Joseph works as an editor in one of the magazines dedicated to video games. Here, at RecRoomPick, he’s given the opportunity to enjoy the reverse of the medal – the no less engaging world of offline games.
Ryan knows everything when it comes to gaming, both online and offline. Since his early years he’s been in love with arcades, air hockey, and foosball. Finally, he’s given the opportunity to share his knowledge and opinion on the hobby of his life (and even get paid for it!).
Last updated: August 29, 2023
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A dartboard is a great thing to have in the home! For a pretty small investment in terms of both money and space, you can have hours of fun and work on a new hobby. You will also be able to entertain guests with tournaments or practice for competitive play. The best bristle dartboard will give the most realistic feel, and though electronic boards are also popular, these don’t quite compare to the real thing and will not prepare you for playing a professional game or in a tournament.
In this review, we look at the numerous features of a bristle dartboard and which are most important in their construction. The diameter and thickness is a big deal, and has been considered in our reviews: a small board or thin board can be flimsy and not prepare you for tournaments. The weight of a dartboard is also relevant in terms of how durable it is, and the construction in terms of how thickly-wound the bristles are – this will impact how long your dartboard lasts.
Our research has taken weeks as we look into the opinions of pro and amateur darts players as well as manufacturer information and reviews. We’ve presented the article as a simple table to view the best options, as well as more in-depth reviews of many individual models of dartboards and a buying guide to help you to establish the features which are most vital from a dartboard for your own home or rec room! This will also help you to decide whether you need a dartboard suitable for use with your friends casually, or whether you need something that can prepare you for playing at a higher level.
Winmau has been implementing additional features and upgrades to its successive models to retain its reputation as the best dartboard brand. After reducing the dartboard wire to 50% in Blade 4, they further reduced it by 14% in Blade 5 single core version which was launched in 2016. The wiring profile triangular was also reduced from 90 degrees in its predecessor to 60 degrees in this model for less outward deflection. These changes were engineered to optimize your chances of scoring by minimizing bounce outs and increasing the double and treble surface area to 9mm2 and 6mm2 respectively.
The dartboard is made of high-density sisal fiber which is popular for its stretching ability and tensile strength. This makes it durable by improving penetration by darts and instant reattachment and healing of the fibers when you pull out the darts from the board. The lifespan of this model is further extended by the steel reinforcement of the bullseye ring using carbon diffusion technology.
Multiple installation options are availed by the triple wheel lock-and-level system with adjustable points which support rotation of the dartboard and align perfectly to secure it to any surface, including uneven ones. Customers advise acquiring a piece of cork slab to protect the wall when mounting your dartboard.
Unfortunately, you have to purchase darts separately because they are not included in the package. The manufacturer recommends steel tips for this model, but adds that you can also use any 3/16-inch soft tip darts.
Just like the Winmau Blade 5 is endorsed by the BDO, the Unicorn Eclipse Pro Bristle Dartboard is endorsed by the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation). In fact, this is the board which is used in the PDC world championship, but what does it offer to the standard darts hobbyist?
There’s no doubting this is a professional-feeling model. It has a two-inch thickness and is cleverly designed not to use any staples. Some dart boards use staples to hold the wiring in place but this can lead to more bounce outs as the darts can hit the staples and get sprung out of the board. The manufacturers claim that this has an intelligent segmentation system which is 30% thinner than many other options. These are called Eclipse pro wires and the photographs on the product description give a visual guide to what they are like, this system also prevents the darts bouncing out when hitting metal.
Some users have mentioned that mounting isn’t quite as easy as some of the other options, including the Winmau pro. If you plan to mount your dartboard and keep it in the same place this is not much of an issue, though.
What makes it special?
PDC-endorsed and used by the pros in tournaments
Thinner wiring to avoid hitting the metal with your darts
The Viper Aim 360 is slightly different to the other options we’ve mentioned in terms of its design and features. It is a good option for those who plan to practice religiously and has some very cool features to ensure it doesn’t get too churned up in spite of taking darts for long periods of time.
As well as the quality 18-inch face which is standard for a full-sized dartboard, it is also made out of self-healing sisal. In between your sessions of playing the fibers will regroup and heal in order to keep the quality long term.
The rubber ring on the board lets you rotate it, while keeping the wiring and divisions the same, this means that areas of the board that have taken a beating can be given time to heal.
Diamond markers and aiming circles can be moved around the board and this can help you to work on specific areas of your game. This is one of the many reasons this board is great for those who have ambitions to play in tournaments in the future.
The wiring is thin but not quite as thin as some of the more professional boards and while you won’t have a huge amount of bounce outs, they are still more likely than with pro-level boards. The sisal fibers should also ensure that the board lasts years if treated right.
What makes it stand out?
Great for training and practice
Self-healing and built to last
Thin wiring to prevent bounce outs
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Not as suitable for tournaments due to the training features
No, you haven’t read this wrong, the same brand that makes the motorcycles also manufactures a dart board! It has some cool branding and traditional Harley colors and looks awesome! If you’re a fan of the bikes and are using your board for decorative purposes as well as playing alone or with friends.
The Harley Davidson 61978 Traditional Bristle Dartboard isn’t a novelty product, either. Even though it has been designed to look great, it also has the correct dimensions for tournament play and also is made out of sisal fiber which is the same self-healing material some of the other products on this list and means that this board is likely to last a long time.
The division wires are good quality and help this to stay strong for a long period of time, but the wires are much thicker than the professional boards we’ve mentioned and the fact they are rounded could mean more bouncing off the wire.
The bullseye area is staple-free, so there won’t be many bounce outs there. Also, it is clear that Harley Davidson have made this to be suitable for beginners and hobbyists as it comes with instructions on both how to fit your board to the wall and also how the game is scored.
We wanted to include an option which is a little cheaper – not everyone has a huge amount to spend on a dartboard and if you are a hobbyist or just want something for decoration or occasional use in the home when you have guests, then a cheaper option like the ONE80 Gladiator II Dartboard could be for you.
The pricing is further enhanced by the fact that you can buy two of these at a reduced rate, so if you have a bar or suitable space for two then this is a good way to save. It can also be purchased with darts and a scoreboard.
In terms of the quality, it isn’t quite up there with some of the other dartboards on the list, but it is more than good enough for use at home.
As well as making use of quality sisal which isn’t prone to knots, this also has a surprisingly thin wiring system which does rival some of the more expensive options in terms of not getting in the way, but it may be prone to warping or bending over time.
In spite of not having the elite, tournament-worthy feel of some of the other options, this is pretty decent for the casual darts player.
What stands out?
Easy to mount on the wall and comes with all you need to do so
Can be bought with a free scoreboard and darts
Thin wiring system
What cons did we manage to find?
Wiring system is prone to bending and warping
Things to Consider
Our buying guide is designed to help you to make the right choice when it comes to buying a dartboard, and to look at the benefits of bristle dartboards. We’ve also covered information in this guide on what to look for in terms of your ability levels and ambitions, so whether you need a product which is amazingly durable for endless hours of practice or you want to make your choice based on what looks awesome, we’ll guide you through all the features you’ll need to consider.
Reasons to get an awesome, high-quality bristle dartboard
While quite a few people go for electronic dartboards these days, they’re just not the same. If you ever intend to go into playing in tournaments or even aim to end up playing professionally then you’re not going to learn the same skills from using an electronic board, a high-quality bristle board is your only option.
If you just go for the cheapest bristle dartboard, then you might well end up very disappointed in terms of the quality. Cheap and badly-made boards don’t develop your skills as well and will need to be replaced far more often, especially if you plan to use the board a lot. There is also a strong chance that the low quality of these cheap boards will lead to a lot of bounce outs and frustrating gameplay.
A good quality board doesn’t have to cost a huge amount of money, so it makes sense to make this investment for your rec room if you are keen to use your dartboard a lot in the future. If your budget allows this, try going for a dart board cabinet, as this will definitely be an investment into the longevity of your board.
Features you need consider when choosing a bristle dartboard
The following features are the most important to think about when you are purchasing a dartboard. Our guide explains what each of the features and specifications of a board means for the player and helps you to work out which might be most suitable for you.
Dartboard diameter and thickness
A dartboard that is any more than just a bit of casual fun should definitely be of professional dimensions, which usually means a 15.5-inch playing surface and usually an 18-inch diameter or a figure close to this.
The thickness of the board is also important.
Thicker boards tend to be better made: it means the fibers are usually more tightly would, allowing for a lot of usage and enabling the board to stand up to constant barrages of darts!
What will you be using it for?
This is quite possibly the biggest deciding factor in which board you end up opting for. If you plan to play at a high level or become a professional or even just enter some local tournaments, it is a good idea to get bristle dartboard that will suit this level. Professional boards such as the BDO-endorsed Winmau Blade 5 Bristle Dartboard can be wonderful for getting you used to playing at a high level and have a taste of being professional.
If your ambitions are more simple and you just want to have a bit of fun and experiment with playing darts in your home then you may not need to spend the money on a pro model, and a cheaper board such as the ONE80 Gladiator II can do the job for you and still provide thousands of uses before you have to think about replacing it due to the good quality materials it is made of.
If you’re thinking of getting a dartboard for the whole family, it might be worth considering a magnetic dartboard —though the experience you get with this type of dartboard will, of course, be very different to a bristle one.
Staple vs. staple-free construction
Traditionally the wiring which has been used on boards has used staples as part of the framework.
Staples can mean something else for the darts to bounce off of, which can be really frustrating and can lead to an unrealistic gaming experience compared to playing with a pro, staple-free board.
Less bounce-outs will also mean higher scoring games of darts.
Dartboards which don’t have staples also avoid the problem of the bullseye and center areas being harder to score in due to the staples, something that may be an issue with a poor quality board.
If you can get a staple-free board, this is definitely recommended.
The wiring all the way around the board is nothing short of essential for darts, this is the way the board is divided up and without these divisions you can’t really play. Wiring is always going to cause some bounce-outs. If you’re unlucky enough for your dart to hit the wiring then it will usually bounce out, but some wires are designed to be better than others. Thick, round wiring makes a bounce far more likely. If you can, go for a thinner design to avoid this issue.
Remember, if your dart doesn’t stick in the board you don’t get to throw again, nor do you get the score of where the dart hit.
The bristles make up the area where the darts should hit and stick, and this is often made out of sisal, a fiber which has properties which enable it to ‘self-heal’ and not leave lots of holes you can’t do anything about in the board.
Bristle quality is decided by the fiber that is being used but also how tightly-wound and well-designed this fiber is. The higher the quality, the more likely it is that your board will last a long time, and if it can recover from the darts on its own then this is a real bonus. The Viper AIM 360 is a very clever board as it has a great self-heal ability and can be rotated so that areas that see more use such as the treble 20 can be rotated in order to recover and share the pressure around the board.
Most good bristle dartboards can be purchased for between $50-100. If you are buying a model that costs less than this, make sure you look at the bristle dartboard reviews in some detail to see if there are negative reviews. If you are looking to buy a professional feeling board then be prepared to spend closer to $100 rather than get yourself a bargain. That said, for around the $50 mark, it is possible to buy a good option, especially if you are just looking for a home model. The ONE80 Gladiator II is our budget option if you are looking to spend as little as possible.
There are some tips which can help you to ensure you don’t damage your board and to make sure you get the maximum life out of it:
When removing darts, take them out at the same angle they entered the board, don’t wiggle them or move them around while they are stuck in the board.
If you do have the option, rotate the board on a regular basis to avoid one area becoming worn.
Keep the board dry: a wet dartboard can be a recipe for disaster as the fibers are liable to damage.
Use sharp darts: if they get blunt they are far more likely to leave big holes or tears in the fibers and material of the dartboard.
A general tip for improving your game: customize your darts to perfect your throw. Choose the right dart shafts, flights, and tips for your particular technique and preferences.
Not with water or any sort of wet cloth! The board should always remain dry at all times. If your board gets dusty you can wipe it down with a dry cloth, like the sort you would use to clean a billiards cue.
Darts need to be good quality as blunt, bad quality darts can damage the fibers and the bristle of the dartboard.
Wrapping It Up
Our top rated dartboard is the Winmau Blade 5 Bristle Dartboard at 9.9/10. We couldn’t look beyond the quality on offer here, it is an immensely reliable and hard-wearing dartboard and is likely to last a long time if treated right. As it is recommended by the BDO, it gives a very professional feel.
The second highest rated model is the Unicorn Eclipse Pro Bristle Dartboard. This is one of the best bristle dartboard options due to its exceptional reliability and it is recommended by the PDC. This gets a rating of 9.7, and we particularly love the fact that it has such a thin wiring.
The third best dartboard on the list is the 9.5 rated Viper AIM 360 which has features which are great for beginners and those who want to improve their skills such as training guides and targets on the doubles and trebles. The self-healing fibers and rotating design also make this suitable for long-term use.