy a stringing machine. If I buy the cheaper one, I can buy a stringing machine now.

Can anyone tell me if they think the extra features are worth a near-double price tag? Do I want these features?

Thanks!

Side notes:
Me=3.0 (self-rated) expecting (hoping) to be 3.5-4.0 at the end of this summer.
If I should be considering a different machine altogether, let me know.
I like the handle/wheel design and quiet reputation of the Silent Partner.
I see the slightly smaller dimensions of the STAR an advantage over the SMART (the idea that a 50 lb dumbbell is easier to carry than a 50 lb clothes dryer).
I believe it is always cheaper to buy the right thing the first time.
Please let me offer my personal experience with Silent Partner. Really nice folks. Ok, that's all the nice I have to offer.

I bought an Edge Sport about 5 or 6 years ago for about $800. It has been bullet-proof. I have done a bit of maintenance on it over the years though. I've removed the cover and cleaned about a ton of ball fuzz out and I've replaced the circuit board once because I zapped it with static electricity on a particularly dry day. I also replaced the battery with one I bought from my local Batteries Plus store - and it is a much longer-lasting battery than the original. None of this is a big deal. It's part of ownership. Love my machine...

But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I had some extra moo-lah last December and decided to treat myself to the Scoop Smart for about $1,600. I might as well have put a match to sixteen Benjamins! What a piece of sh*t ! It is so complicated that they can't even support it. I've had the circuit board replaced once already because the programming was flawed. This junker won't throw two balls in a row with out sending one into the top of the fence! And once you get it all set up - it will periodically just lose it's mind and start throwing balls all over the damned place! It was a gigantic mistake to think that just because they can build a simple ball machine, that they can also build a complicated one. Let me assure you -- they can not! This embarrassing, $1,600 reminder of my stupidity has been decorating my garage for almost a year. I'll make you a helluva a deal on it if you'll take it off my hands and promise to not call me afterwards. Kidding.

Whatever you do, don't buy the high-end one. It ain't what they advertise. Go simple and you'll love it. And don't skimp on balls either. If you use it a lot, you'll want to buy a hundred new balls every few months. Once they're dead - you never know WHERE they'll be headed once the machine throws them.
 
I can add my $.02 to the discussion. Just recently purchased a pre-owned Lobster Grand Elite 5 off that auction site (guy was local to me so I picked it up). Once I bought it, we got a STUPID amount of rain in the southeast Pennsylvania area in late August through September. I can only use it on my day off (Thursdays) and every freaking Thursday it was raining or was spitting out. Not going to chance it.

Moving into October, I have used my machine 3 times so far and I LOVE IT!!! So happy I went with Lobster (as I was also contemplating a SP demo off the same site). This thing is great. I'm not gonna lie it has it's few flaws, but the pros outweight the cons.

Pros:
Multiple different settings. You can use the manual mode and just hit one way for hours, or use the presets for one of 6 different "opponents" like Moonballer, grinder, lefty, etc.

Portability: yes it's a bit awkward, but I'm telling everyone, it DOES fit in the backseat of a sedan (I have a Ford Fusion). I roll it to the car, and I put a piece of cardboard on the seats. I lift it using the grab handles under it and put on the edge of the seat and then slide it. Fits fine. Balls in the box they came in (case of Penns from Costco). And Nike Tech bag in the back. Everything fits.

Quiet: machine really doesn't make much noise. At the court near my house, I do t hear the motor running.

Support: Lobster's CS has been great. I've emailed them before I bought one and after and gotten replies real quick.

Battery. This is the thing that amazes me. I changed it (said full). And I've used it 3 times about an 1.5-2 hours each and the battery is still listed as "high". Fantastic.

Upgradable: One thing the Grand Elite 5 can be is upgraded to the GE 5 LE. You take off the panel, pack it safely and send it back to Lobster and for a fee (with a core charge for a discount) they will change it to a LE with the 18 positions. I'm eventually going to do that. Worth it to me to have "full court" usability.

The few cons are small but need to be noted.

Remote:. For how much these are new, it should ABSOLUTELY be standard. I grabbed one off that same place for $75 never used (they are $300 new) and it's worth its weight in gold. Can change up settings on the fly and pause while your on the other side of the net. I may get the Android remote as that is the one you can program the machine from the remote entirely.

Handle:. It's wobbly and the locks are not the best, but I make it work. I'm sure the handle can be replaced. It's just bolted into the base.

Adjustability: while a positive, it's gonna take a good hour to really tweak the settings to do what you want it to do. I haven't yet done it, as I just wanted to get back into playing after a 13 year hiatus (I'm 42). Once the settings are programmed, they do stay locked in. Great feature. Not really a con but once you spend the time setting it up, it's done and won't need to change unless one wants to change them up.

I'm not going to mark the weight as a con. We all know these are going to have some weight so we know what we're getting into. It's not heavy, just awkward. No big deal. I don't mind wheeling it with the balls already in the hopper and my backpack bag (Nike Tech 1) on my back.

Overall, I'm thrilled with it. I may be missing something someone else didn't like, but I really haven't used it enough to find any bad quirks.

About me, I'm 42, and stopped playing back just after my liver transplant October of '03. My regular playing buddy got married and as life happens, got busy. So I stopped. Picked up where I left off as my wife (who never played before) wanted to just hit a little at the park. All I needed to remember why I loved this game. Played since I was 13 (self taught, never a lesson) and got myself up to a solid 4.0 as I could basically do it all with pace and spin. It's getting colder out but I'm gonna use the machine until it's too cold to be outside. Hope this helps some of you looking for a machine.
 

esantoro

Rookie
People need to stop claiming that the Spinfire is the only machine with internal oscillation. Several of the Siboasi machines have internal oscillation. I currently have the S4015 that has internal oscillation; rugged wheels to roll over curbs, bricks, and rocky terrain; compact size for portability and storage; a 30-Amp lithium-ion battery for 7-8 hours of use; and a programmable remote.
 

mctennis

Legend
Tennis Tutor. It is a great machine, I have had mine for 20+ years. I would not get the one with super features on one. Mine has the oscillator feature that I use on occasion but for the most part I do not.
 

dimadima

New User
But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I had some extra moo-lah last December and decided to treat myself to the Scoop Smart for about $1,600. I might as well have put a match to sixteen Benjamins! What a piece of sh*t ! It is so complicated that they can't even support it. I've had the circuit board replaced once already because the programming was flawed. This junker won't throw two balls in a row with out sending one into the top of the fence! And once you get it all set up - it will periodically just lose it's mind and start throwing balls all over the damned place! It was a gigantic mistake to think that just because they can build a simple ball machine, that they can also build a complicated one. Let me assure you -- they can not! This embarrassing, $1,600 reminder of my stupidity has been decorating my garage for almost a year. I'll make you a helluva a deal on it if you'll take it off my hands and promise to not call me afterwards. Kidding.
wmoore, have you tried contacting SP support to fix this issue? I plan getting same model on eDay and your story looks very frightening. So far I've read only positive reviews of SP machines on this website.
 
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