Just as no bakery would be complete without french bread, and no arsenal would be fully-stocked without a few M-16s, every product lineup featuring mouse pads would be unfinished without its "classic" selection. For XTracPads, that's the Pro HS. At a relatively modest 8.5" x 11" and a few millimeters in thickness, the Pro HS is to the gamer what Baby Bear's porridge was to Goldilocks, or alternately, what a 12-gauge shotgun was to The Terminator. Naturally, one of the disadvantages of being average means that you probably won't receive accolades or have cleverly-written treatises written about you, but that's the price of being the trusty and dependable tool that everyone starts with and eventually falls back on.
Bringing It Old SchoolSince the advent of the optical mouse occurred just before the turn of the millennium, it is reasonably safe to assume that our entire readership has used a "classic" mouse pad at some point in their lives. While the Pro HS takes that tried-and-true design and carries it into the optical age by means of a wider profile, a textured polycarbonate surface, and stiffer foam backing, the core concept remains the same. Moderation is the key here; a compromise between all schools of thought produces a product that has no particular strengths, and no specific weaknesses. For the uninitiated, reviewers have a tongue-in-cheek term for something with no significant positive or negative characteristics, and here's a hint: it involves pain and a specific region of the body. While you consider the answer to that riddle, allow us to summarize our thoughts on the Pro HS, derived from careful study and hours of play-testing.
First of all, if you've read our review of the XtracPads Zoom v2, skip this section. If you haven't (or just like reading), you will find few surprises here. The surface of the Pro HS consists of a finely-grained coating, beneath which resides the now-familiar XTracPads hexagon texture pattern. Tracking performance with the Pro HS is precise and dependable (just like every other pad in this category), and presents none of the perceptible jitters and dead spots from edge to edge that plague even the finest desks. This particular surface can be generally classified as "fast," since the pad's shallow texture pattern offers very little in the way of friction that might otherwise slow mouse movement. As with soft pads, semi-hard pads (including the Pro HS) tend to give way slightly under the weight of mouse and hand combined. The only way to achieve perfect surface consistency is to step up to a genuinely hard mousing surface, but the only users who should be concerned by this physical property are professional players and users with the 4000 dpi Razer Lachesis.
Grip and Size ConsiderationsAs expected based on our review of the XtracPads Fat Mat, the raised edges of the Pro HS' rubber backing proved more than adequate to combat the effects of violent user movement. Unlike the Zoom v2, this design was not constrained by depth considerations, and the weight of several millimeters of rubber only increased the ability of the pad to stay put. In other words, the only way that the Pro HS will budge is if you pick it up and lay it down--exactly as it should be.
With that said, the last important consideration that potential buyers need to take into consideration is the physical size of the pad that they require to play their best. As a medium-sized mouse pad, the Pro HS might be more than enough for you--especially if you have a pull-out desk tray or use the "flick" mousing style. However, if desk space is not at a premium, larger pads than the Pro HS provide a lot more "wiggle room" for players to experiment with. Low sensitivity "glide" players that move their mice in large, sweeping motions were the most eager to dismiss mouse pads when optical mice first became commonplace, and manufacturers like XTracPads have responded by developing pads in sizes ranging from large (11" x 17") to unbelievably gigantic (18" x 36"). If you are having trouble deciding, a pad like the Pro HS, with its balanced design and low cost, is a great way to find out whether your next pad should be larger or smaller, harder or softer.
The Final WordThanks to the Pro HS' solid tracking performance, great grip, and price of well under $20, we feel that this pad represents a perfect example of an above-average, but by no means spectacular, product. One reason for this conclusion lies in the visual department, wherein we deem the grey, hexagonal pattern decorating many of XTracPads' products to be a bit bland. In any event, whether you're looking for an inexpensive, dependable mouse pad, or just trying to figure out if this myth of better mousing performance is a reality, the Pro HS is a good place to start.
• Solid performance
• Tenacious grip
• Visually bland