Mousepads are an often overlooked piece of gaming hardware. I tend to consider mine more of a coaster for coffee than something that can improve my gaming. Yet thin sheets beneath our mice can go a long ways in helping define comfort and precision. These mouse pads just scratch the surface on the multitude of options to aid your next killstreak.
Some people say that size doesn't matter, but I guarantee you that those people haven't actually experienced anything this big. So, yeah—this sucker's as big as a 13-inch laptop (and it'll invade your precious desk space, shoving your keyboard aside with its imposing dimensions), but it's worth it. Heavy-duty MMO raiders and StarCraft strategists will drool over the real estate; they'll also adore the fact that the mouse doesn't drop off the pad while they're swinging about frantically. As long as you've got a gigantic desk and some long arms to accommodate it, this monster will last you for years.
The 9HD is a bare-bones professional mousepad, but it still performs like the big guys. It's roughly the size of a magazine, is easy to slide in and out of your backpack, and can be cleaned with a quick wipe of a damp cloth. Mice coast across it effortlessly, and you won't lose tracking even with sporadic gesticulations as you're struggling to heal your troops in Team Fortress 2. If your focus is more on travel and LAN parties (and you're not bathing in cash), the 9HD is a terrific choice.
The MicroTracker Mousepad's makers posit that it'll eliminate all of your mouse frustrations forever. They're wrong. Very, very wrong. Guiding an optical or laser mouse across the MicroTracker's microfiber surface is like pushing a vacuum cleaner over a shag carpet—it drags along and pulls the microfibers every which way, which is damned aggravating. Don't think about playing games on this thing, or even moving your mouse across it for simple tasks like opening a document. On the other hand, you could always just use the MicroTracker for its other advertised use—cleaning your screen.
If only life were as smooth sailing as a mouse on the Ironclad's delightful, aluminum surface. This entire pad is literally a metal sheet, and its sandblasted surface is perfect for lining up long-distance headshots. Better yet, the Ironclad's rubber base stays put while you're focusing on the important stuff such as machine-gunning Tangos in Counter-Strike. The surface is easy to clean and doesn't attract any mouse gunk, and it's perfectly safe to transport in the included (and stout) plastic carrying case.
This mousepad's texture is a total throwback to the '90s, when foam reigned supreme. (I vaguely recall buying one like this in a bargain bin at Fry's.) Despite its chintzy appearance, however, it's surprisingly comfortable—like a Tempur-Pedic mattress for your wrists. Its long, rectangular shape means tons of tracking room, so there's a considerable safety net to avoid your mouse dropping off the edges. But because of its surface, it's a dust-bunny magnet, which is annoying when you've gotta pick them off the bottom of your mouse. It's a decent pad overall, but its large shape isn't for everyone.
Because of the Teflon's frictionless, metallic surface, your mouse will coast across this pad just as easily as your breakfast comes off a Teflon pan. Its overall size is roughly identical to the SteelSeries 9HD, but much more brawny. It's pleasantly smooth to the touch, though it's a magnet for greasy fingerprints. It's a good feel for first-person shooter fans who need the quick reaction time, but if you also use your mouse for things like graphic design, the tracking feels a little loose. If you're looking for a smooth metal surface, Rude's Teflon mouse surface is a fair buy. But if you can afford it, stick with the Ironclad.
The WarPad's 17- by 14-inch surface clips to the edge of your desk, which prevents the mousepad from slipping backward during feverish gameplay. Additionally, it enables fantastic wrist support, which is key for ergonomics—something that gamers should always take into consideration when they're shopping for gear. The WarPad's design also leaves your desk space's sovereignty intact since it lies vertically rather than horizontally, and the tracking is nice and easy. Finally—a cloth mousepad that does it right!
There are big mousepads, and then there are some so maddeningly bloated that you have to start charging them rent. Mionix's Sargas 460 is one such offender. Measuring in at about the same size as a standard 21-inch monitor, dealing with where to put your keyboard so it's still accessible (and level) is a frustrating conundrum. Fortunately, mice feel amazing as they shoot across the surface, and you can get away with orienting it vertically to save some space on your desktop. But again, as the Sargus proves, there is such thing as overkill.