Review of the Pong-Pal

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Newgy Pong-Pal Review by Greg Letts, About.com - Table Tennis/Ping-Pong

The folks at Newgy were kind enough to include a Newgy Pong-Pal ball pickup tool when they sent me a number of robots to review, so in this article I'll take a quick look at this nifty little item.

As you can see from the photograph, the Pong-Pal is Newgy's take on a concept that is probably familiar to anybody who's been playing table tennis for a while - the ball pickup tool. I've seen a few homemade versions of these over the years, all of which operate on a similar principle - a long tube wide enough to fit a table tennis ball and long enough to hold a number of balls, with an elastic band on the bottom that gets pushed to one side to allow balls to enter the tube when the tube is pushed down on a ball, but then snaps back into place to prevent balls from falling back out of the tube.

Newgy's Pong-Pal works along the same lines, but as you would expect from Newgy, they've added a few little tweaks of their own to improve on the basic idea.

The first improvement is easy to see in the photo - Newgy have used a transparent plastic tube, which makes it easy to see how much space you have left in the Pong-Pal. Most of the homemade versions I've seen have used white PVC tubing which makes it more or less impossible to know how many more balls you can pick up, so this is a little tweak which is quite useful and oh so obvious in hindsight!

The Pong-Pal holds 22 40mm balls, which is pretty good. Once the Pong-Pal is full, you simply turn it over and allow the balls to run out of the top of the tube into your multiball bucket or robot ball holder.

In this photograph, you can see the second of Newgy's little tweaks to the Pong-Pal - it pulls apart to make transporting it around more convenient. The upper tube fits snugly into the lower tube, and pulls apart with a little upward pressure and a small twist. If you look closely, you can see the slight widening of the opening at the top of the lower tube, which makes assembly and disassembly a breeze.

The third adjustment Newgy has made is to angle the bottom of the Pong-Pal, making it much easier to use the Pong-Pal to pick up balls that have rolled under the table or under chairs, while still being easy to pick up balls normally. Again, a simple tweak that makes you wonder - "Why didn't I think of that?"

The close up of the ball entry part of the tube give a good idea of another small but useful tweak - using tough but thin plastic tubing to reduce the weight of the Pong-Pal.

Newgy have also used a fabric coated elastic in the Pong-Pal, which should extend the life of the elastic band when compared to ordinary rubber bands. They have also included two extra replacements, which is nice. I'd think that ordinary rubber bands could also be used if and when you eventually wear out all three of the supplied elastic bands.

Finally, Newgy have included a Velcro strip which allows you to quickly and easily attach the Pong-Pal to the side of your table for easy storage and access, another good idea.

Conclusion
The Newgy Pong-Pal retails for around the $24 US mark, and is well worth considering if you are buying a robot or do a lot of multiball. You could build a similar ball pickup tool of your own using PVC tubing and an elastic band, but considering all the trouble you'll have to go through, why not spend less than half the cost of a typical rubber to get a nifty Pong-Pal with your robot that works well and is ready to go?

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