Like the other modern SteelSeries mats this one comes in a transparent plastic box that is reuseable, which is handy if you plan on hitting a lot of LAN parties. The 9HD is a hard mat, but can flex a lot before getting damaged. Also the surface seems more scratch resistant than the old S&S.
I was quite surprised when I opened up the box. Apparently SteelSeries has altered the bundle to only include a microfiber cloth for cleaning, instead of the usual Teflon mouse feet. This decision seems very odd to me especially since it is a plastic mat that can handle being wiped down with alcohol. I think the majority of users would have liked to see a set of mice feet bundle with the mat instead of a piece of cloth perhaps especially at the high price tag.
Taking after its elderly brethren the S&S and 4H, the all new 9HD has the original SteelSeries design with the arched bottom and rounded square design. I really like the general design of the S&S so I feel right at home using the 9HD. The surface has been given a new treatment and feels like a smoother SP mat.
On the back side of the mat we find a completely re-engineered natural rubber base. Gone is the art stucco sprayed on rubber and behold a new firmer molded base. The new base has a great amount of gripping power and stays in place on my wooden desk nicely. Another great thing about the new base is that it seems much more solid and less prone to wearing out like the spray on which wears off in time. Since the base is now molded, the geometry has been altered and is now made of many small dots, that I suspect might improve grip on rough surfaces compared to just a slab of natural rubber.
The surface looks quite nice. From some angles the surface's reflective quality makes it look rougher than it is.
Besides all the small (annoyingly Louis Vuitton-ish!) SteelSeries logos there is a big one at the bottom left corner of the mat. I wished that SteelSeries would have kept their logo there instead of spreading small logos across the mat. One of the reasons why I loved the old S&S design was because it is so simple, a pure black mat with only one logo. SteelSeries has improved the logo and it is now embedded in a graphics layer rather than being post applied on top of the mat which used to upset the glide in the area surrounding the graphics.