Last week we ran a review of Dunlop's new Biomimetic F4.0 Tour. Our reviewer, Mitch Case, loved what it did for his serve and return games, but wished it had a softer, more stable response on his groundies. This time around he's assessing that frame's lighter and more peppy sibling, the M4.0, and gives his thoughts on which new 4.0 is the better choice.
Like the F4.0 Tour, the M4.0 came strung with a full string bed of Dunlop Silk, but at a lower dynamic tension. I believe stringing at a lower tension can help make up for the reduced static weight, as the M4.0 is half an ounce lighter than the Tour. As a result, the sweet spot felt large and very powerful. While this easy access to power can be beneficial for players with more compact swings, it can also become a burden when trying to take a full cut at the ball. I found I couldn’t keep the ball between the lines as often as with the F4.0 Tour. While playing with some ladies that I coach during a 3.0 team practice, I fought control issues. Usually, I am able to make some quick adjusts to compensate, but it took a bit longer with the M4.0.
As I continued to hit, I noticed that more of my misses landed wide, as opposed to deep. The distribution of mass in the head of the M4.0 feels heavily focused at the top of the hoop. As a result, that part of the frame tended to come around a little faster than I was used to, which ultimately led to the racquet hitting more of the side of the ball than intended. I found myself having to hold back on flat and slice cross court shots.
But when hitting a more aggressive topspin ball, the distribution of mass in the frame actually improved the result. In addition to finding plenty of racquet speed and spin potential, the overall light weight, paired with the mass at the top of the hoop, helped to exaggerate the whip of the stroke. Because the topspin stroke sent the head of the racquet up, instead of around, the ball flight was far more predictable than on flat and slice shots.
In terms of feel, the lower dynamic tension of the string bed also contributed to the increased comfort of the M4.0. In addition to the increased ball pocketing, the feel was far less metallic, and only slightly tinny (which seemed to disappear with the installation of a vibration dampener). With a strung weight of around 11 ounces, the M4.0 still suffers from the same lack of stability as its heavier sibling. Harder incoming shots push the frame around quite a bit. Like with the F4.0 Tour, I think applying some lead tape to the hoop could drastically improve this characteristic.
On serves, the M4.0 felt fast and easy to accelerate, which resulted in solid, aggressive shots. The racquet launched flat serves with adequate speed and/or spin, yet the ball sometimes felt lost in the string bed. As a result, I found it harder to predict where the ball would land, though it would still often land in. My hitting partner felt both the F and M frames produced great serves, but that serves from the M4.0 were slightly easier to return.
Since the specs of both frames will appeal to a fairly wide audience, I’ll break down my comparison to show which categories each frame “wins.” The heavier F4.0 Tour has more control, a crisper response, and more plow through, which resulted in awesome serves and returns, but at the cost of comfort. As advertised, the power will come from the player’s ability to move the mass of the racquet. The M4.0 has more power, comfort, maneuverability, and spin potential due to the ability to whip the frame through the stroke. However, these characteristics come at the cost of reduced control, stability, and predictable response. Unlike the F4.0 Tour, the power of the M4.0 is more of a product of the string bed, so string selection will play a huge role in how the racquet performs.
If I had to choose one frame over the other, without changing the strings, grip, or adding weight, I’d pick the F4.0 Tour in a second. The specs are closer to my preferences, and I served and returned incredibly well with the frame. However, if allowed to customize, I’d go with the M4.0, which has a ton of potential. The lighter static weight leaves ample room for players to add mass to the head or handle, or both. And, the softer response will allow players to choose less powerful string set-ups without risking too much discomfort.