Acrylic vs Polycarbonate Backboard: Which One is Better?

There are several factors you want to keep in mind when searching for a new basketball backboard. Size matters, especially if you have limited space, as does shape, quality, color, and usability. However, nothing is quite as important as material.

When getting a backboard, you’ll have two options: polycarbonate and acrylic. While they may both seem the same at first glance, there are some key differences. This guide will study each material, and then use that information to help you figure out which one is better for you.

Acrylic and Polycarbonate

Before going into greater detail, it’s first important to understand that acrylic and polycarbonate are extremely similar materials. Not only are they each clear plastics, but they respond to impacts (or basketballs) in similar ways. That is why telling them apart is so difficult.

They both have a good amount of durability, as well as a solid amount of power and longevity. However, it’s how that durability is spread out, and where each is able to hold up, that sets the two materials apart.

Acrylic: Pros and Cons

If you’re someone who wants to place their backboard outside in areas with a lot of sun or rough weather, acrylic is likely your material of choice. The plastic material is known for its durability, which enables it to stand up to the elements for years without wearing down.

In that same vein, acrylic is incredibly UV resistant. Sun is always going to be an issue with anything that sits outside day after day. Being able to resist the constant bombardment of UV rays means you won’t have to replace the backboard no matter how long you use it.

In fact, acrylic backboards can sit outside for 15 to 20 years without needing to be changed. That’s a lot of durability, and one of the biggest reasons to choose them over polycarbonate. Such backboards are almost always crack, snap, or shatter resistant.

That being said, acrylic does come with the downside that it’s incredibly light. While that makes it easy to carry, it also means you don’t get a lot of bounce. That can affect your shots and rebounds in a way that many seasoned players may not be used to.

Polycarbonate: Pros and Cons

Where acrylic excels outside, polycarbonate is almost always the backboard material of choice for indoor hoops. That’s because it’s incredibly tough. So tough, that many brands advertise their backboards as being bulletproof. It’s hard to beat that.

On top of that, the bounce and feel of polycarbonate backboards is much more natural than what you’ll find with acrylic. They can take a beating, and will give you crisp rebounds that are much easier to read than what you’ll find with other materials.

Unfortunately, despite that strength, polycarbonate backboards have a major drawback: they can’t handle the sun. UV rays greatly weaken polycarbonate’s structure. As such, even a few weeks outdoors will threaten their structural integrity and show all sorts of wear.

The color fades to a stained yellow and the powerful durability goes out the window. Polycarbonate backboards retain up to five times the strength of acrylic ones, as long as they aren’t exposed to the sun for long periods of time. As soon as they are, they become much, much softer.

Which One Should You Use?

When choosing your backboard material, the choice is rather simple. If you have access to a hardwood court or plan on playing indoors, polycarbonate is the way to go. It has a crisp bounce, excellent durability, and a powerful structure that players absolutely love.

On the other hand, if your hoop will sit outside, it has to be acrylic. Not only will polycarbonate break down outside, but acrylic is made to withstand sun, rain, and even snow, year after year after year. 

Most casual families or those who like to shoot around casually will not have access to an indoor hoop, which means they will want an acrylic option. If you’re more serious, own a gym, or have a way to store your basket in between uses, polycarbonate will always be king.

Final Words

It’s easy to overlook your backboard’s material, but, as covered, that can have disastrous consequences. Going with the wrong one means you’re getting an inferior product that will not suit your specific needs. That then leads to unfun games.

Always do your research before getting a new backboard, and be sure to get one that matches how and where you like to play. As long as you do that, it will last for years without any real issues.

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