The Archetype is a different beast entirely – despite its rather standard size of 11.5x9.5”, it seems almost small in comparison with the hulking 5L. Whereas the SteelPad 5L is a single monolithic block with only a pair of designs, the Archetype is modular, coming in three pieces, and customizable. Buyers can choose to put logos, designs, and even their names on their pad. The quality of the print and material is unquestionable. Our old fUnc Surface 1030 lasted half a decade without wearing out, the FiringSquad/Gamers.com logo never fading, so surface endurance isn’t a quality.
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 we’re not quite sold on the “soft-feel” of it, it isn’t 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 don’t 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. We’re also somewhat concerned about the durability of the SteelPad. Note that this concern is only relative – 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, it’d be a safe bet that barring introductions to a fire or sharp or very heavy objects, the Archetype could serve your children’s children, if we’re still using mice 60 years from now. The 5L, by comparison, looks like it might last several years.
The Archetype’s mouse cord clip is, as with previous designs, of questionable utility and durability. Mice also tend to be somewhat louder during movement on the Archetype, especially the rough side. This isn’t really a big deal for games, but we have noticed it late at night while listening to music quietly. The noise isn’t intrusive but every now and then it does catch the user’s attention. How loud it is depends on the side of the fUnc being used and how fast the mouse is going. No doubt the state of the mouse feet matters somewhat. I’d rather not make any promises of silence on behalf of my Copperhead the day the feet wear right through and the mouse plastic is in touch with the pad surface. The 5L is a quieter surface, which should be no surprise given the foam layer.