One of the entertaining arcade games around, has to be air hockey. There's no better way to spend those tickets than trying to beat your friend or younger brother at a game, there is no other such definitive win. And if you're trying to buy one for yourself, you're awesome! Apart from the arcade style coin-operated Super Mario Bros., I think the air hockey table should be a must have for anybody and everybody. So, in order to help you out on your buying one, here's a few thing to keep in mind when you go out into the stores or search the Internet.
You need to decide what kind of table you want to buy, depending on a few 'restrictions', if you want to look at them that way. The first one being space. Doesn't matter if you've been saving up for months, if you can't make enough space for the large table and still have enough for two people to move around it, then you can't really have fun playing. Here are the three types of air hockey tables that you will find, along with some extra types that you might like.
These are the ones meant for a kid's bedroom or, basically, for kids. The tables are really small, have snap-on or bolt-on parts. They may or may not have fans for the air cushion. They are easy to assemble or dismantle so they can be stored away when not in use. You can get this if you have a real space problem.
Most of these tables are around 32 inches or 40 inches to 4 feet and may have no legs (the smaller ones), just put them on an elevated surface and start playing. Another problem with these tables can be the lack of quality. Basic tables are good when you start playing on them, but they get weathered a lot faster than most of the big, quality tables. They dent faster than mid-size air hockey tables and need to be replaced faster. But on the upside, they are very cheap, anything from $50 to $250.
Most people tend to buy the standard mid-range air hockey table. What they may not know is, there are two things to consider here - one is the size and the second is the quality. If the table has a large size and is offered for a cheaper price, that means there is a compromise on quality for a bigger table size. They will not last long and the fans are weaker than those on a better priced table.
If the table is a bit smaller than an arcade table but is costlier than the type mentioned above, it means that the quality of the table is quite good and the fans should work fine for a long time. They are quite resilient to dents, but not indestructible. They will dent and warp in time and you will find it a pain to play on them, but only after a long time and thousands of fun games. These tables will cost anywhere from $500 to just around $1000.
Arcade Size Table
If you really want to break a leg playing air hockey, nothing less than an arcade table will do. They are big, strong and last a lifetime. An arcade table is generally at 7 feet or 7.5 feet long. They are quite tedious to install and once you do, you can't move it around. One problem here is the space. As you can figure, a 7 feet long table can be hard to fit in an average sized home, but the real problem is the surface of the floor of where you're going to keep the table. These table have perfect fans meant to give the least friction possible, which means your puck will feel the tilt if the table is not perfectly horizontal.
The good news is that most tables come with adjustable legs to help the table become perfectly horizontal. The other thing is, a slight tilt won't be a real bother in a game, just that seeing the puck floating to one side when you're not really playing can be a bit annoying. I mean, you'll be bugged if you just spent a truck load to get a table with a puck that moves on its own.
As far as the quality of the table is concerned, buy it from a reliable brand and remain assured of it. They look so good they will easily be the biggest jewel in your crown. An arcade air hockey table will cost you $1000 upwards and with most of them generally under $1600. Some of them may cost you around $2500, $5000 or $7000 (Barron Games QUAD AIR Redemption Air Hockey Table is for $6,995.00).
These tables have an extra something to 'tweak' your playing experience a little.
Also known as a Boom-a-Rang air hockey table, it feels like playing pinball, only there are no buzzers or knobs in there, but another person on the other half. The advantage of getting a boomerang table is the size of it. It's like cutting an entire hockey table in half and joining them up on the sides. A very fun variant of regular air hockey.
Think you're better than regular air hockey? Try out a more 'professional' version. It's actually nothing but a regular arcade table with attachments along its center to raise an opaque screen in the center of the table. This way, you don't see where the puck is coming from, till it's in your half of the table. The advantage with it is you can always take off the screen to enjoy regular air hockey.
8 Feet Air Hockey Table
Yes, the table is 8 feet long. I really haven't tried to play on a table this big, but I think the game should be a little slower with the puck taking ages to cross the table.
The Better Air Hockey Brands
Take your pick from the following brands that offer the best air hockey tables around. Note that some of them deal mostly in arcade tables.
- Fat Cat
There are a few more things to keep in mind when you buy an air hockey table.
- Make sure the fans are right. The air flow through the holes is more important than the playing surface itself. A good fan in an arcade air hockey table has an air displacement rate of 350 to 400 cubic feet per minute.
- Make sure if the parts that bear the most hits (the inner edges of the table and the edges of the scoring slots) are not sealed but screwed in (that is,removable). That way, if they are dented or warped, you can get replacements and just screw them in. Also, make sure that you get replacements from where you bought the table.
- Look for inner walls made of thick nylon or thick aluminum. They don't dent as much as other walls and give an extra bounce for a faster game.
- Make sure you're going to get extra pucks and pushers with your table.