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Butterfly Impartial XS and XB Short Pimpled Rubbers - Detailed Review

by ThePongProfessor

Introduction

While Butterfly is primarily known for its market-leading composite blades and inverted rubbers such as the Tenergy and Dignics series, it also offers a selection of pimple-out rubbers. In this review, Ill be examining two short pimpled rubbers from Butterfly: the Butterfly Impartial XS and Butterfly Impartial XB.

Butterfly Impartial XS and XB

According to Butterfly, the Impartial XS features a topsheet that utilizes High-Tension technology and a pimple structure allowing for respectable spin levels on topspin shots. Butterfly recommends the Impartial XS for players seeking maximum speed and spin from their pips.

On the other hand, the Impartial XB, which also features a topsheet relying on High-Tension technology, is described by Butterfly as slower and more controllable, with a harder pimple structure. The Impartial XB is designed to support passive blocks and facilitate a direct offensive playing style close to the table. Butterfly recommends the Impartial XB for more defensively minded players who dont hesitate to seize the attack.

Butterfly provides the following speed and spin ratings for the Impartial XS and Impartial XB: 12.2/7.9 and 11.9/6.7. In simpler terms, the XS is expected to be faster and spinnier than the XB. The sponges of both Impartial rubbers have a hardness of approximately 30 degrees on the Butterfly scale, which is relatively soft. In comparison, the sponges of the Tenergy 05 and Tenergy 05 FX rubbers have hardness ratings of approximately 36 degrees and 32 degrees, respectively.

Initial inspection

The topsheet of the XS is an intense red, featuring a high density of horizontally aligned pips. The pips are longer than those of the XB, having a uniform truncated conical shape and ribbed tops. While the XS topsheet feels grippy, it is somewhat less so compared to the XB topsheet. The soft, cream-colored sponge has a high density of tiny pores. The red 1.9 mm XS sheet, measuring 180 mm x 168 mm, weighed 54 grams uncut, and 37 grams when cut to the test blade.

On the other hand, the XB topsheet is a paler shade of red, featuring a lower density of vertically aligned pips. The pips are slightly shorter, with a truncated conical base, a perfectly cylindrical upper part, and ribbed tops. The XB topsheet feels considerably grippier than that of the XS. The XB sponge looks similar, if not identical, to the XS sponge, being cream-colored with a high density of tiny pores. The red 1.9 mm XB sheet, measuring 179 mm x 168 mm, weighed 53 grams uncut, and 36 grams when cut to the test blade.

Pimple Structure and Direction

Butterfly Impartial XS

Butterfly Impartial XB

Testing protocol

I evaluated the Impartial short pips (red, 1.9 mm) on my BH, using a Viscaria Super ALC blade and a 40-degree orange sponge DHS Hurricane 3 on my FH. I affixed the rubbers to the blade using one layer of Revolution 3 glue on the blade and two layers on the rubbers. I evaluated the set-ups over 4-5 sessions playing a mix of regular and match-like drills against my usual high-level practice partner, utilizing 40+ ABS training balls. I first evaluated the XS, then the XB.

Unboxing videos:

Impartial XS Unboxing

Impartial XB Unboxing

Playing impressions Impartial XS

BH drives

From the outset, it became evident that the Impartial XS is a seriously fast short pimpled rubber. My BH drives were notably long and fast, requiring me to exercise restraint in my strokes to prevent the shots from going beyond the table edge. This impression was further exacerbated by the rubbers pronounced catapult effect. The level of spin inversion and disruption on the BH drives was minimal. The feeling upon ball impact is notably crisp. The soft and thin nature of the sponge, allowed me to sense the characteristics of the underlying blade more clearly than with other short pips.

BH blocking

The high speed of the XS is evident during blocking as well. BH blocks against powerful, high-quality topspins are lightning fast, an impression that again is heightened by the pronounced catapult effect. While my BH blocking consistency during regular drills was good, it deteriorated in tense match-like situations, with blocks tending to go long. Another factor contributing to this, was that the XS is more sensitive to spin than my regular short pip rubbers. In hindsight, opting for a slightly slower blade (e.g., the regular Viscaria) and/or using the XS with a thicker sponge for improved compressibility and control might have been beneficial. At times, it felt as if I was hitting through the sponge and into the blade. Despite this, employing an active wrist snap during BH blocks, allowed the shots to dip down on the table, resulting in dangerous and near-unreturnable blocks. Both my practice partner and I observed minimal spin inversion on the blocks.

Chop blocking with the XS proved challenging due to its fast and bouncy nature, demanding a delicate touch and good feeling in the hands.

Hitting through backspin

I encountered some difficulties on my BH 3rd ball attacks against long pushes. The fast and bouncy characteristics of the XS demanded precise calibration of my input power to avoid overshooting the table. While my BH openers were very dangerous, my error rate was higher than usual. Consistent with my prior observations, the XS exhibited increased sensitivity to incoming spin compared to other short pips. In many respects, it almost felt akin to a regular inverted rubber, producing high and long shot trajectories.

Fishing shots from afar

The fast, bouncy, and grippy characteristics of the XS offer advantages for fishing and topspin shots away from the table, typically considered a weakness of short pips. Thus, I was able to hold my own in many topspin-to-topspin rallies as the fishing shots had sufficient clearance over the net and length to keep my practice partner on his toes.

BH flicks

The XS topsheet felt quite soft on BH flicks against short pushes. Consequently, I had the most success employing a rolling motion against short pushes, although well-timed pancake-type flicks also were viable, provided the ball was contacted at the top of its bounce.

Smashes

Given the aforementioned observations, it is unsurprising that the Impartial XS performs very well on flat hits and smashes, which were deadly.

Pushing

The most surprising revelation in my evaluation of the XS short pips occurred during BH pushes. These short pips demonstrated an exceptional ability to produce backspin. The soft and grippy topsheet, combined with a good sense of touch in my hands, enabled me to produce extremely dangerous pushes. Consequently, my practice partner encountered substantial difficulties in looping against long BH pushes, often resulting in his shots finding the net. It is worth noting that the XSs high spin levels even enabled me to execute backspin ghost serves. Interestingly, despite its bouncy nature on fast shots, the XS exhibited well-behaved characteristics on slower strokes, allowing me to produce high-quality short pushes.

Chopping far away from the table

Clearly, the XS is not designed as a defensive rubber. Nevertheless, employing a soft touch, I managed to execute commendable BH chops against loops. However, controlling the length of the BH chops became challenging whenever my practice partner smashed the ball with low amounts of spin, given the soft and bouncy nature of the XS sponge.

Conclusion

The Butterfly Impartial XS stands out as a very fast and bouncy short pimpled rubber, demanding an active playing style akin to inverted rubbers. It seems tailored for the aggressive, all-out attacker, and might find even more utility as a forehand rubber, particularly for penhold players, owing to its impressive power and substantial spin potential.

Playing impressions Impartial XB

BH drives

The Butterfly Impartial XB is far more docile than the Impartial XS. As a result, my BH drives were much more consistent while still being reasonably fast. The XB also has a more linear response, with a far less prominent catapult effect. The throw angle is sufficiently high to allow BH drives to clear the net. Spin inversion, although slightly more pronounced than with the XS, is relatively low. The sensation upon ball impact is more subdued than with the XS but still reasonably crisp. Despite having a sponge of identical thickness and hardness, I perceived the underlying characteristics of the blade less clearly than with the XS.

BH blocking

The Impartial XB, being slower than the XS and featuring a less pronounced catapult effect, facilitated stable backhand blocking, even against powerful, high-quality topspins in match-like scenarios. Due to its reduced speed, it allowed for a more open (less closed) bat angle during blocking compared to the XS. The XB also feels less sensitive to incoming spin, presumably due to the vertical pip alignment, which also helped keep my error rate to a minimum. Although the XB didn't produce exceedingly fast backhand blocks like the XS, it provided greater precision and consistency in ball placement, allowing me to target hard-to-reach areas. Spin inversion on backhand blocks was slightly more pronounced than with the XS but remained limited.

BH chop blocks with the XB can be executed competently but feel less spinny and were easier to re-attack compared to other short pimpled rubbers.

Hitting through backspin

I thoroughly enjoyed using the XB for BH 3rd ball attacks against long pushes. The XBs spin-insensitive and linear nature, combined with its moderate speed, gave me the confidence to hit through backspin with greater confidence, while still maintaining excellent shot consistency. Although the BH openers were not exceptionally fast, they became dangerous as I was able to place them precisely where I intended.

Fishing shots from afar

The moderate speed of the XB requires more physical effort and precise timing to execute successful fishing shots played far from the table. Several shots did not make it over the net because I wasnt able to transfer enough power onto the ball. However, well-timed shots landed on the table with respectable length, allowing me to extend rallies.

BH flicks

I enjoyed excellent consistency on my BH flicks, which I attribute to the firmer nature of the pips, providing additional support when hitting the ball. The predictable nature of the rubber meant I did not have to worry about a strong catapult kicking in, allowing both mini-loops and pancake-type flicks to work well with the XB.

Smashes

The XB enables consistent flat hits and smashes, benefitting from its reduced sensitivity to spin. However, the shots are significantly slower compared to those executed with the XS.

Pushing

Having noted the high spin level of the XS on long BH pushes, I had high expectations for the XB. However, it quickly became apparent than spin levels were more moderate, and more akin to other short pimpled rubbers. Presumably, this is because the vertical pip alignment inherently produces less spin. Consequently, my practice partner encountered fewer challenges when attacking against long pushes executed with the XB.

Chopping far away from the table

Similarly, when attempting BH chops away from the table, I faced challenges generating sufficient backspin on my shots. This resulted in many instances where the ball floated long.

Conclusion

The Butterfly Impartial XB is a short pimpled rubber tailored to the controlled blocker and attacker, playing close to the table. It provides excellent control, OFF- level speed, and moderate spin inversion. From my perspective, these characteristics render it most suitable as a BH rubber.

See Also

About The Author

Patrick "ThePongProfessor" Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast, who was introduced to the sport by his parents at the age of six. He progressed to play in the top national cadet and junior leagues in his native Denmark. With college looming, Patrick quit the sport for nearly twenty years. During this hiatus, he obtained a Ph.D.-degree in chemistry and moved to the US as he accepted a chemistry professor position. Since his return to the sport in 2015, he has been combining his analytical skills with his passion for table tennis by testing and writing about a wide range of table tennis equipment. He is a ~2200-USATT-rated left-handed doubles specialist who counts his 2017 US Open (O40 doubles) and 2018 Portland Open (open doubles) titles and Top-16 finish at the 2018 World's Veteran Championships (40-44 year doubles) among his fondest memories. He has a controlled offensive playing style and currently uses a 7-ply limba/ayous based all-wood blade and DHS Hurricane 3 and driving-type short pips in his FH and BH, respectively.


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