A pool table needs a level playing surface. While slate is universally accepted as the industry standard for high-quality pool tables, there are synthetic versions of pool table slate that cost much less. If you are considering a synthetic slate table, you'll find three different types from which to choose.
A honeycomb bed is just what it sounds like... a plastic honeybee-like playing surface that is sandwiched by layers of hard plastic. It doesn't warp as much as other synthetic alternatives, but the playing surface is not as smooth as the other types.
Slatron (also known as Permaslate) is a layer of plastic on top of particle board. Slatron is considered more durable than other forms of synthetic slate, though any surface spills might cause it to warp. Over time, particle board can decay, which can also cause the table to warp.
MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard is basically particle board which is made by compressing small wood chips together. Pool tables made with MDF tend to be lighter in weight and not terribly sturdy. Players have to take care when leaning over a rail or on the table, as the table can actually tip over.
While you can spend thousands on a slate pool table, those made with synthetic slate can usually be purchased for less than $1,000. Synthetic slate tables generally have a much shorter warranty than those with slate beds.
Problems with Synthetic Slate
All pool tables made with synthetic slate can have a tendency to warp over time. Lightweight pool tables can tip over. It is important to note that the rails of pool tables made with synthetic slate do not compare well with those of slate pool tables. While slate tables can last a lifetime, synthetic slate pool tables are not as durable.
Nicholas Salvatore is a twenty-five year veteran of the television broadcast industry who has extensive experience as a reporter, anchor and network field producer. He's also done play-by-play for college basketball and minor league baseball. He has received awards for reporting from Associated Press and United Press International.