Whether you are a hobbyist new to the game, or a veteran sportsman seeking a competitive edge, your selection of darts equipment matters. Many players spend a long time refining their choices regarding the darts themselves, but a lot of people don’t put as much thought into their board. There are, however, a wide variety of both steel tip boards and soft tip dart boards on the market, and your decision about which to use says something about you, whether you are buying something to hang in your rec room or your local pub. In this article, I will explain the differences between soft tip dart boards and steel tip boards, including why soft tip dart boards are a better choice, and also give you the information needed to select the best soft tip dart board for home, or anywhere.
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Types of Soft Tip Dart Boards
Basically speaking, there are only three types of soft tip dart boards: Flat boards, bristle boards, and electronic soft tip dart boards. There are a lot of variations on each, of course, and a lot of differences between them that will bear serious consideration to the dedicated darts player, but these are the two main types; all dart boards, whether they are steel tip dart boards or soft tip dart boards, effectively fit into one of these two categories. According to the popular mythology, flat boards are for steel tip darts, while bristle boards and electronic boards are for soft tip darts. This is a bit misleading. The main thing to remember is that while a flat board may be used with many types of soft tip darts with little or no problem, most electronic soft tip dart boards will break readily if used with steel tip darts, and such breakage may even present a hazard to the player.
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Soft Tip Vs Steel Tip Dart Boards
When most people think of soft tip dart boards, what they are really thinking of are either bristle or electronic soft tip dart boards. Unlike flat boards, these were designed with soft tip darts in mind from the very beginning. Electronic soft tip dart boards are generally constructed from plastic, with many many tiny holes in it. Beneath the outer layer, there is a contact plate, that completes a circuit when a dart strikes it, telling the board where on the board the player hit, allowing the board to properly score the throw. Indeed, one of the many advantages of electronic soft tip dart boards is that they automatically track the score of a game, thus greatly smoothing out the pace of play.
Of course, a board can only track a game for whose rules it has been programmed, but most modern boards come with all of the common games and a few less common ones built in, so for the vast majority of players, this will not be a deterrent. In addition, with many models, any throw that triggers the contact plate properly is scored, thus eliminating the effect of bounce-outs and such that can happen with bristle boards. Some players still prefer not to count such throws, but that is simple enough even with boards that do operate this way; it just requires some thought on the part of the players. No matter what, electronic soft tip dart boards are a convenient, solid choice for any player looking to up their game, or any host of recreational darts looking to provide their players with a great experience.
Flat boards, those traditionally thought of as steel tip dart boards, are what most of the laiety think of when people refer to dart boards. These are boards made out of sisal, cork, or compressed paper, and they contain no electronic components. Games must be scored manually, and in addition, there are a lot of differences in terms of the efficacy and durability of the materials used; all of the best steel tip dart boards are made from compressed sisal fibers, as the properties of this material allow the puncture created by the dart to close up nearly flawlessly as the dart is pulled free, as opposed to cork, which will hold a hole much more readily and generally requires soaking to close holes, and paper, which has no closure potential whatever. Whether using it as a steel tip dart board or a soft tip dart board, if you are getting a bristle board, go with one made of sisal; you’ll be glad you did.
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The Best Soft Tip Dart Boards
In this section, I will provide you with 12 soft tip dart board reviews that will help you to make an informed choice when buying your soft tip dart board. Each of these models is an excellent choice and will make a great addition to your wall, whether you are looking for the best home soft tip dart board, one to hang on the wall of your pub, or one to use in a tournament that you are hosting.
Viper 777 Electronic Dartboard
The Viper 777 is a solid board at a reasonable price, made of durable resin layers, and has all of the features that you would expect in a good electronic board; it keeps track of what round it is, whose turn it is, and the running score of the game, has multiple games programmed into it and has multiple languages in which it can be used. LED backlighting can help make it easier to read in dim lightings, such as that which can be found in fine basements and drinking establishments the world over.
Fat Cat Electronx Electronic Dartboard
The Fat Cat is a board that also has most of the traditional features one would expect from a good electronic board. With a thin spider, multiple games programmed in, lots of different scoring systems, and a working LCD display, this 13.5 in board comes with a built-in cabinet, making it easy to set up in various places and to store your darts in a convenient and aesthetically pleasing way.
Fat Cat Mercury Electronic Dartboard
This model is essentially a deluxe upgrade for the previously mentioned Electronx model. It has all of the same features, with the exception that it includes even more games and scoring options programmed in, and it has a built-in cricket scorekeeper in the right-hand side of the cabinet.
Arachnid Cricket Pro 300 Soft-Tip Electronic Dart board
This 13.5-inch board comes with the standard feature set, has an attractive look utilizing red and black target zones, a yellow spider, and bold white numerals on the face providing easy contrast for easy readability even at a distance. The LED display keeps accurate track of your score, and the system comes with a multitude of game options and scoring choices built in. One cool feature of this board is that you can record your name, which the board will call out to announce your turn during the game.
Bullshooter Cricket Maxx 1.0 Electronic Dartboard Cabinet Set
Bearing a lot of similarities to the Fat Cat Mercury, this board comes with a wooden cabinet with a walnut finish, which is sure to look great in any rec room or gaming hall. In addition, it has a computer heckler, which can be engaged optionally, to mock bad throws and cheer on great plays. This one can be used with both steel and soft tip darts.
Viper Orion Electronic Dartboard
Another great board from Viper, this is a great choice for play either at home or in public. It has all the usual bells an whistles, including both English and Spanish audio, but has one nifty feature not seen on preceding boards on this list: A laser light toe-line that accurately measures the distance from the board that players must stand to make legal throws, thus eliminating the need to tape or mark the floor of the room where darts will be played.
Viper Neptune Electronic Dartboard
One of the pricier boards on my list of reviewed products, this board is still worth every penny. For one thing, it’s a great showpiece. If you want to look like a pro (even if you aren’t), or just have a sexy-looking display for your dart collection, the gorgeous finish on this cabinet board and the stark colors (red, black, gray and white) will help you stand out from the crowd. But it’s not all about the looks; this board has even more electronic features than other Viper models (including nearly 60 programmed games!) and also sports a huge catch area, meaning you have less to worry about if a throw goes a little (or a lot) off the mark.
Viper Solar Blast Electronic Dartboard
This board is feature-heavy in terms of the electronic components, and rather simple otherwise; it is visually stark, and has no built-in cabinet. However, it does feature many of the best traits of other boards from Viper, and while it doesn’t have as many games or options as the Neptune, it does have a cyber player, so you can play solo and still have a feeling of competition.
Viper Vtooth 1000 Electronic Dartboard
Probably Viper’s “best bargain” model, this board provides great functionality for casual players both at home and in public, without breaking the bank. It can handle up to four players simultaneously, features nylon construction (quieter than plastic), and has a clear, easy to read board face in red, white, blue and black. With an LCD display and simple controls, this board is easy to learn to use.
Viper Ion Electronic Dartboard
If you are looking for a great board to use specifically in dim-lit conditions, the Ion is the tour-de-force. It has illuminated segments, in gray, blue and green, creating an innovative look, and it doesn’t slouch in other aspects either; it has an outer catch ring, more than forty games programmed in, and can accommodate up to 8 players at once for those larger games. If you want something durable, with a good standard feature set that looks good too, this board is sure to please.
Bullshooter Cricket Maxx 5.0 Electronic Dartboard Cabinet Set
This cabinet dart board set is the most expensive on the list, and while it has a ton of great features, it really screams “second best at everything”. Any of the other boards on my list will give you better features and performance in at least one key area, and come with a lower price tag, but if you want something that is very good across the board, rather than great in some regards and mediocre in others, it’s a good choice.
INNOCHEER Safety Darts and Kids Dart Board Set
This is a bristle board, the first on my list, and while I wouldn’t recommend it as being the best for professional play, for the casual player, you are not going to get better bang for your buck, period. It comes with rubber soft tip darts, which are a lot less likely to cause accidental injury and/or property damage, so if you are teaching your kids to play (or are just really clumsy yourself), this is a great place to start. Coming in at under forty bucks, this board is fun on a budget for the whole family.
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