Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Badminton Racket Review: Li-Ning Break-Free N90-III

First impressions here.

Once again, thanks to all who voted in the poll earlier. We've got the most number of people asking for a review of the Li-Ning N90-III, so I've taken a little longer than usual to make sure I knew what I wanted to write before getting down to it.

So when we last left off, the strings were a little wonky and I couldn't get a lot of feel from them. I've gotten the strings changed to the more playable Toalson BL-6500 (check out the new series of Toalson strings here), and hit the courts.

This here's probably the smartest looking of the new N-III series. Red and white and shiny all over. Apart from the looks, the racket boosts a pretty good feel, with attacks coming through sharp and true a large portion of the time.

It's also not as stiff as the N90, or as head heavy as the N90-II, which put it pretty sweetly for those who are trying to find a good balance between defense and attack.

Note. This review carries my own opinion of the racket from my experience. Comments welcome!

With that said, let's go.

Li-Ning Break-Free N90-III
Est. Dry Weight: 96g (3U)
Grip Size: G5
Balance: Slightly head heavy
Stiffness: Slightly stiff
Strings: Toalson BL-6500 @ 25lbs

I recommend this racket for singles play.

In my review for the N90 and N90-II I made a comment about how easy it was to send the shuttle to the back of the court with something that stiff and head heavy. Well, with the N90-III, I didn't' find myself punching the shuttle as far, and as a result turned to the much preferred drive defense style that I'm more familar with.

And the Li-Ning N90-III does this with ease. Whether it's a soft block across the net or a quick flick to the other side, I was able to pull this move off without much difficulty.

The decreased weight probably made it work, aided by the popular Break-Free (or Sword, if anyone's a Victor fan) head frame design that's a wonder to swing around.

Speed and reflexes were up with this in my hand, and my singles game with this were pretty much comfortable knowing that I could take most attacks and survive.

There's also the element of control, that makes me almost tempts my opponents to go for the tight net shot. More on that to come.

Being lighter and less stiff and less head heavy than its predecessors does not bode well for the N90-III when it comes down to offense, but the racket performs admirably by having a quick, sharp swing that allows you to take the shuttle down at amazing angles.

Once again I'll have to mention the sword frame. The Break-Free design practically cuts down on drag and puts the head down at a quicker pace, allowing for a really comfortable contact point. This gives me a lot more room for imagination in my shots - (slightly lesser) power smash, the wrist snap, fast drops, you name it.

Drives with this are pretty much stunted though. Unlike the heavyweights, the 96g (thereabouts anyhoo) Li-Ning N90-III doesn't carry much weight transfer to give you that satisfying explosion when you throw your arm out for a drive shot.

Here's where it gets interesting. I give a good control rating to any racket that makes me feel comfortable and allows me to make any shot that comes to mind. From trick shots to acute changes in direction, the N90-III is one comfortable racket.

It gives me the feeling that I can place the shuttle into any box you place in the court (and I don't even have to try that many times either). The accuracy that the racket gives is unbelievable. When you get a good hit in you really can get that WOW feel.

Backhands were well-executed, forehands were close to perfect. The net shots that I could perform were so close to the net it isn't funny.

One of my worst shots is the cross-court tight net shot. Really horrible. Like shooting flies with a bazooka.

That didn't seem to be much of a problem with the N90-III though. Awesome control.

For those who have seen Alucard, the Li-Ning N90-III comes in the exact color tone. Freaking awesome, impossibly cool, indescribably desirably. One look is all you need to part ways with your money.

For those who didn't see the anime, here's a picture.

Li-Ning Break-Free N90-III
"Faultlessly perfect control"
Defense: 9
Attack: 8
Control: 10
Looks: 10


Anonymous said...

Nice review. How does it compare with Li Ning N80.


Arthur said...

Thanks! I've not had the chance to use my N80 extensively yet, so I can't really judge.

But at first glance and feel, the are actually quite identical!

Will be sure to put the N80 up to the test soon!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment.
When you do get time pls do share your thoughts on the shaft stiffness of both these racquets Lining N80 & N903

Thank You.

Arthur said...

Just had a feel.

The N80 feels slightly stiffer than the N90-III - both on static and swing.

But just that little bit more.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I will wait for you review on N80.

If you have to compare the shaft stiffness of N90-3 with any other racket, which would think it is closest to.


Arthur said...

I would say the N55-III and the VT80 feels pretty close.

Unknown said...

How does this racket compare to the almighty Voltric 80? I love the control on the VT80 but the head heavy builds up the fatigue rather quick even though I am using a 4U version for double play. How does the N90-III compare?
Looking forwards the reply.
Keep up the good work!

Arthur said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

The N90-III definitely feels less head heavy than the VT80.

I had very good games with the N90-III, with hardly any fatigue in the arms.

It's a godly racket, I tell you...

Unknown said...

Thanks for the reply. I recently picked up a Victor Bravesword 12. It has amazing speed. Although it ultimately lacks power but even balance and medium stiff shaft gives up amazing angles on shot. You should definitely check it out!

Arthur said...

Wait till you try the BRS10 man! The accuracy I have on that racket is amazing!

Unknown said...

My friend just got a Carltin kinesis x90 that broke in one hour. Frame too thin. Is the bs10 available now with 4u weight? Where do you live?

Arthur said...

Sorry to hear about your friend.. sucks to have a racket break on you.

I think most Victor rackets are available in both 3U and 4U, at least that's the case in Singapore, where I am.

Unknown said...

Anyway I am looking for your review in the vtzf2 althou I wont be able to wield it. Even the vt80 is taking my arm apart now -.-
Im looking for an attack version of the bs12 and thinking of the bs lyd. I tried the 4u version before but then there is this guy in my club trying to sell me his 3u bs lyd. The 4u was a nice experience but idk how the 3u would play lime and the guy refuse to string it unless I buy the racket. Do you have any recommendation for me?
Thanks in advance and dont you dare giving up on badminton and your readers!!!

Unknown said...

Which racquet would you say is the most powerful? Out of all that you have used

Arthur said...

Hey Elliot, I think the strongest smash would have to go to the 3U Z-Force.

Anonymous said...

Which is better the N90ii or the N90iii? And what is the difference?

Arthur said...

That answer can be found by reading the two reviews :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Author
In your opinion is the n90 better or the n90ii as I am intending to buy either one of them.

Anonymous said...

Is this better than arcsaber 10???

Arthur said...

I like the N90 better. Stiffer and more control.

I think the N90-III is an overall better racket than the ArcSaber 10.

Jared said...

Hi Arthur! Awesome review! Just wanted to ask you does the N90III performs just as well in the smash department compared to say a VTZF or the N9?

Arthur said...

Glad ya like it! the N90-III is more on the control side. Definitely less power than the VTZF and vry slightly less than the N9.

Anonymous said...

Any recommendations for rackets suitable for doubles play, with excellent control and power?

Unknown said...

Hi, I have been playing with LN N55 I, II , till recently broke the LN N55-II , I simply love the repulsion on the N series and feedback sound. Would I be able to carry off the N90 III ? After reviews Im keen on N90III rather than Voltric.

Arthur said...

Generally the III Series is a less punishing design than the previous, so I'm sure you'll get a lot out of the N90III.

Lawrence Tan said...

How would you compare it with Bravesword 12? Smashing power better than it? Control wise? Thanks!

Arthur said...

Hi Lawrence, not much help here coz I've not used a Bravesword 12 before. :)

Unknown said...

So wait, the n90 iii is 96 grams? Shouldn't it be 85-89 grams?

Arthur said...

Hey Joe, I write the weight as I feel it. Don't actually put it on a weighing scale.

More concerned about on court performance than technical specs really.

Anonymous said...

How does the n90iii compare to the n36 and the yonex voltric z force two?

Arthur said...

The N90-III is stiff than both rackets.

It's lighter than the ZF-II.

Anonymous said...

Which li Ning racket would you say is the best

Arthur said...

For me, it's the N90. I like the feel in a singles game when you can get whatever shot you want without much effort.

Anonymous said...

My N90-III arrived today and I must say...it looks and feels glorious. I dislike red in most cases but the combo of red, white, and black on this racket is awesome. Like you said, it's "impossibly cool." I love the head frame. It looks like it does indeed have a large sweet spot. The balance point is listed as 302mm but according to my measuring tape it's 310mm. With it being so head heavy and aerodynamic I'm surprised you don't have it as a 9 in terms of power. 8.5 maybe?

Do you recommend that I get a Li-Ning over grip? And if so, is there a specific kind that you really like? Does an over grip equal greater control?


Arthur said...

Hey Grant, glad you liked the racket! I enjoyed it thoroughly and felt that the N90 and ZFii had more power, hence the lower rating.

I've used Li-Ning overgrips once - very tacky and tight grip but quite costly. If it's in your means, do go ahead :)

Anonymous said...

I hope to use the N90-III for a long time but I'm still curious about a few other rackets. I was leaning towards the ZF2 until I decided that a large sweetspot is crucial for my game. Above all, I want consistency. Could you compare the sweetspots and maneuverability of the VT80 and N9 to the N90-III? Are they good options for intermediate doubles games or perhaps a bit too heavy? I'm especially drawn to the N9 because the black, white, and gold looks badass.

p.s. - Do you have any interest in trying out the N50-III someday? It looks gorgeous and apparently a very good all-round racket. Your reviews are excellent so I'd be curious to know what you think.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to include my name on that message. It's Grant again.

Arthur said...

Hey Grant, the N9 actually has more power compared to the N90-III.

Of the lot you've chosen, the N90-III remains the fastest, followed by the N9 and then the VT80.

However, I feel the VT80 has more power than the others.

As for sweet spots, from what I remember the N9 is less heavy, most of its weight coming in at the t-joint instead of the top.

This might affect your game somewhat.

I heard the N50-III has a soft shaft, and that turned me off a bit. Was wanting to try it out, but the chance to purchase the racket at a good price didn't arise and so I'm not fated I guess.

And thank you for the compliment. Glad to know I helped make a sound decision on your game somewhat.

Happy smashing!

Anonymous said...

Okay, thanks. I just have a few more questions...

At 22 or 23 lbs tension I can still have good control, right? I'm at 25 lbs at the moment (not sure if cross is 25 too) and I feel like I need more repulsion. I only play with plastic shuttles. From your experience is it best to have equal tension on the main and cross strings or is it important to have higher tension on the cross?

And also, is it best to have tape on wood and then replacement grip or can the grip go right on the wood?


Arthur said...

Nice to hear from you again Grant! Hope all has been well.

I've gotten very little luck in trying to control strings with low tension. I found a sweet spot at 27lbs, and given strings usually drop a pound or two over time I'm good with that.

My theory is that the strings will even out in tension over time unless you're on a 4-knot, so cross versus main doesn't really concern me. There might be other schools of thought, so do ask around.

I have tape on wood. Makes it MUCH EASIER to change grips. Trust me on this - your thumbs will thank you for it.

Anonymous said...


I'm thinking of getting a new racquet. I'm currently using n90 first gen and thinking of switching to n90iii. Should I get another n90 or try out n90iii? I'm only worry if n90 iii is head lighter than n90 then won't have that solid and effortless shot that I could get from n90.


Arthur said...

Hey Jason, if you're a firm user of the N90, then the N90-III will be quite a shock for you.

The racket is nowhere as head heavy as the N90, and is an overall racket instead of the powerhouse that is the N90.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arthur Wong
Good review. I really like the racquet. Clear, Defense, Overhead drop are working well for me. I was using Zforce II before and this racquet is comparable to that except the smash. I have a question for you regarding the tape you mentioned in the post. What do you mean by that?

Arthur said...

Thanks for reading! The N90-III is indeed a great racket.

If you mean the tape that I commented on for grips, I usually use a layer of scotch tape before I apply the replacement grip. Makes for easier removal without the wood coming off.

Anonymous said...

is this the best racket you've ever used?

Arthur said...

Hmmm... good question.

I think it would rank among the top. I'm currently sticking with the ZF2-LCW. Getting quite used to the weight and effortless shotmaking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reviewing! Could you help me by making comparisons between n90 iii and VT70 regarding to stiffness and head heaviness. I read some comments that say n90 iii is slightly stiffer than VT70 and not as stiff as VT80 (I personally dislike the stiff of vt80), and if n90 iii is a little head heavier than vt70, it's will be an ideal choice for me.
Looking for your answer!

Arthur said...

Hey there! Thanks for visiting the blog!

To put it simply, the N90III is stiffer than the VT70, but less heavy. This puts it in a good area for both doubles and singles play, with good overall defense and offensive capabilities.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arthur, hope your work will keep going well.

I'm now interested in searching a Li-ning racket. Can you recommend me some rackets with Slightly stiff shaft and head heavy. I used Li-ning N9 of FHF and I love the stiffness of N9's shaft (or slightly stiffer is ok) but I need some more "head heavier".

Look forward to your answer

Anonymous said...

By the way, I am quite curious about the head heavy of N9 vs N90 iii. As specs I got from mybadmintonstore website. The balance point of N9 is about 295mm while N90 iii's balance point is about 302mm. So should the n90 iii be head heavier than n9? I raise this question because I read your comment above which says: "the N9 actually has more power compared to the N90-III"


Arthur said...

Hey there Paulios, thanks for reading!

Head heaviness means the amount of weight attributed to the top half of the racket, which most refer to as the balance point.

The N9 is a curious case - it's weight is primarily focused on the t-joint, which shifts the balance point lower than the N90-III, whose weight is evenly distributed around the entire head frame.

For me, this gives the N9 a little more power.

What you want isn't a racket that is head heavy, it's probably a racket that will give you a heavier smash. This can mean a heavier, head heavy racket like the N90-II and Voltric 80, or a stiffer shaft racket like the Bravesword 10 or Voltric Z-Force.

For your case, an upgrade in power for the N9 would be the N90-II. It enjoys the same flexible shaft, but adds a significant amount of weight to the head frame to give you more power.

peter said...

Dear Arthur,

Are you selling this racket? It is hard to get hold of a li ning nowadays.


Arthur said...

Hey there Peter, unfortunately I've since sold the N90-III...

hope you manage to find a good example elsewhere!

Anonymous said...

Hey Arthur. You live in sg right? So where do you buy the n90iii racket at?

Arthur said...

I got my racket the week it got released from my regular stringer in the north. Was pretty easy to get Li Ning back then. They're a little more rare now.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hi all

Nice to hear views from all over the world. Arthur you're a real start to all of us a man with this much of knowledge. Wow

I am currently using arcsaber i-slash and play doubles. I'm very good with drops etc. However my opponents class me as an aggressive player.

Looking to buy a new racket, not sure whether n90 iii or vzf2? Feel free to make recommendations if you think I should rather be using another make or model.

Moreover I'm always confused with the string tension and the grip balance. I play with nylon Yonex Mavis300.

Please helppppppp

Many thanks


Unknown said...

Any recommended websites I can go on to buy these rackets?

Arthur said...

Hey there Rizwan, thanks for reading and glad you found the information useful.

The N90-III sounds like it will suit your playing style more.

Strings and tension are a very personal thing, and will take periods of experimentation to get something you'll be comfortable with. I suggest you embark on a period of trial using different string at the same tension you're used to.

Once you find a suitable replacement, you might want to play with the tension on the string to get something with a good balance of control and repulsion.

Either way, you're going to have to spend a bit on the strings. No way around, the way I see it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Athur,

I just bought a Li nING g-fORCE 3400I and i'm play double.
Normally i play back support and i would do more smashing. can i know N90III is it suitable for me?

Thank you for your kind attention


Arthur said...

Hey there Zelo,

Well it depends on what you usually use and what else you need from your game.

The only solid thing I can tell you is that if using a racket with a great design will improve your game, then the N90-III definitely is the one. I love the design on the racket.

Also, generally speaking, the heavier the racket with head-heavy orientation, the harder the smash.

To perform more smashes in your game, your partner from the front should set you up better. Nothing to do with racket choice I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Hi Arthur,

Jim here, would like to ask your opinion on Yonex Arcsaber 11 and LiNing N90(3rd Generation). I've used Arc11 for over a year already. I am wondering what is the performance difference in these 2 rackets. I tempt to buy n90iii instead of Arc11 is because I broke 2pcs Arc11 over a year of playing with it. I broke one about 9 months of using it and broke another one after 3 months from claimed. I heard from my friends that Lining's racket has a stronger material and it is hard to break. Is there much difference in performance of the both racket as i know feeling can get over a period of time.

Thanks in advance,

Arthur said...

Hi Jim,

You might want to explore why you've broken two rackets over a year. If it's just from hitting the shuttle hard then I'd have to check with your stringer to see if he's doing it right.

If your'e hitting the frame and cracking the racket, I'm pretty sure the same will happen to whatever racket you choose.

With regards to the N90III versus the AS11, you might want to go for the AS11 if you favour attack. The N90III excels in the overall, but might come across weaker in offense. You'll also want to go for the AS11 if you're used to a stiffer shaft.

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Hi Arthur,

Jim here again, I am a hard hitter player and always like to be in offensive as I always play for men's double, mixed double and occasionally single. Push, drives, drops, cross-smash, wrist snap and others offensive moves that I'll always do in games. I've been using a lot of yonex racket and so far they've been doing good for me and I really like what AS11 gives me. I just bought a second hand n90iii and it turns out that it really lack of the offensive compared to AS11. However, recently I went for tournament for mix double and single category, I realised n90iii enable me to control the game and set the pace of the game. So I'm not regretting having n90iii. Probably will get another AS11 after the coming Safra tournament.

As for the stringer, my stringer is a certified CRSA stringer. I trust his skill compared to a lot of stringer in Singapore. I've been giving him string my racket for a year now. So, I think shouldn't be an issue about my stringer. I do admit that I'm a hard hitter and whenever I see a chance, I'll just jump and whack. Sometimes I'll miss hit the frame and always ended up crack or chip. After you mentioned about it, I finally realised its my skill that damaged the racket.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Keep up the work bro.

Arthur said...

Great insights Jim, and glad that you're able to make full use of the N90III. The larger head frame and lighter weight of the racket will make it a little better in a faster-paced doubles game.

Keep at using the same rackets and you'll be able to eliminate the mishitting. That I promise.

Keep smashing, and thanks for reading!

Unknown said...

Hi Arthur,

I am Ferdi, the guy who asked for a comparison between vt70 and etune version.
In the end I bought vt70 etune 4u but finding it is really lacking the power compared to my ZSPD.
I am quite good at the attacking side, but quite bad at defending my self during drives and powerful smashes.
I kinda need a racket in 3u category which is balance in offence and defence (probably towards defence a bit). I was interested in AS11, but after your comment about N90III excels in the overall, I changed my mind to N90III.

My current racket is NR ZSPD.
What do you think about N90III compared to ZSPD?
Also have you tried N90III S-type?

Thank you very much.

Arthur said...

Hey there Ferdi, thanks for proving my point about the etunes.

The Yonex Z-Speed is one of the rackets I feel most comfortable with. I've not used the N90III S-Type before.

Perhaps you should evaluate what you want out of your game. Using a N90III will lower your attack rating but will probably increase your defense.

For the cost you'll incur on a new racket, maybe a couching session will help iron out the kinks.

It's not like changing a shirt, badminton.

Anonymous said...

Hey Arthur,

I'm stuck between choosing the AS11 and the N90III. I'm a singles player with a more offensive play style, and I've been using a ZF2. I am not a fan of the shaft being that stiff and me being considerably weak, I felt that my shots got weaker after long rallies. Then I decided to get a new racket. I know that there was a comment regarding the Arcsaber 11 and the N90III already but since I play singles I thought that the answer would be different.


Unknown said...

Hi Arthur,

Thanks for the insight. I have a coach that helps with my training.
I like my ZSPD, but with a small frame, I still hit the frame from time to time especially in defence stance and fast flat exchanges.
With VT70 etune, my problems are gone. I suspect it is because the racket is 4u which helps me moving my racket faster.
Basically, I am looking for an easier even balance racket to improve my game a bit.

any recommendation between AS11, N90III, or perhaps any other racket?

Thanks again for your help.

Arthur said...

The VT70 has a huge head frame, which probably did the trick with the mis-hitting there. You're right in that the 4U also gives you a little more speed in faster exchanges.

Though I would recommend sticking to the Z-Speed, a new racket choice might boil down to a 3U Bravesword 12. I've found that racket to be quite the defensive star, without too much compromise on the attacking power.

The Bravesword 10 is my personal favourite, but the stiffness and weight are along the lines of a Z-Speed or Z-Force.

Anonymous said...

Heyy. Why give the n90 III such a low attack rating? Would it be different if it wasn't compared to the previous N90 models? :) because i think that it is totally different racket from the previous models :)

Arthur said...

Comparing it to a 10 score, the N90III gets an 8. Other rackets that hit harder get more than 8.

Going by your logic, if a racket released in the future hits harder than the N90, I'll have to award it an 11 or 12.

Anonymous said...

Hey authur is the li ning n90 iv real?

Arthur said...

Once you see the Chinese players use it, it becomes real.

Anonymous said...

Hii nice review. I ended up buying the N90 III. You're right. This thing is a beauty. Just having some problems since I came from a low end lining racket which was flexible. Need to put some hours on training again. Keep up the nice reviews.

Arthur said...

Hello there! Thanks for reading and enjoy the racket!!

Unknown said...

Hey Can you please send me some detail photo of via email
The serial number on the shaft
the gold cap
the top

as I've got one as well But I don't know if mine is authentic so some comparetion would be good thanks
my email is


Thanks very much

Arthur said...

Hey there Chau, try sending an email to the official distributor to ask for verification.

Unknown said...

Hey Arthur,I was using a Zf2 Ld version and iam mostly playing doubles..It was a superb racquet for control,quick reaction,fine clears.But lacks on Power Smashes.

Can you suggest me a racquet which i can use for Fine Power smash,Leight weight and better control in doubles and singles play both.

Arthur said...

Hey there Suraj,

You're probably the first person I met who said the ZF2 lacked power.
In direct contract, perhaps you're more of a wrist player who will benefit from a head light racket like the Nanoray 900 or Z-Speed.

nai said...

Hi Arthur, I am currently searching for a new racket. Which one would you suggest for a front court player but do play singles as well ? Between Nanoray 900 and li ning n90iii ? I've used z force 2 lcw before but feels that im slower in the front court with the zf2.

Arthur said...

Hey there Nai,

I've not used the N90iii before so I'm going go have to default to the NR900. That racket is a beast in the front court.

Might be a little hard for singles though - the NR900 doesn't perform that well from the back court.

Actually the ZF2 in 4U might also be an answer.

Anonymous said...

Hi what is the difference between n90iii vs n90iii s type,thank you

Arthur said...

I don't know, I've never used them before.