XTracPads Fat Mat Page: 1
Introduction

A short while ago I was given an opportunity to road-test the Ripper XL v2 mouse mat, and gave it a thorough workout. After the completion of the review XTracPads contacted me again asking if I would be interested in reviewing their new mouse mat aimed at the Professional gamer, called the XTracPads Fat Mat . Considering the range of current mouse mats available to gamers; both casual and Professional, I was interested to see what the Fat Mat had to offer.

For those of you not familiar with XTracPads, let's hear what they have to say about themselves:

Started in March of 2002 by a group of hard-core pc gamers, our mousing surfaces and accessories have won countless awards. We offer an expanding variety of surfaces and optical mouse pad sizes. Not only are our products used in computer gaming, they are equally efficient for many other applications such as digital animation, desktop publishing and more. The medical, military, gaming, art, scientific and aerospace industries all benefit from the high quality, speed and accuracy found in all XTracPads optical mouse pads. XTracPads is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It certainly seems that XTracPads are held in quite high esteem for producing a quality product that can compete with the best when gaming, but its apparent popularity with vocations requiring a high degree of mouse accuracy for day-to-day work is also reassuring.

And here's what they have to say about the XTracPads Fat Mat:

XTracPads Fat Mat is a large mouse surface that's flexible and thick.
Professional gamers travel from venue to venue and need a really high quality mouse surface that not only affords a great deal of space to move their mouse around on, but a really soft and thick backing that can overcome many desktop inconsistencies.

Desktop surfaces that are not exactly flat like pitted or dented surfaces are no longer a problem thanks to Fat Mat's thick backing. Coming in at a quarter of an inch thick, Fat Mat also can work as a wrist rest. Simply dangle a small part of the Fat Mat over the edge of your desktop surface and viola! Now your new elite mouse surface is also a wrist rest! Packed in a reusable clear plastic tube, you can re-roll the Fat Mat to transport it to wherever you may be headed.
Fat Mat is simply awesome!

So will the XTracPads Fat Mat have what it takes to make the grade in the Labs? What will it offer over and above the competition?

Let's have a closer look at the XTracPads Fat Mat in detail...

XTracPads Fat Mat logo

Specifications

The XTracPads Fat Mat's specifications were taken directly from XTrac's web page :

12" X 16" x 1/4" (305mm x 406mm x 6.35mm)
Sure Grip rubber backing
Nanofiber™ textile surface
XTracPads Fat Mat™
Designed in the USA
Made in USA USA flag *mouse not included
Tested and 100% compatible with the following mice: Logitech:MX300/500/510/518/700/1000 G5/ G7/G9
Microsoft:Intellimouse Explorer 3.0/4.0 Laser Mouse 6000
Apple:Mighty Mouse

XTracPads Fat Mat Packaging

Let's head over the page and take a look at the Fat Mat's packaging...

XTracPads Fat Mat Page: 2
Packaging

The XtracPads Fat Mat's packaging can be described in one word - minimalist. Just as we encountered with the Ripper XL.
Sporting nothing more than a red and black card insert that includes the specifications on the rear and bundled in a lightweight plastic cylinder, it certainly makes a change from overcrowded packaging themes like we are used to from Razer. The included packaging would not offer any protection from overzealous couriers, but considering that we are discussing a rubber-backed mouse mat, I think you could expect it to arrive safely and in one piece.

Fat Mat packaging front

Fat Mat packaging rear

After removing the mouse mat from the cylinder XTracPads have further packaged the Fat Mat in a clear plastic bag...presumably to eliminate the risk of dust/lint from being attracted to the cloth surface on the face of the mat.

XTracPads Fat Mat with sticker

You'll also find a small sticker included in the packaging which makes for a nice touch.

XTracPads Fat Mat width

XTracPads Fat Mat depth

Let's head over the page and see the XTracPads Fat Mat in a little more detail...

XTracPads Fat Mat Page: 3
A Detailed Look

For the sole purpose of assessing the features of XTracPads Fat Mat I will be using my 'current' mouse mat - the Razer Mantis to illustrate. Images of both mouse mats will be included where poignant to reinforce the point at hand.

Looking at the two mouse mats overlapped there is quite a substantial difference between the two. The Fat Mat is shorter lengthways by almost an inch, and 2 inches for depth.

RAZER and XTracPads Fat Mat overlapped

Again the XTracPads Ripper XL v2 is considerably larger again than the Fat Mat

Ripper XL vs Fat Mat

The XTracPads Fat Mat is considerably thicker than the Mantis. However, this may be considered as an advantage in that it allows the mat to fully sit flush on top of your desktop surface without risk of it gathering or holding shape. The 'closed cell' rubber used for the base of the Fat Mat is certainly more 'aerated' than the RAZER, for want of a better word, and should provide a comfortable and ergonomic surface for resting your wrist/forearm on.

RAZER vs Fat Mat thickness

The XTracPads Fat Mat's rubber backing looks and feels just as textured as my Mantis' and you can see the comparison below (Fat Mat on the left, RAZER on the right). The Fat Mat sits perfectly on my polished faux-timber desktop and despite my attempts to get it to slip, move or gather it hasn't yet done so.

RAZER vs XTracPads grip comparison

The major difference between the Fat Mat and my Razer Mantis is the cloth covering on the face. The face of the Fat Mat is very smooth and exudes a sheen like appearance, it also looks and feels fast. The Fat Mat surface, to be honest, looks and feels exactly like the material used on the Ripper XL v2 that I reviewed earlier. The Mantis, on the other hand has a highly textured cloth.

The XTracPads Fat Mat like the Ripper XL also picks up lint and dust particles very easily.

XTracPads vs RAZER face appearance

Anyway, enough of the detail...let's see how it actually performs. For the testing phase of the review I will be assessing the Fat Mat according to gaming performance, advanced detail work and general PC tasks. Will the XTracPads Fat Mat provide accurate tracking and a smooth, fast gaming surface when needed? Will it perform as admirably during simple desktop browsing or a bout of Photoshop? Let's head over to the next page and see what we can throw at it...

XTracPads Fat Mat Page: 4
Test Setup

For the testing part of the review today I will be using my current rig - AquAus

AquAus is currently running dual boot Microsoft Windows XP/Vista and is fully patched and using the latest available drivers at the time of review. Components included are:

*Intel Core 2 Duo e6850 Rev. G0 (L723A)
*Asus P5B Deluxe WiFi
*ASUS EN8800 GTS
*2GB OCZ PC2-6400 FlexXLC Cas 3 (5-4-4-15)
*2 x 250GB SATA II Seagate NCQ 16Mb cache 7200.10 - RAID 0
*1 x 200 SATA Seagate Barracuda (Storage)
*Pioneer DVR-A11XLB DVD
*Silverstone Strider ST60F 600W Modular PSU
*Black Silverstone SST-TJ-07BW Full tower case
*Scythe Kama Meter fan controller
*Custom water-cooling

All testing will be conducted from within Windows Vista.

Testing Method

In order to try and give our readers an holistic idea of how the XTracPads Fat Mat performs, I will be testing under conditions that the 'average Joe user' would more than likely encounter. For the first phase of the testing I will throw myself, my Logitech G7 and the Fat Max into first person shooter-ville. I will be using Valve's Counter Strike:Source; idsoftware's Quake 4; infinity ward's Call Of Duty 2 and for good measure some MMORPG courtesy of World of Warcraft.

For the second testing phase I will be looking at how well the Fat Mat allows for user control when browsing the internet, along with some image manipulation courtesy of Adobe Photoshop CS3.

For the record my gaming style is predominantly that of a 'twitch gamer' as I usually play first person shooters as a preference. However for the gaming test phase I shall attempt to report as objectively as possible for those who aren't. Let's get gaming...

XTracPads Fat Mat Page: 5
Gaming Phase

To be honest the XTracPads Fat Mat feels exactly like the Ripper XL v2 to game on apart from the fact that the Fat Mat is a lot thicker, and subsequently, a lot more comfortable. Further, all of the quirks and performance I found with the Ripper XL v2 were played out again on the Fat Mat. I have included excerpts from the Ripper XL v2 review simply because they all apply to the XTracPads Fat Mat:

...I found myself having to turn down my Logitech G7's speed and sensitivity quite substantially to get a handle on getting my accuracy back without overshooting the mark. Once I found a setting that provided a happy medium it was a 'twitch gamers' paradise.

By comparison, my Razer Mantis mouse mat just doesn't feel as fast. Admittedly it's a mat designed for absolute control which it does very well, but pales slightly when pitted against the Ripper XL. The Ripper XL enabled my Logitech G7 to track with incredible accuracy all over the mat surface (again once speed and dpi settings were adjusted). During my World OF Warcraft testing, mouse movement from the field of play to browsing 'action bar' icons were both fluid and accurate. Attacking, interacting and adjusting the camera in play were also made a breeze by the Ripper XL.

The reduced size of the XTracPads Fat Mat didn't become an issue when gaming either. However, it did feel a little weird stepping down in mat size from the Ripper XL v2 to the Fat Mat.

Similarly to the Ripper XL v2; when using high-dpi on my Logitech G7 mouse and the XTracPads Fat Mat, if the mouse was moved too quickly it appeared to dance around. Toning down the dpi rectified the issue.

Browsing and Control Phase

Once you find the sweet spot for your chosen mouse the XTraPads Fat Mat is a joy to work with, whether you are simply browsing the net or undertaking something requiring a little more control. Working with the Fat Mat during a bout of Photoshop was extremely pleasant. Although the surface of the Fat Mat is identical to that of the Ripper XL v2, and the additional height afforded by the Fat Mat makes the experience so much sweeter. Selecting various tools from the toolbar or customising colour swatches and tool presets, which can at times be fiddly, was an absolute doddle.

Now that we've seen that the XTracPads Fat Mat is more than capable, let's head over to the conclusion page to see how it scored overall...

XTracPads Fat Mat Page: 6
Conclusion

So how do we sum up the performance of the XTracPads Fat Mat?

Well considering that the Fat Mat has taken a substantial hit in the way of real-estate, it still provides a fast surface to game on and unhindered gameplay. This would certainly lend itself well to situations where desktop space is at a premium...like at a LAN party for example.

Personally I found the XTracPads Fat Mat a little more comfortable to play on for extended periods of time over both the Ripper XL v2 and RAZER MANTIS due to its increased thickness. Plus the Fat Mat felt like it molded better to the shape of my forearm and wrist when my arm was left in one position for any period of time. The increased thickness of the Fat Mat also smoothed out the slightly dimpled faux-timber top on my desk which effectively eliminated any possible tracking issues.

Now here is where the obvious choice becomes a little more blurred. The XTracPads Fat Mat retails for US$28.95 which is roughly US$4.00 more than the online price for the RAZER Mantis, and around US$10.00 more than the XTracPads Ripper XL v2. Both the Ripper XL v2 and the RAZER Mantis offer more gaming real-estate for your dollar, but yet the XTracPads Fat Mat is certainly the more comfortable option.

If you're looking to upgrade your mouse mat, the major decision that you will need to make is whether the XTracPads Fat Mat is worth the additional price premium. Reagrdless, the XTracPads Fat Mat is a worthy contender for your dollar but what kind of price do you put on comfort?

The Good
• Comfort
• Generally provides fast and accurate tracking
• Perfect size for LAN's
• Easy to clean surface
• Non-slip rubber backing
• Simple and unimposing looks

The Mediocre
• It attracts dust and lint like crazy
• While the pricing is certainly reasonable it creates a dilemma when compared to other mouse mats in its price range.

The Bad
• None to report

Recommended Award

Thanks to XTracPads for providing the Fat Mat for review

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