Maximum ball speed?

I’m curious as to how fast a pinball moves (say, in meters per second) on a fast modern machine. I did some Google searches and came up empty.

Has someone measured this already? If so, anyone know what the results were?

I’m sure it’s not the 200+ km/h range that we see with tennis serves. My personal guess is that pinball speed would max out somewhere around 4 m/sec (9 mph), but that’s just a guess.

On a secondary note, what’s the fastest pinball machine (in terms of maximum ball speed) in history? Anybody know?

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Anything with a yagov kicker I would guess has the quickest ball speeds

If GOT pro isn’t, it’s gotta be close. Especially if you get repeated shots to either the orbit or right ramp, the ball is cookin’

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My guess is that the fastest ball speeds do not come from typical shots. Things like slap saves get the ball travelling much faster than an inlane hit to a ramp. Some standups have give and may even speed a ball up, so I imagine something like a slapsave to a standup will get a ball travelling very fast, possibly faster than the ball returns like Jagov and GOT.

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Usually my most evil quick drains are at the hands of sensitive slings or pops


I think the ball coming from one of those kickers to a flipper and then hit on the fly is probably as fast as it gets. The ball typically hits the glass at that point.

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We need Bowen! OK, without actually measuring anything, but doing some math, I calculate that the ball returns from the Dragon kickback on GOT at 13.63 MPH.

How did you work that one out?

Very unscientifically! I guestimated it was about 2 feet from the kickback to the flipper and that it flies back to you in a 10th of a second. Then just did the math from there. Totally guessing on those figures.

Ah, I see :slight_smile: One way to work it out more precisely might be to extract still frames from a video. From the frame rate and ball position, you could work out the speed fairly accurately. Need to find a video at 30 fps now…


Of course it would be Jeri who did that. :smiley:

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cool the video tested JM. That’s the one that has gotten the biggest “Whoa, that’s fast” reaction from me. After consecutive orbit shots, I almost lose sight of it.

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Thanks for that link!

Looks like @LOTR_breath is spot on (and my estimate of 9 mph was way too low). Seeing that JM isn’t the fastest machine in the world, I’d expect GoT, F14, or IM to get considerably faster.

Doesn’t Checkpoint (or is it Vector) do something to time the speed of the ball between two switches and then present a speed?

The other way to measure something like the kicker on F14 is to find the technical specification of the solenoid. I would have thought it should have the length of the solenoid kicker bit, and the time it takes to fire. Physics says that will be the speed the ball is kicked back at.

Close, but probably not entirely accurate. The speed at which the ball gets kicked back will also depend on how fast it gets to the kicker in the first place, and how much momentum the kicker has to overcome to shoot the ball back. It would also depend on whether the ball hits the kicker perfectly in-line or at some acute angle.

I haven’t found the time yet, but once I dig up a GoT or F-14 video with some fast balls, I’ll try and get timings from still frames.

Checkpoint does show a speed in MPH, and I believe the displayed number has something to do with the time elapsed between switches, but don’t think that what’s displayed is the actual MPH speed of the ball. Ditto Vector, which doesn’t even purport to represent MPH or any other standard unit.

This is good thinking, though the actual ball speed will also be influenced by friction (playfield surface friction, air friction, and friction of the lane side-rails), machine slope, etc. Though certainly, if you can get a high-speed camera recording this kickback, you can calculate an actual ball speed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s faster than the ~15MPH discussed here, but I would be surprised if it’s more than, say, 2x that speed.

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I forgot where I read it, but I remember reading somewhere that the fastest measured speed is about 17 miles per hour. That video showing the ball moving at about 10 miles per hour on Johnny Mnemonic sounds about right in regards to that.

Bear in mind that the ball can appear to move faster than it really is because things in a pinball machine are miniaturized. Hence, the ball can appear to zip past things in a small, enclosed space. You see the same effect when riding roller coasters: Unless you’re on one of those extreme ones at Six Flags or such, it’s going to top out at about 25 miles per hour. It just feels fast because the track is narrow and the turns are sharp for the speed they go at.

Meanwhile, the opposite happens (and according to traffic analyst Tom Vanderbilt, is completely intentional) when you’re driving down a highway. You are going WAY faster than 17 mph or 25 mph, but it doesn’t feel like you’re zooming down at breakneck speeds because everything on and around a highway are oversized. Signs take the form of big bright shapes you see slowly approach at a distance and move past you. Same with trees by the side of the road and call boxes on those big poles. If you’re a normal person, you likely severely underestimate the size of these things on the road, and your brain perceives you as going much slower than you actually are. (For instance, those dividing dashed lines between lanes–how long are these dashes? 2 feet? 3 feet? They look like that to me. They’re actually 10 feet, with 30 feet between dashes.)


Whoa, there, dem’s fightin’ words! :wink:

While I agree with your overall thoughts of the perception of speed, the vast majority of roller coasters go way faster than 25 MPH. Even the 2nd oldest roller coaster in the US, the Wild One outside of Washington DC – a mere 100 years old – hits speeds of over 50 MPH. (The oldest roller coaster in the US, Leap the Dips in Altoona, PA, tops out at… 10 MPH.) The majority of modern coasters have peak speeds in the 60-80 MPH range, though there are speed demons that get solidly into the triple digits. (I remember the first time I rode Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point… 0 to 120 MPH in under 4 seconds. I couldn’t see a thing, the whole world was a blur. Nowadays, many rides later, I have no problem tracking individual bystanders if I wish. Amazing how the brain adapts.)

Sorry for the off-topic comment … amusement parks and roller coasters are a passion of mine. :slight_smile:

It’s been awhile since I watched the Pinball 101 DVD, but didn’t @sk8ball analyze the timing difference between making one shot and the immediately adjacent shot on a game (Shadow?) and find that flip timing of just a few milliseconds separated the two? It’s astonishing to me that anyone can make any shots with consistency given such speeds.


I just rewatched the video. It’s 8 ms and, yes, that was for a Shadow :slight_smile:

Indeed! My other hobby is playing djembe (drum from West Africa). Timing constraints are similar there, well below the 100th of a second mark. Experiments by musicologists show that timing variations in a rhythm as low 3 ms are perceivable. I don’t know whether that same threshold applies to activating something in response to a stimulus (such as hitting a flipper button while watching a ball) as opposed to being able to simply perceive a timing change (such as when listening to a rhythm). Regardless, it’s impressive what human ears, eyes, and brains can do :slight_smile:

Not meaning to hijack this thread, but does anyone know whatever happened to Pinball 102? Pinball 101 is brilliant, IMO. I love the humour, the really high-quality production, the creativity, and the educational value. This is a truly professional product. Big congrats to Keith and Randy for their outstanding work!