Mid-plus shootout: Head, Prince, Yonex

time_fly

Hall of Fame
I'm still looking for that elusive ideal mid-plus racquet, so I ordered a 4 pack of demos from TW.

The contenders:

Prince Beast 98
Head Prestige Touch Pro
Head Prestige Touch MP
Yonex EZONE 98+

The "controls" (similar racquets I own for comparison):

Volkl V-Sense 10 325g
Yonex SV98+
Prince Phantom 93D

My plan is to do a "standard length" shootout among the 27" 98s, a face-off between the SV 98+ and EZONE 98+, and have the two winners go head to head. It's too hard to go back and forth between XL and normal length racquets in one session.
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
First impressions. I hit for an hour and a half today in a cardio tennis / "king of the court" game organized into 5 15-minute rounds of non-stop doubles points (no serves). After warming up with my Volkl, I rotated a different standard-length stick in each round and came up with some first impressions.

First up was the Prestige Pro. I tried the old Graphene XT and found it very polarized with a tinny, brittle feel but otherwise relatively decent performance. I think the new Prestige Pro is less extreme. The "Touch" technology helps hide the hollow and tinny feel, although it's still there underneath. But whereas I ditched the XT immediately, I could learn to tolerate this one. It's also less polarized and swings a little easier. It has a lot of free power for a 95. My very first swing was a bullet of a forehand that split the two defenders easily, then landed 1" long. Too much power? Maybe.

Next up, the Prestige MP. My first impression was that the string spacing is possibly even more dense than my Phantom 93D. There's a full 2 inches at the throat with no cross strings, meaning they're all bunched up in the middle. I could barely fit the tip of my pinky between the strings in the center. My next impression was that the launch angle is REALLY LOW. Like "8 of my first 10 shots hit the net" low. It definitely felt more precise and controlled than the Pro. I liked it for volleys and slices, but I was battling to get the height and shape I wanted on topspin ground strokes. In terms of feel it was similar to the Pro, but a "touch" more smooth, comfortable, and controlled. I think it's hard to play with back-to-back with a 16x19 or 16x20, so I will try again comparing it mostly to my Phantom 93D. Let's give this one an "incomplete" for now.

Then I got to the Beast 98 (solid beam version). I think this frame doesn't get the attention it deserves, probably because the small player population that follows Prince likes the Phantom even more. I found this to be the "Goldilocks" between the Prestige Pro and Prestige MP. Although it's a bit more stiff and muted than the Phantom, it feels better than the Graphene frames. The power, spin, and control levels all fell between the MP and Pro as well. I did not think it felt clunky and I didn't have issue with the wide tip, although I didn't serve or hit any overheads that I recall with it. The sweet spot felt generous.

Next, I played a round with the Phantom 93D. Despite being a small 18x20, I did not have the launch angle issues that I had with the Prestige MP. As expected, this was the finesse frame of the bunch. Placing and carving the ball was easy. Ground stroke velocity was down but adequate as long as I set up early and squared up the ball well.

Finally, I went back to my Volkl V-Sense 10. The performance of the Volkl is similar to the Beast. It felt a bit more smooth and flexible, and the weight gave it a little more stability. As long as I positioned the racquet on time, this (along with the Phantom 93D) performed the best on defense based on its ability to redirect heavy balls accurately. But the flip side was that many times I felt like I was working harder to get the same results as I got with the Beast. I don't normally think of this frame as a spin frame, but I probably got the most spin out of it among this bunch. Being strung with V-Torque Tour 19 probably helped.

So far, I would say that I liked the Beast 98 the most out of this class. It felt better than the Head frames and had a nice balance of performance and control. The Volkl would be preferred by someone who prefers heavier, classic frame with a 98" and of course the Phantom is perfect for someone who wants a very neutral control stick with very little extra help. If someone liked the Phantom 93D but wanted something a bit easier to use, I would recommend trying the Beast 98 in addition to the Phantom 100 versions. With its slightly denser string pattern and smaller head, I think the Beast feels a bit more precise than the Phantom 100 variants I've tried even if it doesn't have the same level of touch and spin.

I will certainly play all of these again and update my opinions.
 

PT280 Fan

Rookie
Enjoyed the review. Don't imagine I'll ever go to a 98 though as my one-handed backhand would suffer. When I get where I can't move at all I'll go from 95 to a 130 Weed and slice and dice people to death.:eek:

PS The Pro Tour 280 says 98 but is really a 95.
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
I had a chance to put the EZONE 98+ and SV 98+ head-to-head today on the ball machine. I should note that my EZONE 98+ demo is pristine -- the grip was still plastic wrapped when it arrived. It was freshly strung with Head Lynx 16 @ 51. Thanks TW!

Comparing the two physically, the EZONE 98+ comes off as more sophisticated or more gimmicky, depending on how you see it. The beam tapers from a thick, stiff head down to a thin, flexible throat area. The isometric head shape is very squared off. The string pattern is much more dense up the middle and open towards the edges. In comparison, the SV98+ has a constant beam, more uniform string spacing, and only a slight hint of the Yonex isometric square edges. Although both are Yonex 98s, the shape is different. The EZONE 98+ has shorter main strings, but the square head shape means that they are more uniform in length. The SV98+ is closer to a traditional oval.

The EZONE 98+ came off as the more balanced frame to me. I could hit a very solid drive with a full swing, but when I backed off the pace and tried to hit short angles or conservative targets I found it to be more responsive. It also provided a bit more feedback with the thinner, more flexible throat. This comes down to personal preference, but the launch angle is slightly lower. My topspin shots looped less and landed with a bit more margin inside the lines, but flat drives came dangerously close to the top of the tape more often than with the SV98+. In terms of downsides, although the EZONE 98+ has a more flexible feel I don't necessarily think it is more comfortable overall. That thick head is very rigid, so there's a fair amount of shock on off-center contact. It offers less free power. For whatever reason, I did not find it as easy to slice the ball as I did with the SV 98+; the EZONE 98+ just seemed to be a bit more sensitive to angles and contact points.

If I didn't already own either frame, I would probably lean towards the EZONE 98+. But the differences are small enough that I want to see if I can narrow them by bumping up my SV98+ string tension.
 

ultradr

Legend
First impressions. I hit for an hour and a half today in a cardio tennis / "king of the court" game organized into 5 15-minute rounds of non-stop doubles points (no serves). After warming up with my Volkl, I rotated a different standard-length stick in each round and came up with some first impressions.

First up was the Prestige Pro. I tried the old Graphene XT and found it very polarized with a tinny, brittle feel but otherwise relatively decent performance. I think the new Prestige Pro is less extreme. The "Touch" technology helps hide the hollow and tinny feel, although it's still there underneath. But whereas I ditched the XT immediately, I could learn to tolerate this one. It's also less polarized and swings a little easier. It has a lot of free power for a 95. My very first swing was a bullet of a forehand that split the two defenders easily, then landed 1" long. Too much power? Maybe.

Next up, the Prestige MP. My first impression was that the string spacing is possibly even more dense than my Phantom 93D. There's a full 2 inches at the throat with no cross strings, meaning they're all bunched up in the middle. I could barely fit the tip of my pinky between the strings in the center. My next impression was that the launch angle is REALLY LOW. Like "8 of my first 10 shots hit the net" low. It definitely felt more precise and controlled than the Pro. I liked it for volleys and slices, but I was battling to get the height and shape I wanted on topspin ground strokes. In terms of feel it was similar to the Pro, but a "touch" more smooth, comfortable, and controlled. I think it's hard to play with back-to-back with a 16x19 or 16x20, so I will try again comparing it mostly to my Phantom 93D. Let's give this one an "incomplete" for now.

Then I got to the Beast 98 (solid beam version). I think this frame doesn't get the attention it deserves, probably because the small player population that follows Prince likes the Phantom even more. I found this to be the "Goldilocks" between the Prestige Pro and Prestige MP. Although it's a bit more stiff and muted than the Phantom, it feels better than the Graphene frames. The power, spin, and control levels all fell between the MP and Pro as well. I did not think it felt clunky and I didn't have issue with the wide tip, although I didn't serve or hit any overheads that I recall with it. The sweet spot felt generous.

Next, I played a round with the Phantom 93D. Despite being a small 18x20, I did not have the launch angle issues that I had with the Prestige MP. As expected, this was the finesse frame of the bunch. Placing and carving the ball was easy. Ground stroke velocity was down but adequate as long as I set up early and squared up the ball well.

Finally, I went back to my Volkl V-Sense 10. The performance of the Volkl is similar to the Beast. It felt a bit more smooth and flexible, and the weight gave it a little more stability. As long as I positioned the racquet on time, this (along with the Phantom 93D) performed the best on defense based on its ability to redirect heavy balls accurately. But the flip side was that many times I felt like I was working harder to get the same results as I got with the Beast. I don't normally think of this frame as a spin frame, but I probably got the most spin out of it among this bunch. Being strung with V-Torque Tour 19 probably helped.

So far, I would say that I liked the Beast 98 the most out of this class. It felt better than the Head frames and had a nice balance of performance and control. The Volkl would be preferred by someone who prefers heavier, classic frame with a 98" and of course the Phantom is perfect for someone who wants a very neutral control stick with very little extra help. If someone liked the Phantom 93D but wanted something a bit easier to use, I would recommend trying the Beast 98 in addition to the Phantom 100 versions. With its slightly denser string pattern and smaller head, I think the Beast feels a bit more precise than the Phantom 100 variants I've tried even if it doesn't have the same level of touch and spin.

I will certainly play all of these again and update my opinions.
I thought prestige pros are close to true 98.

And prestige mp is like 95. I personally think 94. :D i felt like they were smaller than other 95s
 

time_fly

Hall of Fame
I sent the racquets back today after 2 more sessions with them. I haven't had a chance to play any matches lately, but I hit for an hour off the ball machine yesterday (ground strokes and volleys) and then played another 90 minutes of the "king of the court" game from last week. My final impressions:

Head Graphene Touch Prestige Pro / MP: My biggest compliment for these frames is that they feel much better than the outgoing tinny, harsh Graphene XT versions. But I am holding out for the Head Graphene Touch Prestige Goldilocks that sits between the Pro and MP. With the Pro, my shots had surprising height and depth, to the point where I worried about overshooting my targets. I found better control with the old Graphene XT Prestige Pro even though I didn't like the feel. The MP took too much re-calibration of my swing to keep the ball out of the net. As a top-spinner I usually favor open patterns, but I can enjoy a good 18x20 such as the Pure Strike, Prince Phantom 93D, or Prince Textreme Tour 100P. I didn't enjoy this one.

Yonex EZONE 98+: I thought this was a great frame. It has been too long since I demoed the DR 98+ for me to compare, so I can only compare to the SV 98+ that I play regularly. It offers more softness and feel than the SV and I felt more confident when I executed touch shots or made defensive blocks. But it still has that "extra gear" that I find in extended length frames when I wanted to amp up the power. It felt reasonably easy to swing for an XL frame, but I still got jammed up or caught unprepared a bit more than I do with my standard length frames. The SV has a bit more power, and I also found it just a bit easier to dial in my desired net clearance on slices and top spin drives with the SV. Maybe the slightly more closed 16x20 pattern helps with the precision. The EZONE 98+ was fairly comfortable, although the hoop is stiff enough that off-center hits can be jarring despite the flex. If I didn't already own the SV I would pick the EZONE instead, but they are close enough that I wouldn't spend money to switch.

Prince Beast 98: This frame surprised me, ugly pea-green Tour XP poly and all. Since the "Phantom" series is for fans of traditional players' frames, I feared the Beast would be a stiff, muted Pure Drive or Burn wanna-be. Prince did a great job of amping up the power and ease of use over the Phantom while still leaving some very usable feel and control. As I mentioned in my first impressions, I think this is an interesting alternative to the Phantom 100 versions. It's not just a question of more power. It hits a bit crisper, flatter ball that some players might prefer. The other little thing that stood out about this frame is that the grip is set up for two-handed backhands. It's almost as long as the grips on the Yonex XL racquets. Today, I got the best results out of this frame, including several backhand winners. It has a bit more control and less power than either Yonex frame, but it is still easy to drive the ball and I found it easier to use around the net. Unlike a lot of modern power frames, I think there is room for some softer, more comfortable string setups here without losing too much control.

I was sorry to have to send these frames back, as I easily could have tested them for another two weeks. This is why I usually buy and resell frames I'm interested in. I will probably pick up a Beast 98 for a more extended test period.
 
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