Air hockey is one of the more exciting table based games, along with Pool and Foosball, the speed of the puck and the need for twitch reflexes contribute to making it an intense game and a very fun pastime.
While it may not involve ice, like the traditional and beloved winter sport, the combination of a frictionless surface and light puck make it quite reminiscent of the popular sport.
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Air hockey started off in the 1970s and has grown since then into a worldwide sport, with tournaments endorsed by the USAA (United States Air Hockey Association) taking place yearly. Some people think of air hockey as a simple pastime but it has since evolved into a legitimate sport.
Regardless of whether you are a professional air hockey player wanting to practice your skills at home, or you just want a fun addition to your home rec room, an air hockey table is a great way to let off some steam or sharpen your skills.
Air hockey is a sport that is played on a frictionless table, this is achieved by a fan blowing air through many small holes in the playing surface. Naturally, this doesn’t make the puck truly frictionless, but it certainly negates a large amount of the friction and makes the experience more similar to the lack of friction offered by ice in a traditional hockey game.
The rules of air hockey are quite simple, there are two goals on each side of the table, each roughly twice the size of a regulation mallet (the replacement for a hockey stick in this case). The goal is to score the most goals on your opponent within the time limit.
The strategy used depends on your playstyle but it is encouraged to use the sides of the table (these are officially called rebound rails in air hockey nomenclature) to bounce the puck into your opponent’s goal. It is against the rules to lift your mallet and use it to stop the puck by placing it above the puck, and this would constitute a foul in the official rules of the game.
In addition to the American market, air hockey has expanded into many other countries, such as Venezuela, Spain, Russia and the Czech Republic, so air hockey is by no means an isolated phenomenon. Along with other table-based sports, such as pool and ping pong, there is a dedicated cult following to air hockey.
While air hockey is a game that is usually reserved for arcades and cinemas, air hockey tables are gradually becoming cheaper and more accessible to the average consumer. While fully-sized tournament-type tables are indeed still quite pricey, there are smaller and more affordable alternatives rapidly becoming available on the market.
Air hockey is a sport which has had an exponentially growing fanbase over the past thirty years, so the time is now to invest in.
Whether you want to purchase an air hockey table for your own personal enjoyment or you have kids who spend hours playing air hockey at the local arcade, it can be a fun and worthwhile investment to purchase an air hockey table for your home.
Now that the basics of air hockey tables have been established, we can delve deeper into the specific tables that we recommend for purchase. The upcoming list of air hockey tables consists of tables that we’ve found to fulfill the needs of most players, whether they are beginners, intermediate or professional-level air hockey enthusiasts.
Size is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing your air hockey table. It depends entirely on your budget and the type of setup you have for your air hockey room, whether it’s a rec room or a simple living room or even your bedroom.
Air hockey tables can range anywhere from below 40 inches to full-size 8 foot tournament-grade models, so the size also depends on the type of air hockey you would like to play. If you are a competitive player looking to improve your skills, you would do better with an 8 foot table so you can practice your skills in an environment that is somewhat identical to tournament conditions.
Tables with a size of 40 inches or lower are more suitable for children, they also fit in more confined spaces so if you’re looking for an air hockey table for your dorm room or a similarly confined space, you will sometimes have no choice but to opt for a small sized table.
This is not to say that smaller air hockey tables are necessarily lacking in build quality, because for a higher price you can certainly purchase a small table with a strong fan and well-designed playing surface that can replicate the conditions on larger tables.
Price point is always an important aspect to consider as we all have varying budgets. A professional player would most likely have a larger budget when purchasing a table as opposed to someone who would just like an air hockey table for fun.
Your budget is usually correlated with the quality of the product you purchase, but don’t be fooled, you can certainly buy a good quality table for a reasonable price, you will just have to compromise in terms of size or extras, because air hockey tables are still somewhat expensive commodities.
We all have varying priorities when it comes to purchases so this is going to be one of the more variable aspects when it comes to considering your purchase.
Another aspect to look out for is whether your air hockey table comes with a digital scoreboard and timer. This can help you keep track of games instead of having to resort to a stopwatch to keep track of your game time and a manual scorer to mark down scores.
The scoreboard can range from an advanced model which automatically keeps track of goals as they enter to models where you have to manually update the score yourself. The former is usually available on more expensive setups due to the costs involved in setting up such a system.
A digital scoreboard is a nice amenity to have, but in the end it is not integral to your air hockey experience, it may streamline the scorekeeping process and give you one less thing to think about as you play, but besides providing an immediate frame of reference for how the game is progressing.
One more crucial aspect to the table is the inclusion of legs or lack thereof. Some tables have full-sized legs which make playing more easy when standing up. Other models of air hockey tables lack legs, usually childrens models which are expected to be played sitting down, however you could also place your table on an elevated surface so you can still play while standing.
The American Heritage 390074 Monarch Series table is an intermediate range air hockey table. The build quality is very impressive, with a beautifully crafted exterior facade. If you are looking for aesthetics in a table, look no further, this table functions as a wonderful centerpiece for your home recreation room. If you would like to spruce up your entertainment center, it is a great option.
If you are a professional, tournament-level player, you may want to purchase another table, as this table is only a seven foot model, which is a foot short for tournament play. Regardless, it is a good option if you don’t necessarily have the room for a full-size table, or you don’t actually care about a tournament-size table. If you have kids who really like table hockey, this can be a great investment, it will certainly keep them occupied for long amounts of time.
An unfortunate aspect to this table is that the aesthetics are somewhat better than the actual functioning mechanisms in the table. Certain spots on the table are less effective at friction reduction than other spots, so you will have a somewhat inconsistent experience, but this is to be expected from a table in the sub-1000 dollar range.
The only disappointing part about this table is that we wish they would have focused less on the nice aesthetics and put some more effort into the functional components of the table, making it work a little more smoothly and improving the game experience as opposed to the looks of the table.
It may be nice at first glance to have a sleek and modern looking table, but if the gaming experience is diminished, it isn’t exactly worth the compromise.
Speaking of the aesthetics, the table comes with a digital scoreboard arch, which is always a nice touch so you don’t have to always be sliding around manual scorers or simply keep the scores in your memory.
All in all, this table is a nice-looking addition to your game room, but we simply wish they would have traded some of the good looks for better functionality, the blowers are powerful, but they could use a more balanced system to make sure that the lower friction is better distributed throughout the entirety of the table.
This model is a bit on the cheaper end of the spectrum, it is recommended for younger children who would like to improve their air hockey skills, or simply have fun for a price that won’t break the wallet. Even considering the low price and the somewhat reduced build quality, this table is worth it for even adults who wish to improve their skills for a lower price.
Air hockey is not a hobby that has to be expensive, the most important part is having fun, and if you can do that for a better price, then that is just a bonus.
Compared to the previous product, you can’t expect this model to feature high priced extras like a digital scoreboard or silver finish. The main area where this table is lacking in comparison to the previous table is the size. As opposed to the previous table, which has a length of seven feet, this model only has a 40-inch surface, which is sufficient for casual games and players who prefer to just play a quick game of air hockey instead of practicing tournament-level skills on an eight foot table.
The 40-inch playing surface is also very effective if you are lacking in space for your recreation room or if you wish to place the table in a more crowded room for a party or another event. The table doesn’t have full sized legs, so it is somewhat shorter than other models, but this can be remedied by placing it on a table or another surface so you can have it at a comfortable height for playing.
This is where the 40-inch size shines as it is far lighter and more portable than other models which would require two people to move and require a larger amount of space to be easier to play.
The Viper Vancouver 7.5 foot table is another good intermediate level table for players looking to improve their skills at home. It is not full tournament size but the effectiveness of the air flow combined with the high quality build of the playing surface make this table a great alternative to a gold-level table if you do not wish to spend over a thousand dollars on an air hockey table.
The playing style is quite similar to most professional tables, granted it has a few dead spots in the airflow, but this is easily remedied by the quality of the pucks and the mallets which are included with the table.
They flow very easily over the playing surface and the experience is very similar to far more expensive tables. The deciding factor in your purchase of this table would be whether you would prefer the extra half foot in size so you can have a full size regulation table.
The table also includes an electronic goal counter and timer so you can keep track of your matches more easily, which is always a nice touch in an air hockey table, but it should be expected of a table in this price range. The scoreboard is not arch-style but this isn’t necessarily a downside, as it cuts down on the height of the table and makes it easier to place in more confined places and simplifies the assembly process.
In the end, we would recommend this table for players who wish to replicate the tournament-style air hockey experience without breaking the bank.
The slightly smaller playing surface may be a downside to more serious players but we found that the price combined with the high quality experience more than makes up for this shortcoming in the long run. This is an ideal game room table if you have enough room for it.
The Harvil 4-foot table is a great beginner table for customers who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a table, but they don’t want to sacrifice things like table height or a score counter. Granted, it is expected that the build quality will suffer in a product such as this one, but the key is balancing build quality with price in order to get the most for your money.
While the earlier beginner model that we reviewed was more suited to children who have taken a liking to air hockey or people who simply want an easily portable air hockey table, this model is more fitting for a budget air hockey table for a game room or even your living room, depending on how much room you have and how often you play.
The longer legs on this model contribute very much to the worth of this table, since most lower priced tables do not have legs, and must be placed on a taller surface to make for a comfortable experience if you prefer to play while standing. Shorter, cheaper models tend to be marketed more to a younger demographic whereas this model is simply a cheaper alternative to other short tables.
This model of table is best suited for those who wish to enjoy a game of air hockey at their home and aren’t serious enough about the sport to pay several hundreds of dollars for a bigger, nicer looking table with a lot more bells and whistles.
One unfortunate aspect of this table is the build quality. The quality of these tables can vary from one to another. Some tables can last for a year without any defects and others can have immediately apparent issues. A consistent weak point in the construction is usually the electronic score-tracker which tends to have issues functioning, but this is not surprising considering the price of the table.
The Triumph Fire ‘n Ice light-up air hockey table is a unique offering amongst the tables we’ve reviewed so far. The mallets and the puck which are included with the table feature LED lighting so you can play in the dark and transform your air hockey experience into one which is entertaining and different from your traditional air hockey game.
The table is 54 inches in size so it is smaller than a traditional tournament-style table but it is also a foot larger than some of the smallest tables available, so it is more of a small-scale table made for fun as opposed to practicing and refining your air hockey skills.
The table features relatively tall, cross-braced legs which provide good support and won’t fail you in case you accidentally lean on the table. It is a good choice for customers who want something reminiscent of the real air hockey experience in their homes but would also like something a little different.
The LED lighting system is the true highlight of the table, as you can play air hockey games in the dark and transform your whole air hockey experience through a flip of a switch. This table is a good choice for people who would like a little something more out of their air hockey experience and not break the bank at the same time.
The build quality of the table is not necessarily lacking, but it is what you would expect from a table in its price range, which is to say that it won’t withstand too much abuse but it won’t exactly break on you the first time you use it.
The air coverage can be a bit spotty at times, but nothing severe enough to stop the puck dead in its tracks, unless you have a defective model, in which case we would recommend returning it as a defective model.
In the end, your choice of air hockey table depends entirely on you, your budget and your intended function for your air hockey table. If you are a serious air hockey player who wants to sharpen their skills at home, buy one of the more advanced models that accurately mimics the size and properties of a tournament-level table.
If you’re looking for a model to round out your entertainment room, you may want to go for something a little smaller and more affordable, but which also offers a relatively enjoyable playing experience.
The choices are somewhat bewildering at first, but never forget that air hockey is about fun first and foremost, so do not let your purchasing process overtake your passion for one of the best table sports.