X-Trac ZooM Mousepad & Eels Mousefeet ReviewBosco - May 20, 2003
Category: Input Devices
Price: $25 USD (Both Combined)
I haven't used a mouse pad in several years (heh). I have a nice hard "faux wood" laminated surface on my desk that I've slowly been wearing away. I press down pretty firmly when I get excited (gaming primarily) and one of two things has invariably happened in the past when I've tried various mouse pads - either the mouse pad slips around on my desk or the mouse bogs down in the fabric of the pad surface. Our good buddy Anand from ADPMods has never heard this story until now - he didn't know the risk when he sent us the X-Trac ZooM Mousepad to review (c;
First thing I noticed was that the mousepad and mousefeet were packaged in a box full of styrofoam peanuts, when they could easily have fit in an 8 1/2" X 11" standard business envelope. As I was sitting there composing a smarmy toned email to Anand on the subject, *ding* I got mail. Guess what, it's Anand explaining to me that they OVERpackage this product to ensure it doesn't get bent or otherwise mutilated by Canada Post (they use Canada Post Xpress-Post for shipping in Canada - usually next or 2nd following business day). Well, I blushed and hit delete so Anand still doesn't realize what a smartass I am. Errr.
Next, the physicals of the ZooM. It's quite smooth on the "business" side - running a fingernail over it, I could barely feel any texture to it. It has a honeycomb (my daugher calls it "snakeskin") pattern in black and white and underneath the rubberized surface is a cream colour. Mostly it's thin. How thin? I pulled out my bank card and laid them side by side on my desktop. The raised letters on the bank card are actually taller than the surface of the mousepad. Even the flat surface of the bank card can be felt as a raised edge as I run my finger from the mousepad to the card, though to actually measure the difference would probably take an engineer, a lab, and a million dollar micronometer. Or something.
Time to put the rubber to the roa...ahhh desktop. Taking a quote from X-Trac's PR, they say the mousepad "...stays in place without sliding easily due to the specially formulated rubber backing called the Sure Grip II™. " Keeping in mind that I'm used to using a NON-MOVEABLE surface (the bare desktop) and my bad experiences with everything from 3M's high end pad to mid-range to cheapo solutions, I was (and am - it's a keeper) very pleased with the adhesion between the ZooM and my desk. I played through some hardcore sessions of UT2K3 and BF 1942, without taking my blood pressure meds - just kidding about the drugs but things got quite intense, fast and furious. The ZooM never moved, or at least if it did, not enough to be noticed. They do say that it's not recommended for use on metal surfaces, something I have not personally tested.
Zooming in on the surface (I kill me. Others want to too.), you can see the larger pattern as well as the random squiggles within the hexagons. Once again quoting X-Trac, "The hexagons, random dots and dithered edges found in our patterns forces most optical mice to locate their precise location. This precision practically eliminates any mouse cursor fade or jitter." I'll admit to you that I don't do fine art or anything requiring super precision. That being said, using my Logitech MX-500 optical mouse, I have never noticed any cursor jump, or any type of irregularity in terms of aiming (gotcha, bosco), highlighting text, web surfing, etc., any of the work and play I do in two weeks with the ZooM - and I spend probably an average of 10 or more hours per day on 2 different computers, using one mouse via a KVM switch. The ZooM is especially recommended for optical mice but will work every bit as well with a ball mouse. I cracked out the old MS WheelMouse for a day to try it out, with very satisfactory results. All in all, the hard smooth surface is exactly what I would have asked for if someone had requested my requirements for a mousepad.
The mousepad is fairly stiff - if you wave it back and forth in the air, it has about the consistency of a piece of high grade bristle board. It WILL crease if you intentionally bend it. I purposely bent a corner, after about a 90 degree angle it leaves a permanent crease. But I also packed it up for a computer show and travelled 3 hours each way in my car with it in the bottom of a duffle bag, with no damage done. Take reasonable care of it and this should not be an issue. Cleaning is a snap, they recommend common household glass cleaner for the top and simply running the bottom under tap water to get rid of any accumulated grunge.
Eels (Courtesy of ADPMods)
Anand was also kind enough to provide us with some Eels MouseTape. Basically, it's a 5" strip of "super slick" (Teflon coated) tape that you measure, cut to length, peel off the backing and stick onto your mouse feet. The feet on my Logitech MX-500 are 1/4" wide and there are 5 of them, so it's ample for several applications or several mice with judicious cutting. I have already been using Everglide's Mouse Skatez, which is basically the same thing, for 3 months now. I swapped out the Skatez for the Eels - the texture and thickness is the same for both products, Eels tape is clear while Skatez has a slightly brown tinge to it. Both have a blue backing.
I'm a sold customer, they add an extra bit of smooooth (50-70% improvement in mouse movement, claims X-Trac) to my mousing that I have become very used to. The benefit to using Eels over Everglide's product is primarily pricing. Bigfoot Computers, Everglides main Canadian distributor, advertise 2 mice worth of Skatez for $11.98 while ADPMods sell the equivalent in Eels for $6.00, or $5.00 if bought in combination with the ZooM.
Y'know, I've been really lucky. The last few reviews I've done have been on outstanding products. The X-Trac ZooM and Eels MouseFeet continue the trend, I am happy to report. It's official, I'm converted from a non-mousepad-user (find THAT in a dictionary) to a ZooMer. Even without the Eels, this mousepad fits all my needs, from gaming to surfing to everyday grimble. The Eels definitely add a great finishing touch to the experience. Both products are competetively (or better - see Eels pricing comparison above) priced within their markets.