Reviewed: September 29, 2003
Type: Mouse Pad
Mouse Pad: $46.28
I remember the day I got my first optical mouse and made mouse pads a thing of the past: no more ugly, frayed, and squishy dirt collectors to clog up my desk. However, things never quite work out like we expect and, now a few years latter, the “scrape mouse here” groves in my desk and lack of a perfectly smooth surface have dulled the dream. Enter Soft Trading and their Steelpad 4s and cord holder. Promising greater accuracy and an end to the hassles of snagged mouse cords, I welcomed the metallic duo into my home.
Aesthetics - 9
The Steelpad 4s is black, aluminum, and big. 290mm by 257mm to be exact (a smaller version, the “3s”, is available). It has a slight curve to allow for an armrest and is thin enough to barely raise above your desktop. The 4s is certainly attractive but in the end, still just a mouse pad (albeit in an classic, understated, “I’m very high-end” sort of way).
The stainless steel cord holder is small and amazingly heavy. It is nothing special to look and is small enough that it really doesn’t matter.
Durability - 8
The pad is a curvy sheet aluminum and the cord holder, a chunk of stainless steel. What more do you want? Actually, my pad came with seven rubber feet, but judging by an odd smudge of glue, might be missing an eighth. This triggered me to put far too much pressure on one of the feet to see if it popped off. Happily, the little guy took my abuse like a champ and stuck on so, if there was a foot missing, it was almost certainly an error during manufacturing as the glue holding the feet in place is quite strong.
Performance - 7
All your optical mouse really wants out of you is a perfectly smooth and consistent surface. Chances are that your desk provides something close to that but the 4s ensures a dimple free surface that allows the optical mouse to track its own movement with greater accuracy. Additionally, the 4s comes with a small strip called the PadSurfer which you cut into small ovals that stick to the feet of your mouse’s pads. With these applied, you mouse moves across the pad like a puck on ice. Combine these factors and you end up with very precise mouse movement.
So does it work? In short: yes. Using a variety of different mice and games, I noted a discernable increase in my accuracy. Actually, the change was surprisingly noticeable. Normally I slightly over- or under-shoot for my intended target at first but with the 4s and PadSurfers in action, those niggling little errors where gone. Everything from navigating an RTS’s menu system to targeting enemies in an FPS showed a very welcome improvement.
Sadly, there is a negative side. Steelpad.com mentions that all non-MX Logitech mice are incompatible with the 4s and my Gyration mouse failed to work as well. Obviously, this is a fly in the ointment but all of my Microsoft mice worked flawlessly and most modern mice should as well. Additionally, the seven curved feet on the bottom of the 4s still let the pad slip around ever now and then.
The Cord Holder works flawlessly. Like a vice grip for your mouse cord, you simple leave yourself a little slack, place the cord in The Holder’s groove and screw down the extra wide thumbscrew down. The process takes half a minute and provides a lifetime a snag-free gaming. In my week with The Holder, it has proven small enough to stay out of view and heavy enough to not move.
Value - 7
It’s the price tag that stamps the 4s with a huge “For the Hardcore Gamers Only” sign. For just under $50 dollars, the 4s is clearly meant for the gamer who wants every edge that they can get and is willing to pay for it. If you’ve spent a fair amount of money on a good mouse, the 4s is worth it as it will take full advantage of your mouse’s potential. Gamers who play online games where speed and accuracy make all of the difference should also take a good hard look at the 4s. However, if you are still using *gasp* a ball mouse or simply do not play games that require sharp reflexes (and, in turn, the hardware to back them up), the 4s is little more than a luxury item and desk protector.
The cord holder is reasonably priced at $20 dollars and, if you are using a corded mouse, then you really owe it to yourself to grab one.
Overall – 8.0
The Holder is a simple call: if you have a mouse with a cord, grab one. The Holder works perfectly and will save you a lifetime of tugging and cursing.
The 4s is something of a question mark. In the end, if you spend a lot of time and money on your gaming rig and hobby, grab one; you’re cutting yourself short otherwise. However, if you take a more casual approach to your PC’s hardware and have not been having mouse problems, you’ll be fine without it. I personally fall somewhere in the middle and smooth mouse movement more than anything else has won me over and makes it worth the investment.