Monday, March 26, 2012

Allsop Mouse Pad XL (28766) Raindrop Blue

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: A smooth, durable mouse pad with a large surface area
Cons: None really, though maybe a little too large for some setups

I had been wanting to pick up something like the Allsop Mouse Pad XL for quite some time. About 80% of the time I hold my mouse in an odd manner, pointing diagonally up and to the right, instead of straight up like most people do. This forces me to readjust my mouse pad a lot when I use my computer, and every single time someone else uses it before me, and is generally annoying. On top of that, I play a lot of games that require moving the mouse around a lot and it ends up moving off the mouse pad on one side or the other quite often. So when I spotted the Allsop Mouse Pad XL online for a few dollars, I just had to pick one up.
What sets the Allsop Mouse Pad XL apart is the size. Whereas my old mouse pad was about 9" wide by 8" tall, the Allsop Mouse Pad XL is a whopping 15.5" wide by 13" tall -- giving it 2 to 3 times the surface area. I no longer have any problems with keeping my mouse on the pad (despite the goofy way that I hold my mouse), even while gaming. Also, when someone else uses my computer they don't have to readjust my mouse pad, and I don't have to readjust it after they're done either.
The black "techgrip" base feels like some type of woven rubber, and it does a good job at keeping the mouse pad stable and in place. The top is made of some type of finely woven fabric and the whole pad has a similar texture and consistency to some of those keyboard wrist rests that I've used in the past. It has some give to it, but just enough to be comfortable and not enough to detract from fluid mouse movement. It's also somewhere in the area of 0.2" thick, identical to the height of my old mouse pad.
While I've only had it for a few months now, it's holding up really well to my heavy usage thus far. It shows no sign of wear, though there is a tiny little crease in the very top corner where I always have my speaker sitting on it. I've also used a few different mice on it; including a laser, two optical and a ball mouse. They all tracked smoothly and accurately across the mouse pad's surface and didn't stutter around or glitch in place.
The mouse pad is blue in color, with a pattern of various sized water drops covering the surface. It's lighter blue at the top, and darker blue near the bottom with the company's name printed at the bottom left corner in white. It's not a bad looking mouse pad, and the color scheme goes well with just about any normal black or white computer setup.
The main thing to remember when looking at the Allsop Mouse Pad XL is the fact that it is so big, you need to make sure you have sufficient area on your desk for the thing to set. It's quite large, but it's a wonderful thing to have providing you have the space to accommodate it. As an added bonus, you can find it online for about $6 so it's not going to break the bank to give it a shot.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Otterbox Commuter Case for Motorola DROID 4

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: A durable and flexible polycarbonate case with a shock-absorbing silicone liner for extra protection
Cons: No belt clip, silicone dust covers kind of get in my way

When we picked up our new Motorola DROID 4 phones, we wanted to get some decent phone cases to go with them. Since my sister also has a DROID 4, I decided to try out her Otterbox Commuter phone case for a while to see how well I liked it before purchasing a case of my own. It turned out to be an adequate case, but there were a few things I didn't really like about it.
First of all, it's a standard protective case that easily snaps onto the back of your phone. It also includes a thin plastic piece that snaps onto the front surrounding the screen. It still leaves access to all of the buttons and ports on the DROID 4, and there are cut-outs for the microphone, speaker, camera and flash. Unfortunately, there is no belt clip on this case, which is something I really like to have because the phone is just too large to comfortably carry in my pocket.
There is also a silicone insert or liner that goes between the phone and the main part of the case. This helps to absorb some of the shock when the phone gets dropped or bumped around. This liner also has silicone buttons attached to work the power and volume buttons, as well as covers for the headphone jack, mini USB charge port and the micro HDMI out. These covers help to keep dust and debris out, but do not protect against water (well, maybe to an extent, but are not designed to do so).
I don't really care for the silicone covers myself, as it just makes one more thing I have to move out of the way to get to the charging port. Since I drain my battery regularly playing games on my phone, this gets to be kind of annoying blocking the USB port. The headphone cover also has a little nub that sits down inside the jack rather than just tucking into the side of the case, which makes it somewhat annoying to insert and remove. Since I don't use headphones with my DROID 4, this isn't such a big deal to me, but it's something to keep in mind. One last note about the silicone insert is that when you remove your phone from the case it likes to sort of stick to the phone and come apart from the plastic shell and you have to mess around situating it correctly again. Not that one would be removing the phone and putting it back in on a regular basis, but still.
The Otterbox Commuter measures about 5.23" by 2.87" by 0.74" and weighs a little over an ounce. It doesn't really add much bulk or size to the phone, which is always a plus with a larger smart phone to begin with. The case itself is made from a hard but flexible polycarbonate plastic, which is pretty durable but still has some give to it. This helps ensure the case will flex rather than crack or break, and is actually quite nice. The case only comes in black, and has a very fine amount of texture to it. The back portion of the case has vertical stripes cut into it which does help with the grip somewhat, but the phone can still slide around a little if you lay it down.
Finally, included with the case is a self-adhering protective film that you can apply to the screen of your phone. It's a single piece of thin, clear plastic that fits across the screen to protect it from particulates and fingerprints. I opted not to use the screen protector, as it was really similar to the one I already had on my phone. It's a single solid piece of plastic with a notch cut out of the top right corner so that it does not cover the speaker or front facing camera, whereas most of the other screen protectors I've seen have had individual holes cut out for these items. The package also came with installation instructions for the screen film, as well as a card to smooth out air bubbles and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
Installation was as simple as sliding out the keyboard and snapping the front piece in place, and then sliding the back of the phone into the silicone lined plastic shell. The case is attached firmly to the phone and it doesn't move around or feel like it's going to fall out, yet it's just as simple to pull back out again (minus the aforementioned issue with the silicone sleeve). After using this for a while I decided instead to purchase a WireX Holster & Shell Combo case, but the Otterbox Commuter is not a bad case overall. It's perfectly fine as long as the dust protection covers don't get in your way and you don't require a belt clip.