The Mice I used to test were both my KTEC 9500+ and Thermaltake Azurues mini, both of which use the Avago 3080. I also compared the various considerations such as glide, friction, drag, etc between the two and the other mousepads that I currently own which include the Steelseries QCK, Mionix Propus 380, and Thermaltake Dasher.
First off, to get the most useless thing out of the way I really love the visual design of these mousepads. I have always been a person of economy and I love the minimalist approach to these pads. No fancy graphics, no patterns, just an attention to detail in great craftsmanship (ok that's maybe a little hyperbolic ).
Pictured Above: Hayate
Artisan loves to tout the spongy middle layer of their pads, and for good reason. It's soft, pliable, and reminds me a little of tempur-pedic foam in both comfort and how this layer just conforms so well to the surface it is on, though the resistance of the sponge is far more resilient than that foam (also mouse feet do not dig into the pad when applying pressure like with the Dasher). Combined with a soft rubbery hexagonal pattern on the bottom, this mousepad just doesn't move. I have it on a finished wooden table and found that my QCK with large and fast movements would actually move the mousepad a bit, but you literally have to lift and place again on the surface to move these pads.
Top to Bottom Order: Propus, QCK, Dasher, Hien
Top to Bottom Order: ^^
To round out the design aesthetics I find that the 4mm thickness is perfect. I used to love very thin pads, and originally had an x-trac pad that was basically a 0.5mm plastic sheet that stuck to the surface, but once I started using my Dasher (due to FPS games) I found that that little amount of thickness does wonders for comfort. The trade off sometimes is that these pads can dig into your wrist or have unusually hard edges, and while the edges on both the Hien and Hayate are likely melted (the reason they are prone to not fraying ever and being so perfectly uniform) I've found that they do not bother me in the slightest. Another common complaint is that the cord tugs on the edges, but I haven't encountered that issue either.
As I mentioned earlier I started using my Dasher because I at some point changed my FPS sensitivity from medium to low, or ultra low if you want to get specific. What that means is that at least currently, in CS:GO my rotational turn is approximately 86cm/360° rotation, or 34inches. Due to this I need space to make very large and fast swipes just to make a 90° turn, and my QCK was just way to small for that, and it moved when I did that. :/ If I initially liked the size of the Dasher, I love the size nd dimensions of the L Hayate/Hien, and feel they are absolutely perfect for low or very low sens gamers like myself (one swipe across the pad is ~150° for me). I never thought the angled dimensions of the Dasher suited actual use very well (see pics), but the overall rectangular dimensions were fairly good, so to have a perfect rectangle that is just ever so slightly larger is just fantastic.
Hien and QCK
Hien and Propus
Hien and Dasher
Hayate and KTEC
So, what about the surface? This is where the biggest divergence from ordinary pads that I've tried occurs. For each of these considerations I'll break down the comparisons by each pad, beginning with the first one that I received, the Hien. I initially went with the Hien L Soft because I was wary of the speed of the Hayate from other reviews, but what I was not expecting was how singularly unique Artisan cloth surfaces are. The best way to describe both the Hien and Hayate is that both surfaces are textured and produce a larger amount of tactile friction/feedback when compared to any of the pads that I tested against, but this should not be confused with the drag exerted on the mouse which seems entirely separated from how the pad imparts sensory input to the hand.
Before I jump in I should describe how I tested the initial motion and drag of the pad. I put each pad on a flat surface and then slowly inclined the surface with CD cases (standard size) until the mouse would slide off the pad. for a baseline comparison, the QCK (the slowest pad of the three) began at 41.5mm or 4 cases, the dasher at around 31.5mm or 3 cases, and the Propus being a hard pad and fastest of the three at 21mm or 2 cases. Now we can continue.
Hien L Soft
Compared with the base set of pads the Hien's surface produces an incredible amount of tactile feedback. The cloth surface is pretty rough (maybe textured is a better term to describe it), and you would think it to produce a lot of drag but interestingly enough the speed of the Hien seemed about on par with the dasher and maybe a little quicker. Compared with the QCK it is a much quicker pad. This is probably the most confusing thing about the Hien I feel, in that the drag on the mouse is actually quite low but when combined with the high amounts of friction that your skin experiences, it confuses the overall experience (For reference I am a mostly hybrid claw/fingertip user meaning that part of my palm rests on the mousepad much of the time, palm grippers will likely experience less feedback if they rest their hand on the mouse fully).
As mentioned on their website the Hien should produce a faster mousing experience when traveling parallel with the warp threads (lengthwise grain) than with the weft threads and this is true, though I doubt that many people would actually be able to tell as it is a very subtle difference.
In testing the initial motion of the Hien movement began at around 31.5mm or 3 CD cases, like the Dasher. I should mention that it was pretty much the same as the Dasher, but overall movement seemed a bit quicker with normal use. This may be why Artisan makes a point of describing the 'initial motion' of the mousepad as there is a discernible difference.
The lift-off distance seemed to be lessened a little with this pad than compared with the QCK, maybe on par with the Propus though admittedly this area doesn't particularly bother me much so I didn't really test this area strictly. Overall, it's slightly less.
Tracking problems? barely. I experience a little ripple with my KTEC mouse on the other surfaces because that sensor setup is just a little weak for some reason (note: my mini which has the same sensor does not have this issue), but this pad seemed to play quite nicely and essentially mimicked the propus in the amounts of ripple produced (almost nonexistent).
Overall what turned me off to this pad and to move to the Hayate was the amounts of tactile feedback/friction that my skin was experiencing. From using the QCK mostly the change was a stark one and I felt that maybe it was a tad too much. For those looking for a relatively fast pad and a lot of feedback or textured surface, this pad would probably be a great one to look at.
Hayate L Soft
Moving to the Hayate I was a little worrisome that this pad would be a little too fast, but along with the tactile response I actually like the overall feel of this pad much better than the Hien. If I were to compare it directly to the Hien, the textured surface is a similar feel albeit less 'bumpy', though the amounts of feedback that the skin experiences is quite a bit less. It still doesn't feel nearly as smooth as I expected or compared with the QCK and its silky smooth feel, but I think it's just about right for me.
Again like the Hien, the Hayate does move quicker when moving parallel with the warp threads, though the difference is more pronounced with this mousepad (still doesn't compare to the difference with the Dasher however, which is quite pronounced).
Similarly the initial motion was similar to the Hien occurring at around 31.5mm or 3 cases, though with normal usage the overall speed is a little quicker than the Hien. It actually is just shy of the Propus in overall speed, or maybe comparable, the tactile feedback makes it hard for me to get a really clear determination here. What I can say is that the glide feels less grainy than the Propus which I like.
Lift-off on the Hayate seems more reduced than the Hien. I could immediately feel a difference when using this surface. Interestingly enough the KTEC 9500 which has the most issue with ripple produced about the same amount on the Hayate as the QCK, which is to say it did not do anything to mitigate the problem like the Hien did.
Overall I like this pad much more than the Hien due to the lessening of tactile feedback, and I found that the amount of drag in my normal usage to be just about the right amount. For more thougths on the Hayate specifically see HaiiYaa's review here: http://www.overclock.net/t/1114195/review-of-artisan-hayate
Both the Hien and Hayate have a very unique feel to them in that they have far more textured surfaces than the more silky or smooth feeling Dasher or especially the QCK that I've been used to, but these tactile differences do not impede or add to the amounts of drag on the mouse and create a very unique feel unlike any other mousepad I've tried.
For reference with the other sizes, the QCK is 320x270mm and the Large size Artisan pads are 420x330mm.