Fnatic DASH Review
Fnatic is undoubtedly one of the most famous esports organisations in the entire world, but initially they kind of struggled to get their peripherals to reach the highs that their professional gaming teams reach regularly. Their early products could perhaps best be described as 'they're okay but they're not great' and while there's nothing wrong with that it's unlikely that an ambitious brand such as Fnatic would be satisfied with that.
Over the past couple of months they seem to have really embraced the talent and experience that they have in their pro teams and used that knowledge to create some excellent products aimed at competitive gamers so naturally we were quite interested when they announced their DASH mousepad. This isn't just an ambitious attempt to make a premium mousepad: it's their take on a hybrid pad that combines the benefits of cloth and hard pads into one neatly finished and designed package. That's a lot to take on for a company that's new to this whole thing, so we had our reviewer write up a review to see if the DASH lives up to expectations. Read on to get the full verdict!
"The DASH gives you plenty of speed, and yet the F15 surface still feels controlling enough to bring you to a precise stop when you've reached the unfortunate recipient of your nutty flick."
Fnatic DASH - First Impressions
Quick note: I received both available sizes for the review. The pictures you see in the review are of the 'large' version.
The first interesting fact that I noticed is that the Dash is available in two sizes, namely large and extra large. No messing around with envelope-sized pads here. That makes sense, as pretty much every serious competitive shooter gamer uses a low overall sensitivity which makes a tiny pad pretty much useless, but it's still noticeable that Fnatic has opted to not release any smaller sizes. It personally doesn't bother me at all (I use a low sens myself) but I did find this a bit amusing.
The actual pad itself kept amusing me: this is pretty much a hybrid pad (or at least it's advertised as such) yet it can be rolled up and the whole thing looks remarkably sleek on top of that. There's of course not much to mess up with a plain black pad, but aspects such as the pretty much immaculately stitched edges (there are some very minor flaws here and there but nothing noteworthy) and tastefully small logo do give it a premium look. The fact that the small Fnatic logo on the pad is made out of a reflective material might annoy some people for being too flashy but it's so small that it stays rather unobtrusive and it also won't influence your glide due to the size.
This pad does come at a premium price so I'd be very disappointed if it looked anything less than great but luckily I didn't find anything to complain about when I first inspected the pad: this is a premium pad in all aspects.
The DASH uses Fnatic's F15 surface. As far as I know that has nothing to do with the fighter jet (I know how gaming companies like to advertise their 'aircraft grade' materials so I looked it up just to be sure) and is rather just a name for this hybrid surface they've developed.
The DASH combines all of the advantages that cloth and hard pads offer into one package, but it's not the first pad to try this. It is however perhaps the best attempt by a mainstream brand so far. Compared to pretty much any cloth pad out there the glide of the DASH is way faster but there's still a surprising amount of stopping power, and they managed to eliminate that 'I'm slipping on an icy road and trying to stabilize myself' feeling when trying to do smaller movements/micro adjustments that a lot of fast pads can introduce so I am very impressed here.
If you're someone who likes a controlling pad this kind of surface will never be for you, but if you're the kind of person who is looking for a bit more speed than what traditional cloth mats offer without going for a hard pad this is absolutely fantastic.
What's more is that the DASH not only achieves a great compromise between both worlds as far as the glide goes: this pad can be rolled up as well. This might not be as big of a deal to everyone, but for me that's a huge advantage as it greatly increases the portability. Do note that you cannot roll the pad with the tracking surface rolled on the inside. This is clearly stated on the box, but I thought I'd mention it here too just to be sure. An added benefit of this flexibility is that the DASH lays flat pretty much instantly. Some other hybrid pads can suffer from 'permanent curling' due to the stiffness of the materials being used but that's not the case here.
Of course all of this would be useless if it didn't track correctly but luckily that's no problem either. I tested the DASH with a variety of gaming mice and I didn't get a sensor hiccup once, but do bear in mind that I don't have any gaming mice lying around that are older than five years so I can't say for sure how it performs with (very) old sensors. The rubber base only adds to the positive feelings that I have: I found it nearly impossible to move the mat when doing normal (and slightly abnormal, just to test) mouse movements.
One weird (and very personal, I know) problem I have is that the desk sized pad is just a bit too high in my opinion. At around half a meter in height and just under a meter in width it's stuck in an awkward position between 'regular large pad, but extended' and 'this is meant to cover your entire desk' which caused me to have to move my monitors around a bit because they're positioned just at the edge of the pad. I am fully aware that this is just about the penultimate 'first world gamer problem' but an extended pad with a more regular height wouldn't be out of place in their lineup in my opinion.
Aside from this nitpick though I have to say that I'm extremely impressed with the whole experience. From the 'best of both worlds' glide to the fact that the stitching is done to a high standard to the very uniformly feeling and densely packed foam: this is a fantastic mousepad.
Conclusion & Recommendation
It would be easy for a brand such Fnatic to produce a run-off-the-mill cloth pad, slap a logo on it, and call it a day but the brand decided to take it one step further and go for something more ambitious. Setting out to create the ultimate hybrid pad to bridge that gap between cloth mats and straight hard pads they delivered in pretty much all the ways that matter as far as I'm concerned.
The DASH gives you plenty of speed, and yet the F15 surface still feels controlling enough to bring you to a precise stop when you've reached the unfortunate recipient of your nutty flick. Should you somehow miss your flick (that never happens, right?) you also get enough resistance to comfortably make the necessary micro-adjustments without feeling like you've erroneously ended up in a Disney on Ice show so this is for all intents and purposes exactly what many people are looking for in a hybrid pad.
The fact that you can actually roll this pad without permanently disfiguring it gives it a unique edge over most mainstream competitors too, and the fact that they achieved that without going for a bubbly foam underneath the tracking surface also deserves a mention.
It's not all perfect; they advertise the pad as being water resistant and while liquids indeed don't seep into the pad immediately they still get in pretty quickly so it's not as if you can spill a beer on the pad without worrying about it affecting the glide for a while, for example. That's of course not a problem (I don't bash keyboards for not functioning after you've spilled liquid on them either) but it's a bit of a weird thing to advertise in my opinion.
I also think that the XL pad is a bit awkwardly sized, but as you've no doubt been able to gather these are nitpicks. The DASH performs in every aspect that it has to perform in, and as such it receives a very easy Staff's Choice award. This should be looked at by everyone who wants a speedier pad or is looking for a great hybrid pad.