Easton Z-core Speed & XL Review

Bats Tested: 33” BBCOR

For the sake of not writing up two identical reviews other than changing the Swing Weight section, I’ve decided to combine the Easton Z-core Speed and XL into one review. All differences between the two will be pointed out.

The 2017 Z-core line was the most swung set of bats last season in “ChrOmaha”. Most college kids love swinging one piece aluminum barrels for the stiffness and feedback they provide on contact. Combine that along with Easton sponsoring a large number of schools and the result is having the most popular bats in the College World Series. Sponsorship aside, the performance of these bats back up the mass usage.

Graphics/Cosmetics
In the past, Easton has made it a habit of creating polarizing designs for its bat line with the use of bright colors. The look of the whole Z-core line steps back from that in part to create a darker feel with black being very predominant. Opposite of the solid black on the barrel, Easton introduced a dull chrome type graphic with almost spiral like light black sections that wrap around the handle up the barrel to the end cap. Honestly, seeing it in pictures (lucky you!) and in person is really the only way to understand it. Personally, I think they look pretty cool. It definitely took some out of the box thinking on their end and I think that it paid off. As proof, people were referring to Omaha as ChrOmaha when the Z-cores were seen everywhere. Even though Easton went darker this year, they still kept the color pops alive by using neon for the Z-core name on the barrel, weight drop towards the end cap and “E” on the handle. With the dark background, the neon blue really stands out. As I mentioned in our Mako Beast Review, Easton has their MOI / Swing Weight Index right next to the end cap to let consumers know how the weight is distributed for each model. More on this later.

Handle/Knob/Grip
I think* that Easton makes one of the thinnest (height) and smallest (circumference) knobs in the business (* I haven’t performed an actual study of all of the knobs yet, but this is my off the cuff opinion through testing). Regardless, I’m a big fan of the size. Moving up from the knob, the Speed and XL both have a handle taper underneath the grip to make the transition into the knob a little more gradual for your bottom hand. The size of the taper seems to work well with the knob. As for the grip, Easton introduced its 1.2 mm HYPERSKIN, which is seemingly supposed to mimic the same benefits of a Lizardskins grip. If that was their goal, I would say they have been successful. While it may not be identical (obviously), I think that it’s a very nice stock grip that most hitters will enjoy.

Sound
With most aluminum, you expect to hear that sweet, sweet sound of the ping. Fortunately, that is exactly what you get with the Z-core lineup. Both the Speed and XL produce a nice crisp ping on impact.

Swing Weight
Since Easton was forward thinking enough to include their Swing Weight Index on each bat, it makes it easy to identify where each bat in the line falls in relation to each other.
Side Note: MOI and swing weight is all relative to the length and weight of a specific bat. This means that the Swing Weight Index (BBCOR only) will change for each different length and weight. For example, a 34” BBCOR speed will have a different MOI than a 31” BBCOR Speed.
The Speed and the XL are on two opposite ends of the MOI spectrum, which results in the biggest differentiation point between the two bats.

Z-core Speed: The speed was designed for contact hitters and guys that make shooting the gaps the biggest part of their game. The Swing Weight Index comes in at 9.2 for the 33” or 9200 MOI points. This means that the Speed is going to have a balanced feel throughout the bat. In testing, the Speed was obviously easier to swing and get through the zone quickly.

Z-core XL: The XL is designed for those power hitters that like a little end load in their bat to drive more mass behind the ball on impact. The XL Swing Weight Index comes in at 9.8 for the 33” or 9800 MOI points. The XL definitely has an end loaded feel geared towards stronger hitters. In testing, the XL took a little more strength to fire through the zone without letting the barrel drop or lag. I would only recommend the XL for stronger hitters that can handle it without sacrificing bat speed.

Ignoring the fact that there is always manufacturing tolerance which could be + or – 200 points or so, let’s say each comes in right at weight. A 600 point difference between the Speed and XL is a pretty good size gap, one that you will definitely feel. For reference, most players will feel a difference in 100-200 MOI points.

Feel
Aside from sound, one of the biggest tangible differences between composite and aluminum bats is the feel. One piece aluminum models tend to provide a stiffer feel overall which results in having more feedback or vibration from the barrel down to the handle. Both the Speed and the XL are no exception to this rule. This also one reason why they are so popular with college hitters. While younger players may not want to feel any negative sensation on balls that aren’t hit directly on the barrel, these act as reminders or indicators for an advanced hitter. What also helps the Easton Z-core line out in this department are the length of the barrels. Easton has produced the largest aluminum barrels in the business, so with a larger hitting surface, there is less room to get a stinger. Both the Speed and the XL felt good on impact by providing stiffness through the transition area, but also a responsive barrel.

Performance
Staying on pace with other high performing aluminum bats in the 2017 line, the Easton Speed and XL make a great case for your business. According to the Easton website, they use their HMX (Hyperlite Matrix) alloy combined with Z-core internal core technology to create some of the longest aluminum barrels in the game. It’s worth noting that the Z-core technology is only included in the BBCOR models. The S / XL series in 2 ⅝, 2 ¾ and 2 ¼ bats all use HMX alone. Some of you may know that the Z-core name has been around for years. I think it’s safe to assume that the technology has evolved over time, but only the engineers at Easton know for sure. As expected, in our testing the Speed and the XL both performed well. The Speed was easy to get through the zone and produced sharp line drives on balls struck on the barrel. On the other hand, you can definitely feel the extra load in the XL. If you can handle it as a hitter, the benefits become obvious after swinging. The extra mass in the barrel transfers into the ball on impact and definitely gives it some extra legs. Deep fly balls end up over the fence and the backspin gap shots really take off. With all of that being said, if you sacrifice bat speed with the XL, it may not be worth it. Swinging a bat that you can’t handle will result in multiple different issues.

With the Speed and XL being crowned the most popular bats at the 2016 College World Series and swung by the current national champion, Coastal Carolina, it’s safe to say they will most likely be 2 of the more searched bats online this season. By providing a balanced and end loaded version, Easton has done its part to capture both sides of the aluminum market. The swing weight options, long barrels and high performance will help keep them in any potential buyer’s consideration. When you’re ready to order the Speed, XL or special edition Speed White Out, consider our friends at Closeoutbats.com.

The Speed and XL retail for $199.99.

Available Sizes:

Speed:  29″, 30″, 31″, 32″, 33″, 34″

XL:  32″, 33″, 34″

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