Dartboard purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What you need to know
  • Darts are a popular professional sport, and are a well loved bar game.
  • While classic dartboards are made with bristles, you can also get a variety of electronic versions nowadays.
  • There are official regulations for board size, mounting height, and throwing distance.
  • You need steel-tipped darts to play on a bristle dartboard. For electronic boards, the tip should be made from plastic.

Modern age target practice

We humans have been testing our skills at throwing objects against targets for millennia. After all, javelin throwing and archery are tried and tested hunting and combat methods. For modern life, while exciting, these two examples are much too dangerous and need a lot of space to be practiced in. Darts are a safer, space-effective alternative, which can be comfortably played indoors. As such, darts are an extremely popular game in bars and homes, as well as on a professional level.

Darts is a popular game in pubs.

All you really need to play darts is a dartboard and some darts. The boards are round and divided into 20 equal sections, with bull and bullseye in the middle. The bull (the green circle around the inner circle) is worth 25 points. If you hit the bullseye itself, you get 50 points. The other sections of the board are labelled with a number which corresponds to their respective value.

The numbers on a dartboard are spread out in such a way that high and low values are placed next to each other. For example, the section worth 20 points is flanked by the sections worth 1 and 5 points respectively. This encourages players to aim for a particular section rather than just rely on luck. Halfway between the bull and the outer ring is a red and green inner ring. Throwing a dart into the smaller inner ring gives you triple the value of the section (so, three times 20 for example), while hitting the outer ring doubles your score. Depending on the game, the point of darts is to accurately target different sections on the board. Each player has three darts which are thrown one after another, after which the points are added up before the next player throws.

Purchasing tips

Dartboards come in a few different varieties and can be made from several different materials. Deciding on the right dartboard for you depends on a few specific criteria.

Types of dartboard

Dartboards generally come in two main varieties: electronic and traditional bristled boards. Magnetic dartboards are largely designed for children and so won’t be included in this comparison.

The surface of an electronic dartboard is made from PVC, embedded with hundreds of small holes which the darts can stick in. After a hit, the points are counted automatically by the board and calculated for each player. Electronic dartboards are great for kids because the darts aren’t as sharp and pointy as traditional metal darts. Electronic dartboards are commonly found as coin-operated machines in pubs and bars.

  • Automatic scoring
  • Different pre-programmed gamemodes
  • Darts are safer for kids
  • You can play solo against the computer
  • Expensive
  • Requires electricity
  • Bounce-outs are sometimes scored

Bristle dartboards are instantly recognizable as the classic variety. Professionals use them as they are the only type of dartboard permitted in official competitions. Their surface is usually made from sisal, which is traditionally used for making rope and twine. The downside of using a traditional dartboard is that you’ll have to do the mental arithmetic yourself when totting up the scores. If you really don’t fancy the calculations, there are, however, smartphone apps which will do this for you. Bristle dartboards require steel-tipped darts, which means they aren’t suitable for smaller children.

  • Professional and traditional
  • Great throw feel
  • Less noisy
  • Doesn’t require electricity
  • Hardwearing
  • Scoring needs to be done mentally
  • Sharp metal dangerous for kids

Dartboard material

High-end, bristle dartboards are made from sisal. More accurately, sisal bristles packed together to create a hard surface. This still allows for darts to penetrate into the surface. If the bristles are hard and tight enough, then the hole created by the dart will close as soon as it’s removed. After several years of use, the sisal will inevitably loosen and you will eventually have to replace the entire board.

A worn-out dart board eventually needs to be replaced.

Cork, wood, and paper are cheaper alternatives to sisal. That said, we don’t really recommend buying boards made from these materials as their lifespans tend to be very short. This is because, unlike with sisal, the tiny holes left by the darts in these materials are permanent. Over time, rips and cracks will begin to form. Despite the difference in quality, prices are often remarkably similar. Bristle dartboards often only cost slightly more. Obviously, you don’t need a professional board for messing around or playing party games, but if you do end up playing a little more seriously, then a board made from sisal is highly recommended.

Electronic dartboards are made from plastic. The surface has hundreds of tiny holes in which the darts stick when thrown with force. Because these darts are usually made from plastic, they are also known as ‘soft dartboards’.

Build quality

The clearest way to tell the quality of a dartboard is to look at the wires. Everyone who’s played darts has experienced a dart hitting the wire and bouncing out. This is all the more frustrating if your dart was headed for a good score. If the wiring separating the individual sections (or beds) is thick and uneven, it can cause bounce-outs and problems with scoring. The wire on a dartboard should be thin and evenly pressed into the surface. Cheap wire is usually rounded, while better quality boards have wires made from flattened steel.

Low quality manufacturing is more common with boards not made from sisal, although boards made from sisal are themselves not immune to defects. The important thing is that they are hard and tight enough that the holes created by the darts can close once the dart is removed. If the sisal bristles are somehow too closely packed together, then it can prevent the darts from actually sticking into the board.

Better quality electronic dartboards are usually identifiable by their ease of use. Buttons and electronic displays should be made from quality materials. The electronic display should equally be robust and resistant to wear and tear. This is because waywardly thrown darts can often end up striking the buttons and display.

The better the quality, the more and longer fun you’ll have with your dartboard.

Adjustable scoring rings

On a lot of dartboards, the ring of numbers around the outside is adjustable, meaning that it can be rotated a few sections. This can increase the lifespan of the board, since most players prefer a few specific beds. The 20, for example, is usually the target bed in a lot of games. By shifting the numbers ring a few sections, you can avoid one section of the board wearing faster than the others. Electronic dartboards don’t need a numbers ring because the plastic darts don’t cause wear on the PVC surface in the same way.

Size, installation, and weight

High-end dartboards usually comply with the official regulations set out for professional darts. Organisations like the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and the World Darts Federation (WDF) are in charge of setting these standards. The diameter of the playable surface should measure 13.38 inches (34cm), while the diameter of the entire board should be 17.71 inches (45cm). The entire bull has a diameter of 1.25 inches (31.8mm), while the bullseye makes up half an inch (12.7mm) of that measurement. The double and triple beds are 0.31 inches (8mm) wide.

There are also professional guidelines when it comes to installing the board. This helps to make playing conditions uniform, whether you’re at home, in the pub, or at a tournament. The bullseye should be positioned at a height of 68 inches (173cm) from the floor. The oche (the line behind which players stand when they throw) should be 93 inches (237cm) away from the wall on which the board is mounted. You should be aware that dartboards can weight around 11 pounds (5kg). The wall bracket and screws on which you mount your board need be able to hold this weight without damaging the wall.

The playing surface of an electronic dartboard is usually the same size as a bristle board. Depending on the design, however, electronic boards can be slightly larger and heavier.

Price and manufacturer

Cheap dartboards start at around $20. These models are, however, usually made from low-quality materials. Opting for a version from a renowned manufacturer is the best way to get yourself a tournament regulation board. A few of the most famous manufacturers are Winmau, Unicorn, KingsDarts, Bull’s and Harrows. Their boards are generally not that much more expensive. In fact, a professional standard dartboard can be bought for as little as $35. A board from Unicorn, the tournament standard, will set you back around $70. There is really no reason to pay any more than this for a bristle dartboard, although the top end boards can go up to around $100.

Electronic dartboards can be as cheap as entry-level bristle boards. The upper price range is, however, much higher. For a high-end, fully-equipped electronic dartboard, you can expect to pay around $200. Normally, however, they cost somewhere between $70 and $100. Some of the most popular manufacturers of electronic dartboards include Best Sporting, HOMCOM, and Ultrasport.

What do you need to play darts

You don’t need much for a game of darts other than the board and the darts themselves. There are, however, a few extras which can help make the game easier and protect your living room from stray darts. For electronic models, on the other hand, everything should be included upon purchase, except sometimes the plastic darts.



The only thing other than the board you need for a game of darts are the darts themselves. These can either be soft, or steel darts. Soft darts have plastic tips and are typically used for electronic boards. Steel darts are used by professionals and those playing on a bristle board. There are, however, also darts with plastic tips which are suitable for use on a bristle board. The downside of these darts is that they tend to deteriorate quickly. Metal darts offer that authentic darts feeling since they weigh a little more — usually around 0.7 ounces (20 grams).


Chalkboard or whiteboard

Having a chalkboard or a whiteboard on the wall next to your dartboard can help to recreate that pub feeling at home. As well as creating an authentic atmosphere, chalkboards allow you to count up your score as you go. In comparison to a smartphone app, chalkboards allow all the players to follow along at the same time. Electronic dartboards, meanwhile, count the score themselves, meaning that no extra equipment is necessary.



If you don’t want to hang your dartboard on the wall, you should look into getting a stand. They can be placed in the middle of the room and stowed away again once the game is over. This can help to prevent marks on the wall or on the door. The downside to this method is that badly thrown darts can end damaging your floor instead! If you’re playing outside on grass, this isn’t a problem. Inside on wooden flooring, however, darts can do quite a lot of damage. If you choose to buy a dartboard stand, then a floor protector is an essential accessory.


Dartboard surround

Dartboard surrounds should be mounted behind the dartboard to protect the wall from errant darts. Darts can often be rather inaccurate, particularly for beginners. Wood and cork are good materials for this as the darts remain embedded in them without going through the material. The right size for a surround depends on the accuracy of the players and the dimensions of the room. Dartboard surrounds can either be round or square, as long as they covers enough of the surface.

A sport for everyone

Darts is usually played in one of three different settings. Professional darts is played at tournaments, with the winners collecting prize money. Darts is also a great pub game, in the same vein as pool or snooker. Lots of people also have dartboards at home for playing with friends and family.

Professional darts

Darts is a recognised and well-loved sport. Professionals travel from city to city, playing in large halls and venues. The tour is televised live. The UK is the home of darts. It is here that most of the tournaments take place. The point of professional darts is to win money at tournaments while collecting enough points to take part in the World Championships. Lots of professionals even have their own sponsors.

In most tournaments, competitors play ‘501’, in which the players begin with 501 points and count backwards down to 0. At official tournaments, the ‘double out’ rule is enforced, which states that the players need to hit a double with their last dart to reach 0 points.

The nine-darter

A game of 501 can be ended with a minimum of 9 darts, although this is a rare occurrence, even amongst professionals. Players, who are able to do this in live competition, are destined for highlight reels and can send the watching fans into raptures. A nine-darter is the definitive darts power play and is guaranteed to light up the crowd. Even the opponent tips his hat to a player who has just hit a nine-darter.

Pub sport

From its humble beginning in British pubs, darts has found its way out and around the globe. It is the pub game by which local legends are created and long-standing sporting rivalries renewed. Darts can usually be borrowed from the bar for a small fee. The game is perfect for playing while having a chat at the same time. Increased alcohol intake can at some point begin to have a negative effect on darting performance, resulting in the occasional never-ending match.


At home is a great place to test out different darts games with family and friends. When starting out, luck plays an important role. As a beginner, it’s very difficult to aim your darts at the bullseye or the triple twenty. However, the amount of fun you can expect to have increases with improved throwing ability. Enthusiastic hobbyists can even join a darts club and practice against people that play at a similar level to them.

Different games

Darts can be played in any number of different ways. Most games have at least one thing in common: two players have three darts each and take turns trying to hit certain targets as accurately as possible.


The most commonly played version of darts is 501. This is the game played by professionals at tournaments, in which all players begin on 501 points. The points scored each round are subtracted until someone reaches 0 with a double on their last dart. Hitting a double means that, for instance, should a player be left with 18 points, they would need a double 9 to secure victory. Occasionally, this form of the game is also played with a ‘double in’ rule, in which the first dart must also be a double. The same rules apply for 301 and 701, only the length of the game is either shortened or extended accordingly.

The following video shows darts legend Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor nailing a nine-darter at the World Matchplay Championships. This is just one of many outrageous finishes he produced across an unprecedented career in the sport.


Cricket is a much-loved bar version of darts. Instead of counting points, particular beds have to be hit—specifically 15 through 20 and the bull all need to be hit a minimum of three times. Doubles and triples count for double or triple the usual score. The bull counts as a single hit, and the bullseye as a double hit. The first player to hit all of the required numbers three times is the winner.

Around the clock

In this game, all of the numbers need to be hit in ascending order. A player is only allowed to proceed when they have hit the previous number. At the end, the bull and finally the bullseye itself need to be hit. Beginners can, however, spare themselves this part of the game, as it can really drag on.

Mounting, lighting, and maintenance

Using and maintaining dartboards is relatively simple. There are, however, a few things to take note of when mounting the board. It is important, for example, that your walls are protected and allow for good lighting.


It is recommended to stick to the official tournament regulations when hanging a dartboard. This helps to create that real darts experience. You should also make sure that the surrounding area behind the board is not going to get damaged by missed darts. A dartboard surround is perfect for this. Darts are capable of sticking in the wall or leaving behind tiny holes in the floor. This is particularly troublesome if your floor is made of parquet. Make sure that your floor is covered by a material that can protect the floor from the sharp tip of a wayward dart. This stops bounce-outs from landing on the floor. The best kind of material for this job protects the floor as well as the darts themselves. Wood and cork perform this function well. After the game, any floor covering can be removed. Electronic dartboards, meanwhile, require no additional matting.


Hitting the dartboard in low light becomes even harder than it is already. For this reason, you should make sure that your dartboard is well lit and well hung. Hanging your dartboard under a light source is a great way to do this. If you choose to hang your dartboard in a dimly lit space, then additional lighting may be required. For example, you could hang fairy lights around the outside of the board or a lamp directly over the board. At the very least, you could point a desk lamp towards the dartboard.


Bristle dartboards require very little maintenance. You should, however, check every now and then if certain beds are worn out. Should this be the case, it is recommended to shift the numbers ring a few sections.

Electronic dartboards don’t have this problem. They do, however, rely on technology which is always liable to breaking down. There is very little that most people can do about this problem. You can play on electronic dartboards without them being connected to a power source, although you would have to count the points manually.

Image 1: © zinkevych / adobe.stock.com | Image 2: © hfox / adobe.stock.com | Image 3: © M.Dörr & M.Frommherz / adobe.stock.com | Images 4-6: © FinalCheck | Video: Professional Darts Corporation / YouTube