Written by Inferno on March 14th 2011 at 11:01am
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The 4HD comes in sleek packaging that allows you to see both sides of the gaming surface, and lists specs and features. It comes out nicely, and isn't the hand-wrecking plastic so you won't need to battle it to free it from its packaging.
The surface has a mostly square shape, with a small curved recession along the bottom for your wrist. The surface is "dotted" with many subtle SteelSeries logos, and it look really good, in my opinion. It keeps it from being plain, but is also not overbearingly dominant. I tried to put the flash right on the surface, so if you look closely you can see how the light diffuses off the surface how it has a lightly textured surface. The textures are small and not very deep, so the hard plastic surface is still quite smooth, but, importantly, not too smooth.
The SteelSeries logo is presented neatly on the bottom-left, and this picture also gives you a good view of the tiny textured elements of the surface. It provides a little traction so your movements may be controlled a little better, it smooths out "buttery" movements from a very smooth surface. I prefer this, as I've used super-slick surfaces like glass gaming surfaces, and I've found that some traction really helps me in control. The 4HD has a very smooth feel, but I feel like there's just the right amount of resistance to still allow a "feel" of my mouse as it tracks over the surface.
The rubber bottom is covered with many small rubber grip pads to keep your mouse pad in place. It grips great on my wood desk, and on my glass desk, it still holds very firm, and doesn't move at all when gaming, which to me means it works just as it should, and you won't need any supplementary adhesion to the desk, so you won't get any residue on your desk.
For testing, we used both optical and laser mice on a regular cloth mouse surface, a desk surface, and the 4HD and subjectively gauged how well it tracks, controls, and feels during use in games and general use.
My first impression was quite literally, wow! The best analogy I can make is when I've used a computer with a monitor that has a much higher refresh rate, and remember the first thing when using that monitor is that the mouse movements look so smooooth. Well, I felt those same feelings when I started using the 4HD, its just smooth. Tracking is so even, and so smooth. On my high-end laser mouse with 3500dpi, the difference is unbelievable. I sometimes struggle with control with 3500dpi, but when using the mousepad, 3500dpi felt more like 2000dpi in terms of control. Tracking was dead accurate, and the surface gives a subtle feedback when the mouse is tracking, giving you a feel for your movements, as if there is an extra sense activated.
I then used my old G5 with very worn glide feet, and I've considered getting new feet for it since it drags on my desk surface and my cloth mousepad, but the 4HD makes it feel new again. I noticed a huge tracking improvement when using optical mice. It makes the optical seem to behave with the precision of a laser mouse.
Another comparison I make is that you don't know what you are missing until you try it, and you can't ever go back. I'd say the same about the 4HD. I, literally, have started carrying this mousepad around when I'm using my notebook with a mouse, as it's almost frustrating to use a mouse on the table like I used to, knowing how much better it could be, and really seeing how "sloppy" the movements are without the 4HD.