Welcome to the 2016 Plastic Yo-yo Shootout that reviews five of the current popular plastic yo-yos!
Recently I had a hankering to try out some new plastic yo-yos to see how they compared to my tried and true YYF Replay Pro. After picking some up, I thought about reviewing each one but the Thrower subreddit community helped convince me that doing one bigger comparison might be more interesting. Thus, the idea for this plastic yo-yo shootout emerged and I gathered a few more to test out. Here I will compare six of the more recent and popular plastics out there: the YYF Replay Pro, Recess First Base, CLYW Big Dipper, YYR Gargantua, sOMEThING Premiere, and YYR Diffusion. All of these are pure plastic yo-yos with no metal anywhere (bearings and axle systems notwithstanding). I should also mention that these aren’t the only plastic yo-yos that I have ever tried or owned, just the most recent.
By the way, this is a long article given that it is covering six yo-yos. If you are a TL;DR kind of soul then I suggest skipping to the end to read the rankings and recommendations.
Before we dive in, I want to state a few key points:
- All of these opinions are subjective based on my experience. This is true for any review, but nonetheless I ask that you please keep that in mind.
- Each of the yo-yos discussed here were tested as they shipped, using the stock string and bearing.
- For the same money, one can get a fairly decent metal yo-yo and I would recommend that over purchasing a plastic yo-yo any day of the week. Plastic yo-yos are fun and they are sturdy when smacking hard surfaces, but they can’t really compete with a decent metal yo-yo for performance, all else being equal.
- Vibe is a way of life for plastic yo-yos. If someone says that they have a perfectly smooth vibe-free plastic yo-yo then they are either quite lucky or they are being generous in their assessment. I have yet to experience a plastic yo-yo without vibe, and indeed all of the yo-yos discussed here have roughly the same amount of noticeable vibe. However, at no time did any of the vibe hinder play and thus I won’t discuss this aspect further.
- This shootout is written for those of you that are considering buying a plastic yo-yo without regard to brand. If you are a fan of a particular brand then you probably already own the corresponding yo-yo or will buy the brand regardless of what I have to say. I myself am ambivalent towards any of the brands discussed here. In fact, other than the Replay Pro, every plastic yo-yo in this shootout represents the first yo-yo that I ever purchased from each of the brands (or two in in the case of Yoyorecreation, which were purchased together).
- I discussed this article with some members of the Throwers subreddit community whose opinions I greatly respect. I wanted some feedback just to make sure I wasn’t off my rocker with my thoughts in this shootout. Even though there was some minor disagreement here and there, for the most part they felt that my opinions seemed reasonable. Thanks to Mat B., Alex A., Darren L., and Jordan B. for their wonderful feedback.
OK, let’s get on with the plastic yo-yo shootout!
YoYoFactory Replay Pro
- Diameter: 58.3 mm
- Width: 43.8 mm
- Weight: 69.2 grams
- Bearing: Size C, Center Trac centering
Whenever the topic of plastic yo-yos comes up on the Thrower’s subreddit the Replay Pro is invariably mentioned a number of times. Developed by YoYoFactory and champion Gentry Stein, the Replay Pro seems like an obvious choice to serve as the baseline by which all other plastics can be measured due to it being so widely used. It also happens to be the plastic yo-yo that I have owned the longest and used the most.
Gentry pulled off the perhaps astonishing feat of using the Replay Pro to win the US National championship in 2015, although to be fair that is more of a testament to his skill than to the Replay Pro. As an average thrower I have always found the Replay Pro to be a decent throw but lacking in power, stability, and spin, which is a bit strange given that it is one of the heavier throws in this shootout. I will just go ahead and say that I think (and I must stress again that this is my own subjective opinion) that every other throw discussed in this article has better performance than the Replay Pro.
Having said that, there is one place that the Replay Pro rules supreme and that is the price. It is the least expensive yo-yo in this shootout. Its price of only $16 USD means that the Replay Pro still has a great performance to price ratio. Plus it is available in some rather awesome colour styles for the same price. If all you want is a decently performing plastic at the lowest possible price, look no further than the Reply Pro.
Recess First Base
- Diameter: 57.1 mm
- Width: 44.7 mm
- Weight: 64.5 grams
- Bearing: Size C, centering
Of the yo-yo companies represented in this shootout, Recess International is the youngest contender. Founded by champion thrower Tyler Severance less than a year ago, Recess International has already launched a few yo-yos including their own plastic yo-yo, the First Base.
So let me just say right off the hop that the First Base is now one of my favourite plastics throws. A big part of that is the visual aesthetics that to me is where the First Base takes top spot. I opted for one of the hand dyed versions, and that option added an additional $10 USD to the price but I think it was completely worth it. The O-type shape with the response groove step is also great, and the First Base is very comfortable to throw.
However, the First Base slips a bit in the performance department. While I do feel that it performs a bit (but not by much) better than the Replay Pro, its spin time and stability seem hampered by something, although admittedly I am not sure what that “something” might be. Presumably it is some combination of the design plus light weight (this is the lightest yo-yo in the bunch) that prevents it from keeping up with some of the other yo-yos in this shootout. A couple more grams might have served the First Base well, but since I am not a yo-yo designer it isn’t really my place to second guess Recess on that.
Regardless, I really like it and I tend to grab the First Base more often than the others when I just want a fun plastic yo-yo to chuck around. It only costs $20 USD if you stick with the standard solid colour version, and thus the performance to price ratio is still quite good.
Caribou Lodge Yoyo Works Big Dipper
- Diameter: 58.8 mm
- Width: 44.0 mm
- Weight: 67.4 grams
- Bearing: Size C, centering
Have you ever gone to see a movie that was hyped up by your friends only to be very disappointed in the end? That is my Big Dipper experience in a nutshell. Given the outpouring of glowing praise for this yo-yo in throwing community I was expecting it to be the cat’s meow when it came to plastic yo-yos. Sadly, that is not the case and the hype was just hype.
That isn’t to say that it is a bad yo-yo. It isn’t bad at all. Rather, it is…well…average. The exact description that went through my brain during my first real session with it was “decidedly average” and my continued time with it hasn’t changed that initial impression at all. It plays competently in all aspects, has some nice heft, and feels comfortable to throw. Yet, there isn’t anything particularly remarkable about it.
Actually, that isn’t entirely true. One thing that is remarkable is the price. At $35 USD, the Big Dipper ties as the most expensive yo-yo in this shootout. Unfortunately, you can get more performance for less money, or far more performance for the same price (and from a more luxury brand, if that matters to you). This poor performance to price ratio makes it difficult for me to recommend the Big Dipper for anyone except fans of CLYW (who probably already own it anyway) or anyone looking to get a CLYW yo-yo for a relatively low price.
But, I should mention that my wife thinks that the purple colour is really great and I agree, so the Big Dipper does have that going for it.
- Diameter: 62.0 mm
- Width: 44.2 mm
- Weight: 66.6 grams
- Bearing: Size C, YYR DS centering
The Gargantua is the first of two plastic yo-yo in this shootout from Yoyorecreation, and I purchased it on a whim when I ordered the YYR Diffusion. In terms of this shootout, I was torn on whether or not this yo-yo is better performing than the next one in line, the sOMEThING Premiere (by now you have probably figured out that I am progressing in terms of increasing performance). In the end, the Premiere won out.
The dilemma is that the Gargantua’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. As its name would suggest, this is one big yo-yo and depending on what type of player you are that is either a good thing or a bad thing. With a diameter of 62mm, the Gargantua feels like it struggles to keep up with the two top yo-yos in this shootout in terms of pure speed. Plus, if you simply don’t like the feeling of a big yo-yo then this isn’t one to buy.
But on the flip side the Gargantua is a really forgiving yo-yo to throw. Its mass is pushed farther out into its spatial volume, and the result is a yo-yo with excellent spin time and stability. Out of all of the plastics listed here, the Gargantua is probably one of the best for newer players since it has a more relaxed pace combined with its forgiving play. It is also a bit of a novelty so if you are looking for something a bit different then this might be a good way to go. I still think it performs better than the previous three yo-yos, but the price of $30 USD means that it takes a bit of a hit in the performance to price ratio. However, it does include the much touted DS bearing from YYR, and that is a nice bonus.
- Diameter: 57.2 mm
- Width: 42.8 mm
- Weight: 65.6 grams
- Bearing: Size C, Center Trac centering
I have to admit that I know very little about sOMEThING and their yo-yos. I would have skipped over the Premiere entirely if not for a recent discussion on the Throwers subreddit that mentioned it as a really good plastic yo-yo, and so I ordered one as a bit of an afterthought. I have had less time with it compared to the other plastics here, but still enough time to get a good feel for how it plays.
And it plays really well, as it turns out. The Premiere is one of the more compact yo-yos in this shootout, and it strikes an excellent balance between speed, stability, and spin time with its design. The Premiere is one of the few yo-yos in this shootout that make me start to forget that I am not throwing a metal yo-yo. Its performance marks a noticeable step up from the previously discussed throws. Considering that you get this great performance for only $25 USD the performance to price ratio ends up being excellent. In fact, it might be the best ratio in the bunch given its great performance at a mid-range price.
There is only one thing that I am not a fan of in the design, and this is something that is not directly related to throwing the Premiere but yet is something that can affect its play. The Premiere uses two black spacers on either side of the bearing, and on mine these fall out easily. I almost lost one the first time I opened it up. Plus, the two sides of the spacers are subtly different and I discovered quickly that putting one in backwards causes the yo-yo to become responsive. Now that I know about this issue I am much more careful, but someone new to the Premiere might also be caught off guard. It doesn’t stop me from recommending the Premiere, but it is something to note.
- Diameter: 58.0 mm
- Width: 43.4 mm
- Weight: 65.2 grams
- Bearing: Size C, YYR DS centering
Well, we have finally come to it. The apex of the shootout, the leader of the pack, the Yoyorecreation Diffusion. Like the Premiere, I also bought this one based upon discussions within the Throwers subreddit about how it was hands down one of the best plastics yo-yos out there. After playing with it I can at least say that it is hands down the best plastic yo-yo in this shootout, and by what feels like a hefty margin.
I should be clear that the Yoyorecreation Diffusion used here is a second generation Diffusion (i.e. a Diffusion 2). I need to clarify that because from what I understand the first generation had some quality issues. I haven’t yet detected any problems with mine though so I am guessing that these problems have indeed been corrected.
The Diffusion has an unassuming design, and every other yo-yo in this shootout probably looks better or more interesting in some fashion. The Diffusion doesn’t care though, because it isn’t about looks. It is about still running combos with a gusto when all the others have run out of steam. Speed, spin time, stability, the Diffusion just seems to have nailed every performance pretty much on the head as plastic yo-yos go. It is, in a nutshell, a fantastic plastic yo-yo.
Being fantastic does come at a price, however, and you will have to shell out $35 USD for the pleasure of owning one. That sounds really hilarious given that most of us shell out hundreds of dollars for metal throws. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a cheap plastic yo-yo and price is a concern, the Diffusion isn’t the way to go. But do keep in mind that its performance to price ratio is still amazing because of its amped up performance, and like the Gargantua it ships with the wonderful YYR DS bearing. If all you are looking for is a high performing plastic yo-yo and don’t care about what you spend, the Yoyorecreation Diffusion is a must buy as far as I am concerned.
OK, bear in mind that what you are about to see are the ranking purely based on my experience and how I rate these yo-yos. Expect your mileage to vary. Nonetheless I wanted to give some of representation of how I rank the above yo-yos in case that is useful information.
Well, let’s start with the completely non-subjective comparison, and that is the price. Here is how the six yo-yos compare, from least expensive to most expensive. Oh, and for this comparison I will use the price of the standard version of the First Base.
Replay Pro < First Base < Premiere < Gargantua < Big Dipper = Diffusion
Moving onto the more subjective rankings, here is how I view the performance comparison of the six throws. This matches the order in which I talked about them above, from least performance to the best performance.
Replay Pro < First Base < Big Dipper < Gargantua < Premiere < Diffusion
[Update: let me add after the fact that I realize doing a ranking like this can be problematic because someone is invariably at the bottom, and of course not everyone will agree with that. It is important to note that while I feel that this order matches my own experience, it doesn’t give any indication of performance spread. In reality, they are all great performing yo-yos given that they are plastic, regardless of the above ranking.]
Performance to Price Ratio
What we are talking about here is how much bang for your buck do you get with each of the yo-yos. This one is a bit tougher to rank because I need to estimate what should be a nice numerical value using a more qualitative assessment. Gun to my head, I would rank them as follows, from worst to best.
Big Dipper < Gargantua < Replay Pro = First Base = Premiere = Diffusion
This looks worse than it is. In essence what this says is that spending more gets you a corresponding boost in performance for most of the yo-yos in this shootout, with the exception of the Big Dipper and the Gargantua. In both of those cases the jump in price does not match a jump in performance, and thus their ratios suffer. The Gargantua is seems a bit off on its price versus its performance, whereas the Big Dipper seems way off. [Side note: there is a general rule of thumb in sales and marketing that you charge whatever customers are willing to spend. In this regard the Big Dipper and Gargantua are probably priced perfectly.]
Well, let me wrap up by summarizing my recommendations for players looking for certain aspects in a plastic yo-yo, at least as far as these six are concerned. If someone on the street asked me for a recommendation based on my experience this is what I would tell them, although once again I must remind you that these opinions are subjective
Money is a concern: YYF Replay Pro. There is no question that if all you want is a low cost plastic yo-yo with good performance then the Replay Pro is the way to go, especially considering it it available in a wide variety of nice colour schemes that look really attractive.
Performance is all you care about: YYR Diffusion. If money is no object (and I can’t imagine why it would be for price range of most plastics), then grab the Diffusion and have at it. Just make sure to get a second generation Diffusion.
It’s all about aesthetics: Recess First Base. As I said above, there is something about the First Base that makes it a joy to throw and look at. I really love mine even if it isn’t topping the charts performance wise. I do recommend paying the extra money and springing for one of the hand dyed versions though. Just keep in mind that it plays a bit on the light side (is there a Star Wars joke in there?).
Go big or go home: YYR Gargantua. If you like bigger throws, the Gargantua is the way to go. The size hampers it a bit in terms of speed, but it makes up for it by being really stable and forgiving. I also think this would make it a great learning yo-yo.
Best bang for your buck: sOMEThING Premiere or YYR Diffusion. While I know that above I stated that there were four yo-yos with roughly equal performance to price ratios, deep down I feel that the Premiere and the Diffusion are still the best choices. Which to get depends on how much you want to spend, but chances are that neither will disappoint you for the money.
A slave to branding: any of them. If you a fan of any of the brands discussed here then you will undoubtedly be happy with the corresponding yo-yo, especially since being a fan generally involves a bias which will help one overlook any short comings. All of them are good plastic yo-yos in their own right, even if some of them cost more than they should.
You have too much money on your hands: get them all! Buying all of them will set you back about the same amount of money as a single mid-upper tier metal yo-yo. If you have money to burn and love plastic yo-yos, owning them all won’t hurt and will net you a great collection of yo-yos to throw.
Well, there you have it, the Plastic Yo-yo Shootout for 2016! I really enjoyed working on this article because it was really fun to try out these yo-yos side by side. I must admit that even though they can’t really compare to a decent metal yo-yo there is still something about a good plastic in terms of play. Plus, you can’t deny the peace of mind of not worry about smacking one on the pavement as one might with a metal yo-yo. Hopefully this shootout article has been informative and useful.
Oh, and a big thanks to Mat B. from the Throwers subreddit community for helping me edit this shootout and catch my grammatical errors.
As always, enjoy your throwing!