Giant Dragon 8228A First Class1. The reviewer
Played for about 1,5 years in total. I started with inverted rubbers and moved on to shortpips half a year ago or so. I am a penholder and tend to play a counterattacking style initially focused on the short game until I get a pop up to put away. When pressured I also tend to block once or twice, looking for a return to put away. In short my playing style could be described as a third to fifth ball game although that is probably much to flattering for my real talents...
I use an all-hinoki 7-ply Nittaku Septear (OFF to OFF-. Short review by Silver here: http://forums.oneofakindtrading.com.au/ ... .php?t=955
I have played with this rubber for 25+ hours now.2. Physical Properties
The topsheet is a shiny, medium black colour. The sheet I tried was on a 1.8mm light pink sponge which was very hard (almost as hard as 47 degree HRS) and feels very much dead when pressing a thumb into it.
The sheet is of excellent quality and looks like quality craft when inspecting it. It looks much more professional than the 729 sheets I have.
The topsheet is not very grippy at all. Pips are vertically aligned (unusual for a Chinese shortpip and more like a Japanese one) and spaced quite far apart, definitively more than twice the distance between pips on 802-1. They are also narrower and much taller, perhaps taller by as much as a factor of 1.5 to 1.8. Perhaps that is long enough to call them medium pips? The top of the pips are mildly criss-cross textured on the tops. The topsheet itself is quite hard, but the length of the pips make them bend quite easily.
The sheet had a slight reverse dome out of the package.3. Speed:
The rubber is dead on light touches, but quite springy on power shots.
Rolls are slow, but quite controllable. Looping is not really an option (for my level of technique) due to the unspinny topsheet.
Blocks are controllable and quite diverse. It is easy to make both short and slow or fast and punchy blocks.
Smashes and hits are very fast, much, much faster than 1.8mm HRS 802-1. They skid off the table quite breathtakingly.4. Spin:
Spin on attacking strokes is not very good due to the hard, non-grippy topsheet. Spin is possible, but you can not compare it to the capability of the 802-1. It is however enough to make life a little more difficult for your opponent if you vary flat attacks with what little topspin can be produced.
On flat hits you may get a bit of backspin reversal which makes them harder to return if the speed has not already won you the point.
Serves and pushes are quite non-spinny as well as a consequence of the hard topsheet and hard sponge. Serves are not completely useless though and if you put a lot of effort into them you can make them move. The plus side is of course that a violent motion to make spin can just as easily be made slightly different to produce no spin and therefore used as a deception.
Return of service is quite comfortable as the rubber is very insensitive to incoming spin when pushing. Flips will be quite flat and practically non-spinny.5. Control:
Pushes and the short game is very easy with this rubber. The hard sponge and topsheet makes it quite dead and I found it excellent for making ultra short push returns on a regular basis. This worked very well for my game as it is what I do against habitual loopers. They will more often than not pop up the ball from very short pushes so I can put it away with a flat hit.
Blocks are oddly enough easier on the backhand than the forehand (with 802-1 i found the opposite). As I already mentioned, they are easily made both short and slow or fast and punchy. The backhand punch block is a dream when you are aggressive and put force into it.
Placement is a twosideed story. When blocking passively or mildly positively, they are easy to place, but as you put more force into them, you encounter control issues quite fast. It would not go as far as saying it is uncontrollable, but it has significantly less control compared to when playing less powerful strokes.6. Other Playing properties:
Compared to 802-1 I'd say the throw is a little higher, but not much. Overall it is still quite low, IMHO.
Sensitivity to incoming spin is very low as previously mentioned.
The rubber is advertised as having a glue feel. I can not say if this is true as i have not played with glued up rubbers at all and therefore I could not recognise the feeling. The rubber does however have a distinct and lively springiness on powerful shots, very much dwarfing what is produced by 802-1 1.8mm HRS 47 degree.
It has a distinct cracking sound when putting power into shots. It is very loud and distinct.
There is no possibility to bottom this rubber out. The sponge is to hard and thick for that even when laying into it with everything I have got.7. Reference:
729 802-1 1.8mm 47 degree HRS sponge. 8. Other comments. Other unique properties...
To play off the bounce you have to have very accurate timing as you can not generate much spin to make the ball land earlier. It is a little bit tricky, but this may be just as much down to my technique as to the rubber.
The sponge is powerful enough to play off the table. It is a real possibility even though a SP player should not really do that. For reference, it is a definitive nono to try it with 802-1. It just lacks the umpff of the 8228A sponge.
On personal note I like the rubber very much for its short game and powerful flat hits, but I do not think I will be using as my first choice rubber next year as i do not feel entirely comfortable with it. I will however continue to play it for another month or two as it has improved certain parts of my game already. In particular this applies to my hitting technique. It is not possible to play well with this rubber (IMHO) if you use too much of a bastardised half-inverted, half-shortpips stroke so it has forced me to adjust the stroke and I have already seen a marked improvement in that department.9. To cut a long story short:
8228A First Class is a very, very fast short pip with little spin capability and an excellent short game, but it is hard to control when approaching full warp speed.
Last, but not least: Thank you very much to Haggisv for sending me this rubber to try out and write up this review.
I'll try to take some pictures of the sheet and update this post with them later.