Posted: June 09, 2003
Author: Jason Kohrs
Sponsor: Soft Trading
The development of the optical mouse affords the serious computer user, especially competitive game players, accuracy and reliability that the ball mouse just couldn’t provide. But, what is often overlooked is that an optical mouse requires a more refined mousing surface in order to achieve this level of performance. That old foam mouse pad that you got at the 99 Cent store isn’t going to cut it anymore, which is why companies such as Steelpad have introduced precision mousing surfaces like the Steepad 4S.
The Steelpad Company is based out of Copenhagen, Denmark and presently all US orders for their mouse surfaces and related accessories are processed directly by their parent company, Soft Trading. Orders are accepted via the Steelpad website, and are then shipped via DHL from Denmark to the US, which provides a quick delivery time (about 2 days), but obviously isn’t the cheapest means of delivery. According to a representative of Soft Trading, they are “currently planning on a US distribution office for North America to reduce shipping time and costs remarkably.” This step will provide Steelpad with a necessary edge to compete in the US Market.
Steelpad has provided us with their top of the line mousing surface, the Steelpad 4S, which contrary to the name, is actually constructed of 3.5mm thick aluminum plate. The Steelpad 4S arrived from Denmark without incident, not only in the retail packaging below, but also wrapped in a heavy brown paper envelope, which was then sealed in the plastic DHL envelope.
The back of the packaging (shown on the above right) provides a bit of information, including the specifications and quotes from various reviews (click links for detailed views). The specifications from the packaging and the Steelpad website are summarized below:
Steelpad 4S Info:
43.5mm aluminum plate
4Length 290mm x Width 267mm
4Treated, to ensure both comfortability and traction
4Hardened to ensure durability under all conditions
Once removed from the packaging, the smooth edges and uniquely textured surface grab your attention, as does the sheer size of this thing. The below left image gives a view of the top of the Steelpad 4S’s surface, which features a stylish logo (click link for detailed view) stamped in the lower left corner. The entire surface has a smooth finish, that upon closer inspection (and perhaps not discernible from the pictures), does feature some sort of treatment... Which is apparently what Steelpad is referring to in the list of info above.
As pictured in the above right image, the bottom of the Steelpad 4S features a total of eight (8) small rubber feet (click link for detailed view) to ensure that everything stays in place while in use. The feet do their job quite well! Where my previous mousepads all had the tendancy to drift around my desk, the Steelpad 4S has stayed right where I left it for over a week now. Also attached to the bottom side of the Steelpad 4S is the strip of teflon tape for use on the bottom of your mouse (which I will come back to later).
Although constructed of just a thin sheet of aluminum, the Steelpad 4S is quite rigid, and should hold up nicely for a long time. In order to test its strength, I leaned on the pad with a decent amount of pressure (requiring me to stand up for leverage), and the pad would flex slightly, but always bounced right back into form. The amount of pressure I was putting on the pad was far greater than any that the pad should ever see under “normal” use.
The below left image shows the Steelpad 4S with my Logitech MX300 mouse on it, just to give you an idea of the size. To further illustrate the size of the unit, the below right image shows the Steelpad 4S underneath your typical foam mousepad, which measure roughly 228mm by 190mm. Noticably smaller than the 290mm by 267mm dimensions of the Steelpad 4S. This increased size will come in handy, greatly reducing my tendancy to navigate off the edge of my mousepad at the most critical moments. Related to the size, Steelpad says that the Steelpad 4S represents “The ultimate preference of ProGamers. The greater size of this pad has been especially determined by the most critical user - YOU!”
As previously mentioned, in addition to the mouse surface, you also receive a strip of teflon mouse tape measuring about 20mm wide and 100mm long. More than enough to outfit your mouse with a smooth gliding surface, with more than enough to spare for future use.
The Steelpad website features instructions for mounting the tape to your mouse, which I followed during my installation (for the most part).
Teflon mouse tape installation instructions (taken from the Steelpad website):
- Size the teflon tape to the mouse feet
- Cut one slice for each foot of the mouse
- Pull the red tape off of the backing. *Make sure your hands are dry otherwise the glue may rub off*
- Press the adhesive side onto the feet of the mouse to cover the existing foot
- Make sure to seal the edges with your finger nail
The two images below show a before and after of my installation of the included teflon mouse tape. The tape is extremely sticky on the adhesive side, requiring you to work carefully while removing it from the backing paper, as well as while fixing it to your mouse. As you may be able to tell from the pictures below, I barely used 1/4 of the tape provided, just covering the stock feet of my mouse. This should do the job nicely, and reserve a good deal of teflon tape for future use.
My installation may not be exactly by the book, and it may even look a little bit “ghetto”, but it did improve the mouse performance, as well as eliminating the slight scratching sound my mouse made while gliding over the Steelpad 4S without the teflon tape.
After using the Steelpad 4S for about 10 days at this point, I am very pleased with the smooth movement of my mouse, and the noticable difference in its accuracy. Although the teflon tape is by no means necessary, it is nice to see it included with the Steelpad 4S, and I found that it made mouse navigation even smoother and quieter. Being that the mouse surface is a solid sheet of metal, it can get dusty, so it occasionally needs to be wiped clean. I used a dry cloth for this, and Steelpad recommends using nothing more than “products used to clean mirrors applied on a cloth”. The only other bit of “maintenance” may only effect me and the way I hold my mouse... I find that my hand occasionally rests on the mouse surface next to the mouse, and on the Steelpad’s aluminum surface, the warm skin on the cold metal leads to a spot of condensation. Not a big deal really, except that when you then go to use your mouse, the laser loses track if navigated over “the wet spot” and you must stop to dry the pad off.
The Steelpad 4S is without a doubt a high quality mouse surface built to perhaps outlast any mouse you will ever use on it. The only significant downside to the Steelpad 4S is the current price of $47.31 (U.S.), which doesn’t even include shipping from Denmark to the U.S. This makes the total cost of your mousing surface just about as high as a high quality mouse (i.e. Logitech MX500 / MX700). Hopefully the price will come down when US distribution is established, and the quality of the Steelpad 4S will make it an excellent choice for anyone seeking a performance mouse surface for their optical mouse.
4Extremely smooth and accurate mouse movement
4Oversized - allows plenty of room for navigation
4Inclusion of an ample amount of teflon mouse tape
4Extremely stylish, and equally as functional.
4High quality design and construction
4High price (which will hopefully be remedied when US distribution is in place)
4Does not work with Logitech optical mice other than the MX series
4Requires “maintenance” to remove dust, smudges, or condensation from sweaty hands
Special thanks to Soft Trading for providing the Steelpad 4S for review!
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