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- Mouse pad surfaces affect how your mouse tracks. Soft pads increase drag for more precision and hard surfaces allow for quicker movements.
- The SteelSeries DeX’s unique 3D texture reduces drag so your mouse tracking is fluid and responsive, but it’s also soft for hours of comfortable use, virtually eliminating the trade-off between comfort and speed.
Most people probably don’t think too much about mouse pads. Given modern mouse technology, this is actually quite understandable. Old-school ball mouses (remember those?) were barely usable without a good mouse pad, but the optical sensors on today’s mouses are much more forgiving when it comes to working surfaces. As long as it’s smooth and flat, it’ll probably work.
Nonetheless, if you’ve ever used an optical mouse without a pad for an extended period of time, you’ve almost certainly realized what you were missing. A smooth, tactile surface is still a necessity — even with the greatly enhanced sensitivity and accuracy of optical mouse sensors — whether you’re doing precise tasks like graphic design and gaming, or just tackling another long day of working on the computer.
Whereas ball mouses generally required a softer surface for traction, sensitive optical sensors have given rise to a growing number of mouse pad designs that offer different benefits. When it comes to pad surfaces, there’s a general trade-off between speed and accuracy: Softer or rougher textures will create more friction than a hard, slick surface, allowing for more precision (as well as creating more drag), whereas a smoother mouse pad will allow for quicker movements (such as while playing a fast-paced video game, for example) at the cost of accuracy.
In other words: Your mouse will move faster on a hard/smooth surface, thus making it easier to make large cursor swipes quickly, and it’ll move more slowly on a soft surface, thus giving you more precise control over your cursor. How much this matters to you really depends on your needs. Gamers are admittedly more fussy about this stuff than most people. Also note that softer mouse pads will naturally be more comfortable to use for long periods of time than hard ones.
Whatever your needs, we’ve covered just about all the bases below. These picks include everything from a no-nonsense budget-friendly mouse pad to ones featuring the latest innovations in surface design, so if you’re looking to upgrade your setup or just replace an old worn-out mouse pad, then be sure to read through them all to see which one is right for you.
Here are the best mouse pads you can buy:
- Best mouse pad overall: SteelSeries DeX
- Best mouse pad with wrist support: 3M Precise
- Best oversized mouse pad: Glorious PC Gaming Race extended mat
- Best hard mouse pad: Corsair MM600
- Best budget mouse pad: SteelSeries QcK
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best mouse pad overall
Why you’ll love it: With a unique 3D-textured surface that reduces friction despite its soft hand-feel, the SteelSeries DeX mouse pad solves the age-old problem of having to sacrifice comfort for responsiveness.
As mentioned the intro, you generally have to make a compromise between friction and comfort when selecting the right mouse pad for your needs. A soft mouse pad might be more comfortable, but it will create more friction on your mouse, requiring you to do more work to glide it around. A harder surface won’t have that “give” to it, allowing the mouse and therefore the optical sensor to glide more freely, but it’s less precise and will be harder on your wrist in the long run.
Our favorite, the SteelSeries DeX, reinvents the common mouse pad with a unique design that all but renders this dilemma solved. It has a unique 3D surface that is comfortable to use while reducing friction and increases your mouse’s responsiveness. Instead of cloth or foam padding, the DeX is made of a soft rubberized polymer with a slightly raised texture. This results in a mouse pad that’s easy on your hand and wrist, but the 3D surface greatly reduces the actual contact area between the pad and your mouse, thereby mitigating drag.
The soft pad material is also completely waterproof and fully washable, and the edges are heat-bound so the DeX won’t fray like many cloth mouse pads do after while. The great design of the SteelSeries DeX comes at a price, though. At around $40, it’s the most expensive of our picks.
It’s nonetheless the closest thing to a perfect mouse pad that you can buy, and well worth the money. The durable polymer should last a long, long while, too. Don’t be surprised if you see other companies copying the design of the DeX in the future.
Pros: The unique 3D texture reduces surface contact between mouse and pad for more fluid and precise tracking, the soft rubbery polymer is comfortable and waterproof, heat-sealed edges prevent cracking and fraying, and no obnoxious branding
Cons: It’s expensive at around $40
The best mouse pad with wrist support
Why you’ll love it: For wrists that need a little more comfort than a normal soft mouse pad can give, the 3M Precise mouse pad features a gel-filled wrist rest that provides some much-needed relief at a price that’s just as easy on the wallet.
Unless you specifically want the increased movement speed of a hard working surface, then soft mouse pads are generally the best option for most people, especially if you’re sitting at a computer for extended periods of time. Even a soft mouse pad can become uncomfortable after hours of use, though. Although the softer material might feel better on your hand, a flat pad still doesn’t offer any real support for your wrist.
Mouse pads with padded wrist rests, like our pick from 3M, are a popular and simple way to solve the problem of wrist pain. A number of padded designs exist today, but the 3M Precise mouse pad has a few features that put it well ahead of the competition.
Firstly, the gel pillow’s leatherette covering is softer and more durable than those of other ergonomic mouse pads. These typically have rubber- or cloth-covered gel pads that are more prone to cracking, pitting, leaking, or otherwise deteriorating over time.
Secondly, the 3M Precise mouse pad offers more than just increased hand comfort: This pad also features 3M’s patented surface design that’s purpose-built for optical mouses. This flat, micro-grooved layer sits on top of the soft non-slip base underneath, providing enhanced tracking for optical sensors. This results in smoother, more responsive cursor feedback compared to standard cloth-surfaced mouse pads, which haven’t changed much since the days of ball mouses.
The 3M Precise mouse pad is cheap, too, and the model without the gel-filled hand rest was almost our “best budget” pick. This particular gel-padded design rings in at just $17, making it the second most affordable selection on our roundup and a great choice if you’re on the fence about buying an ergonomic mouse pad and don’t want to spend too much money to try it out.
Pros: Durable leatherette-covered gel-filled wrist rest for added comfort, the 3M Precise micro-grooved surface enhances optical mouse feedback, and it’s highly affordable
Cons: The pad is prone to curling slightly at the edges over time
The best oversized mouse pad
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for an oversized desk mat to serve as a rest for both your keyboard and mouse, then the Glorious PC Gaming Race extended mouse pad has everything you need at a price point that’s hard to beat.
Mouse pads have come a long way since the ’90s, and not just in terms of surface designs and materials: They’ve grown in size as well. Oversized pads, often referred to as “mouse mats” to distinguish them from their smaller counterparts, serve a number of purposes: They give your hands and wrists a soft place to rest upon whether you’re mousing or typing, prevent your keyboard from sliding around, and protect the surface finish of your desk.
Our favorite, the Glorious PC Gaming Race mouse mat, has everything we like. Its soft and tactile surface feels great and tracks beautifully, and unlike many other cloth mouse pads, this mat has a stitched frame around the edges that prevents warping and fraying.
The standard pad measures in at three feet long by 11 inches wide, giving you plenty of surface area for your keyboard and mouse, while its size and rubber base secure it in place on your desk. There are even larger options, too: the XXL and XXXL.
The mat’s soft surface is an open fabric, so it will absorb dirt and anything you spill on it more readily than other designs. The Glorious PC Gaming Race mouse pad is washable, though, either by hand or in a machine on a gentle cycle (air drying is recommended), and keeping it clean is not a problem. Just know that it’s going to require it at some point like any cloth mouse pad.
The Glorious PC Gaming Race extended mat is also a solid value starting at $24, which is a great price for something of this size and quality.
Pros: Soft and comfortable cloth surface, anti-slip rubber base, stitched edges prevent fraying, multiple sizes available for just about any desktop setup, and it’s a great value at $24 for the standard mat
Cons: The non-sealed fabric collects dust and dirt more quickly than some others