Back in January 2009, Just Mobile showed off three new Macintosh accessories that really caught our attention: the aluminum laptop stand Xtand Pro, the aluminum passive cooler and cord manager called Cooling Bar, and something called the Aluminum Mouse Pad that for some odd reason really stuck in our heads. Xtand Pro came out almost immediately, the Cooling Bar two months later, and the Aluminum Mouse Pad… well, it never shipped. We waited, watched for updates, and never saw it. Now it has reappeared—under the radar, really, barely promoted on Just Mobile’s web site—and it’s been completely redesigned.
Today, it’s called Alupad ($50), and Just Mobile’s packaging shows that it was redesigned by Tools, its collaborator on the Lounge stand for iPhones and iPod touches. The original Aluminum Mouse Pad was a big piece of aluminum that shared the same gentle edge tapers and curves Apple developed for its unibody MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air computers, plus rubber on the bottom to keep it in place. Tools has thrown away the tapering, instead using a big, flat piece of aluminum that only peeks out from the edges of an almost-as-big flat piece of white plastic.
The curves now match Apple’s metal and plastic keyboards, as do the colors and generally the textures of the plastics. Our review sample had a couple of small imperfections in the edges of the metal, but was otherwise pristine.
Alupad is, in short, a near-perfect complement to these keyboards visually, and probably a better mousing surface than the original design, besides. Of the 10.5” by 8.25” platform, 9.2” by 8.25” is devoted to that white hard plastic, and Apple’s mice just glide right over it, versus the smaller and grippier leather Vaja Mouse Pad that serves as a similarly stylish competitor for your mouse pad dollars. Turned such that the silver aluminum portions face upwards or downwards, it fits just as easily on the same standard-width desk keyboard shelf as the full-length version of Apple’s keyboard; in wider orientation, it’s a tighter fit unless you have the smaller Apple keyboards without a numeric keypad. The plastic’s easy to rest a wrist on, and there’s just enough of the aluminum to remind you that yes, this really still is an aluminum mouse pad—flip it over and you can see the full sheet of metal for yourself with the rubber stabilizer feet.
But this has to be said: despite its comparative simplicity and probably greater scuffability, the original design really was a bigger wow for us than the final Alupad turned out to be. By mimicking the metal MacBooks’ lids, Just Mobile’s first version looked like something Apple made, minus the Apple logo, though thanks to the fact that a mouse would be running over it endlessly, it quadrupled durability concerns that led us to plastic-wrap our metal MacBooks. In its Tools-developed form, the Alupad just blends in and keeps looking good, which is easy to live with but less to be excited about. By contrast, Vaja’s leather design is $20 more expensive and obviously considerably different, but has held up remarkably well after a year and a half of use. You can decide for yourself whether one of these mouse pads or a cheap $10-$15 alternative is the right fit for your own desk; we’d call both designs quite nice, but would still love to see a durable full metal pad for our Macs. It looks like we may be waiting a while on that.