By: Jonathan Kwan
June 24, 2011
The XTracPads Ripper XXL. Whew, what great memories does it bring back -- and how much have we been through together. From my humble beginnings of product reviewing to the glorious present of APH Networks, the transition from my residence in Edmonton to my new home in Calgary, and with every success and failure I have been through, this is one product that remained faithful on my desk since early 2006. But what made me like this mousepad so much is not necessary technological superiority, but rather its sheer ingenuity of being the right size. Of course, one could argue being the "right size" with dimensions measuring in at 914mm x 457mm is a questionable assertion at best. But who says a mousepad has to overlay only the area of what the designers think you will be using? With the XTracPads Ripper XXL covering my entire desk, not only would I not need to worry about running out of room; it practically transformed my plain white IKEA furniture into something that is both visually appealing and fundamentally comfortable. That is nice to hear. So what are we reviewing today again? Good question; thanks for asking -- it just happens to be yet another XTracPads Ripper XXL. So why would we write a review on the same product twice? Let's just say five years later, things have changed, and so has this. As for the rest of your questions, the answers are in the text.
Our review unit of the XTracPads Ripper XXL came in a long, brown corrugated cardboard box from the company's main operations at Salt Lake City, Utah. Using USPS and transferred to Canada Post as it crossed the border, it arrived at snail mail pace to our Calgary, Alberta offices about three weeks later. Who knew what and where it has been in the weeks in between, but we were glad it got to us safe and sound. They also threw in something from Salt Lake Soap (I'll let you guess what the product is, haha); a company owned by the same guy. We will keep it a mystery on how we are going to cover that in the next few weeks, but for now, I took out my camera and boxcutter ready, and got straight to work.
If I didn't have pictures of the packaging used in the original XTracPads Ripper XXL in my original review, I would have zero memory of what it was like back in 2006. That's because the packaging used back then was really that forgettable -- the XXL-sized mousepad was simply rolled up and placed inside a clear plastic bag. For all the things that could have been rolled up and thrown in a bag (Dead bodies, etc), the use of a long plastic tube in the latest revision is definitely a welcomed change. As such, its retail insert design has also been made to complement the updated packaging with a sleek red-and-black color scheme. The large stylized text printed boldly across the front makes it hard for anyone to miss out what's inside, as shown in our photo above. Rolling it around to the back reveals some cleaning instructions as well as a product description.
Before we move on, let's take a look at the features and specifications of the latest iteration of XTracPads' Ripper XXL, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
- Whisper quiet cloth surface
- Frey resistant edges
- Soft and comfortable
- Extra heavy duty
- 36"w x 18"h x 1/8" (914mm x 457mm)
- Sure Grip rubber backing
After sliding the new XTracPads 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. Coming in at 914mm in width, 457mm in depth, and 3mm in height, the Ripper XXL carries is still as large as what its name suggested five 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. The edges are rounded off perfectly at all four corners with an 8mm radius. What has changed in the course of time, however, are really in the details. The first two are functional -- its edge is now fray-resistant; while the Ripper XXL's cloth surface has an updated coating for improved performance. We will go over the latter in just a moment. Meanwhile, we can spot one cosmetic change. Can you see it? Spoiler alert: XTracPads' logo at the bottom right corner has been swapped for a smaller, more stylish design. 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 can't 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 XTracPads Ripper XXL, I gave it a 600dpi scan 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. On the other hand, what you can't see is just as important as what that meets the eye. The 2011 iteration of XTracPads' Ripper XXL actually has a new surface coating. At an angle, it makes the mousepad a bit shinier. In practice, it greatly improves the glide to make mouse movements much smoother than its predecessor. To make sure the surface was actually updated, and not my old one wearing out after five years of daily usage, Christopher over at XTracPads confirmed my observations in an email. "Yes, the surface is now a modified surface," he wrote enthusiastically. "We now employ a proprietary process that literally makes all our soft top pads faster than all our competitors!"
Unlike the Mionix Propus 380 reviewed by my colleague Devin a few months ago, the XTracPads Ripper XXL consists of only two layers. The first is the cloth surface as aforementioned, while the rest that occupies its 3mm thickness (Where "the rest" is probably 2.99mm) is the heavy rubber backing that gives the mousepad substance. The XTracPads 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. I have little complaints about the grip of the XTracPads Ripper XXL on my desk, and the 2011 one is no exception. A well weighted mousing surface with a good rubber grip really goes a long way.
Unfortunately, testing of a mousepad is quite subjective in nature, since there are no truly objective benchmarks that spits out quantitative numbers to compare results when done. In order to make this subjective analysis a little more objective, I will be using a high performance Logitech G500 mouse, and tests will be completed in both graphics and gaming scenarios. These are demanding areas where a good mouse in conjunction with a good mousepad really makes a difference. My intrinsic familiarity with the performance characteristics of the mouse will make it easy to determine differences between mousing surfaces. We will then break it down to the details, and rate our mousepad based on the following categories:
Glide - For quick and effortless mouse movements across the mousing surface.
Control - For precise and accurate cursor/crosshair handling.
Grip - The mousepad's ability to stay in the same position on the desk without undesirably relocating itself.
Noise - Will this mousepad generate noise when the mouse is being used?
After the tests are completed, I will have to say I am quite impressed with the XTracPads Ripper XXL's surface characteristics. The updated coating on top provides noticeably improved glide performance thanks to reduced friction with your mouse. A good side effect of the new coating is that water can easily be wiped off in case any gets on it, since liquids do not soak through instantly. I don't know how well it will hold over time, but this is certainly true when the Ripper XXL is fresh out of the package. Realistically, we are not expecting solid surface glide properties exhibited by plastic or aluminum, but it is better than cloth pads I have used in the past.
I am also particularly pleased with the control aspect of the XTracPads Ripper XXL. Good control with razor sharp handling precision is one strong point of all cloth pads, and the Ripper XXL is no exception. I did not experience any 'oil slick' effect during usage; sharp cornering with the pointer clearly indicates this is a control oriented mousing surface that comes naturally to all cloth pads. It is also very comfortable and quiet during use, and it is also easy on the mouse feet. I still don't like the fact of how cloth pads are vulnerable to dust, dirt, and liquid -- especially human perspiration -- but again, thanks to the 'magic coating' on it, it alleviates some of these issues. We are still not at the point where we have extracted only the good stuff of a cloth pad, and completely eliminated its shortcomings, but XTracPads is certainly moving in the right direction with the Ripper XXL.
The grip design has not changed in the latest iteration of XTracPads' giganormous mousepad. As aforementioned, it is identical to that of its predecessor; and from what I have experienced in the last five years or so, the Ripper XXL has been good to me. It is well weighted with a decent back grip for lots of friction between the mousepad and your desk. I think it is probably possible to use something that is a bit heavier with a higher coefficient of friction, but if you think we are asking too much, then let's just say we are after a perfect product. There isn't really anything we can complain about in this regard!
With the financial crisis gone, BP's infamous oil spill (somewhat) forgotten, Osama bin Laden dead, and the Vancouver Canucks losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at home, a lot of things has happened since 2006 -- and somewhere in between these years, the good guys at XTracPads managed to improve something no one really expects: a good old mousepad. Seriously, the Ripper XXL even carries the same name. And nowhere on their website does it indicate the one you can buy today is actually quite a bit different than the one available back in 2006. But that's alright, because the difference is so apparent, you really don't need to me to tell you the new one is modified for the better. When XTracPads sent the revised Ripper XXL over to me for review, they never told me what has changed. In fact, I don't think they even told me if anything has changed in the first place. The obviousness of this change made it easy for me to realize how different it was immediately after opening the box. While the Ripper XXL is still comes in the same size and basically the same look, in my opinion, if you have a large enough desk, you will really grow to appreciate its size. It is so ridiculously big, yet so intrinsically appropriate for so many situations. You just need to see it in use. Or you can just imagine. At the end of the day, if you are looking for a cloth mat that can cover your entire desk, with excellent surface characteristics that is one full level ahead of its competitors, you will be happy to find out XTracPads has them available for a very reasonable $25.95 at press time.
XTracPads provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Recommended Award | APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 8.0/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
If anyone says "It's so BIG!" to you, don't get too excited -- they're only referring to your XTracPads Ripper XXL.
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