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SteelPad 4S Mouse Surface: Not satisfied with the performance of a generic mouse users will often spend quite a bit of greenback to gain an edge. So why not do the same on a mousing surface?

Date: July 4, 2003
Supplied By:
Written By:

Introduction

When one thinks of input for a computer your first thoughts are most likely going to be either the Keyboard or the Mouse. Gamers will take special care in choosing a mouse that is suitable to there need's, since in many cases this will end up being the 'Weapon of Choice'. Ball mice whilst still popular are being pushed out of favour for optical mice, whose benefits include being able to operate on many different surfaces as well as providing a very low maintenance option. Now with all the thought and research people make to find the 'perfect mouse' it would seem kind of strange that the mouse pad is more often than not completely overlooked.

In both ball and optical mice, a decent surface can make the difference between twitching the mouse for a clean headshot or scraping it along and getting a glancing wound. Not satisfied with the performance of a generic mouse users will often spend quite a bit of greenback to gain an edge. So why not do the same on a mousing surface? Is it worth it? And what's on offer? One such mousing surface we shall be looking at today is produced specifically for gamers, with both style and performance at the forefront of it design premise. The is not a cheap surface so let's see if it's worth the money.

Specifications


* 3.5mm Aluminium plate
* Treated to ensure both comfort and traction
* Hardened to ensure durability under all conditions
* Fibre polished

Description: Length 290 mm - Width 267 mm - Thickness 3.5 mm (feet included)
The ultimate preference of ProGamers. The greater size of this pad has been especially determined by the most critical user - YOU!

* Does not work with Logitech Optical mice other than the MX Series *

" We want to become the proGamers prefered mousepad. We strive hard to keep up with the proGamers increasing demands for optimal accuracy. In order to comply with these demands we are constantly attempting to improve the performance of our products. A task that may seem just like our SteelPad: "Hard to break - not to get".

Nevertheless, improvements can always be taken on to a higher level, which is why we "Steel.. - nothing but accuracy. "

A Closer Look

The SteelPad 4S comes in an envelope style package and whilst the pad is displayed on the front along with images from a few games, it doesn't prepare you for how sleek and silently stylish it appears in person. When you look at the images of the pad on the 'net you probably think 'yeah, it's black, looks pretty good' but honestly, going with its black theme its appearance in person is like a stealth attack. It doesn't jump out and shout here I am but rather quietly smiles confidently that it means business.

Despite the name SteelPad, the 4S is actually made from 3.5mm aluminium which gives it a nicely proportionate weight when compared to its size, being just right to offer a firm grip with the desk below. Looking at the front of the pad we can its perfect matt black finish and in the lower left corner the striking '4S Steel' logo.

The logo unlike earlier versions of the SteelPad is now laser burned into the pad where as previously it was a sort of button affair which could easily hinder mouse movement (most likely at a critical moment :) ). One thing I shall point out here is that you think something like this would get covered in fingerprints easily but it is actually the reverse. Any fingerprints slowly fade away after a few seconds back to the matt black finish. I've no doubt that over time the build up will prevent this from happening but still thought it worth a mention.

Turning the pad over we see more of the matt black finish and 8 what I believe to be very hard rubber 'nipple' like feet (calm down &.). At first I was a bit sceptic about the effectiveness of these feet since they do appear to be glossy and half spherical which generally means less traction. However they do in-fact grip well, complimented with the weight of the pad itself.

The overall curved shaping you find on the outer reaches of the pad extends to the edge and corners of the pad, no doubt to protect users from sharp edges as well as keep in theme with the good looks and optimum mouse area. This is definitely one sexy looking mouse pad and I for one am pleased at the absence of some huge logo taking up the majority of the front surface, leaving it clean and professional looking.

In Use


This is a very subjective part of the review but hopefully I'll be able to include enough information to help you make your own minds up. To test the pad I've been using it in both every day normal tasks such as web browsing or just clicking icons etc, as well as an intense few days of non-stop gaming (woe is me). Games of choice have ranged from to ( and Duel) to Medal of Honor (specifically the bombed out town full of snipers level). What I've been looking for here is to see the difference in the feel of accuracy both from my own sensory feedback as well as how I felt it affected my gaming. Weapons of Choice here have been the Intellimouse Explorer V3.0 and the rotary ball mouse. In comparison I've used a cheap laminated mat (urgh) and the desktop surface itself. The precision was determined in the following ways:


1) Sniping in Medal of Honor
2) Rocket Jumping in Quake III Arena
3) Pixel by Pixel drawing in Photoshop
4) Moving the mouse from lower left of screen to close a window


Well let's get one thing straight before I even begin here. The laminated mat is nothing but a hindrance from start to finish. It's too small, drags on the mouse feet to much and frankly ruins my game. Very personal statement yes, but I've never been able to get on with a normal pad when gaming. Hopefully that will give you an insight to what I'm looking for in a mousing surface. That's with both ball and optical mice.

Now the desktop has one big benefit to it and that's real estate. The amount of room doubles that of the laminated mat and provides a nice flat open surface. Accuracy with just the desktop using the optical mouse is good, with a bit of polish and some silicon spray the mouse simply glides across the surface. Whilst the ball mouse moves around easily enough, the desktop doesn't provide enough traction for the ball itself and I often found myself stuttering or not moving at all despite my frantic movements with the mouse. I'm the sort of person who likes low friction and low sensitivity (meaning I need to make big movements with the mouse to make small movements in game) so being able to move the mouse fast is a necessity to me, and the desktop coupled with it's extra room allows me this.

The SteelPad 4S does reduce the amount of space that I'm used to, but after a few days of playing I found it to be comfortably enough room to play well. A little more room probably wouldn't hurt but it certainly doesn't compare to the cramped feel you get from a standard size mouse pad. Mice glide very nicely across the SteelPad but I was a bit disappointed from the noise. The only thing I can compare it to is a very low level scraping of a blackboard or a quiet version of 2 slate sheets sliding together. It doesn't make your skin crawl but the level is enough to become annoying, especially at night. As I have always done, I taped the mouse feet up with some clear tape (to aid in reducing friction) which did deaden the sound somewhat. Friction wise it's almost perfect for me. The mouse glides almost effortlessly across the surface of the pad, but still has enough traction to be able to stop on a dime.

The people at SteelPad also included a couple of extra's with the 4S, namely some Teflon mouse tape for reducing friction on mouse feet and a very stylish . The mouse cord holder is a solid block of aluminium which has a route cut into one part of the gradient upper half to route the mouse cord into. A simple thumbscrew secures the cord in place making sure that you have correct length (no more, no less) as not to hinder your play. It's nicely weighted to make sure you wont go pulling the cord everywhere and complements the overall experience well.

Treating the mice to the SteelPad Surfer tape is pretty much like treating the mouse feet with clear tape, but the longevity of the Teflon tape is almost 10 times that of the clear tape. Also the friction is less than with the clear tape, not by much but enough to notice, but still allowing the mouse to stop steady for those perfect head shots. It makes for a pretty accurate combination. Be it ball mouse of optical, neither skipped a beat or lost traction at all.

Has my game improved because of it? Bit of 50-50 there. Accuracy is subtly increased when compared to the desktop and laminated mat, enough to make hit-scan (fast moving sniper type weapons) a complete and sometimes surprising joy. Making those 180 degree panic shots yielded a higher percentage of success than previously which can only be a good thing. One thing I did notice was that despite the fact the mouse is happy to stop dead almost instantly, making quick flicks of the mouse (left to right rapidly) became a little messier although this became less noticeable as time wore on. Perhaps it was just a matter of getting used to it. I thought it worth a mention as I'm a bit 'grey' on that one. The one area I did find harder to get used to was the reduced size afforded me by the desktop alone but users of a standard sized pad will find the extra room of the SteelPad a bonus.

All in all, the SteelPad 4S does what it is designed for and that is to create an accurate and professional surface for gamers.

Conclusion


The ' goals of design are to provide you with a professional gaming mousepad, and this it does in style. The black stealth appearance gives it a silent business look and with no huge great logo across its surface is unmarred with graphical distractions. The laser etched logo in the bottom left corner is suitably sized to be non-obtrusive and yet proudly proclaim its name. The overall shape is a decent one with curved edges to protect users, as well as increase its overall pleasing aesthetic. The feet of the pad whilst at first glance are apparently poor, they are in-fact superb when coupled with the low weight of the pad in providing an almost perfect grip, even in the most frantic of gaming sessions.

The size of the pad is nice and large covering a decent 290 mm x 267 mm which should be a large enough size for most. I would have personally liked to see it a little bit bigger and I don't think I would be alone in this, but when compared to a standard mouse mat the extra size is a big bonus that gives you a lot of added real estate. In use, coupled with the Teflon tape or even some clear tape on the mouse feet, the almost frictionless effect makes for a very easy time whilst its ability to still stop movement rapidly enough makes for a surface that does aid in accuracy. I'm not saying the pad is going to instantly turn you into a god and netizens should beware of users of this pad, but when coupled with the game/mouse tweaks hardcore gamers will do, and time spent searching for the right mouse, the Steelpad will make a great addition to your game experience.

There really is only one downside and that's the noise produced. It isn't overly loud when deadened by the tape but it is very much like someone scraping a blackboard from afar and does get tiresome at night after long gaming sessions (at the same time, chances are your using headphones so you wont hear it anyway). Another thing to remember is that if you have a Logitech Optical mouse other than the MX series, it probably won't work

It is however an expensive piece, so the question remains as to if it is worth the money. It really depends on what you are looking for here. Yes it will subtly aid in your accuracy if you like a frictionless surface. And it'll look damn good, without being a distraction, while it's doing it. I was personally happy with my previous setup which didn't use a mouse pad at all but I am coming around to liking this pad a lot. I would have to say that if I hadn't tried it, it would have been a definite no, but now I'm using it &. If I had the cash to spare, I'd probably say yes, but more for the combination of good looks and performance than performance alone. Big thanks to for supplying the review sample.

Pros
Looks very professional
Non-distractive logo and overall aesthetic
Aluminium provides almost perfect balance for rubber feet
Larger than standard overall size
Low to desktop height
Very low friction surface, yet still stops mice movement enough to aid in accuracy

Cons
A little extra size might be nice, despite it's already larger than average dimensions
Gets noisy

Bottom Line
Steelpad have endeavoured to produce a professional gaming mousepad and have pretty much succeeded if you like an almost frictionless surface. Coupled with some Teflon/Clear tape on the mouse feet accuracy is improved. It is expensive and would be something I would buy if I had some spare cash, as much for it's stylish appearance as its performance.

If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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