Even things that seem simple – usually aren’t.
One example: the time-honored game room and basement staple, the humble dartboard.
When you were growing up, you never thought about what material your dartboard was made of, how large it was, or how durable it was. You may not even have bothered to keep score. Your only real worry was losing darts, because your parents probably weren’t going to buy you new ones without a big fight.
It’s only when you grow up – or become serious about the sport – that you realize that dartboards aren’t generic products.
They can be bristle boards (the most common, made from sisal and designed to “seal” themselves after being pierced by a dart), cheaper cork or paper boards, or electronic boards.
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They can be the internationally-recognized standard size (18” in diameter for regular darts, 15½” for electronic ones) or non-regulation practice boards (which are often 13”).
The darts can be steel-tipped or soft-tipped and weigh anywhere from 16-40 grams (18-23 grams is the usual weight of brass darts, 23-26 grams is normal for tungsten darts, and it’s 14-20 grams for those used with electronic boards).
And we haven’t even discussed issues like the board’s height and distance from the throwing line, the size of the beds, the styles of the spider, or the number of holes in an electronic board.
See what we mean about something not being as simple as it seems?
Electronic dartboards may not be the traditional ones you remember from childhood, but playing on them with soft-tipped darts can be a lot more fun for casual players. Most will keep score for you, give you a huge variety of dart games to choose from and play, and even electronically heckle you as you throw. And they virtually eliminate one of the most frustrating problems for dart players: bounce-outs that prevent you from scoring even though you’ve hit your target.
Electronic boards have come a long way since rudimentary models hit the market in the 1970s, and there are even international tournaments for electronic darts players. Most importantly, only the most serious dart players (or the drunkest ones) will turn their noses up at you if you decide to play with soft-tipped darts.
That means there is a wide selection of electronic boards that you can choose from to complement your hobbies and your game room. To help, the valiant members of the Your House Garden review team limbered up their arms, stocked up on their favorite adult beverages, and evaluated the best electronic dartboards on the market.
Here are the ones that hit the bullseye.
Best Electronic Dartboards
1. Arachnid Cricket Pro 800 Electronic Dartboard
Arachnid is the undisputed leader in the industry, having developed some of the original electronic dartboards nearly fifty years ago and currently producing many of the best models on the market. The Cricket Pro 800 isn’t cheap, costing several hundred dollars, but it’s the standard by which other pro-level models are judged.
This dartboard is regulation size (for an electronic dartboard) at 15½ inches in diameter, and is designed with classic black, red and yellow target segments. What’s more important, however, is its construction from top-quality nylon, square holes which guide plastic-tipped darts firmly into the board, micro-thin segment dividers which keep bounce-outs to a minimum, and ultra-sensitive sensors to keep accurate track of scores.
The Pro 800 can accommodate eight players, with four sets of scores shown at any one time on the large LED display. It also shows large game menus and X/O marks for Cricket games. At the end of each round, the player’s average points-per-dart is displayed as well. A total of 40 games with 179 variations are programmed into this Arachnid unit, including seven different Cricket games (hence the name of the product). And for those who are fans of this feature, there are three levels of heckling which can also be disabled.
The board comes with six soft-tipped darts and extra tips, mounting hardware and an AC adapter. A few other bells-and-whistles, like a cabinet or player handicap capability, aren’t built-in – but this is such a great board you won’t miss them.
(If you want a less-expensive Arachnid that’s similar, but you don’t need as many games or all of the features of the Pro 800, the review team recommends the Cricket Pro 650.)
You’ll pay a relatively-high price for the Cricket Pro 800, but for that money you’ll get the electronic dartboard that other manufacturers aspire to.
Facts and figures for the Arachnid Cricket Pro 800 Electronic Dartboard:
2. Viper Neptune Electronic Dartboard
If you’re planning to make an electronic board the centerpiece of a game room, you can’t do much better than this Viper model which is mounted in an attractive wood veneer cabinet with an oak finish.
The dartboard is a good one, too; it’s regulation-sized (15½”) and made from commercial-grade nylon, with an ultra-thin spider to cut down on bounce-outs. There’s a large 360° outside catch zone as well.
The LCD display isn’t as bright or full-featured as an LED display, but it does show four players’ scores at once (the system can accommodate 16 players) as well as Cricket symbols; scoring averages and handicaps are not available on the Viper Neptune.
There are a total of 57 games with 307 variations, and although there’s no heckler feature (we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether that’s a good or bad thing) there are rather-lame applause sound effects. You can shoot against a virtual player at five different levels of game play, as well.
This isn’t the best electronic dartboard we’ve seen, but it’s quite good and it’s definitely the best-looking. It would look great hanging on your wall, and even with the cabinet it costs less than our top choice.
More details on the Viper Neptune Electronic Dartboard:
3. Gran Board 3 LED Bluetooth Dartboard
The Gran Board 2 has been out for a while, but this recent upgrade to version 3 adds snazzy LED lighting and a USB port.
The board can run on just two AA batteries, but you need to be connected via USB to a wall outlet with a 2.4 amp charger (not included) for the lights to work.
That’s all fluff, though. The real attraction here is the fact that the Gran Board 3 is Bluetooth 4.0-compatible, so you can play online against other darters who are also using the Gran Board app (and the app is free). The app also tracks scoring averages and uploads them to a worldwide data base, so you can compare your scores against all other players.
This 15½” regulation size board isn’t the highest-quality you’ll find, since it’s made from plastic (with a foam backing to “reduce noise”, a need the Your House Garden team doesn’t quite understand). It plays pretty well, though, with bounce-outs not an enormous problem. Eight people can play locally, but only one person’s account can log onto the app at a time so it’s really a solo game when you’re competing against remote darters.
Since this is an app-based dartboard your scores don’t display on the board, only on the device running the app. That was a problem with previous versions of the Gran Board which was only compatible with a phone or tablet, since it was difficult to easily see your scores and stats. The Gran Board 3, though, also works with a Smart TV which makes the entire experience much more enjoyable.
There’s no “anti-cheating camera” (an important feature for online play) on the board itself, but the app uses the camera on your device for that purpose. This is a relatively expensive electronic dartboard, but it costs less than most other connected models.
The Gran Board 3 is a fun way to play darts without heading to the pub or gathering a group of friends. Just be sure to check the company’s operating system compatibility list (available on the Amazon listing) before buying, and note it does not work with Amazon Fire.
Looking closer at the Gran Board 3 LED Bluetooth Dartboard:
4. Viper Specter Electronic Dartboard
You’ll see several manufacturers’ names pop up several times in the Your House Garden rankings, because there are a few companies who dominate the high-quality electronic dartboard industry. So here’s another Viper board.
It’s also a tournament-style model with a 15½” thermal resin face and an ultra-thin spider; it just doesn’t have as many features – or the beautiful case – that you get with Viper’s Neptune board.
What the Specter does have is an enormous selection of games and variations, 50 different games with a whopping 704 variations. If you don’t need a full-featured LED display and can settle for a solid LCD display, or don’t care about a heckling feature, you’ll find that this Viper has just about everything else you do need, including a large landing zone outside the face, selectable bullseye options (standard on all good electronic boards), the option to play against the computer, and even a bilingual computer voice. The Specter can accommodate up to four players.
The Viper Specter is a great family board because of its high-quality manufacture, the huge selection of games and variations it provides, and its price well below $100.
Specs for the Viper Specter Electronic Dartboard:
5. Arachnid Bullshooter Cricket Maxx 5.0 Electronic Dartboard
We’ve just discussed our second Viper; here’s our second Arachnid board and it’s notable because it’s the best model that will let you use either soft- or steel-tipped darts.
To be honest, you won’t find many dual-purpose boards made for home use, so “best” covers a lot of ground here. Even though it’s made by Arachnid, this isn’t the most reliable electronic dartboard you’ll find; buy it more for the ability to use steel-tipped darts on a model which will do the scoring for you, than for its longevity.
The Bullshooter’s face is made from a proprietary “e-bristle” material that accepts both types of darts and still registers your scores on the LED X/O Cricket-style display. You can choose from 37 games with 210 variations, there’s a heckler feature, and the board is mounted in an attractive wooden cabinet that holds twelve darts (the set comes with six soft-tipped and six steel-tipped darts, plus extra tips).
You won’t find many options when you want an electronic dartboard that will let you use steel darts. The Bullshooter is the best of the bunch.
Looking closer at the Arachnid Bullshooter Cricket Maxx 5.0 Electronic Dartboard:
6. Viper Ion LED Illuminated Dartboard
Lots of electronic dartboards make use of LED scoreboards. A few (like the Gran Board 3) use them as eye candy. But the Viper Ion (yes, another Viper) is the only one in the Your House Garden rankings that uses LED lighting to help you with game strategy.
The lights are mounted in the board’s scoring dividers, and they’re illuminated during games that require you to hit certain targets. For example, they’ll show you the best outs during a traditional 01 game, or indicate open and closed sections in Cricket. Viper also uses them to create 17 unusual dart games, like a “spinning” game that challenges you to “turn off” a lighted segment by hitting it, with the winner being the first one to turn out all the lights.
As for the dartboard itself, it’s good. The face is 15½” and made from a thermoplastic material, with ultra-thin dividers to prevent bounce-outs. Surprisingly for a game with an LED feature, the scoreboard itself is a somewhat difficult-to-read LCD display that does show Cricket marks. Up to eight players can use the Ion, there are 48 games with 315 variations, and you can play against a cyber-opponent.
Viper’s Ion is a reasonably-priced, well-made and fun electronic dartboard that can put a few new twists into your darts matches.
What you need to know about the Viper Ion LED Illuminated Dartboard:
7. Fat Cat 727 Electronic Dartboard
Our budget choice in these rankings has everything you need to enjoy a casual game of electronic darts, without the extra features that add to the price tag.
This Fat Cat board is just 13” in diameter, not tournament-sized but just fine for everyday play or for the kids. The LCD scoreboard doesn’t always work quite right, but it’s reliable most of the time and will show Cricket scores as well. It only has 18 games with 96 options, but for the price, that’s just fine.
The 727 operates on 3 AA batteries, comes with six soft-tip darts (plus spare tips) and a carrying bag, and mounts easily on the wall. It’s nothing special, but it’s a good budget buy. If you’re looking for a similar board that’s more expensive but won’t break the bank, the Fat Cat Rigal is the same size but features nearly twice the number of games and a better LED scoreboard.
You get what you pay for – and for less than 30 bucks, Fat Cat gives you an electronic dartboard that works pretty well and will keep the kids entertained.
What you need to know about the Fat Cat 727 Electronic Dartboard:
8. Guz2 Electronic Professional Smart DartboardNo products found.
This is a more expensive alternative to the connected Gran Board 3.
Unfortunately, these Bluetooth-equipped dartboards only allow you to connect with players using the same app that you are, so Gran Board darters can’t challenge Guz2 players, and vice versa. Using this board and the “Guz World” app provide very similar playing experiences, although the number of people who currently use Guz2 is larger so there are more potential online opponents to connect with.
The board is a tournament-style 15.5” in size, made from thermoplastic material in vibrant colors. It can be even more vibrant with the LED color mode available through the app, and the five interchangeable front covers that surround the face. There are only eight games available including 01-style and Cricket-style games, eight darters can play in local mode, and there’s stereo sound provided through the app which also tracks statistics. It works only with smartphones and tablets, not TVs.
The Gran Board 3 is a less-expensive connected dartboard choice that works just as well as the Guz2, but this electronic model can connect with more online players – and will wow your friends with its fancy appearance.
A deeper dive on the Guz2 Electronic Professional Smart Dartboard:
9. Harley-Davidson Electronic Dartboard
Looking for a gift for your favorite guy who’s outfitting a man cave?
This 15½” electronic dartboard is an official Harley-Davidson product, so it has the logo and the company’s traditional colors, and one other cool feature: a revving engine sound effect that plays when you hit the bullseye or win the game. The LCD scoreboard isn’t as full-featured as an LED panel, but it’s better than most LCDs, with scores and Cricket marks displayed in four bright colors. The scoring areas light up and flash, too.
Eight darters can play on the Harley-Davidson board, with a choice of 48 games available. It comes with two sets of darts with spare tips, and runs on AC power. If you prefer a bristle board, Harley makes a nice authentic one as well.
There’s no board that will make the biker in your life happier than one from Harley-Davidson – and it’s not a bad dartboard, either.
A deeper dive on the Harley-Davidson Electronic Dartboard:
10. Arachnid Cricket Pro 900 Talking Electronic Dartboard
There are two reasons that the review team decided to close out these rankings with another Arachnid model, even though we think the Cricket Pro 800 is the best on the market. One is that Arachnid makes great electronic dartboards and this one is definitely top-quality. The other is that we really got a kick out of the Cricket Pro 900, which is awfully pricey – but comes with voice prompts that announce the score for you, three levels of hecklers and a feature that lets you record your own names and PA announcements.
Getting down to business, this is a tournament-style board that’s as well-built as the Pro 800, with all the features that prevent bounce-outs and prolong the life of the dartboard. There are 48 games with hundreds of variations, plus a full-featured LED scoreboard and six darts plus extra tips.
You’ll pay even more for the Pro 900 than the Pro 800, but we’re sure the on-board PA announcer doesn’t work cheap. This is a particularly fun board to play after a few libations.
What you need to know about the Arachnid Cricket Pro 900 Talking Electronic Dartboard:
Best Electronic Dartboards Buying Guide
Before properly evaluating an electronic dartboard, you need to know at least a little about how these devices work. Here’s a quick primer.
The Design of an Electronic Dartboard
The key difference between traditional “bristle” dart boards and electronic models is their playing surface.
Bristle boards are made from a material (usually sisal, sometimes hemp) which “fixes itself” after being hit by a steel-tipped dart. That’s why darts stick into a dartboard; the sisal allows the dart’s tip to penetrate the board, and then closes back up to grasp the dart tightly.
By contrast, an electronic board is usually manufactured by assembling plastic (or a thermoplastic material like nylon) segments and positioning them over electronic sensors which detect contact. There are thousands of microscopic holes on the board, into which a soft-tipped dart (also usually made of plastic) can stick. Once a dart is in a hole, the electronics register where it landed and the score is posted.
You might think that it’s more difficult to get a plastic dart to stick into a plastic hole, than it is for a steel-tipped dart to stick into a bristle board. You’d be right. That’s why the best electronic dartboards have high-quality surfaces and extremely thin rings around the scoring holes.
But they also have a design feature not possible on a traditional dartboard: if you throw the soft-tipped dart hard enough, the board registers a score even if the dart bounces out and hits the ground. Not only is that fair to players, but it also reduces the number of arguments during a match because the score is posted immediately on the electronic scoreboard.
If you’re looking for the “best of both worlds,” a few electronic dartboards will also work with traditional steel-tipped darts. These are manufactured with a special surface material known as BristleTech, and you should expect to pay more for them.
Electronic dartboards are generally smaller in diameter than traditional ones. Regulation size is 15½ inches for the target area, but many are as small as 13 inches. Common sense would say that you should stand closer to a smaller target than a large one, but that’s not the way that electronic darts regulations are written; the boards should be mounted eight feet from the throwing line, 2¾” further back than a bristle board would be. Many boards are mounted in a larger frame or even a case or cabinet that can be mounted on the wall, in order to accommodate electronic displays.
Electronic Dartboard Bells and Whistles
Extra features on many types of products are just that, extra. For an electronic dartboard, though, many bells and whistles are directly linked to the amount of enjoyment you’ll get from the product.
Almost all electronic models feature them, and these dartboards will have either LCD or LED displays which can track as many as 16 players. Some of the fancier LED units will show the result of each throw and flash scores (or the X/O marks in games like Cricket) in different colors, as well as compute statistics like points per dart. There are even models whose LED displays will illuminate sections of the board to suggest strategies for gameplay.
Many electronic dartboard scoreboards will display menus of the games you can choose from, with as many as 250 different games and variations available on some higher-end boards. Almost all will include a number of the “01” games (like 301, 501 and 701) and at least a few variations of Cricket. Some also allow you to track your performance and statistics over time, and let you assign handicaps to players who aren’t as talented as you are behind the line.
One of the latest developments in electronic dartboard technology, as you might expect, is connectivity. It can come into play in two ways; some boards will periodically download new games and versions to their menu, and a few will let you play against other opponents online. Believe it or not, there are even online dart leagues in which you can compete against other dart players around the world. (Pro tip: Avoid playing against darters from the U.K. until you’ve gotten really, really good.)
However, one common “extra feature” isn’t necessarily linked to your enjoyment of your darts match: interactive audio heckling which kicks in during games. Fortunately, you can usually turn off the hecklers whenever you’d like.
Other Considerations When Buying an Electric Dartboard
If you’re going to be choosing a great electronic dartboard that you expect to be using regularly, expect to pay for the privilege. The best bristle dartboards probably won’t run you more than $50-75, but high-end electronic models will run you a few hundred dollars. Even a good electronic board with some of the game selection and scoreboard features most people want will cost more than the best traditional dartboard.
Also think about where you’re going to mount the board before you buy it. Many electronic dartboards are battery-powered but some have to be plugged into a power source – so you could have an unpleasant surprise awaiting you when you open the box and realize that there’s no outlet near the area where you were planning to mount your board.
Finally, be sure that the board comes with enough darts (or that you buy enough extra ones) so everyone in your family or social circle can play. The darts you’ve had hanging around the basement from an old, long-forgotten dartboard are going to have steel tips, and can’t be used on a normal electronic dartboard. You’ll need soft-tipped darts to go with your new board.
Frequently Asked Questions About Electronic Dartboards
Q: Are electronic dartboards really that much safer than traditional ones?
Q: How long will a good electronic dartboard last?
Q: Can you re-tip steel darts with plastic tips?
Q: Does the weight or material of a soft-tipped dart matter?
Soft-tipped darts are – for obvious reasons – lighter than steel-tipped ones. The average range of weights for soft-tipped darts is between 14 and 20 grams, while steel-tipped ones can be between 16 and 40 grams (most players prefer them in the 20-30 gram range). Choosing between those weights is largely based on personal preference.