Getting an air hockey might look like a simple purchase but there are a lot of different things to consider like the space you have and which design you prefer. With the wide range of air hockey tables that are now available the task of picking one has the potential to become a difficult one. So to help we’ve covered all the important aspects to consider before making your purchase.
1. Materials and Durability
First and foremost comes the durability of a table because air hockey games can get pretty exciting and the table has to be able to withstand the weight of the players. Air hockey tables are typically made from MDF, a sturdy but lightweight wood composite material. Which means that if you want to ensure your table is durable you have to look at how it has been assembled. Look for tables that have supporting bars that strengthen all of the weak points. The tables with a tapered design are usually your best bet. However, if you are short on space then you might have to compensate a bit because these tables tend to be pretty big in size and also heavy. In that case, as long as you are not leaning too much on them some of the sharper, squared models can also last you a long time.
An example of a high quality, full sized table is the ESPN Air Hockey Game Table. It looks pretty professional yet similar to the ones you find at arcades. Its durability comes from the protective corner caps, the tops rails and full panel leg supports.
As mentioned above the surface material of an air hockey table should be MDF which is sometimes covered with either a plastic coating or a laminate coating. It would be a good idea to buy a table which has this coating over the stickers and designs to ensure the smoothest playing surface possible. Laminate coating is usually preferred. If the table surface is not smooth and has bumps, even those coming from graphics pasted on, it will disrupt the puck by either slowing it down or redirecting it due to the added friction. Air hockey is able to be fast because of the almost non existent friction on the table surface. This is achieved by an even distribution of air flowing up from the surface. This airflow keeps the puck slightly elevated above the table allowing it to glide at a high speed across the table.
One example of an air hockey table that scores high in both of these categories is the Triumph Lumen-X Lazer Air Hockey Table. While it scores high in all areas, its best feature is the laminate play surface and high quality blower motors that produce an even airflow across the whole table.
3. Customer Service
One thing that easily goes overlooked when purchasing an air hockey table is the customer service of the company. If you need some help setting the table up or need a replacement part, you are going to want customer service that is prompt and helpful instead of a number that puts you on hold and no other way to contact them. There is also the matter of shipment and warranty. Some companies require you to pay for the shipping costs yourself. These costs can amount to a significant number depending on where the headquarters of the company are. This also means the wait period will be longer. All in all, customer service is one area which can quickly become a source of frustration, disappointment and in the worst cases, anger. So help your future self and look into the customer service of the company whose table you choose. A good tip is to get an air hockey table from a company with a local presence so that you can easily call them up or pay them a visit and get the help you need. Of course, this greatly depends on where you live.
4. Power Source
Air hockey tables may not outwardly seem to require any electricity or batteries apart from the scoreboard but as mentioned above the reason why the puck glides at high speed is because either a single or dual-fan system blows air through the holes resulting in a frictionless playing surface. So a power source, whether it is batteries or an AC adapter, is required. If portability is a priority and you want a model you can use when you’re camping out or another place where a power source isn’t readily available, then a battery-powered model is the way to go.
Most often, air hockey tables like the ones at arcades come with an AC adapter and are connected directly to a power source. This means they have fans that are much more powerful than those in a battery-powered table. Nor is there any worry about the batteries dying out with them. In some models only the scoreboard is powered by AA or AAA batteries. The voltage required to run an air hockey table ranges from 12 volt 240 volts. Deciding which one you should pick depends on how portable you want the table to be and whether you are looking for casual gaming or a more challenging one.
Air hockey table designs range from modern and elegant grainy wood finishing to vibrant graphics and bright lights. One example of the latter type is the MD Sports Air Powered Hockey Table which has a classic style and design of vintage air hockey tables. Kids will love them and adults will enjoy the nostalgia they bring up. The vivid lights, the graphics, and the sound effects all create an exciting experience.
The most annoying thing that some pieces of furniture usually plague us with is being wobbly due to one or more legs not touching the ground, whether it is a fault in the furniture or the floor itself is not even. Good air hockey table models come with leg levelers that will allow the table to stand straight, improving stability, even when it’s placed on an uneven surface.
Air hockey tables come in two main styles: tabletop and standalone table. You can easily find a decent tabletop model for under a hundred dollars, while top of the line standalone models usually start from one hundred dollars. Considering these tables tend to take a lot of abuse during a game, we recommend going with a model that is built sturdy and made to handle rough playing.
Accessories include strikers, pucks, and, in some cases, goal blockers. Strikers are small round paddles which have a vertical handle to manipulate it with. Some of the high-end strikers have a soft padded material on the bottom to keep the table surface free of scratches. If you have wrist issues don’t worry there are some strikers that are made keeping this in mind.
Good quality pucks have a very smooth outer ring, with a small indent that allows it to gain more velocity. Some users find that smaller pucks respond more precisely to motion and direction, and use these for training themselves. Usually the tables that come with smaller pucks have blowers that are not as powerful. If you pair a larger puck with these fans it would not move as fast. If you value convenience it might be better to get a table that can handle standard sized pucks as they are easily available if you ever require a replacement etc.
Goal blockers are commonly used in 4 player round tables as the goal size in those is quite large. These reduce the size of the goal making it harder to score by getting the puck to go in. Normally pucks are around 3 inches in diameter.
7. Blower Motors
The first time you may have played air hockey you might not have noticed that there are hundreds of holes that allow air to flow through. Really high quality tables have miniscule holes placed very close to each other allowing a nice even coverage and keeping the puck’s elevation consistent throughout the whole surface.
Cheaper models use fewer but larger holes. This does not cause a lot of issues as long as players hit the puck with enough force to make it travel at high speeds otherwise the puck might just get stuck. If your budget limits you to these kinds of tables opt for ones which have a laminate surface.
If you’re just interested in having friends over for casual games then a table with a single motor will be fine. However, if you are more serious and want to use the table for training purposes then the downside of a single blower motor is that more air pressure might be at the center of the table and less around the edges. This can cause the puck to behave in unregulated ways.
Whichever air hockey table you end up purchasing, all we want to say is: happy gaming!