SteelSeries SteelPad 5L Mouse Pad Review

hardnrg - 2007-06-18 08:29:18 in Mouse Pad
Category: Mouse Pad
Reviewed by: hardnrg   
Reviewed on: July 6, 2006
SteelSeries
SteelSeries
Price: $39.95
Introduction

The SteelPad 5L is the newest mouse surface offered to gamers by SteelSeries. I received it directly from their headquarters in Denmark within a few days and I was eager to see what the SteelPad 5L had to offer over basic mouse surfaces and other gaming mouse pads.

SteelSeries is one of the brands operated by Soft Trading. The other brand is Icemat. Two names that I'm sure most gamers and tech-savvy people are familiar with. SteelSeries is the younger of the two brands, launching the original SteelPad in 2001, and has expanded its range of products to gaming headsets, mouse accessories (like padsurfers, the stick-on anti-friction "feet" for mice), and clothing. They are also close to releasing a suite of security products, SteelSecurity, in Q3 this year.

Mousepads are an almost essential weapon in any gamer's arsenal today. Let's take a closer look at this gaming mouse surface and see what it has to offer to its intended user, the gamer, and whether or not it gives a better mousing* experience than other alternatives.

* : The term mousing will be used throughout the rest of this review in reference to operating a mouse, akin to typing. It does not mean I am talking about chasing mice, hehe.

Closer Look

The SteelPad 5L arrived wrapped in plain brown paper and I wondered whether the mousepad they sent to me was not suitable to be seen by the feint of heart!


After tearing open the paper wrapping, I found the SteelPad 5L safely held behind a see-through plastic package housed in a heavy corrugated card frame. No wonder it only needed paper packaging, the retail packaging is sturdy enough to keep your new mousepad immaculate and unscathed by knocks and bumps in-transit on its way to you.


And it turns out to be more visually exciting than the brown paper package had made me first think! What a beauty! My eyes were transfixed on the incredibly striking design and were drawn to the intense glow behind the organic, inter weaved structures. I was truly gobsmacked! I would quite happily have the same design as a print/poster up on display on my wall, or as a desktop background. I really think this design will appeal to most gamers, judging from experience of what is deemed to "look cool" and it shows that SteelSeries really did their homework when they decided on this particular design. Fantastic.

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The reverse side was also a surprise, reminiscent of abstract impressionist paintings by Jackson Pollock. Certainly not what you'd expect to see on the bottom of a mouse pad. This white spattering serves as a non-slip material to stop the mouse pad sliding around on your desk.



Contrary to the name, the SteelPad 5L is actually constructed from cloth and plastic. This struck me as slightly odd that they named it a "SteelPad" because that makes me think of their steel or aluminum mouse pads. As you can imagine though, the SteelPad 5L is no ordinary cloth mouse pad. It is a composite of 5 layers, each precisely designed for a specific purpose.

Here is the explanation of the layers from the SteelSeries website: Detailed information about the 5 layers 1. Plastic coating Thin plastic coating ensures durability and maintains the texture of the underlying cloth material. 2. Cloth A highly durable and extremely strong cloth material provides a smooth gliding experience. The texture of the plastic coated cloth surface allows for minimal mouse movements and maximum precision. 3. Soft polyisoprene Specially treated soft polyisoprene provides softness to the touch. The softness of the rubber foam is very easy on the users' wrists, even for hardcore gamers and others who use their mouse for extended periods of time. 4. Hard plastic A hard plastic compound maintains the stability and the shape of the mouse pad, and helps ensure a consistent gliding experience even on uneven surfaces. 5. Rubber elements Small soft rubber elements ensures complete non-slippery steadiness. So you can see that the surface, the most important part of the mouse pad, is made from a thin layer of plastic over cloth. To the touch, it feels somewhere in between canvas and rubber. It reminds me of waterproof, technical fabrics like Gore-Tex® and the smooth materials used on running shoes and other outdoor equipment.


The SteelPad 5L is both a visually stunning work of art, and is highly technical in construction. The question now is: does this pad give a mousing experience suitable for games and indeed other tasks? There is only one way to "test" a mousepad, and that is to play games! Let's have a look at the specs of this mousepad before I reveal the results. Specifications

Features:
  • Combines the strength of plastic with the softness of cloth
  • Suitable for all mouse sensitivities
  • Large mouse surface designed for gaming
Specifications:
  • Compatible with all optical, laser and ball mice
  • Dimensions 380 x 280 mm (14,9 x 11 in)

Extra Facts:

After extensive testing with first generation laser mice from Microsoft, Logitech and others, the entire production lineup of SteelPad 5L was changed to ensure 100% compatibility, the release of the SteelPad 5L ended up being delayed for 3 months because we wanted to ensure optimal performance for the new laser technologies.

The SteelPad 5L was researched for more than 6 months, during which time we did a lot of experimenting with various surfaces and composition, to ensure precision and performance.

Testing

I have what I would consider a fairly standard width desk at just over 1.2 metres wide (4 feet wide) and the size of the SteelPad 5L really became apparent when it was laid down on my desk.


Having a mouse pad of this size on my desk meant that my keyboard was slightly off-center. I like the spacebar to be in line with the center of the screen, ideally while typing, but for gaming, having the keyboard off to the side is actually much more comfortable for 1st and 3rd person games that employ the widely-used mouselook and WASD movement controls. So the size of the mouse pad was not a problem for gaming, but may be something to take into consideration if you have a smaller desk than mine.

I will be comparing the SteelSeries SteelPad 5L to my current gaming mousepad, the X-Raypad Thunder8 (2-sided plastic surface).


The Logitech MX518 was used at its three dpi sensitivity settings - 400, 800, and 1600 dpi - in the following games:

  • Unreal Tournament 2004
  • Half-Life 2
  • Tomb Raider: Legend
  • Battlefield 2
  • F.E.A.R.
  • Plasma Pong
  • Prey Demo
  • Far Cry
Conclusion

After a week of rigorous testing in games, Photoshop®, video-editing, and perusing the Internet, it became quickly clear that the SteelPad 5L was best suited for games. In particular, I found it useful in fast-paced first-person shooters when playing multiplayer matches online. The extra size of the SteelPad 5L versus my current Thunder8 meant that I could circle-strafe about 50% more than usual! It was a lot of fun to be able to circle-strafe around opponents that much further.

I tried the MX518 at 800 and 1600 dpi, and both resolution settings tracked very accurately over the mousepad. Then I switched to 400 dpi and left the games' mouse sensitivity settings the same, which meant that I had to move the mouse a lot further than I'm used to. While this certainly worked and I didn't run out of room, I couldn't play for very long moving my mouse around this much myself, but can certainly see how this would suit gamers that prefer the higher precision of using your mouse in this way, albeit with more effort required to move the mouse.

Throughout the testing, the SteelPad 5L provided a flawlessly smooth and even surface, and barely made any noise while moving the mouse. The non-slip layer on the bottom of the mousepad really gripped to the desk. When I tried to move it laterally across the desk, it felt like I was trying to push a full box of printer-paper, that's how well it works!

I am not entirely convinced about how well the layers will stay together over time. The corners seem especially susceptible to peeling apart after repeatedly reaching for the mouse and dragging my wrist over the corner. Also, being essentially a cloth pad, I wonder about how well it would hold up to abuse from food and drink spilled on it as it doesn't look that easy to clean compared to a plastic, metal or glass surface. The thing that turned me off about this mousepad was the simple fact that it has more friction than my current Thunder8 pad. The difference is a lot smaller than I would have guessed, the SteelPad 5L certainly is a smooth and low-friction surface with the plastic layer over the cloth, but the friction is noticably higher than my current pad and I prefer low-friction and high mouse sensitivity when gaming.


Pros
Cons