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Steelpad 4S Mousepad

Welcome once again to the Monster-Hardware secret lab down in Silicon Holler! (I just can’t seem to help myself when starting to type up a review! :-D) Today we’re going to take a look at the Steelpad 4S professional gaming mousepad. We appreciate Steelpad providing us this item for review. This mouse pad is available directly from their site at about $47 each. Note that Steelpad is a Danish site.

Let’s start with a physical description of the mousepad itself. The first thing I noticed was the light weight as I took it out of the box. As I read the back of the packaging, I noticed that the Steelpad 4S is actually made of ALUMINUM, not STEEL. Granted, the word “steel” is a bit in vogue and is a bit sexier in marketing terms than aluminum. But, I can’t help but wonder how the company derived it’s name. Perhaps prototypes or other models actually are made of steel; if so, there’s plenty of empty real estate on the back of the packaging to show other models or give a history of the company. In any case, I am very curious as to why the Steelpad 4S is aluminum instead of steel. Inquiring minds want to know.

Steelpad Box

Secondly, the sheer size of the Steelpad 4S is simply amazing! It is roughly rectangular, with gentle curves on the “top” and “bottom” edges. The Steelpad 4S is appx 29 cm wide and about 25cm deep at the thickest point; this compares to 21 cm wide and 17 cm deep for my old standard mousepad. In fact, I was so amazed by the size that I took a picture with my old mousepad setting on top of the Steelpad 4S to show the difference in real estate available when using this mousepad.

Steelpad Mousepad

Thirdly, the aluminum plate is thin but very stiff. The thickness of the mousepad is appx 2mm thick. Having worked extensively in the metal cutting and fabrication industry as a manufacturing engineer, I expected to see some warpage or curved surfaces and possibly some stamping marks near the edges. However, the Steelpad 4S is beautifully finished with no discernible machining or tooling marks and the surface is exceptionally flat and true. I even held a known straightedge and looked for a “light line” but the surface is very flat. I think the packaging specifications are a bit confusing, though. The “Info” section states that this is a 3.5mm aluminum plate, but the thickness of the plate is only 2 mm. There are 8 urethane bumpers to prevent slipping on the bottom of the Steelpad 4S; the height of these plus the plate thickness DO put the top of the mousepad surface at 3.5mm above the desktop.

Steelpad Points

Finally, let’s discuss the actual surface of the Steelpad 4s. Once again, there is mention of this in the packaging’s “Info” section – it states that the Steelpad 4s is treated to ensure both durability and traction, that the surface is hardened, and that it has been fiber polished. The surface is finished in a soft matte black – not quite a “flat” color but not quite as shiny as “satin” either. Perhaps a smooth eggshell texture is a more appropriate description. I suspect that this is simply a hard anodized aluminum alloy, such as T6061 or similar. Obviously, I did not attempt any destructive testing on this mousepad, but it does feel durable and there is an intangible feel of high quality about it. Please note that the Steelpad 4s has a section of Teflon tape included in the package that measures about 2 cm by 10 cm. This is enough tape to make Teflon pads for more than one mouse.

Now, on to the testing and methodology that was used. Unfortunately, this is not a product for which you can compare bus speed or frame rates in a quantifiable way. Much of my conclusions are subjective personal opinion and may not represent the results you might have in your environment. I decided to test with three mice that represent a solid cross section of common mice in use today. These are the USB Intellimouse with a ball (mine says Dell on it), a Logitech Cordless Mouseman Optical, and an IBM optical corded mouse. Once again, to give an idea of the size of the Steelpad 4S, here’s a picture with all three mice on it at the same time! You can see the strip of the included Teflon tape as well.

Misc Mice

Now for actual conditions – I used the Steelpad 4S for about a week during which I took observations for this review. While my usage primarily involved internet and office applications, I did some modest gaming. I have to admit, that in the world of Monster-Hardware, I am at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the innate ability to send fragments of your opponents to the afterlife. Let’s just say that the Steelpad 4S may be a bit of overkill for the “Clifford the Big Red Dog” series…. if you know what I mean.

Steelpad On Desk

Conclusion:

I like it. There are some minor negatives, all of which can be dealt with. There are a lot of positives and I feel that I have made an improvement in my overall system by using the Steelpad 4S.

Pros:

  • The Steelpad 4S is more than adequately sized for any gaming experience you can imagine, and is large enough for any size mouse. I didn’t run out of mouse room a single time.
  • The mousepad is stiff, smooth, and the mice I tried just seem to glide without effort.
  • The teflon tape was easy to apply, although I really didn’t see any difference compared to the factory installed Teflon surfaces.
  • My standard mouse, the Microsoft Intellimouse with a ball, performed flawlessly with superb traction and feel. I downloaded the Mouse Rate Checker program, and this mouse consistently averaged between 120-130 hz.
  • The edge height was perfect – I didn’t end up with the circulation in my wrist cut off, yet I knew exactly where the edge was of the Steelpad 4S at all times. It was low and comfortable.
  • The 8 urethane bumpers underneath gave great traction between the mosuepad and your desktop, the Steelpad 4S never moved on me - not once. This was a concern for me a the beginning of the review because I felt that the mousepad was a tad lightweight, but this problem never showed up in daily use.

Cons:

  • Not all optical mice may work with this mousepad. The IBM corded optical mouse seemed to work just fine, but it’s not my favorite due to the VERY light weight of the mouse. The Mouse Rate program was less consistent with this optical mouse, showed an average a little less than 100 hz.
  • The Logitech experienced significant lag and jumping around; but in their defense, there is a disclaimer on Steelpad that problems may be experienced with Logitech mice other than the MX series. The Mouse Rate program as little help since the reported rate had wide inconsistencies – there was simply too much lag and skipping with this particular Logitech mouse. Before you buy this mousepad to use with your optical mouse, you might want to drop an email to the support team at Steelpad and see if they have tested your mouse on their surfaces. I would have no hesitations about using this surface with any mouse that uses a ball.
  • The surface will have to be cleaned frequently or dusted. I’m sure that the dust level in my office is no different than when I was using a fabric or plastic surface mousepad, but now the dust and dirt is more visible. The surface may be somewhat prone to show oily fingerprint smudges as well.
  • Most annoying of all is the “skkkkkkritch” sound as any mouse glides against this surface. This is something that I’m willing to put up with due to the positives….BUT….if a silent mousing experience is important to you, you may not be happy with this mousepad. The sound is roughly akin to lightly running a piece of 600 grit sandpaper over a piece of glass or metal. I may try some sound dampening material underneath the mousepad to see if it helps any, although I must admit that I have gotten a little used to the sound the more I use the Steelpad 4S. The included Teflon tape helped a little in reducing the sound, but may not make that much of a difference on a mouse that already has quality Teflon pads.

Added: June 22nd 2003
Reviewer: Insulglass
Score: 9  
Related Link: Steelpad
Hits: 24716
Language: english

  

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