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SteelPad 5L Review

 

Hard Surfaces Not Allowed

 

by Josh Walrath

 

            Since high end gaming surfaces have appeared in the past several years, there has been a migration to harder, slicker surfaces for mousing needs.  Most people loved the feel of gliding on Teflon pads over a hard, plastic surface.  Many also felt their gaming performance increased a great deal because of this non-binding, non-sticky surface that reacts instantly to any hand motion.

            Previously I have reviewed the SteelPad S&S, and I found it to be a great surface.  I really enjoyed the hard plastic feel, overall smoothness, and the really thin profile.  I also found that the pad wore very well through months of gameplay, far better than most other plastic surfaces (such as the Ratpadz GS).  I had also had several other pads come through my testing lab, and few have been really worthy enough to talk about.  Oftentimes they were very poorly constructed, or used standard cloth and foam (but in larger sizes and other gimmicks).  So when the folks from Steel Series contacted me about reviewing a cloth pad, I was not exactly sure if I wanted to do this.  I then took a look at their site and discovered that this was not the ordinary cloth mousing surface. 

5L for 5 Layers

            SteelPads have always been known for their slick surfaces, so when considering doing a cloth pad, there were some hurdles to keep things nice and smooth.  Cloth surfaces typically have a lot more friction than hard plastic, so it ends up dragging quite a bit more.  Cloth pads have very little support other than the layer of rubber beneath the cloth.  To overcome many of the issues with cloth, SteelSeries had to rethink the construction.

The colors are a bit brighter in real life, and don't look nearly as washed out.

            The first thing to do was to make the cloth much more slippery.  To do that a thin layer of plastic was sprayed onto the cloth and cured.  The thin layer allows the texture of the cloth to come through, yet still provide the smooth feel that gamers delight in.  They also say that it adds to the durability.  I am not sure about that last part, as I have only had the pad for a little over the month in use.  Considering how their previous products lasted, it should be above average in wear.

            The second layer is the cloth itself.  They used a dense, soft weave of what I assume to be polyester.  Since it is not hard plastic, there is some yield to the surface, but it is not unpleasant nor does it cause the mouse to sink in far enough to make any kind of performance difference.  Cloth surfaces do tend to last longer than plastic surfaces, and they certainly are a lot easier on the Teflon feet of the mice themselves.

            The third layer is dense rubber foam that is firm to the touch, yet still feels fairly soft and pliant.  This is mainly to support the cloth, and allow the cloth to flex and stretch when needed.  If the cloth were simply mounted on hard plastic, it would give it a very strange feel and possibly end up binding at places if the adhesive between the plastic and cloth were to fail.

The white stuff is a rubberized material that is sprayed on the back.  It provides excellent traction.  I really do not want to see the apparatus that makes that spray pattern though...

            The fourth layer is a hard plastic that keeps the surface stiff and in a constant shape.  The rubber above it acts as a shock absorber from the surface, so it allows enough play in the surface above so as not to bind the fabric, or cause creases and folds.  While the user canít roll up the pad, in terms of feel and durability, the surface should be near indestructible with average use.

            The final layer is sprayed on rubber, which gives the plastic surface an amazing amount of grab.  Whether the pad is placed on wood, vinyl, plastic, or whatever surface a user has for a desk, it simply will not move laterally unless a large force is applied to it.  During gaming sessions, it is highly unlikely that a person could dislodge this pad without really trying hard to do so.

 

Next: Impressions and Conclusion

 

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