The SpeedTrac X costs around $139 has been marketed as an accurate multi-sport speed radar, suitable for golf, tennis, cricket, baseball just to name a few. It features a built-in display screen to give coaches and players instant feedback and is designed to sit on the ground or tripod which make it suitable for a broad range of applications. In this review, I’m going to be discussing the SpeedTrac X from the perspective of tennis, but if you require it for a different sport, I think you’ll still find this write-up very useful.
The device is sturdy enough not be blown away in adverse weather conditions, but also extremely light (1.1lbs) and portable; it can be effortlessly carried by hand. It has integrated DRO technology and can clock speeds up to 150mph. Bright red 2-1/1” LED digits display your reading and the SpeedTrac X also contains a review feature which can re-display your last recorded speed. Finally, it is battery powered and uses 4 C Cell batteries.
Having already used the Pocket Radar Ball Coach, the SpeedTrac X had steep competition indeed. Although it comes in at a cheaper price, this is irrelevant when accuracy is involved. You might as well save your money if a device isn’t giving you a consistently accurate reading. That would always be our advice when choosing a speed radar. If it’s not accurate don’t buy it!
I had heard some good things about the SpeedTrac X radar on some of the online tennis forums, so I (Tom) was excited to give it a try! Here’s how I got on during the playtest…
Was The SpeedTrac X Accurate?
In a nutshell, not for tennis and I was a little disappointed in the product.
I’ve had the privilege of using some very accurate pro-level speed radars over the years, including at the Nottingham Open (Challenger Tour) and Playsight (featured on ATP and WTA Tours) – the latest technological advancement to spring up lately! Because I’ve spent a fair bit of time on Playsight, I’ve really got to know my own serve speed and have also become quite astute to sensitive changes in speed. Therefore, I was very dialled into to spotting any flaws in the SpeedTrac X sports radar.
Unfortunately, my serves were about 10% down from the readings I’d normally receive from Playsight or the Pocket Radar Ball Coach. I made sure to test the device fairly and hit my serves directly over the top of it inline to the angle the SpeedTrac X was facing, but the readings were always slow. I was striking the ball nicely and was playing on the same indoor court and with the same type of balls I used with the Ball Coach, but something was askew.
Normally I can always get over 120mph when I use a pro-level radar, but in this instance, I fell short – my fastest serves falling in the 110-115mph range.
However, I can’t say I was surprised. Why? Because unless a speed radar has some very sophisticated technology to track the ball speed right from the point of ball exit, it is always going to read slower than the real speed. For the item’s price of $140, perhaps I was being a little ambitious in expecting so much.
I tried to counter this by moving the SpeedTrac X nearer to the baseline and my ball contact. However, this made no difference and actually made things worse as I found the device was sometimes picking up my racket swing as opposed to the ball velocity.
For those less scientifically knowledgeable, a tennis ball slows from its point of release due to air resistance. Believe it or not, a 145mph John Isner serve is only travelling around 80mph by the time it reaches the opposite baseline! In fact, even fractions of a second after the ball leaves the racket, it is already slowing down by a huge amount. I saw this first hand during an analysis of Sam Groth’s world record serve of 163mph and couldn’t believe how much the ball slowed in much a small distance. I should also point out that this doesn’t mean that these serves we’re discussing aren’t absolute bullets, even after slowing!
In order to capture the true speed of a tennis ball as it exits the racket on serve or any other shot, cameras are required to track the ball. Unfortunately, the Speed Trac X is one of the cheaper speed guns that sit by the net and can only generate a reading as the ball approaches. In fairness to the device, it is probably quite accurate at doing this! However, it won’t be the max velocity your serve actually attained earlier in the ball flight.
You wouldn’t see John Isner making one of these devices flash 145mph. Some players on the WTA probably couldn’t even break 100mph on the SpeedTrac X. However, if you’re prepared to account for the loss of speed due to air resistance (I don’t know the exact amount this would be as it would be a complicated equation), you could potentially make use of this device. It’s quite a bit cheaper than some of the better radars out there, so is certainly a more budget friendly option.
Personally, these radars that sit by the net frustrate me and the fact they always read slow drives me mad! They’re also the staple choice for tennis open day event organisers who, with the greatest of respect, don’t know any better…
I see it all to often. People rock up to try their arm at the serve competition. Their eyes are bulging, face taut, their own inflated version of their abilities etched on their features. Then they pancake the ball into the court at 70mph. They go away heartbroken, convinced the radar must be wrong as they didn’t hit 100mph! The reality of the situation is, their serve was actually faster than 70 mph due to the delay with these types of radars as we discussed. However, the player wouldn’t have got anywhere near the 100mph mark, even with a Wimbledon level radar, but they may have gone away just a little bit less disappointed!
People also forget the pros are using brand new balls with ball changes every 7 games in a match, whereas the player at the local open day competition is probably using a bucket of balls more suitable for a dog than a tennis court. Of course, this will also have a dramatic effect on ball velocity, but I digress…
Those aspects are a few things to consider next time you have a go on this type of radar!
Was It Consistent?
As I’ve previously discussed, it’s very difficult for a speed gun to be accurate unless it uses cameras like Wimbledon’s Hawk Eye, but the SpeedTrac X delivered adequately consistent false readings. The device didn’t give me the full speed of my shots, but it did at least give me an element of consistency providing my serves went directly towards the angle the radar was facing. There were still a few poor fluctuations, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the cheaper radars I’ve tested.
What About For Other Sports?
Here are my recommendations on whether this device would be suitable to use for a sport other than tennis. If you play another sport that isn’t on this list, please write to me via the contact form on our website and I will give you a custom speed radar recommendation.
Baseball – No. I don’t know a whole lot of baseball technical jargon, but I do know that pitching speed is highly coveted. It’s a much desirable asset for college recruiters and it’s therefore essential to have a device that gives you the most accurate reading to keep track of your progress. Pocket Radar’s Ball Coach is the best for this, hands down.
Cricket – No. Similarly to baseball, the SpeedTrac X won’t give you an accurate enough reading of your bowling speed.
Golf – Possibly. There’s no way it would be anywhere near as accurate as something like TopTracer or some of these golf swing apps, for that matter, but it would give you something of a consistent reading overall. If you are going to use the SpeedTrac X, I would just suggest trying to measure your swing speed rather than your ball speed.
Conclusion – 6/10 Rating For Tennis
The SpeedTrac X only gets a 6/10 from me. It provides something of a consistent reading when measuring the speed of your serve, but it is inaccurate for this context. Perhaps inaccurate is the wrong word. Once the device senses the ball approaching, it does a good job of picking up the actual ball speed as soon as it can. However, it lacks the ability to capture the maximum point of velocity of the tennis ball from ball exit off the racket.
This radar will most likely appeal to some. The bright LED display provides instant feedback; this aspect being very desirable to recreational players, even if the data is skewed.
Personally, I think Pocket Radar’s Ball Coach is one of the best and most accurate speed radars out there and I would strongly recommend checking out our review of the product. This is the only device in the world that can capture the true ball exit speed that is actually affordable and doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. If the only thing holding you back from this is the lack of the bright LED display, the Ball Coach actually has a new LED output!
I hope you found this article useful. I’ve found there’s a severe lack of knowledge on this topic even amongst experienced players.
I would have done anything to have had access to this article when I was doing research for a speed radar of my own, after my wallet was burned various times! But I’m glad this information I acquired is now useful to someone out there!
Review by: Tom