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Playmate Tennis Ball Machines [2022 Buyer’s Guide]

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If you’re in the market for a tennis ball machine, there are several quality brands to choose from. One of the most popular and well-respected tennis ball machine brands is Playmate.

In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the different Playmate tennis ball machine models. In addition to reviewing each one, we’ve also included a comparison of how they differ from each other, to help you choose the best Playmate tennis ball machine for your needs.

Our Top Pick

Playmate Volley Portable

(9.6)

Considered by many to be the best battery-powered ball machine in the world.

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Budget Option

Playmate Half Volley Portable

(9.1)

A more affordable version of the Volley Portable, with a more limited feature set.

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Premium Option

Playmate Slam

(9.9)

The fastest ball machine in the world, advanced features, and equipped for any type of spin.

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The Best Playmate Tennis Ball Machines

  • Playmate Volley Portable – Our Top Pick
  • Playmate Half Volley Portable – Most Affordable
  • Playmate Slam – Premium Option
  • Playmate Ace
  • Playmate iGenie
  • Playmate iSmash

Why Playmate?

Playmate has been the frontrunner tennis ball machine manufacturer since they started in the early 1970s. Over the years, they have continuously innovated their top-of-the-line products to better serve their tennis enthusiast customers, establishing themselves as one of the premier tennis ball machine brands on the market. 

Partnering with Metaltek as their official manufacturer, they boast a robust line of products made with aircraft-grade aluminum build ensuring durability, with the signature green that’s recognizably Playmate. 

Compared to other brands like Lobster or Spinshot, Playmate has a range of high-end, expensive tennis ball machines often found in tennis clubs or available for rent. These machines may be outside of the budget range (or required features) of many individual tennis players.

Woman and children carrying Playmate portable tennis ball machine

Playmate Volley Portable

Playmate Volley Portable

  • (9.4) Feature Set
  • (9.5) Ease of Use
  • (9.6) Transportability
  • (10.0) Durability
  • (9.4) Reliability
  • (9.6) Overall
$$
Ball Capacity 200 balls
Weight 19 kg (42 lbs) w/o battery pack; 28 kg (62 lbs) w/ battery
Size 30″ H x 21″ L x 18 3/8″ W
Battery Life Up to 3 hours
Speed Variable: 112 kph (70 mph) max
Feed Rate 1-20 seconds
Spin Variable topspin and backspin
Oscillation 2-line Horiz (left and right), Random
Control Remote Control, Panel
Drills No programmable drills
Pros
  • Come with a SMART charger
  • Relatively long play time at about 3-6 hours
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum build
Cons
  • Heavy weight
  • Relatively pricey
  • No customizable drills

The Volley Portable is one of Playmate’s best selling tennis ball machine variants. It comes with a SMART charger and a removable battery pack that easily lasts you a full practice session with a 3-6 hours play time on a full charge.

The Playmate Volley Portable is admittedly on the pricier (at around $2300) and heavier side (at 28 kilos or 62 lbs with the battery pack) than most midrange tennis ball machines.

Playmate Half Volley Portable

Playmate Half Volley Portable

  • (8.5) Feature Set
  • (9.0) Ease of Use
  • (8.9) Transportability
  • (10.0) Durability
  • (9.0) Reliability
  • (9.1) Overall
$
Ball Capacity 200
Weight 19 kg (42 lbs) w/o battery pack; 28 kg (62 lbs) w/ battery
Size 25″ H x 19″ L x 21″ W
Battery Life Up to 3 hours
Speed Variable: 112 kph (70 mph) max
Feed Rate Variable: 1-20 seconds
Spin Variable topspin and backspin
Oscillation No oscillation (Oscillator sold separately)
Control Remote control (sold separately), Panel
Drills No programmable drills
Pros
  • Everything the Volley offers at a budget rate
Cons
  • Oscillation and remote control sold separately

The Playmate Half Volley Portable is everything the Volley Portable offers but without the oscillation functions and the remote control; that said you can buy an oscillator plate and a remote controller separately. 

As Playmate’s budget option, the Half Volley is a no-nonsense tennis ball machine that throws balls straight in the court like any other good ball machine does. It’s a great way to practice receiving topspins and backspins.

Playmate Slam

Playmate Slam

  • (9.8) Feature Set
  • (9.0) Ease of Use
  • (9.0) Transportability
  • (10.0) Durability
  • (9.5) Reliability
  • (9.9) Overall
$$$$
Ball Capacity 300 balls
Weight 37 kg (82 lbs)
Size 40″ H x 22″ L x 40″ W
Battery Life N/A (D/C connection)
Speed 12-120 mph
Feed Rate 1-60 seconds
Spin right-, left-handed slice, right-, left-handed kick, American twist
Oscillation Random
Control Remote control, panel
Drills Manual programmable drills
Pros
  • “Fastest ball machine in the world”
  • Very versatile manual programmable drills
  • Can simulate any type of spin
Cons
  • Panel control may be overwhelming to learn at first
  • Manual customization of drills may take a while

Playmate claims that the Slam is “the fastest ball machine in the world.” Which could be the case as it can serve you the ball at a staggering 120 mph max speed. Its 4-wheel ball launcher mechanism can also throw at any spin and kick, which can be very helpful for more serious players who want to train their ball recognition skills. 

Playmate managed to build the Slam as a serious tennis court staple with its 7 programmable shots. Navigating through all the knobs in its panel will take a bit of getting used to, but you’ll soon appreciate how you can fine tune and customize your drills with the height, speed, spin, slice, and delay adjustments you can make. It will easily be useful for all playing levels.

Playmate Ace

Playmate Ace

  • (8.7) Feature Set
  • (10.0) Ease of Use
  • (9.0) Transportability
  • (10.0) Durability
  • (9.5) Reliability
  • (9.3) Overall
$$$
Ball Capacity 200 balls
Weight 34 kg (75 lbs)
Size 40″ H x 22″ L x 40″ W
Battery Life No battery; AC/DC connection
Speed 90 mph max
Feed Rate Variable feed rate
Spin Topspin and backspin
Oscillation 3-position oscillation
Control Remote control, panel
Drills Manual programmable drills
Pros
  • User friendly control panel
Cons
  • Has to be plugged in
  • Manual adjustment of settings

Simply put the machine in the middle of the court and the 3-line oscillation settings of the Playmate Ace can easily throw balls on all sides of your court. Adjusting the height, feed rate, speed, spin of the Playmate Ace is also very simple making it the most user-friendly variant out of all Playmate’s variants.

Playmate iGenie

Playmate iGenie

  • (9.8) Feature Set
  • (9.5) Ease of Use
  • (9.5) Transportability
  • (10.0) Durability
  • (9.4) Reliability
  • (9.5) Overall
$$$$
Ball Capacity 300 balls
Weight 34 kg (75 lbs)
Size 40″ H x 22″ L x 40″ W
Battery Life No battery; AC/DC connection
Speed 12-105 mph
Feed Rate Variable 1-60 seconds; 1 ball/sec max
Spin Variable topsin and backspin
Oscillation 7-position random oscillation
Control Remote control, phone app, panel
Drills 10 programmable; can also program through the iPLAYMATE TENNIS app
Pros
  • iPhone and iPad compatibility with the iPLAYMATE TENNIS app
  • Fully customizable drills
Cons
  • Has to be plugged in
  • A bit on the heavier side at 34 kg

The Playmate Genie is one of Playmate’s first offerings and paved the way for Playmate’s reputation in the whole tennis scene. Alfred Yarur, current president of Playmate, called it the Genie as it’s the “robotic ball machine that was any players’ wish come true.”

The current Playmate iGenie is the 5th generation iteration and one of the commercial ball machine offerings under the Playmate Chameleon Series along with the Slam and the iSmash. The iGenie offers complete user control, allowing you to make adjustments based on player level. There is so much that you can do with the iGenie, especially as it is also iPhone and iPad compatible through the iPLAYMATE TENNIS app. This puts you in complete charge on how you want this tennis ball machine to run for you, a true Genie in the court. 

Playmate iSmash

Playmate iSmash

  • (9.5) Feature Set
  • (9.2) Ease of Use
  • (9.3) Transportability
  • (10.0) Durability
  • (9.5) Reliability
  • (9.5) Overall
$$$
Ball Capacity 300 balls
Weight 37 kg (82 lbs)
Size 40″ Hx 22″ L x 40″ W
Battery Life No battery, AC/DC connection
Speed 12-80 mph max
Feed Rate Variable 1-60 seconds
Spin Variable topspin and backspin
Oscillation 7-position random oscillation
Control Remote control, phone app, panel
Drills Customizable, programmable drills
Pros
  • iPhone and iPad compatibility with the iPLAYMATE TENNIS app
  • Upgradeable to the iGenie
Cons
  • Has to be plugged in
  • Rugged design makes it heavy

Another of Playmate’s original Chameleon Series, the iSmash is great for beginners and casual players who want to become serious players. It can be upgradeable to the iGenie and boasts everything a Playmate product would have. 

Just like the iGenie, the iSmash can be controlled with the iPLAYMATE TENNIS app on the iPhone and iPad, giving you full control of the machine. It’s a great companion for players of all playing levels..

Other Playmate Products

Playmate Serve Lift

Playmate tennis ball machine attached on a Playmate Serve Lift.

The Playmate Serve Lift is a great upgrade to your tennis practice as this gives you the opportunity to practice serve returns and overhead shots. When partnered with the Serve Lift-compatible Playmate ball machines like the Ace, iSmash, iGenie, and the Slam, you get to enjoy and reap the benefits of the mentioned ball machines in a literally elevated way. 

Simply put on the ball machine on the Serve Lift and turn it on and set the elevation level and you’re good to go. 

Playmate Ball Mower

Another Playmate product that’s great to use on the court is the Playmate Ball Mower. It’s a great companion to the ball machines as it helps you through the rugged chore of picking loose balls on the field. Simply run the ball mower over the balls and the mower will collect them for you in a catch tray. 

The Playmate Ball Mower is actually our premium option among the best tennis ball mowers in the market today. 

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Playmate is a great brand that has rightly earned its reputation as one of the best tennis equipment companies out there today. 

We recommend the Volley Portable as our top pick with the Half Volley Portable as the budget option. The Playmate Slam takes the spot as the premium pick.
And for some alternatives to Playmate ball machines, check out our review of Spinshot tennis ball machines, and why the Spinshot Plus-2 got our top pick as one of the best tennis ball machines.

Post last updated on March 30, 2022

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