Everglide mouse padsReview date: 17 June 1999.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Most computer users regard their mousemat, if they regard it at all, as a near-worthless item. More savvy users regard it as a completely worthless item, because actually paying for a mousemat is a sign of foolishness, when so many companies are eager to give you one that advertises them. A friend of mine cherishes a mat which advertises, among other things, a manufacturer of small bore sewage macerators.
For these people, the traditional rectangle of wetsuit-fabric or, more recently, rubber oblong topped with flexible plastic is good enough. The old cloth mats peel, and aren't very accurate, and collect crud like nobody's business. Which would be fine, if they didn't love spitting said crud onto your mouse ball. The newer plastic mats last longer and don't soak up everything that's spilled on them, but they still gunk up your mouse. But hey, they're worth what you pay. Or don't.
There is a third tier of mousemat, though. These ones actually cost money.
People who push a mouse all day and wouldn't mind clearing the little crud-doughnuts off the wheels a bit less often. Gamers who need the utmost accuracy, so that their railgun slug punches straight through the eye socket of their opponent instead of piercing his earlobe. And, of course, people who just want to look cooler than everyone else.
The very concept of a "pro" mousemat invites derision, but it's not outrageous to pay a few bucks for a decent mousemat if you're using the computer all day. All mousemats are not alike, and a good one can make a surprising difference to the useability of your computer, and to your game-playing enjoyment.
There are, at present, two kinds of high-end mousemat available. The elder of the two is 3M's Precise Mousing Surface, or PMS. The original PMS is very thin and rather small (though quite big enough for everyone I know), with a distinctive asymmetrical shape. It has a microtextured surface that gives you smooth mouse movement with accurate cursor positioning, and the ridges trap gunk so it won't be transferred to the mouse ball. 3M now make larger versions with a tougher substrate, but these don't seem to have percolated down to poor, benighted Australia yet.
Unfortunately, the plain, original PMS is highly susceptible to damage. Because it's so thin, and quite soft, it's easily bent or gouged, and over time it'll tend to curl up at the edges, inviting further damage. When a PMS gets creased or dented, that part of the mat stops working. And, I'd just like to say, putting the thing between two pieces of paper and ironing it doesn't fix it.
It doesn't make it worse, either, so you can all stop giggling at me.
There is a simple way to make sure your PMS doesn't get damaged, or to rehabilitate a slightly bent one; glue it to your desk. Spray adhesive makes it easy enough, and the kind that you can peel off again leaves you with a movable mat - although the sticky side will grab every particle of crud it passes when it's not on a desk. The PMS on my desk at work is stuck down, and has been working fine for ages. But if you want to use the mouse somewhere other than where you've stuck the mat, it's a bit more fuss than most people care to bother with; sure, you can stick the mat to a piece of plywood or something, but that reduces its low-profile appeal.
The black EverGlide pads work fine with Microsoft's IntelliEye optical mouses (reviewed here).
Enter the EverGlide pads. They're made from hard plastic, reminiscent of the stuff plastic kitchen cutting boards are made of. They're a quarter of an inch thick - about the same as various current slimline cheapo-pads - and the edge is bevelled so you don't chafe on it.
The Small and Large Attack Pads are ovals with a bite out of the bottom for your wrist, and are 8 by 9.25 and 10.5 by 8 inches, respectively, in size. EverGlide don't make the Small model any more, but the Large one is not actually much bigger and will fit the same gaps. There's also a 9.25 by 8 inch "Mousing Surface" version. The large and rectangular pads cost $US18.95 and $US12.95, respectively; apparently it's cheaper to make the big rectangular one. On the underside of the mats are little clear low-profile rubber feet. On the top is printed a logo, usually EverGlide's. And that's it.
The Attack Pads are a bit bigger than the 3M PMS I was using before. At first glance, most people think the PMS is too small, but it actually covers as much area as your mouse ought to traverse in normal use. Unless you have problems with fine motor control, you should have your mouse speed set so that you only have to move the mouse from your wrist; the wrist should stay resting on the desk or on your wussy anti-repetitive-strain-injury rubber wrist supporter. And wrist-only mouse movement fits nicely on the PMS, and on the Attack Pads.
When I switched to the EverGlide pad it felt a lot slicker than the PMS, as indeed it is. After using it for only a few minutes, though, I got used to the easier mouse movement, and stopped overshooting. An ultra-slick mousemat is a bad thing, partly because the mouse ball might slip and partly because a bit of friction's needed to damp the mouse movement and bring it to a halt when you stop pushing it; you shouldn't have to push the thing back the other way to stop. The EverGlide is, I think, about as slick as a mousemat can be without becoming annoying. When I tried the PMS again, it felt as if somebody'd yanked on the handbrake on my mouse.
The feet on the Small Attack Pad are close enough to the middle that putting the mouse on either side of the pad and pushing down will lift the other side off the desk. The current Large version doesn't have this problem, not that it was much of a hassle anyway. If it bothered you (unusually heavy hands?) it was easy enough to peel the feet off and stick 'em somewhere else. It didn't concern me at all.
What did bother me was that I suddenly discovered that the chunk of wood I'd used to make my funky roll-out keyboard-and-mouse platform wasn't perfectly flat. Any ordinary floppy mousemat can conform to slight irregularities in the surface it's on without any ill effects on mouse movement, because mouses can deal with slightly uneven terrain.
The EverGlide pads, though, are very rigid, and so they wobble on the mildly wonky surface. A little blob of Blu-Tack shared between the two feet that lifted solved the problem. If your desk is actually decently flat, you won't have this problem in the first place.
I've now been using the EverGlide pads for a while, and I'm happy to say that regular ball mouses seem to gunk up as slowly on it as on the PMS. The uneven surface lets crud sit in the valleys, while the ball touches the peaks. The EverGlides are also immune to liquid spills, even if the liquid is hot coffee; boiling liquid on a PMS would probably warp it (if my ironing experience was any guide). Both are completely washable, but only the EverGlide is scrubbable. Users in the habit of dropping toffee apples on their mousemat may find this feature handy.
And if you've decided to buy one of Microsoft's new all-singing, all-dancing IntelliEye optical mouses (which I review here), you'll be pleased to know EverGlide have you covered. The standard white EverGlide pads work poorly, if at all, with the novel camera-based optical tracking system in the IntelliEye mouses, but you can now get black EverGlide pads, with the standard printing or a nice big Quake III Arena logo, for the same price. The black pads work perfectly with the IntelliEye mouses.
The EverGlide pads have all of the advantages of 3M's PMS without the fragility.
Their rigidity means they can wobble on less-than-flat surfaces, but it also means they're the only mousemat that could be pressed into service for self-defence. I am uncertain as to how much of a selling point this is.
I like my Attack Pads a lot. I peeled my PMS off and put the EverGlide pad in its place. The super-light mouse action is nice, and it's also nice to know that I don't need to worry about putting something pointy down on the pad by mistake and stuffing it up. The EverGlide costs a bit more than the PMS, but it'll last a lot longer. It gets the thumbs up from me.