Summary: Like Genjuro vs Haohmaru in Samurai Showdown II, SteelPad and fUnc face off for the hearts and minds of gamers. The new big dog against the old street champion go at it. Only Jakub has the answers.
And yet, is there room on the market for fancy mouse pads nowadays? Surely, with optical mice there isnít the need for fancy surfaces? That may be true, but the mouse pad business continues to roll. We try to answer the reasons why with our head-to-head comparison between the SteelPad 5L and fUnc Industries Archetype.
The SteelPad 5L has a somewhat more traditional mouse pad design than the Archetype. While you may be tempted to assume that the 5L stands for ď5 largeĒ due to its incredible dimensions of 15x11Ē (280x380mm), the fact if the matter is that 5L refers to the 5-layer design of the pad. At the top is a plastic coating designed to maintain the integrity of the second layer, the cloth surface. Below that is a layer of foam for comfort, and it lies on top of a hard plastic board that gives the pad rigidity and strength. At the very bottom is a wild spattering of hard rubber that, despite its random pattern and relatively thing contact surface, actually grips better than the Archetype (though the Archetype is a smaller pad too).
What does the 5L have going for it? For starters, comfort. The Archetype isnít uncomfortable at the least, but it is somewhat cold and the hardness is noticeable. Having used each pad for roughly a week, arguing that either performs better is an exercise in futility but for sheer feel, the 5L is more friendly. Perhaps not as clean and sterile as an Archetype, but definitely softer to the touch.
Secondly, the 5L is huge. This is both a boon and bane to the design, since not everyone has the desk space to park a jumbo jet, but those that do, and use lower sensitivities, may enjoy the considerable room the pad gives you. Perhaps gamers with high-sensitivity mice and settings wonít quite find a use for all that room, but when fiddling around with image editing in my spare time, with my Razer Copperhead set to the lowest DPI settings possible, it made pixel hunting in Photoshop less of a strain than usual. The 5L comes in a standard design with a single image, not unlike the neuron firing sequence in the X-Men movie opening credits sequence.
Another good note is the abandonment of the sad rubber base. The old Surface 1030 rubber based I had ended up wearing thin and beginning to wrinkle. Worse, where my hand usually touched the rubber base, the hard part of the rubber wore through and exposed the soft, gooey inside rubber that kept wearing off and leaving residue on my desk or the base of my palm. Worst of all, the rubber base got noticeably dirtier and less attractive over the years. The Archetype, by contrast, comes either with a billet aluminum base or a soft-feel hard plastic. We had the plastic for test, and while weíre not quite sold on the ďsoft-feelĒ of it, it isnít as hard as the actual mousing surface, and it should both last and stay more attractive than the old-style rubber base.
As with the Surface 1030, the Archetype has a flippable mousing surface with smooth and rough sides. This is much less of a feature with optical mice around, but the ability to flip over to determine at least feel is nice. Despite our best attempts, we could not notice a difference in mouse response no matter what DPI settings and surface combinations were used. As far as the trusty Copperhead is concerned, the rough and smooth fUnc surfaces were just as good as the SteelPad. An old-school ball mouse which has seen better days worked equally well on the rough fUnc surface and the SteelPad, and it may have arguably lost some grip in FPS action on the smooth side of the fUnc pad.
Perhaps the best feature of the Archetype is the proven durability of the design. No foam, no cloth to protect, and without rubber to wear out, it should last much longer than any mouse or even computer. The Archetype is of course easy to clean and washes off easily, and this is not a task we had to engage in too often with the Surface 1030 so we donít expect the Archetype to be any more maintenance-intensive.
The large size of the SteelPad is nice and even handy, but would make more of a pain to handle if you plan on going to LAN parties. Weíre also somewhat concerned about the durability of the SteelPad. Note that this concern is only relative Ė the 5L shows little signs of use other than some fading where the wrist touches of the edge of the pad. However, the Archetype will undoubtedly last longer. In fact, itíd be a safe bet that barring introductions to a fire or sharp or very heavy objects, the Archetype could serve your childrenís children, if weíre still using mice 60 years from now. The 5L, by comparison, looks like it might last several years.
fUnc Archetype Pros
fUnc Archetype Cons
Umm.. itís bad for the environment?
SteelPad 5L Pros
SteelPad 5L Cons
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