Xamsa Racquet Comparisons: FBO-110 (former VBO 135), PXT-110 and PNT-110 (former CNT 135)
My name is Tim Burganov (co-founder of Xamsa Squash). Below is a comparison of Xamsa FBO-110 (former VBO 135), PXT-110 and PNT-110 (former CNT 135) racquets.
First of all, let me start by saying that I am not a professional squash player but rather a passionate provincial low A player ranked around 30 in Quebec.
I have been playing squash for more than 20 years and in the past years got a chance to test many different racquets so I will try to be as objective as possible.
I have always preferred bridged racquets over teardrop ones and before Xamsa I was playing with BK Ion Storm and then with BK Ion X-Force Black. A few years ago when I became a partner of Xamsa Squash I switched to CNT 135. It was a smooth transition as the racquet was quite similar to Ion X-Force Black but with a bit bigger head surface which gave me more power without compromising much on the control. Since then I tried many different teardrop racquets and didn’t like any of them very much including Xamsa VBO 135. What I didn’t like in particular about VBO 135 or any other teardrop racquet for that matter was that I was unable to have a consistent length or good touch on drop shots. It was not causing so much problem on straight drives even though the length was far from perfect. As long as I focus on making sure the ball is tight to the wall, I don’t put myself into too much trouble even if the length is not consistently good. That being said, it was more frustrating on drop shots. As we all know the difference between good and bad drop shot is 5 cm (2 inches). As I clearly could not develop good touch with VBO and could easily hit the tin, I tend to play safe and my drop shots were a bit too high so instead of applying pressure on my opponent I would put myself into defensive position. Again, I am just sharing my personal experience. I know that many other players are able to develop a perfect touch with their teardrop racquets.
If you read the story of Xamsa PXT-110 development, you will notice that it was rather a lengthy process and I had a chance to play quite a lot with various prototypes. At certain point in time, we received a prototype which was quite similar to the final version and what struck me was how maneuverable the racquet was. The head of the racquet felt so light and it was so easy to quickly bring the racquet up and smash the ball. All of a sudden I started enjoying a faster pace which I never liked before. I started going for volley kills more often, holding longer and doing hard low drives which was never my game. In a competitive match, I would always start playing with my CNT 135 racquet but when I felt I was losing the match and was 2:1 down for example, I would switch to PXT and quite a few times I was able to turn the fate of the match in my favour. By the 4th game, I often don’t have any touch left anyway but getting this extra snap on the ball was often what was needed to confuse the opponent, regain confidence and win the match.
Coming back to the review. I took 3 racquets to the court: FBO-110 (former VBO 135, exactly same racquet and paint job, just a new model name), PXT-110 and PNT-110 (former CNT 135, exactly same racquet and paint job, just a new model name). You can check out the video that I filmed hitting with these 3 racquets. I first tried to hit a mid court backhand drive to see if I can get a more or less consistent swing without the need to move back and forth for every shot. All three racquets performed about the same. It was a simple almost flat shot so I didn’t have much problem adjusting the speed of the swing for a particular racquet.
In the next series of shots, I would feed myself a loose ball in the middle and would do a backhand drop.
With FBO-110 I could feel when the ball touched the strings and I could slice but could not really direct the ball very well. The shots were good when hit in the middle of the racquet but inconsistent on off-center shots. I could easily overhit the ball. Overall, my drop shots were more or less OK and I know if I played more with it, I could potentially develop a better touch.
With PXT-110 I was not very impressed in the beginning. I could not feel the ball nor could I slice. After hitting a few tins, I tried to adjust the height which resulted in a low quality high drop. I then tried to hit with less slice and it worked. Not perfect but quick and consistent. This is what I have to do if I want to hit drop shots with PXT. You can still apply pressure on your opponent with this shot but I would not consider it perfect.
With PNT-110 (former CNT 135), I could feel when the ball touched the strings, then I would do a slight slice and would feel the moment the ball was about to leave the racquet and would direct it with my short follow through. Those might not be the perfect drop shots but the best I can produce.
Then I tried to do some volley kills. With FBO-110, it was quite good. The racquet is powerful enough and quick in the air which allowed me to hit volley kills without much effort.
With PNT-110 (former CNT 135), not great and I knew it - after all I have been playing with it for quite some time now. I could certainly push and try my very best to hammer it down but I could not do it nice and easy. Just not quick enough. It’s either aerodynamic of the racquet or the speed of my swing or both but I could not generate enough power unless I spend a lot of energy. I usually opt for volley drop with this racquet trying to ensure the ball hits the floor first and then lean to the side wall but we are discussing volley kills now so I will leave it for another test.
With PXT-110 I had a blast on this shot. I hit a series of shots, Some were very good and some were perfect. So quick and consistent. You don’t need to aim 1 inch above the tin for this shot. Just ensure the angle is right. By the time you finish your follow through the ball is already dead. Almost a guaranteed winner at our level.
Here is my conclusion:
FBO-110 (former VBO 135) is the most popular racquet among 3 racquets we had before PXT which is coming out at the end of 2016. You can read some reviews to see what other players say about it. It’s powerful, it doesn’t vibrate and it has a soft touch meaning you can really feel the ball when it touches the strings. As with all teardrop racquets, due to long main strings, you have to develop a touch on off-center shots as it varies quite a bit compared to bigger sweet spot on bridged racquets. Other than that, if you like fast pace and attacking style of play, this is a really good racquet.
PXT-110 is an unusual racquet. It’s not like FBO. PXT is much stiffer so you don’t have as much feel as with PNT or even FBO but it’s so maneuverable that it gives you access to some shots and overall game strategy which you couldn’t apply with other racquets. You can hold the shots for longer, you can change direction of the ball faster. You can use your wrist much more efficiently for deceptive shots. You can hit being wrong-footed with more power. As much as I don’t like teardrop racquets I enjoy hitting with this one. It brought me a few good victories when I was losing the match with my PNT-110 and I am sure I will enjoy it even more in the future and perhaps will learn how to do better drop shots with it.
PNT-110 (former CNT 135) is a perfect racquet for someone who prefers a relatively slow pace of the game, whose game is rather classic. To hit a few nice drives, gain a position and then apply pressure when you get a loose ball. Sounds boring? Consider FBO or PXT!
I tried to rate the racquets using 3 criteria and this is what I got:
FBO-110 (former VBO 135, exactly same racquet and paint job, just a new model name):
Touch on drop shots: 8 out of 10.
Control on length: 8 out of 10.
Power/swing speed: 8 out of 10.
Touch on drop shots: 7 out of 10.
Control on length: 8 out of 10.
Power/swing speed: 10 out of 10.
PNT-110 (former CNT 135, exactly same racquet and paint job, just a new model name):
Touch on drop shots: 10 out of 10.
Control on length: 9 out of 10.
Power/swing speed: 6 out of 10.