Solinco Protocol 300 Racquet Review
- Powerful Sweetspot
- Spin Friendly
- Low power outside sweetspot
Modern players with fast strokes will find this quick swinging Protocol 300 to play right into their game. Ideal for the aggressive baseliner, the Protocol 300 provides lots of power with ample access to spin, which was enticing to our playtest team. Once they found a string that suited this racquet our playtesters spent a couple hours trying to consistently find the powerful sweetspot. When hitting that sweetspot this racquet was a maneuverable, powerful, and at times, fun racquet to swing on the court. When hitting outside of the red hot sweetspot some testers noted some stiffness from the racquet, while others enjoyed the firmer, crisper response. All three of our playtesters enjoyed serving bombs, and they were able to add generous amounts of slice and kick to their serves to start points off aggressively. Overall, this racquet seemed to complement all three of our playtesters' games, and if you enjoy swinging with faster, modern strokes then follow the protocol and give this racquet a try.
Groundstrokes - Score: 79
This powerful and spin-friendly Solinco racquet needed a bit of a break-in period in the hands of our playtesters, and it proved to be string sensitive during this playtest. The sweetspot provided ample power but an inconsistent feel for all three of our playtesters. Chris began his playtest by commenting, "Wow! Lots of power off the ground with the Protocol 300! When hitting in the sweetspot I was launching powerful forehands and backhands deep into my opponent's court." He managed to try the racquet with several different string setups, and the Protocol 300 made each string play livelier than expected. He explained, "For instance, Wilson NXT Control is usually a very crisp and control-oriented string. However, in this racquet it felt very soft and powerful. For whatever reason, this racquet offers a very deep ball pocket inside the sweetspot, and it plays very lively. I thought the level of comfort was high even though the frame is stiff and crisp. The one downside to a powerful sweetspot was the drop-off in power outside of it. When first hitting with this racquet I found myself playing erratically. I found better control once I dialed things in and made sure I was making contact in a consistent area of the stringbed. However, if I caught the ball late or my shot was a little off I didn't know how much depth and pace I was going to get on my shot."
Tiffani jumped back into the swing of things with the playtesters, making the Protocol 300 her first playtest back after her maternity leave. She said, "To be fair, I'm just getting back into playing after having my second baby, but I haven't had the same inconsistency problems with other racquets I'm hitting with right now. I found the Protocol 300 to be powerful on one shot and the ball falling short on the next. The issue for me was that the sweetspot was just a little too small and the response too temperamental. I did enjoy the spin I could hit. Backhand slices were easier to hit than I expected, even though the feel wasn't my favorite." Tiffani also played with different string setups and commented, "I enjoyed this racquet the most with a responsive multi in the crosses and a control-oriented poly in the mains."
"This is another racquet that is right in my spec range," said Brittany. "It might have just been a Monday hit or the fact that I was a little rusty after several days off, but I did need about an hour of hitting to adjust to this racquet. I also found the racquet to be string sensitive and had to change the string a couple of times before I settled on a hybrid of Babolat Xcel and Tour Bite 1.25." Like Chris and Tiffani, Brittany's first impression of the Protocol 300 was that it had a lot of power. She noted, "I noticed the sweetspot was a little bit smaller than I would have liked. If I hit a groundstroke in the sweetspot the ball would launch off the racquet with ease, but if I hit outside the sweetspot I found a significant loss of power. I think this is what caused me to have an adjustment period. I also struggled when slicing the ball, as the ball popped up instead of staying low and penetrating."
Volleys - Score: 76
The Protocol 300 was maneuverable and quick at the net, but with a smaller sweetspot our playtesters were challenged when it came to finding good feel on volleys. Brittany found the racquet stiff and uncomfortable at the net, saying, "Volleys were one of the aspects I didn't like about this racquet. On the positive side, I found it to be very maneuverable and had no problems getting the racquet back into position when having to hit a quick reflex volley."
Echoing the same sentiments, Tiffani added, "The racquet was mobile and powerful, which helped me out when I was stretched wide. However, I struggled when I made contact on the edges of the sweetspot. I could feel the racquet twist, and it felt unstable."
"This was a very fast racquet at net," Chris began. "I was always able to get it into position. I liked the crisp and powerful feel when punching the ball deep. Touch shots took a very gentle hand due to the powerful response. It was easy to float a drop volley too deep, and again, there was some needed adjustment for me to consistently find my range with this racquet." Chris had no issue with stiffness and found the level of comfort at the net to be impressive, no matter what string was in it. He added, "I think I could max out the tension and still find good comfort -- while hopefully toning down some of the power."
Serves - Score: 80
All of our playtesters agreed that the Protocol 300 was an awesome racquet to serve with. Spin and power were completely accessible, and our players found it easy to execute their serves. Tiffani began, "I was surprised at how much spin I was getting. Not that I am normally a spin machine, but I actually noticed an increase in the action I got on the ball. I did need to concentrate on swinging through the ball because it felt like there wasn't much mass in the head to do the work for me."
Chris enjoyed bombing his serve. He said, "I've been working on getting more power from my serve and this racquet definitely helped in that regard. I liked both the pace and the way the ball was pushing through the court with this racquet. I was also able to get enough spin to stay on the gas and not have to worry about serves going long. The racquet continued to feel plush, yet crisp, while the sweetspot felt lively and offered lots of comfort."
Rounding out the praise was Brittany, who added, "I really liked serving with this racquet. I found it to be very versatile, and I was able to hit a variety of serves effectively. I could place my serves well whether I was serving flat up the T on the deuce side or out wide on the ad side. I was able to add enough spin on my second serves to hit them confidently and consistently. I even had enough power to go for a big flat first serve when I was up in a game."
Serve Returns - Score: 77
Despite its maneuverability, finding the sweetspot and enough control when returning serve with the Protocol 300 was a challenge. Chris found the return to be the one shot where he didn't always find time to hit the ball cleanly. He offered, "The sweetspot plays red hot when it comes to power, but my depth control suffered when I was outside of the sweetspot, and then when I did find it my returns would unexpectedly sail long due to the rush of power. Thankfully, I was able to get lots of spin on the ball, which helped add some needed control. On chip returns the racquet felt a tad light against a heavily hit ball. On the upside, it was light and fast, which made it easy to knife through the ball when I had a little more time to swing through the ball."
"I thought the racquet was maneuverable, and I was able to get the racquet into position quickly to return any serve that came at me," said Brittany. "I did find it a tad unstable when returning heavier serves. I struggled a little bit with consistency and depth control, but when I focused on adding a little extra spin I could swing out more confidently and get the return deep into the court."
Tiffani's return game was up and down. She said, "When I found the sweetspot I hit some deep, offensive returns that set me up well for the point. Other times, even when I thought I had it lined up, the ball fell short or in the net. I never quite figured out the formula for consistency with the Protocol 300."
Overall - Score: 77
Chris - "I liked the power when I was dialed into it. I could really power forehands and backhands with this racquet. The stringbed felt very comfortable inside the sweetspot even with a stiff string, and I liked the ball pocketing and spin-friendly response."
Tiffani - "The racquet looks great, and it's easy to generate spin on a variety of strokes."
Brittany - "I liked serving with this racquet. There were a wide variety of serves I could hit with confidence. Once I found a string that I liked I found a good groove on my groundstrokes. Also, the black and green cosmetic is striking."
Chris - "The power level was red hot inside the sweetspot, which made control difficult if I couldn't find it consistently. Some racquets have a hot spot, and this is one of them."
Tiffani - "It feels stiffer than the rating indicates, and the stringbed felt too inconsistent when it came to power."
Brittany - "I struggled with the slightly smaller sweetspot and the slight inconsistency that came with it."
Comparing it to other racquets they've used, our testers said:
Chris - "This racquet is definitely suited to a player who likes the Babolat Pure Drive. The beam design looks similar, the stiffness is there and the headsize is spot on. This one differs in that it has a rush of power the instant you get inside the sweetspot."
Tiffani - "I found similar playability from the Dunlop Biomimetic 400 racquet. Both had good power at times, but there were other times that I struggled to get the depth I wanted. When the Protocol 300 was strung with a stiffer or 'deader' string the firm response reminded of the Gamma RZR 100."
Brittany - "The racquet that is the most comparable to this racquet is the Gamma RZR 100. Both racquets had plenty of power and were very maneuverable. I struggled with depth consistency and the smaller sweetspots with both racquets. However, I would give the edge to the Protocol 300 because I liked the feel a lot more."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Chris: 5.0 all-court player currently using the Volkl C10 Pro 2012. Chris uses a full-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a one-handed backhand.
Tiffani: 4.0 level baseliner with a semiwestern grip on the forehand and hits a two-handed backhand. Currently playing with the Donnay Formula 100.
Brittany: Open level player with a semi-western forehand and a two-handed backhand. She currently plays with the Yonex V-Core 100S.
Review date: October 2013. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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