Guide to buying an Air Hockey Table




by Mark Robbins


So you're looking at how to buy an Air Hockey Table for your home... this Air Hockey guide is designed to help you find the Hockey Table that best suits your needs, within your chosen price range. The opinions expressed here are based on my 40+ years of playing competitive air hockey, and over 30 years of involvement in the manufacturing and design of high quality air hockey tables.


First... this guide will focus primarily on new tables. If you're looking for a used air hockey table, and have the room, I would suggest searching for a full-size (8 ft.) coin or home table that is sanctioned for play by the USAA (U.S. Air Hockey Association). The USAA standards are stringent and over the past 35 years they have only sanctioned the highest-quality tables that meet the demands of the world's best players. A list of USAA-sanctioned tables can be found in the USAA rules section on either goldstandardairhockey.com or airhockeyworld.com. Sanctioned tables would be from Brunswick (coin model); some Dynamo models (coin and home); and most Gold Standard Games models (coin and home). Sometimes you can find a good quality used air hockey table for sale at a reasonable price.


NEW AIR HOCKEY TABLES
Brand-new tables for home use can be divided into two basic types: small-puck models (using lighter-weight pucks of 2 1/2” diameter or less), and large-puck models (using full-size pucks of 3 1/4” diameter or thereabouts). The small-puck tables will tend to be lower-priced and mostly made in China. The large-puck tables will be higher-priced and usually made in the U.S.


When buying a new air hockey table, you generally get what you pay for. The smaller-puck models have weaker air flow, thus they must use a smaller, lighter-weight puck. The downside is that the puck will tend to fly off the table a whole lot more than the tables that use the large-size puck. The advantage of the small-puck tables is, of course, affordability. Most of these air hockey tables will sell for under $1,000 and some table-top varieties, even under $100. The small-puck tables are usually adequate for children up to 8 or maybe 10 years old. With players 10 years of age or older, the puck will start to fly because of more force behind the shots.


The large-puck air hockey tables are more heavy-duty and are designed for play by adults as well as children. Many of the large-puck tables are commercial-grade, meaning they are identical to the coin-op models with the exception of a free play button replacing the coin mech. Some of these tables are USAA-sanctioned which means that they are eligible for use in State, National, and World Championships. The commercial-grade tables will be heavier and much more durable than the small-puck models, and of course, they are more expensive.


LARGE-PUCK AIR HOCKEY TABLES
So if you want the very best-playing new table, I would recommend a USAA-sanctioned home model. This would include the Tournament Pro, Tournament Pro Elite, and the Gold Flare/Gold Pro home models from Gold Standard Games; and the Pro-Style from Dynamo. These are the very same kinds of tables used in World Championships. These quality home air hockey tables can be found at many billiard retailers, as well as from online dealers. Depending on model, these 8-ft. tables can run anywhere from $3,300 to $6,000 or more.


I have had the good fortune to be the designer of both the original Dynamo tables (back in the 1980's) and, more recently, the Gold Standard air hockey tables. In my personal opinion the Gold Standard tables, endorsed by World Champions, are the best-playing, most durably built air hockey tables on the market. But that is a decision that you, the buyer, must ultimately make. Feel free to go to the website of any company mentioned, view their products, and contact them with any questions.


Another brand of large-puck air hockey tables which play fairly well, and sell at a reasonable price, are the Great American tables. Their tables are not quite up to USAA sanctioning standards but are of commercial quality and built in the USA, as are the Gold Standard and Dynamo tables.


Finally, the Home Pro and Home Pro Elite models from Gold Standard Games are large-puck air hockey tables which are designed for affordability, selling for about half of what the commercial-grade home tables sell for. These tables play well and the puck stays on the table as you would expect from a large-puck table. These air hockey tables are not USAA-sanctioned; they are built with a lighter cabinet, and the blower and rails are not up to full commercial standards as on the sanctioned tables. On the other hand, you can find these 7-ft. Air hockey tables on sale for as low as $1579 for the Gold Standard Games Home Pro model.


SMALL-PUCK AIR HOCKEY TABLES
Now let's talk about the small-puck tables. Search online for air hockey tables and you will see a plethora of them. While most of these are generic China-built tables, we will try to pick out a few that have developed a decent reputation.


Probably the best of the small-puck tables is the Dynamo Arctic Wind, built in the U.S. The puck stays on the table a bit better than on the other small-puck tables, and the action is decent. On the other hand, it won't compare to the  arcade-like feel of the large-puck air hockey tables we have reviewed. The Arctic Wind sells for more than the other small-puck tables around $1,350 seems to be a typical online price. Note that the Arctic Wind, unlike most other home tables, has manual scoring, not automatic/electronic.


Another small-puck table manufacturer that has a positive reputation is GLD. They make the Fat Cat and Viper series of air hockey tables, price ranging from $700 to $1,150. As for other small-puck tables by other manufacturers, the best thing to do would be to read some of the online reviews, taking into account both quality and company responsiveness to warranty issues. And realize that with the lower-priced tables, you cannot realistically expect commercial-quality action, puck stability, and durability.


Air hockey is the world's fastest table sport – good luck in your search for a new table!