Quick Shot review 28:
Review date: 20th October 2005.
RantoPad P1B and P2B mouse pads
Just when you thought it was safe to walk through the Fancy Mousemats section of your local computer shop, another darn great collection of the things arrives and threatens to bring the shelves crashing down on you.
The peculiarly named RantoPad range includes a variety of mats. Here, for your delectation, are two of them.
Yes, these are zip-up carry bags. For mousemats. But there's actually a point to them, because these mats are of the two-part kind - one floppy rubber car-floor-mat sort of base plate, and one reversible mousing surface that fits into a depression in the base. This design's been around since the strangely CamelCased fUnc sUrface1030 hit the streets five years ago, but it's not a bad idea at all. The mat stays where it's put, doesn't wobble on a slightly uneven desk, and can be flipped over when one side wears unacceptably smooth.
Smoothness is, you see, a bad thing for mousemats. You don't want to use your mouse on sandpaper, but neither do you want a really flat surface, because then every tiny dust speck, eyebrow and crumb will roll around scratchily between your delicate PTFE-coated mouse feet and the mat.
Old-style "wetsuit fabric" cloth mousepads deal with this problem by letting the crud just fall into the weave of the mat, but they create lots of drag on the mouse, and always delaminate around the edges and go all grody. They're not as bad with optical mice, because now there's no ball to collect fibres from the pad and pack them onto the encoder rollers, but they're still bad.
People Of Quality, therefore, have switched to hard or at least not-very-floppy mats. These have a gently textured surface made of some plastic with a good combination of slipperiness and durability.
Hence, pads like this one.
This is the RantoPad P2B. It's functionally (Hey! I made a funny!) the same thing as the fUnc mat, except it comes with that zip-up case, and a couple of strips of super-slippery tape for your mouse feet.
The tape is another non-new idea. The first commercial foot-tape product was Mouse Skatez,
and there've been various others since (as well as some less obvious approaches to the
same concept). What they all share is a humungous markup on the probable price of the bulk tape from which the little
mouse strips are cut. You can get tape strips cheaper on eBay - where, I note, similar bits of tape are now being
marketed to bowhunters; you put it on your bow's arrow rest so there's less noise when you shoot, making it less likely
parking inspector deer will duck. And then there's
anti-chafe tape, which isn't what I at first
thought it might be.
The RantoPad comes with enough tape to do most mice several times over. So that's good.
This mat's more than big enough for most users. The surface is 275 by 225mm (10.8 by 8.9 inches), plus about half an inch each way for the base.
And then, there's the case. It's your basic discount-stationery-store sort of thing, but with a foam lining that'll keep the mat unmolested when you throw it in your backpack along with the rest of your LAN party gear. Hard plastic mousemats don't need this sort of coddling, but fUnc-ish ones do; crease one and you might as well throw it away.
If, of course, you're not some kind of LAN party pool shark who actually has a need to carry a super-special mousemat around in a little case, then it's dumb to pay for this kind of extra packaging. The case isn't even big enough to accept a mouse as well as the pad, though you could stick a few CDs and such in there.
Then again, by over-the-top mousemat standards, the RantoPad P2B isn't terribly expensive. It's yours for $AU38 including delivery from Aus PC Market here in Australia (Aussie shoppers can click here to order one).
Or, if you'd prefer, there's the RantoPad P1B.
Same case, same surface size, same mouse tape, but a different base design. This one's got a slim wrist rest at the bottom of the rubber base. The rest is filled with squishy silicone-gel-impregnated foam (not unlike another Classic Fancy Mouse Accessory), and it's got a low-grab surface so it won't drag on your wrist.
People who move their whole lower arm around when they play games will still probably find the rest annoying, but serious gamers who aren't afflicted with some strain injury or other don't do that.
But wait, there's more.
The P2B has the same texture on each side of its mousing surface. It's fairly coarse, and feels much the same as the texture on various hard plastic mats. It's very slick even without tape or wax or silicone spray or whatever other secret herbs and spices you feel like adding, and it'll suit most people fine.
The P1B, however, has the coarse texture on one side and a finer one on the other. The fine texture has even less drag, but won't deal with dirt as well.
While we're talking texture, the RantoPad mouse-foot tape features the odd nobbly yellow backing plastic I've seen on some other bundled tape; I think it's like that to make it easier to peel off.
The actual slippery side is... a sort of vaguely woodgrain pattern. This tape's a bit thicker than the classic "Mouse Skatez", but it works the same - which is to say, well. Some people actually find the feel of a taped mouse on a new slick pad to be rather too slippery, but they often get used to it if they try it for a while.
The extra features of the P1B only cost 50 cents. It's $AU38.50 delivered from Aus PC Market (Australian shoppers can order it here).
The P1B and P2B are competition for the fUnc sTuDlYcApS mats, but you get more stuff and pay less. Aus PC Market are still selling fUnc mats, for sixty Australian dollars delivered. The US ex-delivery price is more like $US20; the things cost so much more in Australia because they still come packaged in a silly metal tin, which isn't actually a whole lot of use for carrying them around in. The RantoPad zip-up cases aren't exactly triumphs of practicality either, but they're better.
If the RantoPads last like the fUnc ones, you can expect more than a year of hard use - yes, square-eyed chair-polishers, I'm talking to you - from each side of the mousing surface. Flip it over, get another year.
Casual users may therefore find a RantoPad lasts five years or more - though, realistically, I think the rubber base will probably go funny before then, making it hard to get the surface into it flat.
But even if your RantoPad becomes annoying in one way or another after a mere 12 months, you'll still only have paid about 10 Australian cents per day for your pleasant mousing experience. And you'll probably still have some of the mouse tape left, too.
So, silly though paying the price of three movie tickets for a mousemat may seem, it's actually not a bad deal.