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(This evaluation was published on AlienBabelTech by this author in Mid-September, 2014 and was subsequently lost from the database in a hard drive crash and it has been republished here)

Tt eSports announced the release of the DRACONEM mouse pad (MP-DCM-BLKHSS-01) in North America several months ago. The DRACONEM is perfect for high end or competitive gamers on a $40 budget that are seeking the perfect solid mouse pad with many features, including dual surfaces, and a mouse cord bungee.  The DRACONEM surfaces feature an optimized polymer for the highest precision tracking for both optical and laser gaming mice.

We have been using the DRACONEM for well over a month – as a daily mouse pad for regular work, and for playing games.  We finally played through and completed several games in our backlog, mostly twitch shooters.

The Wiki tells us “Draconem” is the accusative singular of “Draco” in Latin, or Dragon in English, and we can see a dragon symbol stylized on both sides of the DRACONEM aluminum mouse pad.  The graphics are a great compliment to this Dragon pad.

The DRACONEM is a premium aluminum mouse pad that stands out from most other mouse pads.  It’s one of the largest aluminum pads anywhere – it is about the size and weight of a small serving tray, 14.2 x 11.8 x 0.2 inches (360x300x5mm) – and it also comes with two very different surfaces to suit the basically two types of gamers – those who prefer a high DPI mouse and smoother tracking, and those who prefer a slightly rougher surface and greater traction.

mouse-wbungieThe 5mm thick aluminum plate is extremely flat and it features a brushed anodized finish coated with a matched polymer for great durability as well as style.  We personally preferred the rougher red side for color and style, but much preferred the smoother white embossed side for accurately tracking with our Razer Mamba mouse.

The DRACONEM offers gamers two surfaces to use – a low-friction (effortless glide), and a high-control (extreme precision) surface to allow gamers to play at their best.  We found the low-friction side was perfect for our style and we actually became a better gamer with this combination although the pad tended to scratch if dust was not kept to zero.   The other coarser side required too much effort for us and we tended to make larger, sweeping movements with our entire arm and shoulder that proved tiring.  Setting the DPI lower was somewhat helpful for gaming on the high-control side.  However, this rougher side was also perfect for daily use with a regular optical or low DPI laser mouse and it does not wear the mouse feet as the moves are very different than from gaming.

Four rubber stoppers in the corners insure the DRACONEM sits securely on the desk, but they are mostly unnecessary as either side grips most surfaces well and won’t scratch. The mouse bungee can be attached to any of the four sides, to match any setup a gamer may use during gaming. The mouse bungee can be further disassembled into two halves, for convenient carrying on the go, but then you have two very small pieces to keep track of.

The “Feel”

Everything said about a mouse or mouse pad relates to its “feel” and it is subjective.  That is what makes the DRACONEM so useful and unique in that it offers a choice to gamers.  One side is exceptionally smooth and the other, rougher.  A cloth pad experience suits many gamers until it starts to wear, and the smoother side of the DRACONEM gives that same “new cloth” feel from Day 1 for six weeks of heavy gaming despite micro-scratches.

systemWe have been using it for well over a month in gaming as well as for day-to-day use. Evaluating a mouse pad is subjective and much will be said about its “feel”. It is certainly not the ideal mouse pad for LAN parties because it is large and cannot be rolled up – unless you feel the need for a literal weapon to defend yourself.  Many PC users think of their mouse pad as cheap and disposable or don’t think of them at all unless there are issues. Gamers demand much more from their mouse pads than casual users and are willing to pay well over forty dollars for high quality.  Naturally, we want to determine if the DRACONEM mouse pad is a good value for $40 since generic cloth pads can be purchased for as little as three or four dollars.

We feel that we can give the reader a thorough evaluation as we have put the DRACONEM to good use in daily tasks, including playing and finally completing the Serious Sam 3 expansion, Jewel of the Nile, Battlefield 4’s single player campaign, and good chunks of The Bureau Declassified XCOM, the Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing,  and Sniper V3.

 

Does the type of mouse pad really matter? 

Mpads-compYes, a mouse pad really matters in gaming.  If the mouse is very precise, a gamer needs a precise surface with just the right amount of friction.  The best mouse pads feature a smooth surface that is completely uniform for a mouse that tracks in the thousands of DPI.  The very best mouse pads are usually priced about forty dollars, and the aluminum and hard plastic pads are much more durable than the cloth pads.  Cloth pads are great because they can be large and their surface is great, at first … then they break down and need almost continual replacement compared to the hard pads.

Looking at the pads in the photo, the cloth is starting to separate from its pad, forcing the gamer to use the center of the mouse pad, and soon it will be replaced.  This will never happen to the other pads.

The ASUS leather pad was a good idea, but it would never uncurl properly and it is rather small.  The Ratpadz is a decent hard plastic pad of sufficient size with a rougher surface, similar to the DRACONEM’s red side.  Unfortunately, it wears down the teflon feet of any mouse very quickly.  And using a brushed Aluminum pad without a plastic surface bonded to it, will feel very cold to the touch.

The DRACONEM is very large compared to these other pads and has all the advantages of each of these other pads, but with none of the disadvantages.  The only issue that we could find is that the softer polymer used on the white side of the DRACONEM won’t wear the mouse feet, but it will show tiny scratches when dust is dragged by the mouse across its surface.

Let head over to the unboxing and take a closer look at the Tt eSports DRACONEM.


Unboxing & Closer Look

We see the outside of the box which describes the DRACONEM as, “Tough enough for the hardest of battles”.  It probably can be held to make a literal tough shield against some projectiles.  On the box we see advertised, two surfaces, easy installation, and a mouse bungee.  No, the mouse is not included!Box-2

The other side of the box is written in 15 languages showing the international scope of Thermaltake’s eSports products. Box-1

The large 360x300mm size is emphasized along with the mouse bungee and rubber stoppers.  The bungee has a cord grove to hold the mouse cord securely and the two kinds of surfaces are compared.

Let’s get the contents out of the box.  There is a insert, the bungee which comes in two parts, and 6 rubber feet, two extra, because you are likely to lose one or two before you glue them on or toss them out.bungie-corners

The DRACONEM is a handsome mouse pad with the dragon symbol in white on the smoother side, and in red on the coarser side.mouse-1

The rubber feet are fine if you never – ever – move the pad.  If you do, they tend to fall off and it is quite irritating.  One solution is to glue on the feet.  The other is to remove them completely as either surface will not scratch your table.  However, beware, without the feet, if there is some debris on your table, you may scratch your mouse pad!

No matter which you choose – rubber feet on or off – the pad remains locked down firmly to your table and it doesn’t move as with some other pads.  The DRACONEM is comfortable for gaming for hours on end.  Serious Sam 3, Jewel of the Nile and Battlefield 4 are twitch shooters that benefited from using this mouse pad with the Razer Mamba mouse.  Movement and aiming are much more precise than with cheap mats.

We would much have preferred to have a single continuous rubber bumper to act as feet to surround the entire pad.  It would also eliminate any chance of scratching yourself on the aluminum edges (although the edges are filed down and are quite dull for that same reason) and to eliminate the chill one’s wrist feels when brushing up against bare aluminum.mouse-2

The DRACONEM alumium used for the mouse pad is quite thick, 5mm, and the plastic coating adds a bit more thickness and cushioning to either side.edge

The bungie is great.  For those of us who prefer a wired mouse, the cord is kept out of the way.mouse-wbungie

The eSports DRACONEM is a very nice-looking mouse pad with an aggressive dragon design and two surfaces in two different colors.

DRACONEM Aluminum Mouse Pad Features – MP-DCM-BLKHSS-01

  • Thick Aluminum heavy-weight durable base
  • Two surfaces for both major styles of gamers
  • Mouse bungee and cord interlock
  • Rubber feet
  • Large size

All of this and the following information can be found on the DRACONEM product page.

Checking the product features

Let’s look at the DRACONEM (bottom) compared to other mouse pads.  The top pad is an ASUS leather pad that came with a top graphics card, years ago.  It would be decent except that it is regularly-sized small for gaming, and the edges never would completely uncurl.  The cloth pad is a large promotional pad from last year’s E3 Nvidia press event.  It tracked beautifully for a few months until the cloth started to separate from the rubber substrate and then the usable size of the pad diminished significantly.Mpads-comp

The Ratzpad suffers from being too coarse and too hard of a plastic surface, although after many months of wear, it itself smooths and wears down a bit.  Unfortunately, during this long break-in period, you may completely destroy many teflon feet.  The rougher red side of the DRACONEM mouse pad is equivalent to a smoother and somewhat broken-in Ratzpadz, and we did not notice significant wear on our mouse.

The surface with the white dragon and lettering is incredibly smooth. The grain is super fine with a very special feel to it surface. It maintains extremely low friction and fine control while gliding the mouse. From the pictures above and below, the surface grain is really fine with a perfect finish when new.  And the aluminum edges are filed down so that you don’t scratch your wrist as you slide it back and forth.

fine-scratchesThe DRACONEM surface is pretty durable and will last a gamer for years. However, after intense use in a hostile desert gaming environment, dragging dust across the smoother white surface of the DRACONEM will scratch it.

We did not notice any difference playing with the micro scratches compared to when it was brand new, other than we got used to our pad and were now scoring higher in twitch shooters.  We definitely noticed the better control that we now had with our premium Razer Mamba mouse that we did not get with lesser pads.

Is the DRACONEM Alumium mouse pad worth $40?  Let’s head for our conclusion.

Conclusion

A quality mouse pad makes a significant improvement in gaming for any user over the throwaway cheap cloth mats. We noticed that using our new DRACONEM aluminum mouse pad made a significant difference to this editor’s ability to score higher and to place the mouse exactly where it needed to go in gaming.  This was an unexpected surprise, but it is clear that an expensive mouse deserves a precise surface that requires little effort to move on the gamer’s part, yet it lends itself to smooth accurate gameplay and perfect tracking.  And depending on a gamer’s style, bigger is always better.

system-2Best of all, the DRACONEM is durable.  It will outlast generations of cloth pads.  And being able to keep your fingers on the right keys on the mouse in the most intense firefights and to be able to move the mouse to exactly where you want to, incredibly smoothly, often means the difference between life and death in a game.

The Tt eSports DRACONEM aluminum mouse pad is an excellent value for a really big and really smooth yet durable gaming surface. It is ideal for a gamer who wants a choice of surfaces, and the mouse cord bungee is a real plus and an extra value to the gamer who wants his cord out of the way.

Pros:

  • The DRACONEM is BIG, solid and heavy aluminum.  14.2 x 11.8 x 0.2 inches
  • It is a handsome and good-looking mouse pad that will compliment any gamer’s PC.
  • Two different surfaces with two different dragon designs will appeal almost universally to any gamer.
  • The rubber feet keep the keyboard from moving even during heavy gaming, although the pad is completely stable without them.
  • Mouse cable management is good and the bungee can be separated from its base for putting it in a pocket.
  • This is as good a mouse pad for a competitive gamer as it is for casual use.
  • 1-year warranty.

Cons

  • The rubber feet don’t stay on and they become irritating.  The solution is to glue them on or toss them out.  It would  have been better to use a single rubber sleeve that completely covers the exposed aluminum, as it is pretty cold anyway.
  • The smooth side surface can be scratched a bit too easily.
  • Gamers may be getting tired of product names in ALL CAPS.  Draconem in Latin, or dragon, is a great name otherwise!

We give the Tt eSports DRACONEM aluminum mouse pad our highest recommendation and the ABT and BTR Editor’s Choice Award. It is a superior well-built and above average solid BIG gaming mouse pad at a reasonable $40 price where it competes with other high-end mouse pads that are even more expensive.

The DRACONEM has become our favorite full-sized mouse pad and we will be using it for years to come. Recommended!

Next up is an evaluation of the Kingston 250GB mSATA drive which should be published next week.  We are also having a blast gaming with our SHIELD tablet – our first tablet besides the SHIELD portable – and we will have a report for you.  The Kingston FURY Cloud gaming headset is on the way to ABT headquarters for evaluation, and we will have a new Kingston sponsored contest next month to celebrate ABT’s October 1st anniversary.  ABT was founded in 2008 and many more good things are on the way!

Of course, the discussion is always going on at BTR forum and you are invited to join.

Happy Gaming!