Page 2 - A Closer Look
After sliding the new XTracGear Ripper XXL out of the tube, I laid it across our floor for our photo session. For non-computer enthusiasts, you would have a hard time convincing them the product in the photo above is not a floor mat, because the seemingly ridiculous dimensions have not changed. In fact, XTracGear themselves refer to it as an "Extra Large Desk Mat" on the packaging. Coming in at 914mm in width, 457mm in depth, and 3.175mm in height, the Ripper XXL carries is still as large as what its name suggested eight years ago. The smooth, fine cloth surface is all you will find at the front; followed by a thick, moderately thin, soft layer of rubber at the back to ensure your mousepad stays where it is. Actually, it is specified at 0.175mm thicker than its predecessor, thanks to the new rubber backing, which we will talk about in just a moment. Meanwhile, the edges are rounded off perfectly at all four corners with an 8mm radius. The fray resistant laser cut edges remain, which held up really well for the last three years with my 2011 Ripper XXL. What has changed in the course of time, however, are really in the details. The first two are functional -- the Ripper XXL's cloth surface has a completely refinished updated coating once again for improved performance, and it also features the company's Sure Grip enhanced rubber backing. Again, we will go over both in detail shortly. We can spot one cosmetic change as well. Can you see it? Spoiler alert: The URL at the bottom right corner now says "xtracgear.com" instead of "xtracpads.com". The rest of the surface is still completely black, and I am happy to see it does not come in any other ugly patterns.
Before we continue on to the next section, let me quickly go over the advantages and disadvantages of a cloth-based mousing surface. The thumbs up aspects include better comfort for the end user, better mouse control, easier on your mouse feet, generates very little noise during use, ability to even out somewhat imperfect surfaces, and easily more portable -- especially for something of this size. Unfortunately, it comes at reduced glide performance, and is inherently bound to attract and accumulate dust, dirt, and liquid. I would give that a thumbs down, especially when it starts absorbing your sweat from your hands. For plastic, aluminum, glass, or any other solid surface, you can easily run it under the tap to restore it to original condition. You cannot do the same with cloth surfaces, and if you are thinking about the washing machine right now, please do not try this at home.
To get a better view of the surface of the XTracGear Ripper XXL, I gave it a run on my scanner to turn out a better image than any dSLR camera can. I cropped a section out for your enjoyment, as in the image above. From my examinations, the company has done an excellent job at creating a consistent surface for optimal tracking characteristics. The cloth is made very well from edge to edge; a close look indicates no inherent flaws at any point. This is an indication of a well manufactured product with great quality control. Interestingly, When Brian Cheung asserted in his Ripper review in August that the weave pattern of the cloth made the mouse glide with slightly different resistance when moving up and down compared to moving left or right, I thought it he was just over analyzing. However, I noticed the same thing with the Ripper XXL. More details to follow on the next page.
On the other hand, what you cannot see is just as important as what that meets the eye. The 2014 iteration of XTracGear's Ripper XXL actually has yet another new surface coating. At an angle, it makes the mousepad even shinier than the 2011 version, which was already pretty shiny for a mousepad to begin with. The black color is also a bit more saturated. In practice, it changes the glide characteristics of the mouse, which, again, I will cover in the next page.
The XTracGear Ripper XXL consists of only two layers. The first is the cloth surface as aforementioned, while the rest that occupies its 3.175mm thickness (Where "the rest" is probably 3.100mm) is the heavy rubber backing that gives the mousepad substance. The XTracGear Ripper XXL is weighted nicely to ensure the mousepad stays where it is, and the tread of the surface reminds me of those rubber playground balls we used to play Four Square with back in elementary school. The funny thing is, after Googling around for images, the tread pattern on those rubber balls is actually quite different, so I have no idea where that thought came along. That is not to mention the surface actually looks really different from a macro perspective than a normal perspective. The crisscross pattern shown in our scanned image above is not evident at all when viewed with the naked eye. Instead, you will find a fine array of diagonal zigzag lines across the entire back. By inspection, it looks exactly the same as the previous generation. In practice, the Sure Grip backing is not just a marketing term. When I placed the two Ripper XXL side by side on hardwood floor, the old one will almost glide across the surface when pushed. The new one was simply stuck to the ground, no matter what I tried. I did not have a whole lot of complaints with regards to the 2011 Ripper XXL, but the 2014 takes it to a whole new level, and is just downright impressive in this regard.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look
3. Subjective Performance Tests