Pros: + Great tracking + Smooth glide + Good controllability + Good looking + Durable and consistent + Large size (391x315mm) + Thin (~2mm)
Cons: -Brushed Aluminium grain-H/V glide (10:9) -Poor comfort vs. cloth -Potential issues with cold/condensation -Base grip is not great -Expensive
As the time we use our computers forever increases we find ourselves wearing out peripherals faster than ever. While $60/€45/£35 sounds like a ludicrous amount for a mouse pad, when you consider it will probably out last a cloth pad by 3-4 times, plastic mats by nearly as much and will give you improved tracking if you are using a laser mouse; it starts to make more sense. I have been using an Icemat gen 1 (treated glass)(now known as the Steelseries experience i-1/2) for 8 years and I have a hard time seeing or feeling any difference between the most used areas of the mat vs the relatively unused edges. When you buy a single layer glass/metal mouse mat they are not only going to last but will also remain consistent provided you look after them.
Appearance and finish
While the bright red may not be to everyone's taste, it is a very stylish mat; with its anodised red Aluminium finish and its chrome-like raw Aluminium edge and a nicely contrasting black logo in the bottom right corner. The size is a generous 391x315mm (15.4x12.4") which should be large enough for all but the very lowest sensitivity FPS players.
The base has been covered with a fine dark foam applied thinly (about 1mm) almost to the edges. This anti-slip solution, while it does not have the problem of being sticky, does quite a poor job of keeping the mat in place on smooth surfaces but does a better job on rougher ones.
The G.L.I.D.E. 9, like the Icemat, is what I would call an ultra smooth mat meaning that it has been made to be as smooth as possible with little or no grain or texture to it. Unfortunately however, Mad Catz has opted for style over substance and used brushed Aluminium which has a very fine horizontal grain. Luckily this only has a very small effect on the glide and the sound of the mouse makes while moving horizontally vs. vertically. I would say it has a 10:9 Horizontal:Vertical speed ratio but in practice it is very rarely noticeable, kind of like the weave on cloth mats.
It is a common misconception that smoother hard mats are faster than those that are grainy/textured; this is not true. Ultra smooth mats, like the G.L.I.D.E. 9 and the Icemat, are effectively flatter than grained/textured mats which results in increased surface contact with the object they are touching. The result is that the friction is higher so you will feel more drag as the mouse moves over it. In fact the speed of the G.L.I.D.E. 9 is probably one of the slowest hard mats available, as it is even smoother than the Icemat which has a microscopic texture apparently created using an acid treatment that makes it look and feel as though it has been very finely sandblasted. When compared to cloth, the G.L.I.D.E. 9 is still fast but the gap between them is not as big as you might think and people may be surprised at the friction levels you get from it.
Another factor effecting speed is how much Teflon surface area there is on the bottom of your mouse. On cloth more Teflon on the bottom of your mouse will allow it to glide more easily, on a slick hard mat more Teflon will actually slightly reduce the speed that the mouse glides. On top of this you have the style of mouse grip you have effecting the pressure you put on to your mouse which changes the friction you get between the two surfaces. In general palm grip mousers will put more weight over the top of their mouse where as claw/finger tip grips will have the majority on their wrist. The speed of mice on cloth and textured mats can change between these grips however with smooth hard mats there is very little difference in the glide of the mouse when using different grip styles because the friction does not increase as much with additional pressure.
My tracking testing was limited as both my mice use laser sensors however in the description of the G.L.I.D.E. 9 it states that the pad is 'optimised for laser mice' which is at least part true due to the fact that laser mice track better (more precisely) on hard surfaces than they do on cloth. Lines and spirals in MS paint were very smooth and I could not make my mouse skip during this test. Also I could find no tracking issues with any type of game including demanding multi-player titles.
Comfort and usability
The G.L.I.D.E. 9 is quiet for a hard mat and certainly a lot quieter than the Icemat which is known for being very noisy but obviously cannot touch the low sound levels of cloth. Also like the Icemat any small hard particle that goes under your mouse- you will know about although I have found the G.L.I.D.E. 9 to be slightly more forgiving in this respect even though I cannot say why this is. As mentioned before there is also slightly increased noise when moving the mouse vertically vs. moving horizontally due to the grain of the Aluminium.
Aluminium mouse mats are of course going to have comfort issues mostly at lower temperatures until they have warmed up which can take a while. This issue is not limited to comfort either, cold surfaces cause moisture from your hands to condense on them which can have the result of making the bottom of your palm (that is in contact with the mat) grip the mat stopping your hand from sliding with the mouse. The hardness of the mat however, is subjective; some people just want to be comfortable, others have no issues resting their hands on hard mats for long hours.
These problems can cause people to rule out this type of mat straight away however all of these issues can be bypassed by wearing any kind of long sleeved clothing that covers the part of your palm in contact with the mat or by purchasing any kind of wrist bands or wrist supports that would do the same job. Some may say you should not have to do this but the majority of people will not even have these issues but they are worth keeping in mind.
I saw a customer review of this mat on New Egg (the online retailer) that said that they had to return the mat as their Logitech G700 wireless mouse was not working on it. I use a G700 wired without the battery in normally and had no such issues and even when I tried using it wirelessly and moved the receiver around, so I can only presume that there were other issues in that case.
Pros and Cons
+ Great tracking
+ Smooth glide
+ Good controllability (friction similar to cloth)
+ Durable (only speculated) anodised Aluminium
+ Large size 391x315mm
+ Thin (about 2mm)
- Brushed Aluminium grain- Slightly different H/V glide (10:9 ratio))
- Lower comfort vs. cloth
- Unpleasant to use in a cold room
- Possibility of clammy hand glide issues
- Base grip is not great
If you can get passed the minor comfort issues with the G.L.I.D.E. 9, you will have a great tracking mat that has a good balance between speed and controllability as well as being able to stand the test of time, giving you a highly enjoyable and consistent experience year after year.