Buying racquetballs rackets is confusing, even for someone like me who plays regularly and has used lots of different rackets. Rackets vary considerably in weight, balance, and power (not to mention price). Below is a brief overview of which factors determine which combination of weight/balance/power is best for you. See Racquetball Warehouse's buying guide for more details.
* Racket balance: I would generally recommend looking for an evenly balanced or slightly head-light racket. The balance really affects the feel of the racket, and I find that head-heavy rackets, while generating more power, are much harder to control. Head-light rackets will give you greater maneuverability but will generate less power. Unfortunately Amazon does not generally tell you whether a racket is head light or head heavy, so check out Racquetball Warehouse for those specs.
* Racket weight: I would generally recommend looking for a weight between 170-185 grams to give you the best combination of power and control. You may want to go lighter if you are an advanced player who generates your own power. You may want to go heavier if you rely on more of a control game.
* Swing weight: I would generally recommend looking for a swingweight between 150 and 160 for a good combination of power and control. Higher swing weights give you more power but less control, and vice versa.
* Grip size: I would generally recommend the smaller grip size (3 5/8) to allow for greater wrist snap, but it's not a big deal.
* Head size: 105 sq. inches is pretty standard--don't go more than a few inches lower than that.
I was recently in the market for a new racket, so I researched the top options and I am reporting my conclusions below. As of Sep 2012, these are the 12 most popular rackets on Amazon, ordered from (in my judgment) best deal to worst deal. N.B.: I assume that power, control, and maneuverability are equally desirable and so prefer a middle-of-the-road racket, but your preferences may be different.
1. Ektelon Air O Blaze (my rating: 3.8 stars) (price as of 9/1/12: $46.89) - This is the racket I ended up buying. It has a standard head size (105 sq inches), a high swingweight (158) meaning more power, and it is slightly head light meaning more control. If this racket were just a bit lighter - about 10-15 grams lighter - it would be perfect. Because of its relatively high weight, it's going to be less maneuverable, and so is not ideal for front-court players who rely on quick reactions.
2. Head Intelligence i.165 (3.3 stars) ($66.95 + $7 shipping) - The specs on this racket are, for the most part, quite good, balancing both power and speed, a light weight and a high swingweight. This is, however, a very head-heavy racket, which means you'll get more power but considerably less control.
3. Head Ti. 175 XL (3.1 stars) ($65.95) - This does not balance power and control in the way that I would like: its swingweight is too low and it is too head-heavy. I think the Ektelon Air O Blaze is a better racket for a better price.
4. Ektelon O3 White (3.1 stars) ($139.00) - Fast, maneuverable, powerful. This is probably a good racket, although I could not find the detailed specs online since racquetball warehouse does not offer this model. My main issue is the price: I believe a perfectly good racket could be had for at least half the price.
5. Ektelon O³ Speedport Red (3.1 stars) ($149.00) - This is a light and maneuverable racket, which will be desirable for front-court players who rely on touch and finesse. Not ideal for power players. My biggest issue, again, is the price.
6. Head Meanstreak (3.0 stars) ($95.00 + $3 shipping) - This is a powerful racket, and it is relatively light. It has a high swingweight (161) meaning more power, and it is head-heavy, meaning more power. The downside is that it is likely to be harder to control, especially because of the head-heavy part.
7. Ektelon PowerRing Freak SS (2.4 stars) ($31.99) - This is too expensive for an old model and for not a particularly good racket. I had this model several years ago and I believe I got it for half the price from Wal-Mart. That said, it was a fine racket and I have no real complaints.
8. Head Black Widow 160 (2.4 stars) ($229.95) - This is head's most expensive racket, and it's hard to believe that it's worth it unless you *really* want a super light racquet. A light racket is going to be more desirable for front-court doubles players who need quick maneuverability and rely almost exclusively on control. But this racket is not going to generate a lot of power, even compared to much cheaper models.
9. Ektelon Air Response (2.3 stars) ($89.95) - This racket is currently $30 cheaper on racquetballwarehouse.com. But even for $60, I wouldn't highly recommend this racket because it is *very* heavy. A moderately heavy racquet is in the 170-185 range, and this one 225. That's going to slow you down considerably.
10. Head Nano Ti.Demon (2.2 stars) ($28.95) - Too expensive for a bottom-shelf racket. You shouldn't pay more than $15 for a racket of this quality.
11. Macgregor Economy (1.7 stars) ($15.99) - I would not trust this racket. MacGregor is not a company that specializes in racquetball equipment. They don't even specialize in rackets (racquetball, tennis, squash, or otherwise). If you just want a basic, cheap racket, go to Wal-Mart and get one made by Head, Wilson or Ektelon. Slight preference to Ektelon.
12. Macgregor The Collegiate Aluminum (1.6 stars) ($19.99) - Same as the Macgregor Economy review above.