Air Hockey Buyers Guide
Air hockey is a fast-paced and thrilling game that demands special skill set and practice in order for you to win. No doubt, it is relished by people of all ages and instantly uplifts one’s mood.
Now, what is the core equipment required for this game? That’s right, an Air hockey table. An air hockey table somewhat resembles a pool table, but in reality is far different from it.
We can differentiate air hockey tables based on their design aspects or construction viz. traditional arcade-style tables featuring electronic effects, multi-game tables, tabletop models and simple tables made for homes. But, how to know which table would be right for you?
For that, you need to consider different design criteria and then make your decision of purchase, based on your respective requirements.
Let’s have a quick peek over comprehensive buying guide stated below to get better insights.
Air hockey tables for your home, can be found in two main types: Large-puck models (with full-sized pucks having 3¼ inches diameter or so) and Small-puck models (with lightweight pucks having 2½ inches diameter or less). Small-puck air hockey tables are fairly low-priced, but most of them are made in China. Large-puck tables carry a hefty price tag, but are made with premium quality materials and mostly manufactured in the United States.
When buying a new air hockey table, it’s no brainer that you will get what you pay for! If you happen to choose a small puck version of the table, take note that it has weak airflow. So, you need to use a lightweight and small-sized puck with such tables. The biggest advantage of buying a small puck table is its affordability; some tabletop models are extremely affordable. Whereas, the major disadvantage is that the small-sized puck often flies off the table too much.
Small-puck tables are best-suited for kids between 8 to 12 years of age. Teenagers might not fancy these small-puck models as puck flies off the table due to an extreme force exerted by them. You cannot really expect extreme durability, puck stability and high performance from small-puck tables.
On the other hand, large-puck tables feature heavy-duty design and can be utilized by both adults as well as teenagers. Most of them are commercial-grade models. Meaning, they are heavier, more durable and expensive than small-puck models. Large-puck tables are almost similar to the coin-operated air hockey tables, the only difference is that large-puck tables have a free play button. Some of these tables are also approved by USAA to be used for State, National or World Air hockey leagues.
TYPES OF AIR HOCKEY TABLES
There are different types of air hockey tables available in the market today such as basic air hockey table for recreational plays, multi-game tables, Electronic arcade-style tables as well as portable tabletop versions. Even though the playing style does not greatly differ with each table, they still have their own pros and cons. Let’s see what all features they have in store for you:
1.ARCADE-STYLE AIR HOCKEY TABLES
Arcade-style air hockey tables are generally the best and most expensive type amongst all. Measuring full regulation size in length (8 feet long), these arcade-style tables also come incorporated with powerful blower motors for excellent performance of pucks. Along with solid construction, they also feature electronic components for playing music and other melodious sound effects.
Arcade-style tables have gained much fame, thanks to their sturdy heavy-duty construction and excellent longevity. Topmost surface is crafted to be extremely smooth and has mini perforated holes. Below the table, there is an integration of a blower which forces jets of air through these holes. Due to these air jets, an air cushion is created underneath the puck, causing it to glide smoothly across the table. And that is the reason why pucks are able to gain high speeds. In arcade-style tables, rebound rails on the side are also durably built so as to promote great deflection of puck.
With arcade-style air hockey tables, it is certain to experience amazing playing style and comfort; a great choice for anyone who wants to enjoy multiple games for a long period of time. These tables are perfect for placing in restaurants, arcades or businesses to be used by the common public, as they can handle long-lasting playing hours. However, you need to know that these models are not used in professional-level air hockey leagues.
If you are looking for a high-grade air hockey table for professional leagues, the arcade-style table is not for you.
2. BASIC DESIGN TABLES
Imitating arcade-style tables in construction, the basic design air hockey tables are less expensive and do not feature any flashing lights, music or electronic scoring sounds like the arcade-style tables. You can find these in varying quality, price ranges, and sizes. A top-grade table deliberately made for teenagers or adults who want to hone their skills with several hours of practice is generally more expensive than a basic air hockey table. Basic design table with minimal features is an optimal choice for kids and beginners who are not so keen to spend too much on a table.
3. TABLETOP TABLES
Tabletop version of hockey tables are extremely portable and can be easily stored away when not in use. It is ideal for those who don’t have enough space for setting up permanent full-sized tables. These tables are usually reinforced with rubber feet so they can effortlessly stand onto any tabletop, like a game room table, floor surface or kitchen table.
Tabletop models are smaller and more economical for people who want it for family fun. They are ideal for young kids who cannot play on a standard-sized table, as with tabletop version they can easily adjust its height to their desired level.
4. MULTI-GAME TABLES
As the name suggests, multi-game tables allow you to play several games with just one purchase. This means distinct games are conveniently incorporated into one multi-game table including air hockey. Traditionally, with such table, you can play foosball, table tennis, shuffleboard as well as different board games such as backgammon, checkers or even chess.
However, don’t expect quality as that of large tables. Multi-game tables are supposed to be versatile and but not really of highest quality.
AIR HOCKEY TABLES FOR DIFFERENT SKILL LEVEL OF PLAYERS
That was all about design and craftsmanship, but what about tables that are specifically made according to the skill level of players? Yes, before buying an air hockey table, you should consider your skill level to reap maximum benefits out of it. Air hockey tables are offered in various price ranges and are designed with specific type of players in mind.
When purchasing an air hockey table for newbies or kids, it’s not necessary to buy the most expensive model or the one with high-end features, anything minimal will do the trick. A table priced less than $150 is sufficient for kids to learn the game and play occasionally, all while developing their basic gaming skills. These inexpensive air hockey tables are usually made from cheaper and less durable materials. So naturally, they do not really withstand active and repeated use.
Moreover, they are also prone to wobbling and warping due to low-quality construction. On the contrary, we have seen that there are still many manufacturers out there who provide good-quality of cheap beginner-level air hockey tables. Just make sure to avoid China-made versions and rather look for something that is fairly durable as well as low-priced.
FOR INTERMEDIATE PLAYERS
Tables designed for intermediate players are larger and sturdier as compared to beginner-level tables. Just like the name suggests, intermediate tables are made for people who are yet to reach the abilities of professionals but have fairly mastered some amount of skills. If you have large space for installation, go for a 7-foot long table with less add-ons.
For constricted spaces, you can select a small table with substantial features. Keeping your budget in mind, use your discretion to choose between these two choices. Take heed that a 7-ft long table generally features a smooth surface and are less likely to dent or scratch, which can be quite frustrating and inconsistent to play.
FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS
Advanced-level air hockey tables are manufactured with top-quality materials and feature professional or arcade-style design. Such tables have amply spacious and extremely smooth surface for flexible gliding of pucks.
Moreover, the side rebound rails are crafted to be thick and strong enough for precise deflection of pucks. For those of you who seek extreme longevity from an air hockey table that will serve you for a long period of time and endure rugged use, undoubtedly opt for such Advanced-level models. Even though such table is quite pricier, it would still prove to be a great long-term investment for Pros.
GENERAL TYPES OF AIR HOCKEY TABLES
1.ARCADE STYLE/HEAVY-DUTY AIR HOCKEY TABLES
Arcade-style air hockey tables are top of the line tables and are definitely worth investing in as they are built to last. They can withstand rugged gaming from experienced players for long period of time. And, they offer the best value for money, especially to people who plan on using the tables for quite a few years.
2. MID-LEVEL AIR HOCKEY TABLES
These tables are widely used, especially for recreational games at home. Apart from being well-constructed, these tables come in wide-ranging designs, so you can find the one that matches the style of your recreational room or man cave. Most of the officially licensed air hockey tables fall under this mid-level category.
If you don’t want any fancy electronic add-ons, lighting, digital scoreboards or other such high-end stuff, go for Economy tables. An impeccable choice for kids or novices, these portable models can be placed on top of any type of surface.
If you are not really planning to use an air hockey table too often, these economic tables might be the last stop for you. Although most of these tables are durable and ideal for casual use, we don’t recommend them for intense games and heavy-duty use.
FEATURES TO LOOK-FOR BEFORE BUYING AN AIR HOCKEY TABLE
Before buying an air hockey table, you need to carefully analyze the features of the table and the quality of different components used to make up the table such as the blower, rink walls and exteriors. Air hockey tables can vary greatly, especially in price, design aspects and quality of craftsmanship.
First, make up your mind as to what exactly do you desire in your air hockey table. This will help you make the most out of every dollar you spend on it. Remember, the quality of table you get tells a lot about the money you’ve spent on it.
Below given are some of the core features you should consider before making your decision of purchase:
The size of an air hockey table mainly determines nothing but the area of space needed for the installation of your table. In addition to that, you also need to allow some clearance space on both sides of the table for the players to move flexibly. Precisely speaking, 2 to 3 feet of space at each end is amply enough. Say, for example, full-sized air hockey tables are approximately 90 inches long and 50 inches wide. Therefore, in order to fit this table, the room should have at least a 10 foot by 7 foot of area. As a matter of fact, more the length of the table, higher will be its respective price tag.
DIFFERENT SIZES OF AIR HOCKEY TABLE (IN LENGTH)
Length is the most significant aspect that you need to pay keen attention to before taking the final decision. You need to ask yourself a few questions here like: How much space do you have for setting up the table? How difficult is the installation process going to be? Is it lightweight enough to maneuver around? What about its portability and storage?
You wouldn’t want to fall in love with a table, just to find out later that it can’t fit in the space you have in mind. Therefore, it’s important to measure the space where you are planning to install the table before you begin to shop around.
Air hockey tables can vary anywhere from 2 feet of length to as long as 8 feet. Depending on your budget constraints, available space and personal choice, select your best-suited model.
- 2 feet (24 inches): These are compact tables that fall under the category of tabletop air hockey table variations, optimum choice for young children and amateurs. Although these tables are typically inexpensive, some of them are quite reliable, stable and sturdy. Most of these tables are manufactured overseas and offered by many retail stores mainly due to their compact nature. Remember, you may have to go to specialty stores to find small format/ high-quality tables but these models are perfect for children and small spaces. That’s because they can be easily and quickly folded down to a petite frame and then stored away under a bed or in a closet.
- 4 to 6 feet (48 inches to 72 inches): It is a very broad category and most of the tables found in the market feature these measurements. Such tables are perfect for home-based recreational games, as the size has just the right fit for indoor use. Varieties of purposes can be served by these tables, besides the playing surface is ideal for people of all ages. Whether you’re looking for a table to use during fun nights of family games or for tournaments with your buddies, 4 to 6 foot long tables can never go wrong for any of these purposes.
- 7 to 8 feet (84 inches to 96 inches): Arcade-style or professional-level air hockey tables fall under this premium category, aimed to provide amazing playing experience. It is a perfect standard size range for tournaments or leagues. In fact, tables in this range can be commonly found in arcades or business premises. Some enthusiasts have such tables in their recreational rooms and basements. Given its state-of-the-art built quality and rugged design, such tables can be somewhat expensive.
Sizes range from 2 feet (24 inches) to 8 feet (96 inches) and you need to ensure that the space you have in your home is roomy enough for the table you want to buy.
Ideally, a good-quality table is the one that is built to last, is assembled with strong components and can endure abusive use. Cheaper models are made from plastic which can last anywhere from few days to few months. Very common type of air hockey tables are the ones made from wood and aluminum. They are quite durable, sturdy and provide a stable platform for the players.
Moreover, such table can handle few hours of occasional plays. The superior quality of air hockey tables is the ones that are crafted with the combination of wood and metal with stable legs. Such table can take the weight of the entire tabletop as well as of players who may be leaning on the sides of the air hockey table. The joints on the table must be very strong and safely secured by screws.
A table that has levelers on the bottom of the legs can be termed as of high-quality. That’s because it will allow you to level it out, even when it’s placed on an uneven surface.In order for puck move smoothly and consistently, the table needs to be perfectly flat and supported with strong stands. Make sure to look for a table with durable and sturdy stands. Unfortunately, if any one of the stands breaks, it might get too hectic to replace them with the ones that will precisely balance the table.
Steel-made legs or wooden-laminate legs work perfectly for stabilizing the table.
As we all know, the puck floats on the air cushion created by the blown air from the small perforated holes on the surface of the table. Which is why, it is so smooth in its motion. Blower carrying the rating above 110V will be perfect for this smooth and reliable performance. Anything that is below this rating will cause the puck to lower its speed and won’t feel as smooth as well, especially on a 7-ft. long table.
PERFORATED HOLES ON THE TABLE
Low-end air hockey tables fail to create enough air for the puck to float smoothly. High-end models will be having well-designed holes and powerful blowers, thus creating ample amount of air for excellent performance of pucks.
Rink walls or side rails are the components which experience most abuse and aggressive hitting from the players. Avoid the tables that feature a very thin layer of laminated aluminum rink walls, they will not last longer at all. Rather, look for solid aluminum or strong nylon-made side rails for best rebound and deflection of the puck. Such side rails are endurable and are also less likely to scratch or dent.
On a side note, if you just want an inexpensive table for occasional use, you can buy the one with rink walls made from laminated aluminum. Remember, such rink walls might dent over time and may end up giving inaccurate deflection and little rebound.
Most manufacturers try to make rink walls from robust materials to ensure that the air hockey table lasts longer, even when extensively used. Some of the materials that provide excellent deflection are aluminum, nylon and other such durable materials. No doubt, these best quality materials do not get scratched or dented easily.
Air hockey table needs to be installed with a motor to supply the air that’s pumped across the playing surface. The motor must have a high-output UL approval for smooth and constant airflow across the surface of the table. A high-quality motor runs quietly and it does not overheat, so as to ensure reliable and full experience play.
Some of the air hockey tables have two motors installed. But, two motors are really not required, just the existing motor must be amply large and have a Plenum chamber. What is a plenum chamber? It is a cavity area in the table’s surface located between the air distribution system and the blower.
Pressurized air is formed in this plenum chamber and later is uniformly distributed all across the surface of the table.
POWER SUPPLY: PLUG-IN OR BATTERY
Battery power or plug-in power supply? Now, that’s a real dilemma. This is usually determined by the size of the air hockey table. Air hockey tables that are powered by batteries are generally small like the tabletop or legged versions, best for kids who don’t play for long hours. Batteries are not capable enough of powering larger tables.
A plug-in table is essential if you want to play a lot on a better Sportcraft or Hathaway setup.
Air hockey tables that are battery-powered can take up to ten double AA batteries which can be rather costly especially if you don’t use rechargeable batteries. A hybrid table is highly recommended if you want to get your game-on in any type of conditions.
The name ‘air hockey” actually comes from the fans that usually blow air through the playing surface. The puck is slightly elevated by the air in order to stimulate smooth movement on the surface. Therefore, your air hockey table must be powered by either batteries or electricity.
A battery-powered air hockey table is preferable if you plan on taking your table out on camping or hiking trips where there’s no electricity. However, air hockey tables that are powered by electricity are much better and more reliable because they have more powerful fans that bring players closer to the tournament or arcade experience.
Small air hockey tables and tabletop models come with rechargeable batteries. However, larger tables use plug-in systems. You can also get an air hockey table that has both a plug-in and battery system, called as a hybrid system. This will ensure that you don’t spend a lot of money on batteries and you’ll also have the possibility of taking your table outdoors.
A basic design is ideal for recreational use at home. It’s basically a version of the arcade-style table which has got no bells and whistles. They are also cheaper compared to other designs because it lacks some features since it’s mainly used at home by friends and family.
The table has a simple design and it doesn’t produce any flashing lights, electronic scoring or music.
Tables designed for kids and beginners are cheap and simple because they don’t demand specialized skills and can be shared. Arcade-style tables are recommended for experienced players or to be installed in clubs or bars.
Warranty on a product generally illustrates its built quality and performance abilities. An air hockey table must carry minimum 1 year of warranty period.
THICKNESS OF THE TABLE
The thickness of the table will determine the quality of the table surface and how smooth it really is. Thicker the table surface, higher will be the quality of the table. For excellent performance, look for a table with a minimum thickness of about ¾ inches.
There are two main types of scoring methods featured in an air hockey table viz. Electronic scoring method and a manual slider. Cheaper models use sliders to keep track of your scores, kind of like the abacus.
Expensive models come with Electronic scoreboards, like the ones found in arcades. These are very easy and convenient to play with, no stopping and no worries of manual tracking of your scores.
EASE OF ASSEMBLY
Some air hockey tables are extremely easy to assemble, all you need to do is screw on the legs. But there are few models that demand comprehensive assembly process. Make sure to look for the ease of assembly of a table before purchasing any.
Good quality air hockey tables have inbuilt leg levelers, which is an outstanding feature. Why so? Because, it will make sure your table is completely leveled up, even when it has been placed on an uneven surface. One might think, the floor in your homes are even. But, what will you do if they are not? Will you return the table? That’s when leg levelers come into picture.
WEIGHT OF THE TABLE
We all know, how much of a pain it can be to move a heavy-weighted table. Air hockey tables can weigh anywhere from 25 pounds to as heavy as 340 pounds. More the weight of the table, better will be the features of the table. If a table weighs too much, that naturally means it has been installed with powerful driving motor and is crafted with heavy-duty metal parts. So, there will be no compromise with the quality.
However, if you are not really interested in the features, rather want something that’s lightweight and easy to maneuver around, go for lightweight models. Such tables are made from plastics and are perfect for occasional games, especially outdoors.
WHO WILL BE USING YOUR AIR HOCKEY TABLE?
If you are a bar-owner or a club-owner, arcade-style tables will be ideal for your purpose. But, if you want a table for your kids, look for a tabletop or small-puck versions.
Playing air hockey for countless hours with family and friends without stopping to put in coins or having to find an associate employee when a quarter is jammed in the inbuilt dispenser plate is what we all seek. You can gather around the table with your kids and teach them how to play the thrilling game you’ve fallen in love with. You can also congregate with family and friends as you play in tournaments on weekends to blow steam off from the long week of work.
ALL SIZES AND SHAPES
The classic arcade game comes in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, finding the perfect size to fit any playroom or garage in any home is not a problem. From the small and short 2 feet by 2 feet air hockey tables designed for kids to use, to mid-sized 5 foot long and 3 foot high tables used in arcades. Then there are larger 7 foot tables available in the market. There is a size designed for every buyer’s need.
YOUR INITIAL BUDGET
Before you actually start shopping for an air hockey table you must determine how much money you want to spend on the table. Setting an initial budget ensures that you won’t buy something that will end up hurting you financially. Prices can range from about $50 to thousands of dollars. However, the price is determined by the quality of the air hockey table. Some cheap tables can actually be classified as toys and would be a total waste of money if you truly love the game. You should expect to pay $100 to 150 for a good tabletop table and over $170 for a mid-range table.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT COLOR
Look for the design and color that will go along with your interior décor. Just like any piece of new equipment or furniture, your air hockey table should blend with your recreational room, garage or home. Most people go with the color they like the best or one that matches with the color scheme of their recreational room or home.
LOOK FOR A TABLE THAT REFLECTS YOUR SENSE OF STYLE
Remember, it’s all about taste and style. Therefore, you should look for a table that truly reflects your style and personality. Air hockey tables are designed and created to match and support a wide range of styles. You can rest assured that you’ll find the perfect fit.
SMALL PUCK OR LARGE PUCK
Home tables are designed and built for casual players. Air hockey tables that use a small puck have fans that are not very powerful and the puck has to be lighter in order to keep it in play by ensuring that it’s easier to lift. You shouldn’t go too hard on these tables because you can easily send the puck flying out of the table. Small puck tables are ideal for kids and teenagers who like to play, who don’t have high hitting intensity and power of adults. However, if your family and friends have love for air hockey and a competitive spirit, you should go for standard large puck systems that can withstand the beating. Such systems are generally found in larger tables and regulation standard tables in order to challenge players even more and keep them at their level best.