No sport is complete without a goal, and for darts, that’s the board. Although there are a huge variety of boards styles and layouts, only one style is officially accepted across the globe for competitive play, and that’s what we will discuss in this article.
The quality of boards can differ greatly from brand to brand and also between products. While an outsider might think that the board quality will only impact its durability, the truth is that a variety of factors can decide whether a dart scores points or not and is therefore incredibly important.
What to Look for When Purchasing a Dart Board
When you’re looking to purchase the best dart board, you must first ensure that it’s of regulation layout and size. Typical boards are a little under 18 inches in diameter, and they have an alternating color pattern to make it easy for you to see where the dart has landed.
Outside of the layout of the scoring pattern, you’ll need to take a look at the quality of the material that is used as the cushion for the darts. Older boards typically used a hard cork material which often causes darts to bounce back and therefore not count, while higher quality boards use a bristle surface.
But once you start looking at decent boards, you’ll notice that the way they separate themselves from the competition is based on the wiring. This might seem odd, particularly to beginner players, but a millimeter here or there can be the difference between a score and a bounce-out.
In competitive play, this needs to be reduced as much as possible and to do this; these companies try to use the thinnest wires possible. But it’s not just the thickness of the wire that matters; it’s also the way that it’s cut. Round wire causes far more professional issues, while the highest quality boards tend to use a sharp cut diamond wire at a steep angle.
Beyond this, the only other differences that you’ll see between products is in appearance and attachment systems. While cheaper boards are hung on the wall, more competitive boards usually use a wheel lock-and-level system so that boards can be attached quickly and also straighter.
Best Dart Board Reviews
Winmau Blade 5 Bristle Dartboard
As the official board for the British Darts Organization, which holds many of the world’s most important competitions, you can be confident that Winmau produces some of the best boards in the world. Not only are they incredibly well made, but they also cost far less than you might imagine and therefore are the ideal choice for most players.
This board has extremely thin wiring which allows for higher scoring and reduces the number of bounce-outs that happen in a game.
By reducing the width and changing the shape of the wires they have been able to increase the scoring area significantly. The wires are 14% thinner than those in the Blade 4, and those are already incredibly small.
By using a board like this with much thinner wires, you are less likely to have issues which raise questions and can cause arguments between players. Instead, with a quality board like this, you can almost guarantee that most darts will be in the scoring area, allowing for a fairer and much fun game for everybody.
While professional competitions are set up correctly with flat surfaces and well-measured throwing distances, home and bar players don’t always have the same luxury. You might not get a flat wall for the board, and therefore it’s essential that it has a three-leg system so that it can tilt so that it appears flat to the players.
This triple wheel lock-and-level system quickly secures the board onto practically any surface, regardless of how rough or angled it is. This system makes the board perfect for home players that are playing in a garage or another area which is unlikely to have smooth or flat walls.
You’ll notice that this board comes with a steel bullseye ring that uses carbon diffusion technology to create some of the most robust steel in the world. This all but guarantees that the ring will never break, ensuring that your board is durable and can last for years to come.
The only consistent disadvantage of this board is that it doesn’t have the best durability. These boards are often used for competitions, and therefore the quality must be fantastic, but they only need to last for one game, and consequently, they aren’t built to last for years. If you are looking for a board that continues for over a decade, this might not be the best choice for you.
- Incredibly thin wires to reduce bounce-outs
- Increased scoring area for a fairer game
- Triple wheel lock-and-level system to keep the board flat on uneven surfaces
- Tremendously strong bullseye ring
- Not the cheapest board available
- Durability isn’t amazing
Unicorn Eclipse Pro Dart Board
Other than Winmau the secondary player in the industry is Unicorn which is more popular in some areas of the world like the United States and Canada. The Eclipse Pro is a championship quality board which has been played on by some of the best players in the world at tournaments for years.
As with the Winmau, the wires on the Eclipse Pro are incredibly thin, up to 30% thinner than most typical boards and therefore you can get higher scores and enjoy a fairer game. The board itself has a high-quality surface that allows darts to stick, even if they aren’t thrown particularly hard.
You’ll also notice that the entire board is built without any staples of any kind, reducing the amount of metal on the board. The impact of this is that there are more playable surface and less chance of a bounce-out from a dart striking a metal surface and failing to stick into the board.
- Excellent playing surface
- 30% thinner wires than conventional boards for a greater playing surface
- Staple-free design
- Doesn’t come with the mounting areas already built-in
- Can be tough to remove darts from the board when new
Hathaway Centerpoint Solid Wood Board
The previous two boards that we’ve compared are relatively similar to one another. Both are used by professionals across the globe for practice and competition, whereas this final board is used for neither. Instead, it’s the type of board that you’d find in your local bar or pub.
There’s a reason why people choose to use these instead of the professional boards, and that’s because they are ideal for beginners and casual players. Sure, the wires are a little thicker, and the playing surface isn’t as strong.
But it makes up for this with a beautiful design, a catch board behind the playing area and scoring sheets so that you can keep track of the game. These small additions are ideal for newer and casual players who are choosing to play for fun rather than as a sport.
With a professional board, you’ll likely get dull darts and holes in your walls incredibly quickly without a catch board around the play area, which makes this ideal for newer players. Similarly, it’s hard to keep track of the score and do the mathematics in your head as a beginner, which is why it’s essential to keep a stack of paper nearby.
This board is regulation size and uses sisal fiber bristle, similar to competition quality boards. It’s beautifully encased in a thick poplar hardwood case which protects the board from damage and also opens up to give you a storage area for your scoring cards and darts.
These scoring cards are dry erase, meaning that you can use them for years to come without ever needing to replace any paper. This makes the board the perfect choice for a bar or for in your house if you anticipate playing with friends rather than practicing by yourself.
You’ll also note that the board comes stocked with two sets of steel-tipped darts. Even if you don’t use them because you have your own, it’s always useful to have a spare pair of darts laying around for your friends who you might not trust with your more expensive personal set!
- Beautifully encased in a wooden case
- Built-in dry erase scoring boards
- Catch board to prevent damage to your walls
- Quality playing surface
- Thicker wires than you might be accustomed to with competition boards
- Doesn’t have the same quality mounting system as professional boards
Conclusion: Which Is The Best Dart Board?
The difference between the first two boards, the Unicorn and the Winmau, is incredibly small. According to the reviewers, the Winmau board is slightly superior and slightly more costly, meaning that it’s the best dart board for competition and skilled players.
However, if you’re looking for a board for casual games with your friends or to hang in a bar or pub, the Hathaway board might make the better choice even though the board itself isn’t as high quality.
The difference between the Hathaway and the Winmau boards is gigantic because they are aimed at entirely different audiences. If you treat darts as a sport, pick the Winmau. If you want to have fun with a few buddies in your house or bar, try the Hathaway.