If there is one ubiquitous accessory that´s on almost every desktop computer in the world, it´s the mouse pad. While it is nothing more than a simple surface where you move your mouse around, it remains the most common computer accessory out there.
Back in the day, every computer came with one. This is because mice used to detect movement thanks to a little trackball that they had at their bottom. Having a pad was almost mandatory as it helped the ball roll without getting dirty or bumping into junk on your desktop, like crumbs or dust.
Nowadays the trackball has been phased out for a laser. A modern mouse can work on a wide variety of surfaces and it doesn´t need a mouse pad or a sheet of paper to work.
You might think that this means that mousepads became obsolete, but on the contrary, there are plenty of reasons to still use them. This is especially true for gaming, where a mouse pad allows for much better tracking and control than your bare desktop could ever match.
And so, when it comes to gaming, every well-known manufacturer threw their hat in the ring and developed their own "specialty" mouse pad. From expensive pads with RGB backlights to ones that recharge your mouse as you play, there is a lot of variety in the market.
But, the two main types to which every other mouse pad belongs are hard mousepads and soft mousepads.
What are hard and soft mouse pads?
Let´s start by defining what each one is.
Hard mousepads are usually made out of smooth plastic, or sometimes metal. They present a solid surface for the mouse to glide around. Your mouse should have no problem moving across it, and your computer should be able to track its movements just as easily.
The flat texture of this type of mousepad means that you will have little friction impeding your movements. It is easy to move your mouse around, at the cost of relinquishing some control while you do it.
In other words, sweeping movements might be hard to control but easy to pull.
Another comparative advantage of these mousepads is that they are (relatively) easy to clean. Soft mousepads are made of cloth, which tends to absorb any spill, grease, and other junk that falls atop it. A hard mouse pad is a solid surface, so you can clean it like you would a dirty plate. Wipe it with a wet cloth and it is done.
Something to keep in mind with these pads is that they don´t absorb temperature very well, especially if they are made of metal. Their cold surface might be uncomfortable to your wrists and hands as you grasp the mouse and move it around.
They are also less portable than their peers. They are too stiff to roll up and tuck them in a corner. So, if you don´t have a specialized gaming travel case, they might be uncomfortable to carry around.
Soft mouse pads, on the other hand, are usually made out of cloth and fabric. They don´t have the smoothness of their hard counterparts, so you will experience more friction when you move the mouse.
Sweeping motions are harder to make, but as there is more resistance, the mouse is easier to stop on a dime. This means that it is easier to control, if harder to move.
Unlike the solid surface that their hard counterparts offer, soft mousepads cushion the mouse as well as your hand. They don´t feel firm to the touch and tend to be warmer, therefore, they are the more comfortable option (most of the time).
While there are no shortages of hard mousepads, soft mousepads are more popular, and so they come in a variety of sizes. You can find pads so large that cover almost your entire desk.
This is a good thing, if you need to pull some broad strokes to move the camera around or do a 360° spin, you´ll have an easier time finding a large soft pad that will allow you to do so. You will be hard-pressed to find this wealth of options with hard mousepads.
There is a myth going around that hard mousepads are harsher on your mouse, but that´s a lie. No mousepad, hard or soft, should damage your mouse or wear it down (unless you buy a really sketch one on sale from an obscure company).
So, which type of mousepad is better? Hard or soft mouse pads?
Which one is better is up to you and what are you looking for.
Hard mouse pads let you move your mouse around with much more ease and precision. If you want the cursor to glide from one side of the screen to the other with minimum effort, then this is the option for you.
Keep in mind that your desk can also be used instead of a hard mouse pad, as it offers the same texture. If its surface is flat, without imperfections, and your mouse doesn´t have any issue being detected while moving across it, then it can serve as a hard mouse pad alternative.
Soft mousepads are generally more comfortable to the hand and less "glidy" than their hard counterparts. If you value comfort and tend to do smaller movements with your cursor, then you should consider these types of pads.
Ultimately, both soft and hard mouse pads will do their job fine, so, which are some examples of quality mouse pads?
Which are the best hard and soft mouse pads?
A good example of a hard mouse pad is the Logitech G440. It offers precisely what you expect from their kind. A frictionless surface, a stable base, and a comfortable texture.
A more expensive alternative is the Razer Invicta, which offers two mouse pads in one. On one side, you have a smooth texture that lets your mouse glide as if it were roller skating, and on the other, a more textured surface that gives you more friction, which translates to better control.
On the other hand, the Cooler Master MP510 is a great soft mouse pad that also comes in large and extra-large sizes to cover your entire desk. It is a solid product made slightly better by the fact that it is waterproof, making it both more longer lasting than its rivals and easier to clean.
The ROCCAT Taito Control is another great cloth mouse pad that costs less than all the other items on this list. Despite being cheaper, it is still a quality product that does the job just right.
And there you have it. There are plenty more options on Amazon if you care to look, but these should give you all you could ever want out of a mouse pad.
Of course, if your mousepad is dirty, you´ll need to clean it up. You can read how to do it safely here.
Of course, if you still find that dragging the mouse around is uncomfortable even after all these options, then it might be time to ditch it for another input device, check out our alternatives to a mouse and keyboard.